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Meet Trailblazer Allison Cooling

Today we’d like to introduce you to Allison Cooling.

Allison, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
When I was 13, I discovered a book titled “Basic Beadwork for Beginners” by Mitsuko Muto at my public library — I credit it with being the sole jumpstart to my crafty career! Outlining how to expertly weave wire and seed beads to create little figurines and 3D structures, this book was right up my alley – I’ve always had an affinity for anything sparkly or miniature! I soon had small armies of beaded mermaids, fairies, critters and more piling up in my room. I got on a kick creating recycled paper and gemstone pieces, reflecting back on my love for anything bohemian! I reached out to a few galleries and Borrowed Earth Café, a vegan restaurant in the area – fortunately enough, they agreed to sell my pieces and take custom orders. Through these connections, I’ve made many friends in the industry, who have helped me learn about and discover a more technical, business-related side to the craft world. I sell my pieces now in various galleries and boutiques in the US, as well as online internationally.

Similar to most crafters, I felt the need to explore other jewelry-making mediums including polymer clay, macrame and hemp, wire working and the like. The library was my biggest source – books by Margot Potter were some of my go-tos! Quickly amassing a large collection of random designs, it was time to take it a step further and start a digital “portfolio” of sorts. In 2011, I created my blog/business Quiet Lion, as a way to document these handmade creations, as well as teach others how to replicate similar designs themselves! At first, all I had was a point-and-shoot camera and a free Blogspot site. But, with a few technical and software updates throughout time, the site has morphed into a total representation of my aesthetic. Hopefully, it’s a place where other creatives can gather inspiration, just as I found inspiration through library books!

My content has grown and expanded over the years, but something has remained constant: I truly believe that “fashion” is not just about what you wear – it’s about what you create. And it’s not just about following trends – create your own trend, think outside the box. Let’s spark a crafty revolution!

Most posts are written while I’m sipping copious amounts of iced coffee and watching my favorite Chicago Blackhawks hockey or Cubs baseball (I love sports just as much as I love crafting, and incorporate sports into DIY posts as well!)… and am constantly looking for innovative ways to expand my content, all while remaining true to my goth/grunge, bohemian vibe!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I don’t particularly like to use “struggle” to describe it, because it shouldn’t really be a “struggle”…but let me explain. I’ll speak directly to college students here, currently in art schools. As someone with a Graphic Design degree, we all know art is, #1, subjective, and #2, unique to each artist. It was frustrating when professors tried to skew a vision to fit their “mold”… I am NOT a minimalist. I love and always have, extremely detailed, embellished, over-the-top art and design. That being said, for some odd reason, every teacher in college tried fervently to push me to become a minimalist. Clearly rejecting that influence, I stuck to my guns and my vision. I believe that any young person, budding creative, or art student should stick true to their own vision and style – whether that actually be more minimalistic, more ornate or something in-between. That’s the point of art! Multiple unique viewpoints and voices come together to create brand-new innovations. Once you can get past or tune out the naysayers, you’ll definitely be on the track to success! I believe having a clear vision, set of ideals and path is the first step to starting any journey, big or small.

We’d love to hear more about Quiet Lion Creations.
As the blogger and designer behind Quiet Lion Creations, I am responsible for creating original and useful content for my online readers. I want to make sure that with every post, my audience can walk away with new inspiration or a new skill. My main focus is in jewelry and fashion DIYs. I do my best to break a seemingly difficult DIY into smaller, easier steps so that even beginning jewelry designers can create a beautiful piece! Writing tutorials is definitely gratifying – you know that your audience will have created a physical piece after reading. Seeing their feedback in messages and comments is always validating for me. In addition, since I usually like to put a bit of an edgy spin on my designs, I also suggest other color combinations or material combinations for those with different style preferences. Sometimes, coming up with the color palette is half the battle! My lookbook posts always incorporate these DIY designs, styling them in unexpected and unique ways. There’s really no right or wrong way to style your handmade jewelry – just go for it!

As part of my job, I, fortunately, get to travel to many of the top fashion and accessory events and expos throughout the US. I pull inspiration and trends straight from these shows, and it definitely influences the themes and subjects of my tutorials. I’ve also been to China and Hong Kong and have worked with factories to see beads and components through full development, from initial sketch and concept to molding, casting and final production. I believe being knowledgeable about how the individual components and materials are made help give validity to all of my posts!

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
Call me old-fashioned, but I absolutely LOVE and always will love print magazines. We’re all basically staring at an illuminated screen all day, whether it be a laptop, tablet or phone and searching for inspiration digitally can sometimes get tiring. For me, the tactile quality of the print is something I still always revert to. W Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar are always chock-full of great imagery. I save magazine pages from my favorite editorials and create mini mood boards – sort of like a real-life Pinterest~ Oh, and since I mentioned it, Pinterest is definitely my top source for inspo. It’s never-ending and always updated. One stop shop!

FashionSnoops is also a great resource and I am fortunate enough to have access to it through work. It has amazing, right-off-the-runway trend info, images, color palettes and more. I love their trend stories, which span not just fashion, but home, beauty, and art as well. My go-to for hardcore fashion FACTS!

One more thing I’ve learned is that you can’t always wait for opportunities to come your way – you have to take the initiative sometimes! Youtube is a great resource for gaining knowledge on basically any subject. When I was starting out as a blogger, I didn’t know much about SEO, how to properly use a DSLR camera or even how to properly operate WordPress. A simple search on YT brings up endless results – and these videos can be super helpful in getting you instant instruction.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Delane Ashley Photography, my Mom

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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