In a time where so many small businesses are struggling through the unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic, it’s refreshing to be reminded of the joy that some business owners experience from doing what they love. For Stephen Johnson, the joy isn’t just a byproduct of the work, it’s the motivation.
Stephen Johnson is an artist, a sculptor and a jewelry designer, who has been working on his craft for the past eleven years. “When I retired, I had always been interested in sculpting with my hands. I created my first sculpture in clay eleven years ago. I took it to a foundry to have it cast, and I was so fascinated by the process that I went to work for them.” As his interest grew, Johnson committed himself to this craft by building his own foundry. He started creating bronzes and taking a four or five pieces to an event called the Art Walk, in Paris, KY. “People would see the bronzes, and they would ask if I could do a bronze of a certain horse for their family. It sort of evolved from there.” As a retiree, Johnson now looks at his sculpting as a source of joy. “It was an extreme hobby. We have horses and we’re big into equine, so this was just an extreme hobby. To be honest, I don’t consider it a business…it’s too much fun to consider it a business.”
After many years, his business expanded into an unexpected direction. “After about eight or nine years, the bronzes were doing so well. I had a friend who was a jeweler who suggested that I try my hand at jewelry. I talked it over with my wife, who loves jewelry, and she thought it was a great idea.” His wife, Beth, began working with him on the jewelry side, providing the vision for the jewelry pieces, and Stephen brought the creations to life.
Being from Paris, Johnson has been following the progress of Mustard Seed Hill’s renovation in the last few years. So when the opportunity came to showcase his work on the campus for 2019 Christmas at Mustard Seed Hill, he was thrilled. “I got in touch with Shawn [Burns] and he invited us to be part of last year’s Christmas event, and it was a HUGE success for us. It was a great venue for us in so many ways. Millersburg is a little town between two middles of nowhere. Here, Mustard Seed Hill was putting all this time and money and resources into converting the old Millersburg Military Institute into this beautiful, BEAUTIFUL place, so when Shawn reached out, we were happy to be a part of it.” Johnson and his wife set up a vendor booth for the Christmas Market and made the most of the opportunity to showcase their unique pieces. “We did two or three weekends, and we did very well. There was a lot of traffic, a lot of people. I think we did better than most last year.”
This year, Johnson will again be featured at the Artisans’ Market at Christmas at Mustard Seed Hill, although he acknowledges the stakes for many of the vendors are different this year. “There are so many small businesses that are suffering. I have seen some of my artisan friends almost give up because of COVID. I think this does help. There are a lot of folks who are trying to get out and showcase their work, and get some fresh air and enjoy Christmas.” Having participated in last year’s event, Johnson remains hopeful that this year will be a success, and will be a much-needed revenue boost for his fellow artisan vendors.
As for other artisans, he shares this bit of advice. “Number one, you have to have a passion for what you do. I have a passion for what I do. I’ve always had the passion but never had the time. Number two, you have to the time.” Johnson also reflects on the support he’s received from Community Ventures. “It helps to have some encouragement. I really think Community Ventures has been great for helping those who have not had the same kind of opportunities I have. It’s good for them to know you CAN do this if you set your mind to it.”
To see the work of The Stephen Johnson Collection, visit Christmas at Mustard Seed Hill’s Artisans’ Market this Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4th and 5th, as well as Dec. 11-12, and Dec. 18-19. The Artisans’ Market will be open from 5-9PM each day.
To learn more about Stephen Johnson Collection:
Visit their website – StephenJohnsonCollection.com
To get your tickets for Christmas at Mustard Seed Hill, or to learn more information about this year’s event including our Artisans’ Market, visit MustardSeedHill.events today!