University of Washington - B.A. Political Science
Crafter Tanja Maduzia has always been a creator — even as a young child. On her website, she jokes that you'd be hard pressed to find another 8-year-old who "took side walk chalk art and crafting projects during rainy-day recess more serious than me."
That creative side found an outlet in her mother's antique store, where Tanja started working at age 12. There, she had an early introduction to the world of decorative arts and architecture, and learned the dedication to quality, customer relations and work ethic that she says serves her so well running her own business today.
Tanja owns "byTanja" a custom invitation design and crafting business in L.A. At work, she funnels her love of aesthetic elements into the medium of crafting, creating custom work including scrapbooks, bat mitzvah invitations and wedding albums for high-profile clients since 2004. You also can see her featured from time to time crafting on Lifetime Network and Oxygen.
If you're great at what you do, there will always be room for you.
We’ve heard you found your affinity for all things aesthetic and creative through your mom’s antiques business in Seattle. What was it like to grow up in that environment, and how did it inspire your dream?
Education begins at a young age. I was 12 when I started working for my mother. The antiques store was my second home. My mom always stressed to my sister and I that quality and customer service came first. We all worked long hours (which is where I got my work ethic), but most important of all, we loved one another and we loved our work. Occasionally we got to go on buying trips to the East Coast with my mother. She would give us each a small budget to purchase whatever items we chose for resale. These trips were a ton of fun, educational and introduced us to a world of decorative arts and architecture. I learned how to buy and sell, restore vintage lighting, refinish furniture, light woodworking, merchandising and display and customer relations, along with independence and responsibility, at a young age. I realize now that just being in that day-to-day environment was an education in itself; even the most menial task added to my creativity and serves me well today.
What does your typical job schedule and day look like? Does that change at any point during the year?
Each evening I make an outline and detailed 'to-do' list for the following day. A busy day might include meeting with clients; creating mock ups for projects; running around trying to find the proper materials (such as paper, ribbon, etc.); a run to the post office; and meeting with printers, calligraphers and photographers -- while another day may be entirely consumed with production from morning 'til night. Spring and summer are my busiest seasons making wedding invitations.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I find I’m easily inspired; however, architecture, decorative arts, fashion and nature are what I draw from most!
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it?"
In a way, yes. When I first started out, every time I made something I was really proud of I thought I had created it almost by accident and I'd never come up with another design I loved as much again. Since I've been in my business for nearly a decade now, it wouldn't even occur to me to think that way because of all the things I’ve done, and also all the ideas I've collected and am waiting to use for when just the right project comes along. I think the moment you realize you are a professional and capable of doing what you do, it's a ‘made it’ kind of moment. At least it was for me.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Anything that is out of my control keeps me up at night! For example, I did a very elaborate wedding invitation job a while back where so many things went wrong. From the very beginning when the company I order materials from sent me the wrong shipment to the very end when the calligrapher didn't wait long enough for the ink to dry on the envelopes and they all smeared. Literally, worst case scenario -- I barely slept for three weeks until I was able to rectify each of these situations. But that's business -- sometimes things happen that are out of your control and there's nothing you can do about it. You just have to work on not letting it consume you and do your best at problem solving. It's something that I definitely struggle with.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I'm still building my business. At this point in my career, I have no tips. Balance is a huge issue, but I've come to accept that it's not something I'm going to be able to have for a while. I love to work and there are days people literally have to pry my fingers away from my projects. But it's what I choose to do, and as most entrepreneurs experience, having no balance is just part of the job for a time in your career. It's not enough to give 100 percent anymore. You have to give more and make personal sacrifices. That's why loving and being passionate about what you do is so crucial. I couldn't work the way I do without that.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Personally or professionally, always finding a positive in any situation is definitely something I live by.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful as an entrepreneur? What about in a crafting career?
To be successful in any creative/design profession, you have to trust your own eye. I always make sure I decide how I feel about something before I hear anyone else's thoughts. The last thing you want is for others opinions to eclipse your own intuition. Knowing what I want and why I want it a specific way has made me very confident in my decision making -- and ultimately -- a better business woman as well.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to walk in your shoes?
Be prepared to work long hours! There are days when I'm up at 6 a.m. and not finished until 4 a.m. the next morning. This is sometimes due to a deadline and sometimes due to being on a roll and not wanting to interrupt my creative flow. Next, try and spend as much time as you possibly can honing your skills. If you're great at what you do, there will always be room for you.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Continuing to do what I love, creating and designing, and hopefully collaborating more as well. I've met some really talented artists over the years and lately every time we see each other we talk about teaming up on projects. I'd love to see that come about.