Harvesting with Jo Kealley aka Curly Jo Design

A perspective from someone who followed their passion. (passion….. are you still there?)

I am thrilled to feature the very first Harvesting session with the highly talented Brisbane Artisan glass maker – Jo Kealley,  whose stunning jewellery pieces are described as “one off wearable pieces of art”.

Brisbane’s South East Advertiser proclaimed   “her stunning and innovative creations guarantee her a place among the leaders of Brisbane’s new generation of Jewellery Designers.”

Here is a little insight into how Jo left her day job to follow her dream.

What were you doing before this?  What was your last “regular” job?

My last ‘regular’ job was in retail management – series of ‘postings’ within a large up market department store chain. When a change of ownership presented a unique  opportunity, my husband & I decided to throw in the towel, sold the house, the car and went back packing around the world, many months and thousands of dollars later it was time to ‘get back to reality’.

On returning, I accepted an offer to open and manage a Designer Homewares store as a ‘stop gap’ to opening my own design business. 3 months turned into 3 years in the blink of an eye, a daughter & sea change later I found myself in downtown BrisVegas wondering what on earth had happened. After a year or so of dabbling in various crafts I tried my hand at Glass Fusing after following a suggestion from my parents. “Light bulb Moment” ~ could this be it? As I watched my raw glass creations morph into an amazing combination of vibrant colours and textures in the kiln.

I spent 6 months putting together a few collections and then after some research decided to take the product to market – quite literally. Initially trying to keep overheads low I trialed my work at Brisbane’s best known Art & Craft Market- ‘Eagle Street Pier’. An exhilarating and terrifying experience, but after the initial trial-it was addictive

How did you know this was what you were passionate about?

For the first time in my working life 9-5 didn’t feel like work, to the point of feeling guilty for being able to tell people that I love what I do. This was a turning point to be doing something I loved, making the rules and earning a dollar or two along the way-who could ask for more?

Another big hint was the fact that the whole concept was keeping me awake at night…thinking up new creations, ways of merchandising etc etc

I couldn’t switch it off

How hard was it to make the transition to do what you were passionate about full time?

For me it wasn’t difficult to make the transition mainly because I didn’t leave full time work, with a giant leap of faith and try to start up from scratch.

I know many people who have done this and don’t envy the precarious financial positions some end up in to chase their dream. I also have a very supportive husband and family who helped and encouraged me along the way. The ‘clincher’ of the deal was being able to work from home and balance being a full time Mum along with pursuing a creative endeavour

How long did it take to fully support/replace your everyday job?

That’s a hard one, I have been formally set up as a business now for going on 5 years, like anything it has it’s peaks and troughs, but if I were to measure success it in terms of job satisfaction, it replaced it overnight.

What gave you the courage to make this your “job”?

I think the initial response to my work from the public was such a ‘buzz’, that and the fact that I proved a few critics wrong in the early days. To have a customer so delighted to be purchasing a unique wearable art piece directly from the artist…and hat artist being you…there’s nothing more encouraging

How do you manage your time effectively?

It does have it’s downsides – time management is something I work at all the time. ‘Clocking off’ for the day can be a real problem when ‘work’ is “just” through the door, and inspiration tends to strike at the strangest of times. It is such a temptation to always be finishing something off or checking out new supplies or answer a few emails between cooking dinner or after reading my daughter a bedtime story.

What do you miss about having a “regular” job?

There are certain aspects of having a ‘traditional regular’ job, – the camaraderie of work colleagues, the team feel of having peers and just occasionally the directive of upper management…sometimes being the one to make ALL the decisions is a burden & I just wish for someone to say “Right those are the top 5 things that need doing – get to it!”

I have found the ‘Blog-O-sphere to be a wonderful forum to seek out like minded people and inspiration along the way, sometimes it can feel like attending school via correspondence as my ‘classmates’ are in cyber space…does that make sense?

It can be a very solitary pursuit when I am working in the studio, which is why I enjoy the balance of taking my ‘wares’ to market and chatting with the real people…it keeps me grounded and gives me an outlet for my social side.

What do you love about what you do now?

All in all I’d find it VERY challenging to conform to the regular 9-5 grind again…for starters my Studio ‘uniform’ would raise a few eyebrows in a conservative workplace, along with my choice of music to work by…(that and the volume it gets played at when things are really going right.) I don’t think I will be dancing to the beat of anyone’s drum but my own for a long time…if ever.

I love the fact I make most of the rules…

What qualifications did you have to run your own business?

My formal training includes a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Graphic Design, and a Retail Business Management Program, but by far the best teachers have been the clever folk I have met along the way, I have had some amazing employers who have given my wonderful opportunities, taken risks for me and allowed me to experience things that opened my eyes in a way formal education never could have. Sixteen LONG years in retail have given me a great insight into the business from both sides of the counter.

What did you have to give up in order to follow your dreams?

Oh that’s a tricky one…coz right about now I don’t think there’s much…


Thank you Jo

Find Jo

ONLINE STORE www.madeit.com.au/CurlyJoDesign

FOLLOW www.facebook.com/curlyjodesign

BLOGSPOT www.curlyjodesign.blogspot.com

EMAIL curlyjodesign@bigpond.com



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