Sisters and Artists: Laura Tamea

This is the third in a series of posts on artists with a special relationship – sisterhood!

We’re excited to share our interview with Laura Tamea of Joyner Avenue.  Laura was one of the first designers we started talking with when we moved to North Carolina, and, after emailing us some sweet pictures of her and her two sisters, she was the inspiration behind this blog series.

Laura’s shop has seen fantastic success, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her as a friend of The Makery.

The Makery:  Could you tell us a little about yourself and your life as an artist? How did you come to create Joyner Avenue?   
Laura: Well, I think it’s a little bit corny,  and might be a great ad for Apple, but honest to god, Joyner Avenue  first started when I bought my MacBook Pro!  I kind of fell in love with how how pretty and sleek my new laptop was and I wanted to have an equally lovely case to keep it safe in.  I had seen wool felt laptop cases online and loved the idea of using this awesome material, so thus my journey to create with felt began.   I wrestled with sewing the heavy material on my home sewing machine, but thanks to help and encouragement from my Mom, I was able to buy my industrial Juki Sewing machine.  It sews heavy materials like a dream and after I got used to using it, I realized that there was a world of things I could now make.  That was in February of 2011 and Joyner Avenue made it’s first Etsy sale in April of 2011. Today, Joyner Avenue has made and sold more than 300 bags.

What has it been like for you to be one of three sisters? What was life like growing up together? 
There are four of us Tamea kids in all, three sisters and a brother– Rebecca, Daniel, Laura (me) and Hayley.   I think I have always loved having a big family even though we didn’t always get along.   Growing up we had out fair share of fighting, but despite that we always had a strong bond.  Today, I am close to all of my siblings and feel blessed to have three awesome friends.  It’s neat to have people who really know who you are.  My siblings have seen my journey through life and I theirs.

Laura, sister Hayley and her daughter Annalee

Have your sisters had any part in your artistic life – as collaborators, feedback-givers, or inspiration?
 All of my siblings have been supportive of my bags from the beginning and only given me the nicest of feedback (even when my bags were really pretty rough!), but my sister Rebecca would have to be the biggest inspiration for Joyner Avenue as a business.  Not only does she have a great fashion sense, but she started her own business making the best sourdough bread ever.  Over a couple years, her business grew from a few loaves a week  for close friends, to more than 100 for her community.   Her product was so good that it made the choice easy for her customers.   Rebecca doesn’t bake anymore (or eat bread for that matter), but now she is working on making fresh and natural beauty products out of the most lovely ingredients.  She made me realize that I could do whatever I wanted, all I had to do was go for it.

Sisters Hayley and Rebecca

You mentioned to us that you and your sisters have dreamed up projects together in the past, can you tell us about one or two of these fantasy projects?
The most ongoing project would have to be a Tamea  family homestead in West Virginia.   The plan is pretty vague, and has changed over the years, but I think we would all love to live close again.  Ideally, we could have a beautiful piece of land that each of us had a little cabin on, where we could live for all or part of the year, and grow and make food together.  My sister Hayley is probably the driving force behind us.  She is a Homemaker Plus.  She grows a garden, keeps a milk cow ( which is SO not as easy as you might think), has raised animals for meat, makes cheese, pickles, sauerkraut, bread and more. Meanwhile, she and her husband Ryan are raising their awesome daughter Anna Lee (age 4).

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  At age 26, I was working full time in a medical diagnostics lab and I still didn’t know the answer to that question.  I knew flat out that working under fluorescent lights till 11pm, five days a week, didn’t suit me.   I wanted to be home for dinner.   A former supervisor of mine once said that I had a problem with authority.  I am not sure that is exactly true, but I do love being my own boss and to make my own rules.  It’s really tough and scary sometimes and a lot of work, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.  

Laura at work 

Read our other sister interviews with Oami and Whitney


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