It’s nearly 60 degrees and rainy in late February, but Maddi Whiting ‘23 (she/they) arrives at the lower level of Seegers Union with an enthusiasm that shines through the dreary weather. Wearing a chic pair of tan and green earrings, she settles down on the couch, eager to talk about her newfound success in her small business where she creates fashionable art that one can hang from their ears.
In the spring of 2020, Whiting began creating unique polymer clay earrings and selling them online. Her mother had dabbled in jewelry making, and during such a screen-filled time, Maddi was looking for something different to do. And so, she picked up some old clays, worried they’d simply crumble, and got to work. A sophomore at the time, she had no high expectations for what her “hobby” may become, and, two years later, finds herself co-owning a small business which sells worldwide and has (just recently) allowed her to pay off her student loans.
Whiting Designs (@whiting_designs on instagram, and @whitingdesignsshop on TikTok), however, did not appear overnight. Whiting recognizes the importance—and difficulty—of consistency when creating both physical products and digital profiles to promote them. The payoff is when something miraculous happens, like when a TikTok of hers went viral this week, reaching over one million views and 300,000 likes. Or better yet, when she sees followers interacting with the artistic side of her product.
Over the last couple of months, Whiting has had three successful launches, but her biggest thrill is seeing others enjoying her style; creating a community where people appreciate her “niche,” and she encourages others to pursue their own.
“ALWAYS buy small business… if you can,” she insists passionately.
There is a community that is inevitably created in supporting a personable business, and it’s strengthened by social media. People are able to revel in their shared aesthetics, interests, and respects and it is a beautifully validating feeling.
Whiting adores it. She has both become part of and built a unique community that reaches so far beyond herself and her mother; to Iceland, Australia, Canada, Germany, and nearly all 50 states.
She looks forward to continuing her artistic process and hopefully taking inspiration from popular musical artists, but also focusing on staying original and true. “The earrings create something tangible that resembles memories for concerts people went to and the joy that they had in that moment.”
Whiting thinks one of the most important things is quality, accuracy and vision. Whiting is willing to sit and make 20 color swatches to perfectly match the color she wants. Seeing the finished product, and seeing it on a friend, a stranger, or a professor is enthralling. Better yet, she knows it’s going to last.
Her most recent and favorite “era” of artistic earrings, has been one inspired by Harry Styles and his outfits during his most recent tour. With a dreamy look in her eye, Whiting talked about the art in fashion and her love to play upon that paradox: “By capturing the concert [in colors and shapes], there is [also] an experience that is captured.”