Turning a new hobby into a successful business with Elso Collective


September 1, 2023

Member Spotlight

We recently met with Elena to learn more about her life, mental health journey and turning a new hobby into a successful business venture.

We recently met with Elena to learn more about her life, mental health journey and turning a new hobby into a successful business venture.

Meet Elena Strohfeldt - a member at The Commons South Yarra. ⁠Elena works as a Social Media Manager for online pet store Swaggle.

Entirely self-taught, Elena crafts bespoke pieces out of clay, discovering the therapeutic benefits of ceramics and channeling them into her own collection. ⁠Elena has been quite open about her struggles with mental health during Covid and how being gifted her first Crockd pottery kit led her down a new path.

You have touched on how this creative outlet helped with your anxiety during the pandemic, could you expand on this?

As you know, the lock downs in Melbourne were especially harsh and it wasn't hard to go a little stir crazy. Before the lock downs I had been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression so I knew how important it was to take extra care of my mental health during such a vulnerable time.

At first, I made some really questionable bowls and plates, but as I played around, with no expectations and nothing specific in mind I could see myself improving. I also felt the difference after a pottery making session.

“Something about working with your hands, the tactile nature of the clay, it gave me the opportunity to not dwell on the lock downs or any negative thoughts.”

How did the idea for the Elso Collective first come about?

Elso Collective started as Elso Jewellery at the end of 2018. I was a victim of assault in January 2018 and hit rock bottom. I really needed something to get out of bed, a purpose, so I created it myself. I have worked retail in my late teens/early twenties and on my breaks or in between shifts I would find myself sketching jewellery designs.

Hitting a real low point gave me the push I needed to finally start Elso Jewellery. There is a misconception that you need to have everything in place before you start a business, I learned that is not true. With no money saved and no experience in jewellery making I was able to create a brand from scratch that has been featured in Vogue and Elle, which is pretty amazing to say.

What was your first collection? And what pushed you to create it?

The first collection was called The Art Collector. It came from my passion for keeping production local and sustainable, and offering people quality solid gold and silver pieces without the insane mark ups. The first two key lines were named after Picasso's muses, Dora Maar and Francoise Gilot, because he would not have been the artist he was without them and they got very little attention and no credit. I wanted to shine a light on unsung heroes.

Your new Lotus Collection is undeniably stunning, where do you find inspiration? And which is your favourite piece?

Elso Jewellery organically progressed to Elso Collective so that I could incorporate my ceramics and art pieces into the business in early 2021. It took about two years of constantly experimenting and challenging myself, to find a style that is true to me.

“Lotus was the first collection that felt 100% uniquely mine."

I recently had an exhibition for my new series "Her" as part of Melbourne Design Week which I am still in awe of. This collection is a natural progression from my Lotus collection, it was a response to Roe v Wade being overturned and my ceramics felt like the only way I could work through how I felt about it. Each piece is named after a special woman in my life that has helped me become the artist and person who I am today.

My favourite piece of this collection is called Natalie. I named it Natalie after my beautiful friend Natalie Fornasier who sadly lost her battle to skin cancer earlier this year. She was such a force of nature and a woman I will always admire and look up to.

Lastly, any tips for our community on turning a new hobby into a successful business?

The biggest tip I can say is to just start. You don't need to have certain experience, lots of money or know what you are doing all the time. Once you start, you will learn along the way. Start small, work hard and surround yourself with people that support you.

Imagery supplied by: @sarahforgiephoto @kaedejt @thedesignfiles & @ameliastanwix. ⁠