Today we’d like to introduce you to Myriah (Rye) Shaw.
Myriah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always been a creative. When I was little, I would spend hours and hours sketching portraits, molding clay, felting, taking photographs, writing poems, cutting my own hair; you name it – I crafted it.
Painting was the craft that stuck. In the first week of my college career, my brave and hardworking single mother called to tell me she had decided to go backpack Europe alone, and when she returned home with wanderlust in her heart she was nothing short of determined that I would study at an art institute abroad (we mutually decided on Italy) and I was happy to go, although I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it happen financially.
I registered for all of the art courses I could take, and on the second day of painting 101, I did my first oil painting using a live model as the subject. My professor asked me to stay after class, and as the students cleared the room, she leads me to this incredible back room that was full of natural light and blank white space with the exception of the paint splatters on the floor. She told me that I had something that she didn’t want to alter with her teaching and that if I’d like, she’d prefer if I spent the reminder of the course in that room working on my own projects and she’d critique and guide as she felt necessary.
In that room, only weeks into my course, I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life no matter what it took. I still dream about that studio.
I stayed in Italy my entire Junior year and then, painted myself through my senior year to numb the heartache of being back at my small town university in Idaho after a year of traveling, creating, and dirt cheap red wine. My easel was practically leaning on my bed in my tiny, carpeted bedroom. It was such tight quarters that I had to paint standing up and do schoolwork sitting on my bed because I couldn’t fit my desk, but I had my priorities straight. Saying I painted constantly that year would not be an overstatement. I missed classes and would wake up at 2 am to work on a piece because I couldn’t sleep with it being unfinished and so close to my dream space.
Around that time, I began to collect things off of the land I grew up on, in an effort to resuscitate the love I had for the beauty of the PNW; antlers, bird skulls, butterfly wings, and natural stones. I found myself wanting to wear them, so I taught myself how to make jewelry.
I approached a local boutique in my hometown with about 10 of my amateur creations, and to my honest SHOCK, they said they liked my work and would love to carry it. I returned to their store before the week was over with more pieces than they even had room for and a brand name; I called it OpalMilk.
My mom had moved to Dallas while I was living abroad (she had met a Cuban-American man on a plane who convinced her to move here to be with him – and being the fearless romantic she is, she decided to go for it). Just before my graduation, I came to visit her new Dallas home and while we were at lunch, this insanely beautiful and wide-eyed social butterfly of a girl crouched down next to me with a shameless hand on my thigh and said “Hi, I’m Alex, are you single? You’re perfect for my brother.” I laughed and told her I was not single, and that I didn’t live in Texas, but she was impossible not to love and so she and I kept in touch. Flash forward 5 years later, that girl is months away from being my sister in law. Turns out she was right… her brother, Charlie, and I hit it off like I never imagined we would and I can’t wait to marry him this fall. Alex is now Chief Brand Officer of the dating app Bumble. Turns out she has a knack for this matchmaker thing.
Largely due to love, I have found a home in Texas. It took me some time to adjust to the lack of mountains, lakes, and let’s be honest — serenity of any kind. But I think most people within the creative community would agree that Dallas is a very supportive city full of opportunity and sweet southern folks who are thrilled out of their minds to help you network and achieve your dreams. Thanks to a couple of incredible women (Primarily Abi, of Abi Ferrin) I began really honing in on my craft and brand within my first couple of years in Dallas.
A year long move to Austin put me in touch with earth angels Cristen and Gabe Maroney who taught me how to balance being an artist and a business owner. The Maroneys are this gorgeous curly haired couple who run a beautifully curated traveling airstream boutique called Sunstream Goods. My first meeting with Cristen left me feeling empowered to really go after my goals and make a name for my brand outside of Texas. After a 7-month road trip in my Volkswagen Beetle, I had landed OpalMilk jewelry in over a dozen stores from Texas to the West Coast.
It was not until this last year that I got my first studio space (thanks to a little team work between Dallas artists Cameron Smith and Tom Hoitsma) and began painting again after roughly a 4-year hiatus. With much encouragement from my fiancé, I am currently about a quarter of the way through my first ever “series” (appropriately titled “Blind Faith”) and have NO idea what I am going to do with it. I am creating it solely to dive emotionally head first into this sweet transitional stage of my life in the best way that I know how.
I am months away from turning my Bishop Arts studio space into a small quasi-boutique (to be open on select days). I cant wait to have a space to display my work for others to see, as well as to host fellow artists who would otherwise struggle to get their work in front of the public eye. Not a day passes that I am not grateful for my passion that I have managed to turn into my livelihood, and I have never been more excited about my creative future than I am today.
Has it been a smooth road?
Since the day I started OpalMilk (and lets be honest- even before then on occasion), I have been humiliated, stolen from, professionally ghosted, defamed, been BROKE AS A JOKE, ripped off, overwhelmed, threatened, gotten myself in to debt then back out, felt terrified, physically and emotionally shamed, heard “no” repeatedly, encouraged to get a “real job” at least once a month… the list goes on and it would be very boring to read about the specific issues that came up, but I can tell you what I’ve learned from them.
The older I get, the more aware I become of the fact that we all feel unnecessarily alone in our struggles. We’ve all got them, regardless of how bright and shiny our social media lives might make us look, and yet most of us are working so hard to mask them in some way or another. Not only do we mask our own problems, we are also scared to listen to the hardships of the people we love because we might hear something that reflects our own pain we are working so hard to repress. I don’t need to get into the statistics about the ever-growing depression and suicide rates in this country to make a point here. It doesn’t matter what your economic status is, or what you do for a living; we all have struggled.
Most of the struggles I have trudged through professionally could probably be attributed to the fact that my left brain is – and always has been – on a tropical island sipping a Corona when I have needed it most. I really want to take accountability here – I tried to do my research, but being a business owner without a mentor while only employing my right hemisphere has been sort of like being dragged by one limp arm through the professional real-world mud while I waited for the larger reality-rocks to hit my face one by one (they don’t exactly teach important things like HOW TO FILE YOUR TAXES in required curriculum, at least in my hometown).
I had been the only person designing, creating, photographing, advertising, branding, making and managing a website, packaging, shipping, handling PR, monitoring financial responsibilities, working trunk shows, and making sure all my legalities were in order. For a person who wants to crawl out of their skin at the very mention of Excel sheets – being dragged through the professional real-world mud was as good as it was going to get.
For each time, I have wanted to point fingers at the things or circumstances responsible for all the ways in which I have fallen short as a business owner, I have had a moment of humility, followed by gratification and empowerment when I have figured it out the hard way- I’ve been learning.
I am the first in my family to have graduated from university. I witnessed and endured some pretty terrible things as a kid, my single mom walked back and forth to multiple waitressing jobs to provide and put herself through nursing school, the majority of my wardrobe was thrifted or given to me by my wealthier friends as they outgrew things until years after college, I worked as a waitress at the Old Monk (best people to work ever) upon moving to Dallas and what tip money I didn’t put towards my student loans, I spent investing in tools and materials to make OpalMilk everything that it could be. And yet I once overheard someone say, in reference to OpalMilk, that it “must be easy to start a cool business when your family is made out of money”. This is something they probably assumed by looking at my life now (which, by the way, is SO incredibly comfortable and lovely- I couldn’t be any more grateful).
My point is: achieving your goals is always going to come with the struggle- it wouldn’t be rewarding if it didn’t. My mentality shifted and the impossible seemed doable when people who I admired told me they had felt the same way at one point and taught me what they had learned.
As an artist – your livelihood relies on the vulnerability it requires to put your feelings onto a canvas for the world to dissect, it is imperative that you surround yourself with people who aren’t uncomfortable with sharing struggles.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
OpalMilk has evolved into this online boutique featuring little bits of everything I am or have been.
I hand make bags with leather sent from my family back in Idaho and often make handles out of the elk and deer antlers they find on our property when the snow melts. I’ve created perfume that smells like my home and workspace, robes because I love mornings and will lounge around in them reading for half the day if you let me, fringe jackets engraved with phrases like “Voodoo Child” because Jimi is my fashion idol and top 3 all-time favorite musicians. My jewelry line initially featured the bones I found in the woods near my hometown but has now evolved into natural stone pieces of wearable art. And most importantly, my paintings. I am so eager to finish this series and finally add a line of artwork to my website that corresponds to the brand and where I am taking it.
I would say that in a VERY saturated “crystal jewelry” market- what sets me apart is perhaps the fact that the way I wear and advertise my pieces is not strictly “bohemian”. Each piece has a western or even modern element to it and I try to make my pieces so that they can translate easily from music festivals to boujee art openings. Any age group, any audience, any setting kind of a thing; I just want each piece to be a conversation starter.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Absolutely. 100 %.
Although you might have to search a little harder to find a “cool pocket” of people and things that you vibe with if that’s important to you. It’s not like LA where nearly every person you meet is some interesting fellow aspiring actress/abstract dancer/gluten-free dog food maker… which means that if you are a creative person, you might not get the immediate kindred spirit warm and fuzzies with everybody you meet. Dallas is a whole lot of suit and ties with colorful little Americana biker-vest sprinkles on top. If you’re OK with making friends and business connections with people who don’t have all the same clothes and interests as you, you’ll do great here both socially and business-wise (for what it’s worth, I have been here for five years and still don’t feel like I have A group that I belong to- and I am super OK with that).
My best girlfriend in town, Sudie, is an incredible talent (look her up on SoundCloud – I mean it). She works her butt off and is much more socially integrated than I am, and I feel like Dallas has welcomed her with open arms. I rarely meet a person in this city who don’t know or at least know of her–which I think is so cool considering the size of Dallas. When you’re any sort of artist in LA or NYC- you’re a much smaller fish in a much bigger pond full of really dope fish. So while there might not be as many fellow creatives to collaborate with here (in my opinion there’s a weird elephant in the room when all of your friends are trying out for the same lead role anyway), it’s nice to have a few really authentic relationships in different social circles. I like that nobody expects me to be at a certain bar with a certain group of people every Friday night. Dallas has never stopped evolving for me for that reason. I meet somebody new with a totally different mindset and different networking connections every time I go out. I learn about what they’re interested in (almost always something inspiring and totally off my radar) and because they aren’t all artists as well, they are genuinely really curious and supportive in regards to my work.
- Website: opalmilkbyrye.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/opalmilk/?hl=en
Kalan Briggs IG (itskalan), Julia Soniat IG (juliasoniat)