We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Gonzales and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Michelle, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
My life shifted dramatically when I was diagnosed with Long COVID last year. I began full time work (for the first time in 9 months) immediately after recovering from my initial COVID sickness and my body felt like a stranger to me. It took a few months for my doctor to figure out what was going on with me and I received my diagnosis. I didn’t think much of it at the time and then my body showed me what my brain was not paying attention to, I was not able to work/live/function in a way that I always had. When I think about how my work life balance has changed over the last three years, it feels like a story you hear others tell, not something that could be so personal and so deeply profound in many ways. I went from working 11 and 12 hour days constantly for weeks on end and feeling “tired” but able to keep going. I even made art after those long days, painting and sewing things regularly, scheduling murals and custom pieces for people. I would go out and dance after long weeks and wake up and do things all day with friends. There was no “down” time, but there didn’t need to be. When the pandemic hit the US, I was on a job wardrobe styling and we were told we could choose to go home and be safe or continue working and be paid either way. I stayed, it felt like a no brainer to continue to work despite there being no issue with bowing out for our safety.
What I have learned through my chronic illness is that work does not and should not define you, that creates inherent imbalance, allowing one thing to be the ruler of your world. I used to feel motivated by my accomplishments only if there was recognition instead of purely doing what I loved for the love of it. I used to only make art if someone was making a purchase and so rarely for my own expression. That version of me and of my relationship with work and art is a distant memory. My diagnosis took painting from me and switched up the role that my job played for me and forced me to reconsider what work and art meant to me and what they were going to mean to me going forward.
I have spent the last several months creating with a new medium (beading) and exploring it for myself, everything else comes second. My balance became prioritizing something sustainable. I work part time from home, as that is what my body can handle and I dedicate specific days to making and playing with beads, sometimes creating custom work for orders but thats never my sole focus. I recently created pieces for an art show that is up for all of April and created a full installation, just for my joy and my expression.
It feels liberating to understand the importance of self vs work now at 31. This was not a path I ever thought I would walk, facing a global shift in all the things we understand, facing a chronic illness I was “too healthy” to get, facing letting go of what I understood about my job and my relationship with my art. All of this to say, I wouldn’t change the present for anything. I think staying present in your choices is how we truly stay balanced day to day and it shows in every part of what we do.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a lover of dressing for how you want to feel as opposed to how you want to “look” (I believe the same is true of how you approach your homes decor). In my artistic pursuits I aim to make people feel something when they interact with a piece of mine. I want my jewelry to make you feel playful or sexy or powerful when you wear it. I want it to feel like the person and then some extra umphf. I wouldn’t call anything easy, thats not a word I use often, especially not to describe anything I am passionate about. I am where I am because of thoughtful decisions and weighing options before execution. I don’t think rushing into starting a brand or decision suits who I am. My brand name came to me in the process of finding words that resonated with who I am and what I wanted to convey my jewelry and art as.
“Preciosa” means precious in Spanish, and gems are defined as a precious stone, something prized for its beauty or perfection and/or a well-beloved person. Preciosa Gems encompasses all these attributes and noting the attention to detail and quality of product, the consumer feels the same.
My brand is simply a reflection of myself. It’s born of change and growth during a trying time and remains a bright light. It’s not going to be for everyone, but like they say – “the girls who get it, get it”.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Breakfast musts: Sweedeedee, Spielman’s and Hey love (only on the weekends) Lunch and a fun activity: Guero and a matinee at Laurelhurst theatre, Mirakutei sushi and the Goodwill in Milwaukee and Mehka on sandy and thrifting at ReRun (open on the weekend)
Dinner and drinks: Flying fish and drinks at Angel Face, Canard for happy hour so we can get dinner and drinks and Wilder Bar and drinks at Expatriate.
All the sillies in between: Going for a walk in one of 100 gorgeous parks, going to the Kenton area to browse shops and probably a Target run for something.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My biggest support comes from my partner, Tim. He encouraged my to push myself and become anything and everything I had in mind before I knew how to articulate my goals for myself. He became my best friend through constant support and hyped me up before every opportunity, telling me how much he believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. We are now engaged and he is just as relentless in his encouragement of me pursuing what I am passionate about and reminding me that going slow and getting rest is also just as important as working hard. I also have an amazingly supportive community of people online, people willing to go out of their way to share with me how my art, my words, my expression resonates with them or shines a light on them that hadn’t before and that keeps me extra motivated. At my core, I want to help people feel good, better, best and when I get feedback that I am doing that in some way, it makes the whole process worth it.
I find so much inspiration in my community and have the opportunity to connect with such incredible artists. One of whom suggested and gifted me a book that I reference often, “All about love” by Bell Hooks. This book taught me new perspectives and new ways to articulate my feelings in the world and that is definitely another piece to the success and inspiration puzzle.

Website: michelle-gonzales.com

Instagram: @monstameesh & @preciosa_gems

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-gonzales-artist/

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.