Melissa Johnson is creator, writer and founder of Miss Havisham’s Curiosities, where collectors and antique lovers can find her “wicked little teacups.” Her wares can also be found at various pop-ups around Los Angeles and at The Mystic Museum in Burbank. Learn about Melissa Johnson…
Hometown: I was born in Youngstown, Ohio. I moved to Los Angeles after living in NYC for 15 years.
First job: Picking crab apples in our neighbor’s orchard for a quarter a bucket. I was 8 or 9. I think they got a pretty good deal!
Favorite ways to spend your free time in CA: Flea markets and estate sales! I love old things, and I love piecing together someone’s life story through their collections.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Starting Miss Havisham’s Curiosities. I spent over 20 years working in design and animation. I had a very successful career, so walking away from it was monumental for me. I had started Miss Havisham’s purely as a creative outlet never thinking it would become my full time gig but here we are.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Scaling Miss Havisham’s up quickly. When my cups went viral in 2017, I had no idea how to meet the demand. It was fast and furious and while I was incredibly grateful, I definitely had a deer-in-the-headlights moment. I’m glad it happened that way even though it was hard at the time. I’m a big believer in a trial-by-fire approach to learning.
Someone who inspires you and why: My grandmother is the inspiration for my cups and plates. She was an entrepreneur when most women weren’t and she had a million different jobs. You couldn’t label her with one career. She’d once owned a hair salon, she’d worked for the local government, she was an antique dealer, she sold real estate. One day she was taking French classes and the next day she was signing us up for cake-decorating classes. There really wasn’t much rhyme or reason to it. She was just looking for something to keep herself occupied. She wasn’t the happiest of women. If she broke a teacup, she’d paint a curse word in it or embroider something funny in an old quilt. I think her art was her way of coping with the world. I grew up going to auctions and garage sales with her, and they are some of my fondest memories.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: I think it’s important to find your people and to allow your business grow organically. My brand is me. I have a very dark sense of humor, and I love old and intricately crafted things. My customers want to laugh, and they like the weird things I like. But not everyone does and that’s OK! You don’t have to be everyone’s cup of tea (See what I did there?).
Favorite quote: “Not my monkeys. Not my circus.”
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: My great grandparents emigrated here in the 1890’s from Lebanon. They were bootleggers during Prohibition. When I was a kid, we lived in their house for a time. There was a trapdoor in the dining room floor that lead out to a tunnel in the yard where they’d kept the still.
What makes someone fabulous: A colorful past.