On a whim three years ago, jewelry maker Chelsey Hill decided to design award ribbons to celebrate life’s underappreciated achievements. Her first two ribbons read, “Adulting Honorable Mention” and “I Put Pants on Today.” She snapped a photo of them on her dining room table, posted it on the Facebook page for Not Your Mama’s Craft Market (which Hill runs), and watched as the picture got over a million shares. She knew she was on to something.
Today, Hill makes Adulting Award ribbons in her German Village basement and sells them on Etsy as “TheHeirloom Tomatos.” They’ve been featured in O Magazine, Country Living, and Buzzfeed. I sat down with Hill to learn more about her process and how to properly adult—or not.
What’s “Adulting?” Adulting is doing grown up things… You use adulting when you’re trying to figure out what those things are, or you’re becoming like, violently aware of what they are, in that they’re hard. But I think everybody’s really just pretending to adult, and that’s kind of what I explore… Adulting is more like the growing pains of becoming a grown-up.
What gave you the idea for the awards? I was raised like a carny kid… My parents owned concession stands, so all summer we would be traveling to different fairs, mostly in Ohio. We’d get ribbons at the fair… so that’s been a connection.
I always use my friends to pull inspiration. I have this girlfriend and we… just hate pants. I’m not very social and neither is she, so that’s kind of the start of “Socializing Non Participant Award” and “I Put Pants on Today.” [These awards are] mostly just from things that I hate, or that my friends hate.
What’s the production process like? I work with an actual award printing company, so they’re making your like swimming, track awards—all that stuff. So I think I’m their really odd duck. Sometimes they’ll call me like, “I just want to confirm this is what you wanted us to say…”
What’s your best seller? Adulting Honorable Mention and I Put Pants on Today… I think there’s a really strong connection with the Adulting Honorable Mention because I think everybody just feels like they’re just participating in being an adult and not very many people feel like they’re very good at it so it kind of hits you on all sorts of levels.
These made me think of the stereotype of millennials that you get a participation trophy for everything. Are you playing on that? I guess I am in some ways… but you don’t get awards when you’re grown-ups anymore and it’s really hard! I think it’s mostly just trying to laugh at situations that aren’t always funny.
Do you do custom orders? I do custom orders in large quantities… A maternity ward ordered a bunch from me to pass out to the new moms… It says, “I passed gas today.” It’s something you don’t really talk about when you’re about to have a baby and you want to leave the hospital, but they’re gonna check to make sure you are!
You’ve received national press lately. Why do you think these awards resonate so well? I think everybody can find themselves in one. I love when I do big craft shows and markets, because I’ll have every award up on a big board… People will walk up and they don’t quite understand what they’re seeing at first, and then the moment that it hits them it’s awesome and they’re just laughing… As much as you can be a successful adult, everybody’s still just faking it so I think that it’s nice to know that there’s other people out there that feel the same way.
Adulting Awards are for sale locally at Tigertree and online at www.etsy.com/shop/theheirloomtomatos.