Lizz Barnes has always been into making things—and loves to hyper-focus on the details. “As a kid, I remember lying in the grass, analyzing each blade,” she explains. “I’ve always had a love for nature and an appreciation for God’s creation.” Today she owns and operates one of Illinois’ top Etsy shops at Ear in the Envelope, selling food-safe jewelry supplies to artists around the world and creating her own jewelry in her free time.
A Richwoods High graduate, Barnes earned her bachelor’s degree in art from Illinois State University in 1998. While teaching classes at the Peoria Art Guild, she went searching for a high-quality, inexpensive alternative to sterling silver for metal stamping—and unknowingly set her career as a small business owner into motion. She opened Ear in the Envelope in 2011.
Barnes met her husband, Tim, when he was a youth pastor at her parents’ church. “My dad picked him out a year before I met him, and said this is who I need to marry.” Two weeks after their first date, they were engaged—”the easiest decision I ever made,” she says. The couple has two adopted children: Heather, 23; and Zach, 19.
Known for her positive attitude, Barnes serves as a mentor to the young artists that work for her—encouraging their own efforts in art and business. “The biggest thing is to leave a legacy,” she notes. “What do you want left behind when you leave? Hopefully it’s relationships—and helping other people become better.”
- Favorite splurge: Buying art from local artists.
- What is your most treasured possession? A paperweight with a puffed dandelion inside. I saw it in an arts magazine, and for three months I casually dropped the magazine in front of my husband, letting him know how amazing it was. Being such a good guy, he caught the hint and it was under the Christmas tree.
- What was your first car? A ’72 Volkswagen Beetle with a hole in the passenger floor.
- First job? – Dipper Dan (ice cream shop) at Northwoods Mall.
- What would you do with a million dollars? I would buy small homes for people who needed them.
- Have you ever had a near-death experience? I was tubing on the Snake River and hit a log jam. Some quick-acting friends saved the day!
- Which talent would you most like to have? To play an instrument.
- What is your motto? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
- If you were able to retrieve only one item on the way out of your burning house, what would it be? A photo album. (I would grab as many albums as I could carry, but that’s not really one item. Maybe I would just save the paperweight.)
- What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received? “In business… small is beautiful.” —Peoria’s own Raphael Rodolfi. a&s