We had the good fortune of connecting with Mackenzie Yost and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mackenzie, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
The world can always use a little bit more whimsy and wonder. Newt & Narwhal was shaped around the thought process that even the smallest works of art can evoke genuine moments of happiness and fascination. Primarily selling handmade small batch resin earrings, my work is designed to feel whimsical, wonderful, and fanciful. Our daily lives can be tough– work, school, kids, chores, and a bunch more seemingly endless responsibilities. So, why not make the day a little more fun and put on a cool pair of earrings before heading out the door?! It might seem small to some, but looking in the mirror during a busy day and seeing your favorite snake earrings can totally redirect stressed thoughts into happier ones, even if it’s just for a second or two. My husband, Dominic, and I came up with the name Newt & Narwhal pretty naturally, as we knew it had to include some neat creatures that embody the whimsy and wonder we hope people feel when they see our products. After graduating from Arizona State University in December of 2020, I did a lot of questioning regarding what professional path I wanted to take. In the trying times we’ve collectively experienced over the past few years, I felt determined to establish a source of stability that would not only help me financially, but also help me reach and impact others. It feels good to express myself exactly as I am through my art, and to have other people in my community relate to that. That sense of connection, acceptance, and belonging is truly priceless.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’d like to think the biggest thing that sets my art apart from others, or what makes it unique, is that I was a complete newbie to resin pouring until about two months before I opened my small business. I established Newt & Narwhal in August of 2021, and had only tried resin for the first time that June! Sometimes you never know just how much you’re inclined to something until you try it, and for me, it’s resin work. My business visions came to fruition pretty quickly after experimenting with this medium and finishing a few projects, as I realized I might actually be able to share my work with others to enjoy. I don’t really have a solidified artistic vision when I create- A lot of decisions about what to do next are made in the moment, and that’s the whimsy of Newt & Narwhal! Growing up, my absolute favorite movie was Alice in Wonderland. I like to describe my style as belonging in that Wonderland. If all my resin art fell down the rabbit hole and ended up in Wonderland, I’d like to think my work would fit into the scenery perfectly. Perhaps Alice would even wear a pair of my earrings to the tea party!! In my artistic journey, I’m most proud of simply being myself, expressing my true inner-self, and being vulnerable enough to publicly share that. Sometimes it feels daunting to share your art in a world where so many people are good at so many things, but sometimes it’s totally worth it!
I don’t think any artistic journey is easy, but we all know life isn’t always easy either! My artistic journey is twisty, turny, and upside-downy, but that’s what makes it so memorable and exciting. As I mentioned, a lot of my work is designed in the moment, so whatever I’m feeling or thinking about that day definitely has an influence. An important lesson I’ve learned so far is that it’s okay to create art when you’re sad, and when you feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s okay to create when you have no inspiration at all, and when you feel like your brain is about to burst at the seams with ideas. The product of both spectrums brings that magical, fanciful, and strange feeling to Newt & Narwhal.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I LOVE showing people around Tucson! I feel so lucky to live in a city with such rich cultural and artistic influences. Checking out downtown is definitely a must- An electric scooter ride along 4th avenue to Congress street would be a perfect showcase of some of downtown’s treasures: several incredible local restaurants and small businesses, the Rialto, Hotel Congress, and dozens of stunning murals painted on the buildings. The number of soulful murals we have downtown is astounding! You can totally feel Tucson’s eclectic vibes in this area. Must-try Tucson restaurants/bars include HUB Restaurant and Ice Creamery, El Charro Cafe, Ermanos Craft Beer and Wine Bar, and Tumerico. Talk about YUM! If I were showing a pal around town, we’d also have to go check out the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Both locations showcase the unique desert flora and fauna we have around here. If there’s time for a close getaway, a tour of the Mt. Lemmon scenic byway is totally the way to go! It’s super fun to pack a picnic lunch, go on a beautiful hike (or two or three!), and check out the changing scenery from desert to pine-covered forest lands. We could even make it a night trip and camp outside in the warmer months, or stay in one of the rustic cabins on the mountaintop when it’s cooler. There are so many incredible hiking destinations here, such as Catalina State Park and Sabino Canyon. Tucson and its surrounding areas are pretty awesome.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband, Dominic, totally deserves this shout-out! Although Newt & Narwhal is largely my own endeavor, Dominic has helped shape the business through his incredible photography and videography skills. His past experience in photography, videography, and editing has helped me really capture the essence of my work, and thus build my brand. All photographs on Newt & Narwhal’s Instagram and Etsy page are done by him. Dominic has always been wildly creative, and I think that influence made me feel more curious about exploring my own artistic interests over time. His efforts, support, encouragement, and excitement have carried me a long way. Sometimes you need that extra push to manifest those little dreams you have in your head into reality, and Dominic was definitely the pivotal force.
Dominic– thank you for being a wonderful partner, and for seeing the value in my art!