Julie Johnson grew up in La Honda, California. She grew up a rural area and has been connected to the western industry ever since.
“As far back as I can remember we always had sheep, cattle, and of course horses around. I started showing Brahman cattle with 4H and then my aunt purchased my first show horse when I was 9,” she said.
“I stayed with the cattle and horses until life got in the way. When I got married in 2004 I told my husband that I wanted to purchase a horse again. And I haven't been without a equine partner since! I don't think he knew what he was getting into when he married me!”
Julie has shown in the American Paint Horse Association as a youth and amateur, competing in western events.
“I showed mainly in the western events; pleasure, horsemanship, and trail,” she said. “I love the challenge of trying to ride a pretty pattern and keeping your horse where he needs to be. I've been away from the show pen for several years and really want to go back.”
Her show career has been on hold, but Julie has plenty of things to keep her busy, including her business.
Julie created Jack It Up Designs after connecting the dots between her western heritage, growing up around cattle, and creativity. Jack It Up Designs is an embellished skull business, creating one of a kind western decor pieces.
“We always had skulls laying around, boy I cringe when I think how many the tractor buried, but I had never really thought much about them at the time,” she said. “We were at a rodeo and I saw some done up and then I saw the prices! I went, oh my gosh, I can do that! And I can do it better! And for less!”
Julie went back to her family’s ditch, after her first skull to design.
“It was this bright turquoise piece, with all of these multi colored rhinestones,” she said. “I still have it somewhere. I started playing with them and doing more and more. Lots of trial and error.”
After creating hundreds of skulls, Julie fondly looks back on her first design to see how far she’s come.
“They've changed so much! The materials, the quality of the skulls, stones, and the design ideas. I have awesome customers and family who are always pushing me out of my comfort zone with designs,” she said.
Julie has experience in the wedding industry, and her favorite pieces to create are for future brides.
“I love doing the bridal pieces! I used to work in the wedding industry, so the more sparkle the better,” she said. “I also love when a customer gives me freedom to play with them. It's amazing how each piece can take on a life of its own.”
Julie’s goals for the coming years are to travel, and go to some trade shows!
“I've always been fortunate to have friends with booths at different events and they take the skulls for me. I would love to be able to have my own set up,” she said.
“It’s always a gamble setting out and leaving your 9-5 job to do something like this. It's a risk I'm so glad I took! I hope these pieces are still in demand in the coming years. Fashion and home decor can be such a fickle blend of fads and trends! I really hope to see these endure as heirloom pieces.”