Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Spotlight: Soul Shine

Sundays are my days where I interview small business owners. I've learned so much from this series. Meredith was a wonderful person to interview: she is so intelligent and passionate and truly lovely. What I've learned is if you have a passion for something: go for it. Meredith runs Soul Shine, a shop that sells everything from jewelry to tie-dye pants. It was born out of love and continues to grow and grow and it's only at it's 1 year mark! Truly remarkable. It's inspiring to see. 

C: Hi Meredith, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me. I love that you pour so much love into your products and when I was prerusing your website I realized how much of an array of items you have. What inspired you to start Soul Shine Maine?

M: I have always been pursuing my art in one way or another… I’ve run a few small independent galleries, done endless amounts of craft shows, commissioned work here and there… I have been a glassblower, a sculpture, a potter, a metalworker, a silversmith, a seamstress, a curator, a teacher, a student …. I have always been crafting a new way to look at things or keep my hands busy and my mind busier.
After chasing the artistic dream for 10+ years, I ran myself into a creative rut of sorts and after several YEARS of trying to work my way out I decide to go back to the basics. I started sewing, dyeing my own textiles, and designing my own clothing when I was in the 4th Grade.. A craft I continued through my early twenties. I have always been into ‘unique’ fashion; Our first impression is our best.. why not make it totally unique? I sold my ‘unique’ goods at shows in the summer and even on eBay (in a time before Etsy)…
The creation of "Soul Shine Maine” was just a new spin on an old dream… to rekindle my own love for art and hopefully rescue my creative soul from the depths of a SERIOUS Artistic Block. And it worked merely by accident or dumb luck.. I listed a few of my “unique” garments on Etsy, honestly thinking no one would ever notice them… etsy is a pretty big sea of crafts people, but i guess there is room for everyone… because once I started loving my art again, and believing in it… it started to sell again…

C: You're my first interview with a business owner who does not live in CT! You are based in Maine now. How has Maine inspired you and your your craft? Are there particular places that you draw creativity from?
M: Albert Einstein said “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
This more than anything is how living (and moving) to Maine has directly effected my art. Once I got out of the hustle and bustle and compacted energy of living and working and trying to make art in cramped studios and old warehouses with multiple artists in one space, my art really began to take its own form… I prefer wide open spaces, its good for my brain.

C: Where do you see Soul Shine Maine in a year? 5 years from now?
M:  Soul Shine kind of just took off before my eyes.. I really hope that we will continue to grow the way we have been as the years go on. We are truly only at our 1 year mark now, but we have already done so much growing! Working with our own designers to use more sustainable and locally supplied materials and gearing up for an awesome Spring and Summer season…. I would love for our entire line to be 100% organic, sustainable and USA grown and made within the 2 years and possibly a store front somewhere along the coast of Maine in the summer seasons, which has always been a long time dream of mine …

C: What is your most popular item? Where's the furthest you shipped from?
M: We sell a lot of socks. Everyone need socks I guess… and our socks are pretty comfortable and stylish too! Also, they make great gifts and are excellent for dancing!
We have shipped them all over the place. We ship mostly in the US but we have shipped as far as Australia so far :)
Our second most popular line is definitely our Women’s Line.

C: I love how much variety you have in your store -anything else you are going to add?
M: I would love to add more housewares, as well as grab and go style items to fill things in… I’ll get there.

C: Biggest Challenge?
M:  My biggest challenge is definitely time management and organization!!! I am an artist by nature, naturally scatter brained and a bit of a dreamer! I try to keep myself on task and organized to the best of my abilities, although it can be a challenge some days.

C: Lastly, thank you again for doing this - What would be your advice for someone wanting to turn their labor of love into a business?
M: Believe in it. Believe in your work and yourself. Believe it is not just good enough, but GREAT!!! And don’t give up…. Thats the most important part!

ED. NOTE:  Thank you Meredith and Soul Shine. All photos are from her and her shop, you can check it out here  !

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Spotlight: Cyretta's Creations

I love interviewing people who run small businesses. Their passion and ambition is inspiring to the soul. They are people who started with a hobby and turned that love into a business into something profitable and something they love doing. My interview today was with Cyretta LaMay who runs Cyretta's Creations - a small business that makes handmade, personalized baskets.  Her story is very interesting and has a great message - it's never too late to give up on your dreams

C: Hi Cyretta, thank you for doing this interview!  How long have you been making personalized baskets?

    I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share what I love to do.  I have been making personalized baskets as well as other products for a few years now. I always like to present a gift that is different or something out of the ordinary that stands out from others and made from the heart without breaking your pockets.

C: When did you decide to start selling them? What's your most popular one?
    I decided to start selling baskets a little over a year ago when a lot of people started to ask if they could purchase something handmade by me.  Right now my most popular items are diaper cakes and baby baskets that i make as a centerpiece for a baby shower or a one of a kind gift. 

C: I see Cyretta's Creations are on Facebook and Instagram. Have you ever thought of using an online market place like Etsy or a website? What's the best way to purchase a personalized creation of yours?

    Right now i am in the process of getting my products up on etsy as we speak. I am just doing a little research to work out all of the shipping details.  Anyone that is interested in getting anything made by me personalized can email me at,  message me on Facebook at Cyretta's Creations or send a direct message on Instagram at cyrettascreations. People just give me an idea about what they want then we go from there. Pricing varies but I am very affordable. I like to know what you would like in a decent amount of time so that i can collect all the material as well as take my time so that it shows in the final product.

How often do you use social media for Cyretta's Creations? Do you feel you use it more to advertise your products?

    I promote my items on social media every time I have a new order, I post the finished product.  I use my pages to advertise because I want people to see all the items I create, that is not just limited to baskets.

C: What are your biggest challenge or challenges with Cyretta's Creations? 

    My biggest challenge with my business would be getting my larger products sold outside of Connecticut safely and still in place just the way i created them.  

C: Where do you see Cyretta's Creations in a year from now? 5 years from now?
    A year from now I hope my business will have increased, and hope to be adding more ideas to my list of creativity, and a successful website up and running. Five years from now who knows,  it may be a booming business full time.  I never put a time limit on anything.  I can only work harder everyday and push forward to achieve what i want in life. 

C: Lastly, thank you so much for partaking in this. What would be your words of advice for someone wanting to start a small business like yours?
    If there is someone looking to create some type of small business I would say go for it.  Just to think - mine just started as an hobby.  I wish I would have taken it more serious a long time ago, but it is never too late to pursue a passion. 

    I hope someone will read this and be inspired as well.  Thank you

                                                                    - Cyretta laMay

Editor's Note: All photos by Cyretta's Creations, check out her designs here.

{the heart of a flower: 5 years old today}

I've always loved writing. It was cathartic and vital to me. Some of my most heart breaking times, I wrote and wrote and wrote until the chill and hurt of my heart, my head, my bones lessened. 

Five years ago I was moving back home to Connecticut after living in Mississippi and Louisiana for two years and half years. I wanted to document everything I saw and experienced. I wanted to write about the shell of once lively coastal towns in Mississippi that were left beautiful but decayed ghosts after Hurricane Katrina. I wanted to write about my experience working in real estate for the first time. I want to describe the southern mansions I walked through that reminded of something out of Great Expectations - ethereal and abandoned. I wanted to share the tiny, little restaurants that served the best mashed potatoes or my favorite breakfast nooks in New Orleans. I can still smell the side streets of Bourbon, I still remember all the art and the best live jazz music that ever graced my ears and the festivals in New Orleans.

I still remember driving by the Gulf Coast and seeing the powerful waves as I drove to my apartment. I wanted to write about everything that was in my head so I could never forget it. 

Over time, the blog became less about my time spent down South and more about my current life in Connecticut. I wrote about my relationships, my ups and downs and also about fashion and style. I realized pigeonholing myself held me back. I wanted to write about everything that moved my heart.

I took a picture about three years ago. It was springtime and I was walking by the library and noticed a beautiful lavender flower opening up. When I took that picture and looked at it I immediatly thought I captured the heart of it. Thus the name The Heart of a Flower was born. 

I'm so thankful for that flower, for Mississippi, for Louisiana and all the people who have made it to my stories and made this blog come alive. This blog for five years has not only been a delightful hobby, but therapeutic and something I pride myself in. It all started with a move across country, then a flower by a library. You never know the things that will change your life and open new and amazing doors. I'm so glad that for five years now The Heart of a Flower has given me an outlet to write about it.

Thank you.

Friday, February 3, 2017

{all about the babe cave}

In this frenzied life of ours it's nice to carve out our own space for thinking, creating, writing, reading, listening, being. I think this is especially important when you merge lives together and start living with someone. I know for me, my aethestic is very feminine and that can clash with my husband's Rock n Roll almost Hippie style. It was important for me to not have all my stuff hidden in shelves and closets, but have a space for myself.

Enter the Babe Cave. It started off as an extra room in our house. It was painted off white and our landlord used it as a walk in closet/children's play room. There were a couple of crayons and headless barbie dolls when we first moved in.

(The Babe Cave: The Early Days)

 After cleaning it up, I realized I could at least make half of into a writing nook. I picked out a shade of paint called Apricot Ice and my husband quickly painted the walls. The color alone made the room transform! It was peachy without being campy and had a delicious looking twist of pink. I started collecting those gorgeous boxes you can buy from Hobby Lobby or Michael's that look like antique suitcases. I put all my arts and crafts in there. I had not only a writing desk but a full vanity for me to use when I get ready. (I actually ended up using this as my writing desk too!). It has turned into a place that makes me smile. A place I feel like I can be me. Every little detail was well thought out and picked out to be part of a larger picture. I love my little babe cave.

I moved around different pictures over the years and my newest and favorite one is a stunning framed movie poster of The Swan starring Grace Kelly. I love looking up and seeing her face.

My husband and I recently went to Lowe's to re-do the room. I was tired of the Apricot Ice which had faded at some parts from the sunlight directly hitting it. I tucked away all my jewelry that was taking over my office space and replaced it with my laptop. Finally, I could actually write in here not just pick out what necklace I wanted to wear!

For the paint - I picked out a stunning shade of pink called "Flower Girl". It makes me think of cherry blossoms, flower crowns and vintage prom taffeta dresses. I was having a hard day and he let me pick out a bunch of things to add to my vanity: a mirrored jeweled tray, more vintage perfume bottles and a rustic clock. In the heart of all of it, is my framed picture of my grandmother and I. 

I bought a calender of reto barbie fashion illustrations. I told my husband I'd love to frame them and out them in my babe cave, and without me knowing he did it himself! I was so thankful and my heart felt so full. Every time, I come here I feel a sense of calm but also love for how much he helped me make this little room into something extra special for me.

I also enjoy seeing the transformation from the beginning to what it looks like now. It was truly a labor of love. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Spotlight: Donut Ave. and Love & Fit Apparel

I had the pleasure of interviewing a dear friend, Kellie Pratten who runs online clothing boutiques Donut Ave and Love & Apparel. I have personally shopped at Love & Apparel and have become a repeat, loyal and happy customer. I love her pre-made graphic tanks and tees *and* also how easy and quick it is to customize a shirt. She really is a shining star in life and in the business world.  She's a sweetheart and I truly believe her business will continue to progress with her positive attitude and strong work ethic. 

C: Hi Kellie! Thanks for doing this interview. What inspired you to start Donut Ave and Love and Fit Apparel?

K: Hi Courtney!  Thank you for thinking of me for your interview!
Donut Ave. came about when my sister and I used to sit around and throw cute and funny ideas back and forth that we wanted to see on shirts for the gym.  We both love to shop, and when we would see a basic shirt with a cute design that was way overpriced, it really got me thinking that I needed to look into how I could make these myself.   

I was having so much fun with Donut Ave. and wanted to further challenge myself, so I decided to create Love and Fit.  I envisioned it to be girly, fun and relatable, and priced very well as I love a good sale!   I had heard great things about Etsy so I gave it a shot!  Etsy is a huge creative marketplace and allows you to showcase your listings to a huge network of buyers and other shops.  So far I couldn’t be happier!

C: I'm more familiar with your Love and Fit etsy store I will focus on that. You have a wide variety of tees, tanks and accessories. What has been your best seller?

K: My best sellers have been bachelorette or wedding party shirts!  I have quite a few of my own listings to choose from, but I often get custom orders to tailor to the theme of the wedding.  Anything with an animal saying is popular too! 

C: Where's the furthest you shipped too?

K:The furthest I have shipped to would be Australia, which I thought was pretty neat!  Etsy is such a great platform because it shares the creativity worldwide.

C: Where do you get the inspiration to constantly come up with clever graphic tees and tanks?

K: I would say my inspiration comes from everyday life and from my friends!  Anything from what mood you’re in to a favorite song or sweating it out at the gym can find a way on to a shirt.  No idea is a bad idea!

C: Where do you see Love and Fit a year from now? 5 years from now?

K: Lately I have been getting a lot of requests for baby apparel or personalized accessories for parties or gyms.   I was thinking of adding on different categories to see which works and doesn’t.  It is all trial and error and how much work you’re willing to put in and I definitely see this business in my future 5 years from now.  I plan on growing it with the times and see where it takes me! 

C: Is there a favorite shirt/tee/design you loved doing?

K: My favorite designs are custom orders.  I love being able to have the customers vision come to life and seeing them happy in the end!

                                     (Some custom orders Kellie has designed for me!!) 


C: What are the challenges you faced with your etsy store? What are some uplifting stories you have from working with so many customers? 

K: Shipping and logistics can get pretty stressful.  I deal with numerous distributors that ship out product to me and I rely on their word to do so in the time promised as well as my turn around to the customer.  There are also other factors where at times run into a dilemma and you have to roll with the punches, even if it costs you money.

I spend hours a day messaging with customers or potential customers and you really feel like you get to know them!  I have quite a few repeat shoppers and it really makes my day when they keep coming back to my shop!  I also love giving back.  I have had the opportunity to donate apparel to different causes and events, but my favorite was a fundraiser for an animal shelter.  I donated items that they could auction off to help raise money. 

C: Thank you Kellie for this interview! What is your advice to someone wanting to start a business like yours?

K: Take your ideas and run with them! Make a plan, do your research and take it day by day, always challenging yourself and setting goals.  Every single day is a learning experience but It feels truly amazing to see your passion come to life! 

(Editor's Note: All pictures credit to Kellie Pratten of Love & Fit and Donut Ave. Be sure to check both sites out!! )

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

{art galleries on a cloudy sunday}

It's always great to get a weekend off and this past Sunday, Freddie and I decided to go to the Yale Art Gallery. The architecture is is amazing. Each winding staircase and window pane was done with such fine detail, such elegant craftsmanship you can easily get lost in the beauty of that and forget about the art. I love the gorgeous lighting that pours through the tall windows. Even on a moody, gray January there was so much light that played with each shade and color of each artwork.

My favorite type of painting is Pre-Raphealite with it's porcelain-skinned women in gilded dresses, the serene and lovely scenes of naked nymphs that are plucked from the stories of Greek Mythology, Ophelia with flowers in the sea and the ladies with dreamy eyes in secret roses garden.  All of it feminine, soft, pretty and often times a tragic, twisted story behind it. Galleries have opened my mind to liking all sorts of different type of art though.

If you are in New Haven, I highly suggest checking out the Yale University Art Gallery - free to the public!