Student Artisans – A Discovery Worth Making

Probably my favorite thing about running Ivy&Branch is discovering great new shops and the creations of talented makers, which is why the Andie Craft Fair at Anderson University was such a treat for me.  AU only launched this event for the first time last semester around Christmastime, but it was so wildly popular that they’ve hosted it again this spring.  As a small but prestigious School of the Arts, Anderson University has plenty of reason to show off their talented, artistic students and the beautiful creations they make.

Paper beads

These handmade paper beads (Anna Tabor Jewelry) are mesmerizing. There were several gorgeous pre-made necklaces available, or you had the option to make one yourself.

Andie Craft Fair is an outlet for student artisans to showcase and sell their handmade wares, whether that’s art, jewelry, woven goods, or anything in-between.  Many of these products are the result of skills acquired in class, such as ceramics and photography.  Others are the product of long-practiced hobbies that have been transformed into marketable goods.

Milltown leather table

Hey there, Milltown Leather! They had some beautiful new products to present.

In college, when funds are notoriously short, it is so important for students to be given resources for using their incredible artistic skills to make a profit.  Last semester, at the first Andie Craft Fair, several of my friends said they were able to make a few hundred bucks off of their sales–that goes a LONG way for a college student!

Madi's table

One of my Interior Design friend makes very chic jewelry, prints, and hand-stamped canvases made into pillows, bags, and wall art. I’m begging her to open an Etsy shop!

Andie Craft Fair–and similar student markets you may very well find at other universities–are far from half-baked events with trinkets for sale.  These students churn out beautiful, carefully-crafted goods that are a credit to their skill.  Here’s hoping that Anderson University keeps up this fun and beneficial event, supporting their talented students and providing an excellent shopping outlet for everyone involved!

Shelby's table

My good friend Shelby is a prodigious jewelry maker–her table was very popular!

Cotton and Cursive – Colorful Whimsy and Style

Something wonderful about creatives is that their creative spaces say a lot about who they are and what they do, so getting to step into Rachel Icard’s Cotton and Cursive studio was an explosion of color, industry, and fresh ideas.

cc-bags

Rachel has shelves upon shelves of bright, gorgeous fabrics, bags, and quilts. Such a fun studio to explore!

With her glory of curly hair and big smiles, Rachel is exactly the kind of person you’d want to find operating a store that centers around beautiful fabrics, pristine calligraphy, and unique art pieces.  Cotton and Cursive is a dynamic shop that features Rachel’s exquisite quilted items as well as her beautiful calligraphy projects.  Her products range from pencil bags to quilts, stationery cards to dopp kits (shaving kit bags for the gents), and even adorable handmade baby rattles.

Icard-8292

Rachel was my favorite mentor when I was in youth group, and she still blesses me with her wisdom, encouragement, and fun witticisms.

Rachel has been quilting and tampering in all things artistic for as long as she can remember, picking up sewing skills from her talented mother at an early age.  Rachel claims that Cotton and Cursive sprung up not just as an ambition, but for practical purposes: when you love to create things, you either have to sell your creations, or run out of storage space!

Cotton and Cursive highlights the genius of Rachel’s creativity.  Her signature herringbone quilting design is featured on nearly all of her fabric products, and her eye for colors and patterns is without peers.  Looking around her studio, I was dazzled by hundreds of different textures, colors, and prints, and Rachel knows exactly how to put together unexpected yet beautiful combinations.

Baby rattle

One of Cotton and Cursive’s baby rattles exhibiting Rachel’s signature herringbone style and hand-picked fabric combo.

Though Rachel’s quilted creations are magnificent, the “cursive” in Cotton and Cursive is not to be overlooked.  Rachel’s calligraphy is absolutely pristine, and her products range from elegant wedding invitations to fun and quirky cards.  Currently, Rachel’s favorite creation is what she calls “textile art,” a product that combines the whimsy of her fabric combinations and graceful calligraphy.  These textile art pieces are not only stylish, but totally unique to Cotton and Cursive–another tribute to Rachel’s explosive creativity.

Textile art

I’m 100% on board with Rachel’s textile art: each piece is stylish and one of a kind!

One of my favorite parts of running Ivy&Branch is seeing my interviewees light up when talking about creating, and Rachel was no exception.  She is truly passionate about sewing, calligraphy, and art, and that passion certainly shows in the precision and beauty of her products.  Rachel also shares my love of letters, and I was delighted by her little spiel on the art of letter-writing:

“The onset of calligraphy is bringing letter writing back. There’s been a major resurgence with people wanting to learn the old-school calligraphy scripts, and part of that includes letter writing.” -Rachel Icard

Doppkit

I love these masculine, sturdy dopp kits, made with Cotton and Cursive’s signature precision and style.

Rachel’s zeal for intentional craftsmanship and preserving old techniques was a great encouragement to me, and I believe Cotton and Cursive supplies exactly the kind of high quality and beautiful items that people search for when browsing Etsy shops.  Cotton and Cursive offers a virtual rainbow of colors, patterns, and options–a real pleasure to discover.

 

 

Being Sara Dixon – Fresh Design and Craftsmanship

In thinking about the interviews I feature on Ivy&Branch, one of the points I keep returning to is how much motivation it takes for craftsmen to put their work out there and hope someone likes it enough to make a purchase.  Moving past intimidation and making your product public requires huge confidence, and that’s what impressed me most about my interview with Sara Dixon, a gutsy, adventurous young woman who runs a seriously cool Etsy shop (Being Sara Dixon).

sara

Sara introduced me to Brews on the Alley in downtown Seneca, and I was hooked when I tasted their Irish cream mocha (SO good).

Sara and I met up for coffee and a quick blog interview, but before I knew it we had been chatting for an hour and a half.  Sara has a magnetic personality and I felt like I had known her for years after a few minutes of talking.

Two things that struck me about Sara was her passion for student ministry and her expansive travel experience, both of which went hand-in-hand.  Sara traveled across the country over the span of twelve years as she worked in various locations for student ministry, and as a result she’s had a taste of some really cool cities.  Though Sara said she has always been artistic, she began to actively use art when ministering to youth, and over the years her confidence increased.

sara-dixon-print

A lot of Sara’s graphics are featured on Society 6.  There are mugs, pillows, prints…go check it out!

 

Sara’s a self-described “jack-of-all-trades” when it comes to art.  If you explore her Etsy shop or website, you’ll find a range of items from hand-made fonts, woodblock prints, downloadable invitations/save-the-dates, and woodburnt items.  Her artistic style presents an ideal balance between rustic and modern minimalism, which makes her art extremely versatile as well as appealing to multiple tastes.

Something that sets Being Sara Dixon apart is her fusion of modern design and old craftsman techniques.  For example, Sara designs each of her woodblock prints and carves them by hand: a labor-intensive process, but the result is truly unique.  Depending on the paper used and the type of ink applied, each print can come out just a little different.  Woodblock prints are a quickly dying art in this digital age, and that just makes Sara’s work twice as precious.

sara-dixon-lion

Sara was commissioned to do a series of animal prints for a nursery, but they’re so versatile that they could fit into any atmosphere. I’m a little obsessed with the lion!

Sara’s travelling experience and artistic development speaks to both the struggle and the dream of most craftsmen.  Listening to Sara describe the artistic and musical communities in the cities she has lived in–notably Austin, Texas–made me want to jump in for a road trip right then and there.  When I asked her about her creative self-discovery and advice for new artists, she had some great insight:

“Creative people sometimes start with such big ideas, and then we feel stuck when we can’t quite reach those ideas.  Start small, then think a little bigger.  Could you take a class? Attend a creative conference? Find like-minded people to encourage your art.  Take what you have, even if it’s small, and just pursue it!” -Sara Dixon

sara-dixon-board

Sara has woodburnt cutting boards, kitchen utensils, and more up for grabs on her shop!

Especially if you’re a beginning artist looking for some creative inspiration, go find Sara on Etsy, Instagram (@beingsaradixon), and Society 6.  Not only is her work playful and well made, but she has a wonderful ability to pass on her upbeat attitude and encourage fellow creatives.

I Say Grace – The Charm of Custom Watercolor Paintings

When it comes to my automatic outlet for purchasing art, I always find myself gravitating to I Say Grace, an Etsy shop run by Meg Sanders, an indomitable creative force that has inspired me for years.  Meg is the person who motivated me to pursue an English degree several years ago, and she has continued to be a dear friend and mentor, despite the fact that she and her husband live all the way in Germany now!

Meg’s mission with I Say Grace is to make art accessible, personalized, and evocative.  Meg specializes in watercolor paintings, which is one of my favorite mediums; the marriage of playfulness and elegance in Meg’s watercolors perfectly matches not only her personality, but the subjects she paints.

i-say-grace-sleepy-dog

I love how Meg puts so much personality into her paintings, like this lovable, sleepy dog.

There’s tremendous warmth and character in Meg’s work, an element that sets I Say Grace apart as a business.  Custom artwork is usually pricey, so with I Say Grace Meg wanted to create special pieces that were personalized yet affordable.  She started selling her work during college when the need for extra funds (and running out of space to store her art!) set her thinking about starting an Etsy shop.

Since then, I Say Grace has developed into a hearty side business, and Meg has really come into her own style. Meg emphasizes her passion for capturing an essence in her paintings that goes beyond the subject: illustrating people’s important moments and memories, or breathing personality into what would otherwise be a simple object.

This is exactly what I consider Meg’s specialty–I think of it as “Still Life Creative Spaces.”  Meg shared with me that her favorite thing to paint is personal work areas that capture a creative process.

i-say-grace-creative-space

This is a great example of a “Still Life Creative Space”–Meg’s signature style of painting.

One of my favorite things about my interview with Meg was getting to hear her passion for community and artwork.  Meg and her husband, Aaron, have been living in Germany for over a year now, and though I know she dearly misses South Carolina, her adventures in Europe are fascinating to follow.

Listening to Meg share about Germany’s mindset with small businesses and community is something I found inspiring, and close to the heart of what Ivy&Branch seeks to develop.  When Meg began talking about her philosophy on art and small businesses, I started typing fast, because I knew I wouldn’t want to miss a word of what she was saying:

“Where you buy your art—where you buy anything—matters.  If you go get mass-produced art and decorations from Wal-Mart, then you’re just consuming something that’s not unique.  It’s not made for you.  It takes thought on your part and the artist’s part to make something special.  What you buy shows what you value: individuality, hard work, community…local artists are community.  You contribute to the community when you contribute to artists–and you know, happiness exists in communities, not consumerism.” -Meg Sanders

Meg is full of quotes like this, which is why I love being around her.  She exudes graciousness, creative spirit, and intentionality, and all of those qualities come out in her artwork.  She will bend over backwards to make your requests come to life–I should know, as I made an unusual request about a year ago when I ordered some I Say Grace note cards for a friend who loved (of all things!) manatees.  Despite the oddity of the subject, however, Meg painted perfect manatees on the cards and my friend absolutely adored them.  I mean, where else can you get manatee-themed stationery?

Meg also runs a fantastic travel blog (Experience Is An Arch) where her English major background shines through; the blog is excellently written, and she features the everyday details of life in Germany (or wherever her adventures take her!)

meg

A dear friend and a gifted painter.

Custom art, whether it’s painted on a canvas or on a set of note cards for a friend, is a true pleasure, and I Say Grace always delivers artwork that is unique, thoughtful, and beautifully rendered.  You would be hard-pressed to find an artist with as much integrity and warmth as Meg, and her paintings are a delight.  Whether you’re looking for a special painting to hang on your wall, or a customized gift for a loved one, check out I Say Grace on Etsy, and rest assured that you are supporting a vibrant artist who delights in her work.