January Jewelry – Starting from Scratch

It’s not often that I meet an artist who says they truly make their product from scratch.  Especially in the jewelry business, most artists manage to make beautiful accessories by pulling together different pre-bought elements, which still creates a lovely product.  But Melissa Giglio from January Jewelry is about hand-made from the very beginning–and as a trained metal-smith, she has the skills to do just that.


The fact that Melissa hand-crafts every detail of her pieces is mind-boggling.

Melissa graduated from East Carolina University and spent five years teaching art, but she kept thinking back to the classes she took during college that introduced her to different crafts.   She loves working with her hands, whether it’s woodworking, tinkering, or experimenting with different elements.  Melissa has a bright, energetic personality, and somehow I imagine she’s the kind of person who never sits still for long.

Which is why, when Melissa and her husband moved to Columbia, SC in the middle of a school year, Melissa took the plunge to step away from teaching and begin her jewelry making business full-throttle.  Melissa knew right off the bat that she wanted to make every component of her creations–an ambitious goal, but one that she’s executed brilliantly.  Every part of Melissa’s jewelry–yes, even the delicate necklace chains–are made by hand.


Melissa exudes energy and takes true delight in her craft.

It was such a pleasure to speak with a maker who’s not just an artist, but an expert in her craft.  The process of metalworking is labor-intensive but fascinating, and Melissa executes each stage with finesse–from drawing the designs on sheet metal, cutting out the design, sanding the edges smooth, soldering the piece, cleaning the metal, then finishing with special polishes or patinas.

enamel earrings

The enamel pieces are made by taking powdered glass and fusing it to metal–a fascinating process that yields a mesmerizing finish.

The pieces you’ll find at January Jewelry are distinctive in style.  Melissa is drawn to materials that reflect nature as well as sophistication; the turquoise featured in many of her pieces come from top-quality lapidary artists from Arizona and New Mexico, ethically sourced and 100% unique.  Melissa’s jewelry is both feminine and rustic, romantic and full of character.


There is so much that is unique about January Jewelry pieces, from the hand-cut leaf charms to the individual turquoise stones.

Even though she’s a full-time jewelry artist now, Melissa still has the heart of a teacher, and she loves sharing the metalworking process on her Instagram.  It’s a treat to see a product formed from start to finish, and Melissa has an eye for detail and tremendous design talent.  Follow her on Instagram (@januaryjewelry), explore her website, or order a stunning hand-made piece from her Etsy shop!

Sunny Mullarkey – Monumental Details in Stunning Prints

It takes real talent to fuse together opposite elements in a piece of artwork, but Sunny Mullarkey manages to do just that in her linocut prints.  In Sunny’s art you’ll find mountain ranges and raging rivers, all traced into the delicate pattern of a moth’s wing.  Combining the monumental with the intricate is Sunny Mullarkey’s specialty, and I’m so excited to share her work with you!


Through her creative outlook Sunny manages to capture both the universal and the minuscule in her prints.

Art has followed Sunny all her life, from attending the Governor’s School for Arts to studying Fine Arts in college.  Through both her education and her own experience, Sunny has explored different mediums and multiple art styles, but nowadays you’ll find her chiseling out prints on linoleum to create her breathtaking pieces.

“I love how [printmaking] is such a physical art form.  The tools make their own kind of mark that makes the print different from a painting or drawing. Being able to see the chisels and texture of the work is something that you can’t recreate in anything else. ” -Sunny Mullarkey

When Sunny moved her artwork out of the privacy of her home and into a studio space in 2013, she knew it was a big step forward that would signify turning a hobby into a career.  As it turns out, the studio space became a huge motivator for Sunny, and she enjoys sharing the space with other creatives who support and inspire her.

Nat Geo 1

The Station, a studio space used by Sunny and a few fellow creatives, was featured in National Geographic…how cool is that??

The signature look behind Sunny’s prints is the theme of nature: combining the grandeur of a landscape with the fine details of an insect’s wing or a feather.  Sunny’s love for nature and hiking infuses her work and urges the viewer to become a more keen observer, too.

Sunny balances her career as an artist alongside her life as a mother and wife, and speaks passionately about the significance of support from your spouse and community.  Like many of the makers I interview, Sunny emphasizes the importance of finding fellow makers to receive feedback, encouragement, and inspiration.


It’s so hard to sufficiently describe Sunny’s work–it’s both earthy and modern, elegant and playful, imaginative and controlled.

There is so much charisma in Sunny’s work, both in the details and even in the beautiful textures of the paper she prints on.  Sunny gave me no shortage of striking phrases to quote while discussing the artist’s perspective:

“I want to fill the world with beautiful things.  As artists, that’s our duty.  There’s nothing in this world that wasn’t touched by design. Writers, photographers…we’re all here to use our creative gift to make our world more beautiful.  That’s a wonderful gift to have to give to the world.” -Sunny Mullarkey


Another example of Sunny’s method of combining landscapes with the creatures that inhabit them–mesmerizing.

Sunny’s passion for both nature and art is captivating and speaks to the mission of all artists, both new and experienced.  I hope you’ll take time to explore her Etsy shop and website, and be sure to follow her on Instagram to keep in touch with her amazing work.

Casting Cares – Weighted Comforts

Today I get the pleasure of telling you  about my favorite maker of all time–my own mama!  For as long as I can remember, my mother Kathy Mabry has been sewing and serving others through her hospitality and compassion, and a couple years back she started her business, Casting Cares, to put her skills to use in a unique way.  At Casting Cares, you’ll find a variety of weighted blankets and other weighted products that all provide comfort, security, and relief from multiple issues such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, Autism, sensory disorders, PTSD, depression, and so much more.


Kathy has a talent for pairing fabrics, usually coordinating three different patterns for both sides of the blanket as well as the binding.  Each blanket is beautiful and personal to its user!

The concept behind weighted blankets is simple yet effective: beads sewn inside the blankets add a pleasant weight that feels similar to receiving a firm hug, which has been shown to release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.  Because of this, the light pressure provided by the weighted blankets increases feelings of security and comfort to its user, which makes weighted blankets an amazing resource for those with any range of anxiety or depression.


Weighted blankets aren’t just for humans!  Our canine friend Tilman has always been terrified of storms and fireworks, but he was relaxed and calm with his weighted blanket on him.

Weighted blankets are not a tool exclusively meant for those with significant emotional or physical ailments, though.  I’ve been using my own weighted blanket for years; during school,  I found that wrapping my weighted blanket around my shoulders helped me to remain calm and concentrated while working on school, or simply unwinding at the end of a stressful day.  The weight of my blanket also feels extremely comfortable to me when I go to bed, and now I find that I have trouble falling asleep if I don’t have it!

blanket variety

Beyond the personalized colors and patterns, each blanket can have a customized weight, though most adults (under 200 lbs) find that 7-8 lbs is ideal.

My mother, Kathy, experimented with making a weighted blanket for herself a couple years ago to help her learn to sleep on her back and to relieve her restless leg syndrome.  As she continued to do more and more research, she discovered the huge scope of benefits behind weighted blankets, and several people approached her asking for weighted blankets of their own.  Now, she delights in making a one-of-a-kind, beautifully crafted product for each of her customers, using personalized fabrics and a weight that perfectly suits the needs of the user.

twiddle pad

Several elementary school teachers have taken advantage of Kathy’s Twiddle Pads to occupy fidgety students.  These are helpful for keeping children occupied during church, as well!

Besides weighted blankets, Kathy also makes weighted vests that can be worn by anxious children, “fidget pads” to keep tiny hands busy and to teach fine motor skills (lightly weighed, 1.5 lbs), “twiddle pads” (lightly weighted pads with simple interactive features; these have been useful for dementia patients), as well as mastectomy recovery pillows (non-weighted).  Kathy also frequently accepts custom orders so that she can meet unique needs and requests of those who would benefit from a weighted comfort.


My darling Mama–she loves to sew, and she loves designing blankets for people.

For me, the mission behind Casting Cares reflects my sweet mama so well: to provide comfort and service for people, whether they suffer from debilitating anxiety or simply want a better night’s rest.  And what’s more, you receive a high-quality, personalized product that not only meets your needs but reflects your personality.  You can shop for your own Casting Cares product either at Kathy’s website, her new Etsy shop, or follow her on Instagram and Facebook!

A Gilded Line – Wearable Truth

As a writer, I’m a long-standing believer that words have a huge impact on humans day in and day out.  What you read and repeat to yourself can drastically shape your attitudes and convictions, which is why Allie Pust’s shop A Gilded Line offers an incredible medium for both truth and beauty.

Allie began stamping bracelets as she helped her eldest daughter raise money for a field trip, but friends and family continued to request personalized cuffs long after the mother-daughter pair had reached their fundraising goal.   It didn’t take long for Allie to recognize the incredible potential of the bracelets to spread truth (namely Scripture) simply by wearing the personalized cuffs.

Cuffs shot

I love the variety of widths, colors, and fonts of Allie’s bracelets, and how great they look paired together.  You can even add a trendy tassel to your cuff!

I discovered A Gilded Line when I was searching for bridesmaids gifts for my girls; I wanted to stray from the current fads, yet still present them with something meaningful and personalized.  I had Allie stamp words from my bridesmaids’ favorite hymns on their bracelets, and they turned out beautifully.  Allie has an ever-growing list of customization options, from different metals and widths, as well as a variety of beautiful fonts.  She also makes bookmarks, key chains, and luggage tags that can also be personalized!

Allie and daughter

Allie with her “business partner” (aka, eldest daughter Lexie).  Family businesses are definitely my favorite businesses of all!

A Gilded Line is a real passion for Allie.  Speaking with her, I was struck by her bubbly and outgoing personality–she loves people and she loves sharing the gospel.  Allie shared that she will approach just about anybody in order to share the love of Christ and often offer to give away whatever bracelet she’s wearing on that day.  I so respect her courage and vivacity as a go-getter, and I believe this combined with God’s grace is what has made A Gilded Line grow exponentially since Allie first opened her Etsy shop last January.

unfinished cuffs

There are so many options to make each bracelet unique and meaningful at A Gilded Line.

The bracelets are functional and easy to wear; the metal is pliable, so it’s easy to adjust to the width of your wrist.  They’re a perfect vehicle for reminding yourself of important truths–much like looking at a watch, you find yourself glancing at the cuff multiple times a day, which makes it easy to remember whatever special words are printed there.

“I’ve never doubted that it’s an affordable way for people to see a truth daily when they need to stay encouraged.  It’s an awesome way to wear words of truth and tell others about it.  I think it’s a great way to break the ice.  I love seeing people talk about why they’re wearing what they’re wearing.” -Allie Pust

assorted bracelets

Whether you’re making a fashion statement or quoting a portion of Scripture: Allie’s got you covered.

One of Allie’s favorite things to do with A Gilded Line is to join forces with those fighting cancer or some other hardship, using the bracelets for a fundraiser.  The cuffs are a wearable way to keep a loved one in mind, a way to spread a slogan, and a reminder to pray for those in need.  Allie hopes that A Gilded Line will continue to grow so that she can do more and more of these fundraisers.

The concept behind A Gilded Line is simple–metal cuffs printed with words–but they have a potent impact, whether its keeping its wearer grounded in truth or spreading support for someone in need.  Check out A Gilded Line on Facebook, Instagram, or Etsy!

Mother’s Day Gifts – Four Unique Ideas

Are you finding yourself running a little behind on purchasing a special gift for good ole’ Mom?  You’re not alone (I’m not just saying that…seriously, I have been putting off Mother’s Day shopping for a solid two weeks now).  I have some awesome, one-of-a-kind gift ideas to show you that come from previous Ivy&Branch featured shops!  Check out these top-notch Mother’s Day products, and be sure to look closely for the promo codes included for each shop!

Mama Bear Necklace by The Artful Sojourn:

Mama Bear necklace

If you use the code “ivyandbranch” on a The Artful Sojourn order over $25, you’ll get $5 off your purchase!

This brass necklace would make the perfect accessory for a mama who wants to be chic yet functional.  I have a soft spot for this piece, as the hand-stamped “Mama Bear” on the bar makes me think of one of my favorite nicknames for my own mother.  Furthermore, you can customize the necklace with birthstone charms that correspond to all your Mama Bear’s children–a sweet and subtle touch that is sure to please your detail-oriented and fashionable Mama Bear.

Each Mama Bear necklace will come beautifully wrapped in a darling drawstring bag–and don’t forget that 20% of ALL The Artful Sojourn products goes directly to Big World Project, an organization that rescues orphaned children in India.  The donation card included with the necklace is sure to be as meaningful to your mother as the necklace itself.

Read my full interview with The Artful Sojourn here!

Mother’s Day print by Grace Under Pressure:

Mother's day print

Use the code “IvyandBranch” in the Grace Under Pressure shop for free shipping on your order!

Does your mom have an eye for art?  For the calligraphy-loving, beauty-seeking, elegance-filled mother, nothing could be more tasteful than this Mother print from Grace Under Pressure.  The print is filled with both touching and playful words associated with motherhood, featuring everything from maternal virtues to fun nicknames.  When placed in a pretty frame and displayed on a desk or beside a favorite reading chair, this would be a well-cherished gift for a thoughtful mother.

Read my full interview with Grace Under Pressure here!

Essential Oil case by Cotton and Cursive:

Oil bag

For Cotton and Cursive, “IVYANDBRANCH” will give you 10% off your order through all of May!

If your mom has caught the essential oil craze, then she doubtlessly carries a few bottles of her favorite oils with her wherever she goes.  Instead of having the bottles clinking around loose in her purse, give her this precious essential oil bag from Cotton and Cursive.  Not only is this little bag absolutely beautiful, but it’s quilted to protect the essential oil bottles.  These bags can be customized to fit different sizes–this little beauty will fit five essential oil bottles at a 5ml size, but Rachel makes others that fit 15ml bottles and roller-top bottles.  This would make the perfect gift for a mama who loves both fashion and function (and holistic health!)

Read my full interview with Cotton and Cursive here!

Woodburned Spoons by Being Sara Dixon:


You can get a hefty 20% discount on your Being Sara Dixon order with the code “ivybranch“!

For the culinary mom, these gorgeous woodburnt spoons by Being Sara Dixon are absolutely perfect.  Each spoon is woodburnt by hand with a unique design, so not only are they functional, but they’re a fun way to spice up your mom’s utensil drawer.  Or, better yet, take Sara’s suggestion and display them in a snazzy vase as shown in this photo!  They are simultaneously the perfect kitchen tool as well as an elegant decorative accent–your mom will love them.

Read my full interview with Being Sara Dixon here!

Whatever gift you end up buying for your mother, be sure to make her feel precious and loved.  Pull together a nice meal, round up all your siblings, and create a real tribute to the amazing woman who raises you, sacrifices for you, and is always ready with a piece of advice and a warm hug.  Happy shopping, and happy Mother’s Day!


The Artful Sojourn – Jewelry with an Impact

Lisa Gum, founder and designer of The Artful Sojourn, does more than make beautiful jewelry: she’s a visionary with a mission to relieve the suffering of impoverished children in India, and she does this all the way from her home in Virginia.  The story and passion behind Lisa’s business is well worth learning about (and supporting!)


The Artful Sojourn founder & desinger, Lisa Gum: a lovely creative who makes lovely things (check out the sweet little choker necklace she’s wearing!) Photo credits: Hilary Hyland Photography

I met Lisa two years ago at my (soon-to-be) sister-in-law’s wedding.  My fiance’s family has been close friends with the Gums for many years, and it only took a few minutes with Lisa and her family to feel like I’d known them my whole life, too.  Lisa has a gentle, heartwarming personality that immediately places one at ease, so it made total sense to me when I learned that her jewelry business, The Artful Sojourn, is partnered with Big World Project.

Etsy Favorite Message

Lisa feels a heavy burden to support needy children in India, and she makes a significant contribution through The Artful Sojourn.

Lisa began The Artful Sojourn just before starting college five years ago, making jewelry to raise funds for a mission trip.  Lisa quickly realized how much she enjoyed working with her hands and began to develop The Artful Sojourn as a business, while at the same time searching for a missions-focused charity that she could support with her profits.  One Sunday, the founder of Big World Project came to deliver a sermon at Lisa’s church, and she felt immediately that this was the ministry she wanted to support.

View More: http://gaudiumphotography.pass.us/artfulsojourn

Geometric shapes are a favorite design element in The Artful Sojourn. Photo credit: Gaudium Photography

The Artful Sojourn’s jewelry style has evolved since its beginning, reflecting Lisa’s taste and lifestyle over the years.  Lisa laughingly describes her style as “a little Bohemian,” but you’ll also find that her pieces are minimalistic, easy to wear, and highlight Lisa’s favorite natural elements like tumbled gemstones and hammered metal.

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This pendant necklace features a stunning coin of marble; a clean, sophisticated look that’s reflective of The Artful Sojourn’s aesthetic. 

As both an artist and a missionary, Lisa shared that she’s about to embark on “living the real sojourner life.”  During the fall of 2016, Lisa began to feel called to make a gutsy move: to buy a van, pack up her shop, and travel nationwide to participate in missions work and expand her range of craft shows.  Though Lisa is still searching for a van, she’s pursuing this vision full of faith, booking craft shows and making plans to leave her much-loved hometown.


I love the subtle details in Lisa’s work, like the tiny blue gemstone in this knuckle ring. Photo credit: Hilary Hyland Photography

Lisa was able to take on The Artful Sojourn as her full time job back in 2016, so I asked her what she found to be the hardest part about running a small business.  Laughing, Lisa immediately responded that motivation is oftentimes the most difficult aspect.  Beginning a business is full of excitement, but not everything is glamorous, exciting, or immediately rewarding.  But Lisa was quick to add that she absolutely loves what she does, and finds motivation through faith:

“I think the biggest thing is continually remembering that this is not about me.  Every day, I’m giving The Artful Sojourn to the Lord and saying ‘Okay God, this is for you.  Whatever you want to do with this, it’s in your hands.’  That’s the biggest motivator and encourager.” -Lisa Gum

The Artful Sojourn brings an entire new meaning to jewelry that is both beautiful and functional; not only is Lisa’s jewelry conducive to an active lifestyle, but it’s functional in the sense that each piece of jewelry works toward rescuing children in need in India.  Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, and have fun browsing her beautiful jewelry through Etsy or her website!

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.


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.


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


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.



Why Small Businesses?

Even in the few weeks that Ivy&Branch has been up and running, I’ve already discovered a common response from both my readers and my interviewees: people love hearing about small businesses and ways to support local creatives.  When given the option, the majority of people prefer to both give and receive a handmade item over a mass-produced one, but it’s also very convenient to pop into a chain store or order randomly online instead.  So what are the advantages of sticking with small businesses?

Large vs. Small Businesses

First of all, let’s get something straight: large companies or mass-produced products are not the bad guys.  They may be cheaper, poorer quality, or unoriginal, but the simple truth is that we need large companies.  I’m no economist, but even I know that if we had nothing but small businesses that made high-quality, handcrafted items, things would quickly go downhill. (Yes, you heard me right–keep reading!)

Consider a small artisan bakery versus a factory that produces cheap white bread for a large chain grocery store.  If given the choice, I think everyone would agree that the made-from-scratch, fresh, old-fashioned bread from the artisan bakery would be far superior in quality and taste; however, if we only had small artisan bakeries in the world, there would be no way they could produce enough bread at a cheap enough cost to provide for all consumer demands.

Consider then the factory: it produces inexpensive, poor quality bread, but at the same time it is able to output enough product at a low enough cost to meet the needs of large quantities of people.  Furthermore, large companies or factories provide jobs for their communities, whereas smaller businesses often aren’t able to hire.

So Why Stick with Small Businesses?

Despite the contributions that large companies make to the economy, small businesses are also essential to their communities.  The fact that small businesses produce on a smaller scale may mean that they typically can’t meet large consumer demands, but it also means that they are able to concentrate on preserving technique, quality, and culture that is otherwise lost to large productions and companies.


Downtown areas of most towns are hot spots for cool shops and restaurants.

Think again to the small artisan bakery: though it doesn’t have the massive resources to feed an entire town, it does have the capacity to preserve the art of making, say, traditional sourdough bread, and they sell products that are unique, high quality, and a continuation of centuries of tradition.  If nothing but large factories existed, a huge portion of our heritage and precious craftsmanship techniques would be lost forever.  This applies to all sorts of industries, from fashion, woodwork, artwork, cuisine, ceramics, knitting/crocheting, writing…the list goes on and on.

How to Support Small Businesses

The main thing about small businesses is that you have to find them first.  Whether it’s a mom-and-pop cafe in town or an Etsy shop online, it can sometimes be a challenge to get off the main road (or steer away from the major websites) to unearth something really special.  Most small businesses rely heavily on word of mouth, so if you find something you like, talk about it!  Share on social media, refer a service, restaurant, or business to a friend, and just generally be vocal about shops you support.


Etsy is a fantastic resource for both buyers and sellers–it’s user-friendly all around!

Staying active in your community and aware of local events is also a great way to be in the know about artisans, crafters, and entrepreneurs in your area.  Most city websites advertise local events, and craft fairs, farmers markets, or other similar events are becoming more and more popular.  These types of events are excellent opportunities to support the creatives in your area and nurture an artistic community.  Furthermore, they’re just good clean fun, often including great music, food, and activities for everyone to enjoy.  So get involved!

Walk Away with This:

Large businesses are not the villains of the world.  Without them, world hunger and poverty would be significantly worse than it already is.  Currently, I happen to work in the training department of a large manufacturing company, one which provides over 800 jobs in my community: that’s a big deal!  So if you’re imagining horns and a forked tail when you think of large companies, just remember that they are, in fact, essential, and help provide jobs, materials, and food for your community.

But small businesses deserve to be supported as they nurture craftsmanship and cultivate strong communities.  Small businesses offer products that are unique, beautiful, and made with intentional quality, and skilled craftsmen deserve to be recognized and supported.  This is the whole reason why I started Ivy&Branch, and I hope that the fact that you’re reading this means that you want to see small businesses flourish as well.


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 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.


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 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 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 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.


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!)


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.