Mona Does Concrete – Time to Rethink Concrete

When you think “concrete,” you probably think of sidewalks, industrial floors, etc.  When Mona Patel thinks concrete, she thinks kitchen ware, wall art, and even jewelry.  Prepare to see concrete transformed into elegant merchandise that beautifies and offers a refreshing aesthetic when you browse Mona Does Concrete.

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These petite geometric planters beg to be placed in a sunny window, or would be perfect to cheer up a desk.

When Mona met her husband Mike, a jack-of-all-trades, she was introduced to several skills from building to carpentry, but she took a special interest in his work with concrete.  Mike used concrete to make polished kitchen counter-tops, but Mona saw an opportunity to take this diverse material and make items that were smaller, more affordable, and useful in the home.

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Mona certainly thinks outside the box when it comes to concrete, and her products are unexpected, chic, and fun.

People are often surprised with the kind of items that can be made of concrete, and often mistake Mona’s products as stoneware.  This is because of Mona’s special process in forming and finishing her products, particularly her kitchenware, to make it both smooth and food-safe.  Mona uses a beeswax seal on her concrete wares that not only makes the items kitchen-friendly, but also gives them a smooth finish–very different from bumpy sidewalk!

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Mona stains her cheese boards with tumeric, giving the concrete that beautiful amber streak.

Mona loves the unique advantages of using concrete, one of them being the immense diversity of the material.  According to Mona, if you can make a mold, you can make almost anything with concrete.  The key, though, is making a mold that can be removed from the final product without shattering, thus allowing the mold to be reused. For her standard items, Mona likes using rubber molds, though she’s always willing to experiment for the sake of creating something unexpected.

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Ever considered concrete jewelry? Mona has lots of beautiful concrete necklaces, and says people are surprised to find that the pieces are no heavier than normal pendants.

For concrete kitchenware, you’ll want to hand wash in order to preserve the beeswax seal, but otherwise concrete products are very durable.  Mona likes to tell her customers to expect the concrete to change colors over time, much like leather taking on a patina.  Each product adopts an individual character over time and no two items are exactly the same. Check out Mona Does Concrete on Etsy or follow her Instagram!

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Stylish, whimsical pieces for the home or to wear–clearly concrete is a medium worth noticing!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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

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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!