Bar Soap – A worthy conversion

Over the past six months or so, I’ve discovered a product preference: bar soap over liquid soap. Specifically (of course) handmade bar soap over store-bought liquid soap. Seems like a simple switch, but let me share with you some reasons why I’ve switched almost entirely to bar soap.

Liquid soap is drying

Something all soaps advertise: moisturizing properties. But, especially in the cold months when I’m washing my hands more frequently and having issues with dry skin, I noticed that my hands were especially papery after washing my hands. By contrast, every handmade bar soap I’ve used has been noticeably moisturizing (note: some commercial bar soaps I’ve used in the past had the same drying issues as liquid soap. Not all bar soaps are made equal!)

Bar soap encourages good hand-washing

Confession time: recently I realized that, when I use liquid soap, I’m actually not washing my hands well at all. When using liquid soap, I realized that most of the time I got a dollop of soap on my fingertips, which immediately slid off once I put my hands under running water. With bar soap, you actually have to handle and rub the bar in order to stimulate the lather, which in itself creates a good hand-washing technique. Sounds trivial, but you’ll be amazed at how much more thoroughly you wash your hands when using bar soap.

Bar soap lasts longer

Most bar soaps from Etsy shops and local makers cost a few dollars each, and they last for MONTHS. With liquid soap, it’s easy to pump out a big ole squirt that’s way more than you need. Bar soaps last longer and are a better value in the long run, not to mention better for your skin.

So, now that I’ve shared the big three reasons why I’ve converted to bar soap, let me introduce you to some soap makers I’ve been using (and loving).

Muddy Mint

Muddy Mint

Pictured here is chamomile and lavender soap, with Simi’s signature gorgeous decorative finish. PC: Muddy Mint

Though based all the way out in Colorado, Muddy Mint was the first soap/body care shop I tried way back in the summer of 2017. Simi, the soap-making hands behind Muddy Mint, makes some incredible body care products (still dreaming about her cocoa butter cashmere body butter), and besides her soap being lovely to use, I also think she has some of the most beautiful soap on the market. Follow her on Instagram, if only to marvel at her gorgeous creations.

Gifted Hands Artisan Soap

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Black tea and patchouli soap: clean, elegant scent to match the design. PC: Gifted Hands Artisan Soap

I met Javela, the owner of Gifted Hands Artisan Soap, at a farmer’s market last year and purchased some of her soap to try. I was so pleased with the product, and also enjoyed perusing the variety of scents she had on display. Gifted Hands Artisan Soap features some luxuriously feminine scents, like honeysuckle & almond milk, but also stocks a wide variety of man-friendly scents (think lemongrass & rosemary; peppermint; cedar wood, orange, and clove).

ILY Soaps

ILY soap

This bar is currently residing in our bathroom, where my husband and I both use it regularly. We’ve been using this bar for about a month now, and see how bulky it still is! Bar soap goes a long way.

My most recent discovery is ILY Soaps based out of Easley. Besides soaps, ILY Soaps also has a wide variety of bath and body products, from bath bombs to facial care. The bar pictured above is a garden mint soap that I’ve really enjoyed. It has a rich mint smell and a really robust lather, which I love.

Good Juju Herbal

Good Juju soap

I received Judith’s Rose Clay and Geranium soap for Christmas, and it smells divine. PC: Good JuJu Herbal

If you’ve followed my blog, then you’ve seen my review of Good JuJu Herbal and how much I applaud her all-natural approach to body care. I’ve used several of Judith’s products and have particularly enjoyed her soap. Judith infuses her soap with gentle, all-natural scents, and her soaps have a uniquely soft and gentle texture. Ideal for sensitive skin types!

Hochstetler’s Country Store – Seneca’s Hidden Gem

Though it may not look like much on the surface, Hochstetler’s Country Store in Seneca, SC is a neighborhood gem and a long-time favorite among my family.  The Hochstetlers set up shop in 2006, and in their country store you’ll find all the old-fashioned charm and friendly service you’d expect.


Hochstetler’s has an intimate setup, with the store leading directly into the deli. I love traditional places like this!

Being only about a five minute drive from my childhood home, I’m well acquainted with Hochstetler’s.  They’re your one-stop shop for bulk and local foods, in addition to their bakery and deli.  The variety of goods nestled in that tiny store is impressive; you can find anything from baking ingredients and supplies, spices, candies, tea and coffee, snacks, and much more.


They carry a HUGE variety of snacks and candies, anything from gingersnaps, peanut butter cups, yogurt-covered pretzels, sour gummy worms, spicy snack mix…you name it!

The prices at Hochstetler’s alone are reason enough to drop by.  My father, a self-proclaimed foodie, buys all his spices there: not only are they cheaper, but he swears by their freshness, too.  Before I got married, I stocked up on all sorts of spices and seasonings from Hochstetler’s; their all-natural lemon-pepper seasoning is my husband’s favorite.


Hochstetler’s stocks all kinds of spices and herbs, whether common or more exotic.

For you Christmastime bakers, please do yourself a favor and get your ingredients from Hochstetler’s.  You’ll find an excellent variety of nuts and dried fruits (which add up to $$$ at most grocery stores) at a fraction of their normal price.  Furthermore, you can find specialty flours (gluten free, anyone?), gourmet sugars and salts, different cooking oils, and more to fit virtually any recipe.  Take a peek at their refrigerators, too; Hochstetler’s stocks local meats and cheeses, as well as raw milk.


Hochstetler’s has “bake days” three days a week, churning out delicious breads, pies, and sweets.

After you’ve collected your basket of amazing snacks and ingredients, be sure to get a sandwich and bowl of soup from Hochstetler’s deli.  Everything is freshly prepared, with meats cut right before your eyes.  Did I mention you can also purchase deli meats and cheeses there?  They’re absolutely delicious, and (you guessed it) way cheaper than at the grocery store.

store front

What a great hometown treasure. Hochstetler’s is a relaxing, fun place to shop and eat.

This no-fuss, no-frills store is a true delight to visit, and I’d be there weekly if I still lived in Seneca.  As it is, I drop by and stock up on spices, dried fruit, popcorn (Benjamin loves their “mushroom” popcorn–you know, the kind of huge popcorn kernels that they use for caramel corn!), and more whenever I visit my parents.  Take my advice and drop by Hochstetler’s, pick up a fresh-baked pie or loaf of bread for dinner, and make it your regular destination for all foods fresh and local.

Joe’s Place – Literary and Community Hub

As a long-time bookworm and former English major, bookstores have a special place in my heart.  As I’ve been scouting out exemplary bookstores in the upstate SC area, Joe’s Place Bookstore has marked itself as a must-visit, must-support, must-love location.

sunny window

There were lots of cozy rooms at Joe’s Place, but this sunny room with the window seats completely won me over.

Let’s not sugar-coat it: bookstores often struggle to stay in business.  In my hometown, two used bookstores I visited frequently both abruptly shut down due to patrons doing more browsing than actual buying.  However, I’ve noticed several small bookstores beginning to revamp their business by pairing book selling with using their space for social and educational opportunities.  Joe’s Place is a great example of this store/community center hybrid, and they’re hitting it out of the park.


Benjamin bought a stir-fry cook book from Joe’s Place, and we enjoyed picking recipes while sipping cappuccinos on the porch.

You’ll find Joe’s Place’s new location in a beautifully transformed home on Williams Street.  I was absolutely smitten with this place not just because of the incredible variety of books, but because the owners at Joe’s Place have maintained a true homelike feeling in their new space.  In every room, there are comfy chairs and sofas or spacious tables where you can spread out your bookstore finds.

coffee station

All the snacks, coffee, and yummy teas you could want after you’ve selected a good book.

Downstairs, you’ll find a little cafe with pastries and local chocolate treats, plus excellent coffee drinks using locally-roasted Due South coffee beans.  Directly across from the coffee station is Joe’s Place’s beautiful wine bar, with rows of gleaming bottles and plenty of vintage charm.  Whether you have a glass of wine or a steaming cup of java, the outside covered porch is a serene place to sip, chat, and enjoy flipping through a book.

wine bar

Joe’s Place’s wine bar; just look at that beautiful architecture, plus those poofy armchairs–perfect for leisurely sipping.

Joe’s Place also hosts a variety of weekly events, anything from topical crash-courses, introductory classes on wine, book club meetings, and trivia nights.  They’ve formulated an excellent business model that blends merchandise, food and beverage, and resources for the community.  Their comfortable environment and spacious rooms offer the ideal place for coffee dates and study spots, and they’re filled to the brim with excellent books–a true delight to discover.  Follow them on Instagram, and definitely go visit…and when you do, browse AND buy!

City Scape Winery – Local Wine with Innovative Twists

Benjamin and I have only recently been introduced to wine, but we’ve come to enjoy an occasional glass after work.  At the same time, we were painfully aware that we knew almost nothing about wine and had only tried (very) inexpensive brands from the local grocery store.  We’ve mentioned several times that we ought to actually attend a class or wine tasting, and when I discovered that Greenville county has a winery in Pelzer, I knew right away that we’d be making a visit.


The staff at City Scape are all friendly, informed, and passionate about the wines they sell.

City Scape Winery was originally owned by Wayne and Anita Tamm, but they sold the winery to a young couple, Josh and Deb Jones, in 2015. Josh and Deb had first experimented with wine making as a mere curiosity, but over the years they began to really hone their craft, even making 125 bottles of wine for their own wedding.  Since the Tamms had been acquainted with the Jones over the years and had followed their rise in expertise, they had little reservations in passing the baton.


The outdoor area is so lovely that it’s become a popular venue for intimate weddings.

Since then, Josh and Deb have traveled to wine-making heavyweights like Italy, Spain, and Portugal, as well as US wine hubs like the Napa Valley.  At City Scape Winery, you’ll find an intimate establishment that feels more like a home than a stuffy winery.  The shop is cozy yet stylish, with a beautiful patio outside overlooking the vineyard.  The atmosphere is laid-back and inviting, with City Scape’s favorite pet, Pinot the Pig, and a group of friendly goats available for visits.


Just beyond the vineyard is a pen with these friendly guys–who have been known to sneak into the vineyard to snack on tasty grapes.

City Scape specializes in incorporating local fruits into their wines, and you’ll find seasonal wines such as the Blackberry Merlot or the Strawberry Sauvignon Blanc (so delicious that Benjamin and I brought a bottle home).  You’ll find other unique blends like the Carolina Nights, featuring local Carolina muscadines, or the Müller-Thurgau, a mild German wine with a nectar-like taste.

City Scape is more than a producer of wines–they are a community hub.  The place was brimming with people during our visit, some popping in for a quick purchase, some lingering for a tasting, while others wandered the grounds with a glass of their favorite wine.  City Scape hosts regular events to promote community; coming up soon, they have a “Girls Night Out” event (Oct. 19) as well as a Farm-to-Table dinner (Oct. 6).  Josh and Deb also offer one-on-one wine making classes for those who, like them at the beginning of their wine career, have an interest in making wine at home.

city scape

We were able to try a wide variety of wines, including a scrumptious port-style wine.

You can find City Scape wines at The Fresh Market (S. Pleasantburg and Woodruff locations) as well as many Greenville restaurants.  Whether you’re local or not, you can always purchase their wines online, as well, though I would recommend stopping by the winery itself for a tasting (starting at only $6.95, which gives you about 9 wines to sample–a great deal!).

Small Businesses in the Big Day

Ever since receiving our wedding photos a couple months ago, I find myself looking through the album every so often, reliving what had been a preciously happy day.  Then it occurred to me that we had incorporated the products and services of several small businesses in the wedding, and we were so pleased with each and every one of them.  So whether you’re planning a wedding or party yourself, or just like discovering what’s local, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to some top-notch small businesses in the area that we used for our wedding.

Ginia Worrell Photography

I would be remiss if I didn’t start off singing the praises of our photographer, Ginia Worrell.  Ginia is such a warm person, and she did a great job capturing not just the physical details but the happiness of everyone that day.  She did an excellent job putting everyone at ease, and knew just how to both provide direction while also letting us be ourselves.  She was both speedy and thorough–the ideal combination in a photographer!  We have been so pleased with her photos and how she captured all the little details and sweet moments of our day.

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I love this detail shot, and Ginia really helped us to feel natural and relaxed while she worked.

The Bleckley Inn (Anderson, SC)

This was our venue for both our wedding and our reception.  With portions of the original inn over 100 years old, the Bleckley had beautiful charm and character that won us over immediately.  The staff were all very accommodating and helpful, and their wedding package was wonderful, including rentals, 4 suites, and multiple spaces throughout the inn.  We were nothing but pleased and delighted with our choice of venue!

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We used the walled-in courtyard for our ceremony.  The area is beautifully landscaped (and check out those amazing old doors!)

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The carriage house served our reception needs perfectly.  It was spacious, bright, and had plenty of that old-age charm with the exposed brick, wood beams, and original stucco.

Sullivan’s Metropolitan Grill (caterer)

Planted literally across the road from the Bleckley Inn, Sullivan’s Metropolitan Grill has a reputation in Anderson as THE restaurant in town.  Because of this, I was initially intimidated by taking them on as our caterer, but we found out early on that Sullivan’s was amazing to work with and worked easily within our budget.  The food was outstanding, and people still come up to me and talk about it, particularly their bacon-wrapped quail and the exquisite desserts.  You can’t do better than Sullivan’s if you’re looking for a top-notch caterer in the Upstate!

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Sullivan’s knocked our socks off with their food. Shown here is their blackberry-lemon cheesecake–and it’s every bit as good as it looks!

Solid Gold (jewelers)

I bought Benjamin’s wedding band here, and he also used Solid Gold to resize my rings (both my band and diamond first belonged to my grandmother).  We were really pleased with the prices they offered and their service was quick and very satisfactory.

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Even though my diamond and band are over 60 years old, Solid Gold was able to offer us a men’s band that matched my set beautifully.

Emerald Road (live band)

I love Celtic music, so we brought in Emerald Road, a local Celtic band, to play for our wedding and reception.  They brought new life to the music we selected, and made the reception lively and fun.  Each of the musicians have a lot of talent and play so well together.

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We had a cellist, violinist, and guitarist at our wedding, but different members of Emerald Road play multiple instruments.

Bridesmaids Gifts

For my bridesmaids, I ordered them each a cuff from A Gilded Line with a line from their favorite hymn stamped onto it.  I chose this because, more than being a drift from the current trends in bridesmaids gifts, it was personalized and meaningful.  Alongside the cuffs I also gave them a bunch of pampering goodies, among them a bath bomb from Tiny House, Big Farm.  I got texts from the girls a week or two later saying how fun and luxurious the bombs were–always a nice component to a girly gift.

a gilded line

Check out the blog post I wrote on A Gilded Line here.

Floral Bouquets

I’ve had several people ask me who did our bouquets–well, I did!  I follow SO many talented florists on Instagram and would have loved to use any number of them…but as a bride you have to choose how you portion your budget.  We ordered blooms (primarily roses) from Ingles and picked the majority of the greenery from blueberry bushes and ivy in our backyard.

So, while this isn’t a small business promotion, I hope it’s a tip that can help another thrifty bride.  However, if fresh flowers are one of the most important things to you for your wedding, there are lots of highly talented florists in the area (message me for references!)

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I really enjoyed assembling our bouquets (floral arranging is one of the few crafty things I can actually do).

There are a TON of amazing venues, caterers, shops and products in the area that you can incorporate into a wedding to make it special, but these were the ones that we chose, and we were so pleased.  Everyone worked graciously with our budget and provided excellent service and quality.  Our wedding could have been bare-bones and I still would have been on cloud 9, but all the details and special touches made it absolutely beautiful.  I hope you’ll take advantage of the talent in this area and use them, too!

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A happy, happy day!

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!

Oak Leaf Pottery – The Elegance of Rusticware

I’m always excited to introduce a new kind of shop on Ivy&Branch, and I couldn’t be happier to introduce Oak Leaf Pottery as the first ceramics shop on the blog.  I first encountered Oak Leaf Pottery through my friend Sarah Collins (co-founder of Modern Forestry Candles–reread my post on them here).  Sarah is good friends with Allison Gross, the potter behind Oak Leaf Pottery, and I had the chance to see Allison’s work at Modern Forestry’s “Forestry Friday” event in early April.

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I love the earthy tones on these mugs and plates–characteristic colors used in Allison’s work.

Allison began to fall in love with ceramics during college, and she graduated with a degree in art education.  She taught art for several years, but when she and her husband moved to South Carolina three years ago, she began to think seriously about doing ceramics full-time.  Today, she has her own home studio and runs Oak Leaf Pottery as her full time job.

While interviewing Allison, I was blown away by her powerful work ethic and the sheer magnitude of responsibilities she has day in and day out.  Not only does Allison run Oak Leaf Pottery, but she’s also a stay-at-home mom for her eight-month-old son, Levi. Balancing work with motherhood is no small challenge, but Allison has managed to tend to both with dedication and lots of love.  She works around Levi’s sleep schedule and manages her tasks with the help of her husband, Dan.

The Grosses

Dan and Allison Gross with their precious baby boy, Levi.

Despite the hectic aspect of being  a full-time wife, mother, and working woman all at once, Allison expressed the serenity she experiences when creating pottery.  Her favorite process is forming the clay on the wheel and shaping it into a piece that will be a functional and cherished ceramic in someone’s home.

“I think that people are drawn to pottery…each potter has their own style.  No two potters are alike.  People like to find their favorite style and then they sort of stick with you.  Potters are earthy and welcoming and there’s a parallel between them and their work.  It’s really important to have a connection with people.” -Allison Gross

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These vases showcase the breathtaking “wood streaking” stain that Allison uses, not to mention the incredible carving and hints of color.

While no two potters are the same, Allison also shared that, as a potter, you have to spend a lot of time brainstorming in order to create your own distinctive “look” in order to stand apart.  After experimenting for a couple of years, Allison achieved the signature style that is iconic of Oak Leaf Pottery: by applying red iron oxide to white clay, Allison achieves a beautifully unique wood-like stain to her ceramics.  Along with the characteristic stain, Allison loves to experiment with stamping and carving her works, another rustic detail that sets her work apart.

Fairy houses

I can’t get over these precious “fairy houses” that Allison makes with leftover clay scraps. They would be adorable nestled in a backyard garden.

Allison makes multiple different pieces to sell, though some of her favorites include teapots and her lovable “fairy houses.”  She also makes ceramic jewelry and does a lot of wholesale work, oftentimes throwing upwards of fifty mugs in one night.  Allison is certainly an exceptionally hard-working woman, dedicated to both her art and her family.  Follow Oak Leaf Pottery on Instagram and Facebook, and you’ll see for yourself the incredible drive of this family-run business, as well as the distinctive elegance of Allison’s ceramics.


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!