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!

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.

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.

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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!

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.

small-town

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

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.