Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.
A couple of months ago, I put together a list of some favorite Michigan-made and Michigan-themed gift ideas (see it here!). Among several awesome products and local brands, one particular Grand Haven-based Etsy shop caught my attention. Carrying a beautiful line of Michigan-made jewelry, men's accessories, and stationery, sprouts. | .roots. captures the spirit of lake life with pieces that are not only great for gift-giving, but also for special keepsakes you'll want to treat yourself to. Intrigued by this Michigan shop, I chatted with artist and shop owner, Rose Kren, about her artistic background, creative process, business story, and favorite things to do around Michigan.

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

About Rose: In Her Own Words
"Well, I'm a woman newly 30, and kind of loving it . . . My husband and I were head over heels for each other when we were 18 and 22 and tied the knot, happy ever since. We have two dogs that are really our kids, we're those people. We live in Grand Haven, Michigan in a beach town. A real tourist trap in the summer, but we love it."

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

The Beginning Of ".sprouts. | .roots."
“The name '.sprouts.' came to me when I first started the company in 2009 . . . I wanted something fresh, something with a new beginning sound."

"Once we started incorporating mens' accessories . . . my husband suggested '.roots.' I really liked the manly sound of it . . . the earthy quality it contained, and so it was.


Falling In Love With Bead Making And Metalsmithing
"One day, walking downtown with my husband, I walked into a bead store. The walls were filled with colors of beads from stones to glass. It was breath taking as a color savant! They offered to help me create something and I talked with the [employees] for a long while. . . I was hired the day after my interview with no knowledge of beading, but a sincere background in art and design. They taught me the basics of what I know and have built off of now. I learned lamp working there (glass bead making) and began instructing a class on it after a couple of years. The same is true of metalsmithing."

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

Pursuing Dreams
“My husband [Thom] and I run this little shop all on our own. It was a big deal to quit my day job, but .sprouts. was taking over my life and I was working 24/7. I had to either take a leap of faith and become self employed or quit .sprouts. all together . . . So, I quit the bead store in May of 2013.

Working Alongside Her Husband
“I began instructing him, much like I had my students at the bead shop. He was one of the quickest learners I've ever had, and very proficient. I couldn't have been more lucky! After that winter he dabbled the next year in part time work and working with me. Once fall of 2014 came around, we were full time .sprouts. | .roots. employees.”

The Creation Process
"Thom's the carver, I'm the solderer and the sander. We both work on final touches and shipping. It's kind of our own mini assembly line."

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

On Success And Work/Life Balance
"The hardest part about being a successful shop on a market place as large as Etsy is you never know how busy you're going to be. There was a weekend where we were featured on the front page of Etsy and in their weekend email. I woke up to over 200 emails and sales by the minute were flooding in. Keep in mind, everything here is custom made and made to order for the most part. We made over $5,000 in two days and had no lives for one month. But we also bought a Subaru, cash. You just never know what you're going to get."

Favorite Products
"Our best selling products of last year [were from] our Michigan line of jewelry. This year our Textured Wave necklaces and rings and our dog tags are beating those stats! We're pretty excited about that because it's reaching out to totally different audiences."

My personal favorite items . . . are our Reticulated Mountain jewelry. I've never seen anything like it anywhere and I love the mountains. [I have family] in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. I've only the best memories of mountain biking and hiking out there."

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

Where You Can Find Her Work (Outside Of Etsy)
"We have numerous wholesalers in the U.S.: Oregon, Martha's Vineyard, the UP, and 10 others scattered across Michigan. We do make sure none of our stores are within a 45 minute drive of one another so [they're] exclusive. One of our biggest Michigan wholesalers is Frederik Meijer Gardens."

Future Plans
"I'd like to see us grow in our brick and mortar shops and taking on a few other artists to sell their designs under our shop as well. To really collaborate with other artists and see their artwork flourish. I'd love to have a storefront at some point. I've done customer service my whole life, and really miss the literal face to face interaction with customers."

Enjoying Grand Haven
"OH my! Grand Haven is GORGEOUS! . . .  If there's a week to visit, it's Coast Guard Week. Over 300,000 extra people visit the town for fireworks, parades, and a carnival! We're normally a small town. The city is quaint, and kind. We have brick sidewalks downtown and small shops where the owners know you. The beach is our life, we're all beach people. Lake Michigan is just gorgeous year-round. We also have the largest musical fountain in the world right on the water. I think it's a must see."

Other Favorite Places + Her Michigan Bucket List
"I love Traverse City . . . it's just gorgeous. The water is a whole different shade of blue. I also love kayaking down the Manistee River. It moves slowly at some places, more rapid in others. My husband and I just renovated an old pop up and are planning on taking a tour of Michigan this summer with our kayaks. I want to see Pictured Rocks so badly!"

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

Thanks so much to Rose for sharing a sneak peek behind the scenes of .sprouts. | .roots.! Which pieces do you love? Check out Rose and Thom's shop here and comment below with your favorites!

*All photos in this post courtesy of Rose Kren and .sprouts. | .roots.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sprucing Things Up With UncommonGoods

Wading In Big Shoes: Personalized Address Coasters From UncommonGoods
This year for our anniversary, Brad and I decided to forego our traditional long-weekend trip and stay home to take care of the massive DIY project that is our house. I know, I know . . . maybe that sounds super-lame, but I was actually really excited at the prospect of crossing some things off our list that we haven't had time for lately due to our busy schedules.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we've had more than enough outdoor projects to keep us preoccupied, but I've really been itching to personalize the inside of our house. In particular, this means incorporating more Michigan and Detroit-themed items, something we've I've spent lots of time daydreaming about while browsing gift shops, antique shops, online shops . . . you name it.

Interestingly enough, in the midst of a mini “I-don't-know-what-else-we-can-do-to-make-our-home-feel-more-Michigan-y” brain drain, I was contacted by UncommonGoods about trying some items from their anniversary (view here) and wedding (view here) collections. Founded in 1999, this Brooklyn, New York-based company features unique and handmade items that are perfect for gift-giving or decorating (great for wedding season and my own current interior design dilemmas). Browsing the site, I was thrilled to see tons of Michigan-themed and Michigan-created products that conveyed the special/quirky/cool vibe we'd been looking for. Excited to find something that would fit into our new design challenge, I sat down with Brad and we set forth to pick out a belated anniversary treat for our home.

Wading In Big Shoes: Personalized Address Coasters From UncommonGoods
We ended up finding the perfect coffee table adornment from the personalized wedding collection--a set of customized marble coasters, based on a real (old) topographical map of Detroit! Designed to focus on a map of whichever address you choose, these coasters provide a perfect memento of a first home or other special location. Since we wanted a little piece of downtown and the river, we requested that the coasters and caption focus on the area around The Spirit of Detroit . . . and I think the end result looks awesome! Definitely a nice addition to our Michigan-inspired abode. :) This set would also be a great gift to take to a summer wedding or bridal shower--just customize with the couple's home address, and voila! A conversation-starter for sure, and special enough to be kept around for years.

(Find more personalized wedding gifts here, or browse UncommonGoods for personalized anniversary gifts here).

Wading In Big Shoes: Personalized Address Coasters From UncommonGoods
Wading In Big Shoes: Personalized Address Coasters From UncommonGoods

How would you personalize this set for yourself or a friend? Would you choose your home or another special place? Let me know in the comments! :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Plant Life

Wading In Big Shoes: Plant Life
Summertime in Michigan is just about here, and with flowers blooming, mosquitos taking over, and weeds popping up like magic tricks, our to-do list keeps getting longer. Brad and I have been busy trying to get our house more "visitor-ready" for the summer, so there's an ongoing challenge every evening and weekend of what we'll work on next. Hang shelves or mow the yard? Print photos for the living room or put down mulch? Many of these little decisions have us running around like crazy people, but at the same time, the warm weather has us motivated to hustle and inspired to work longer days (Sundown around nine? Helloooo, summer!). 
Wading In Big Shoes: Plant Life
One of the fun things about seeing our yard during the spring and early summer is that we get to see our trees, flowers, and shrubs during a different season. After moving in at the end of last summer, we got a lot of hot-day remnants, a brief autumn with more leaves than we knew what to do with, and another one of those famous million-year Michigan (snowy) winters. Now, though, we've come almost full-circle and have gotten to see everything in different forms, colors, fullness levels, and so on.

That leads me to our trees. There are several in our yard--very large and very awesome. They provide great shade and a lot of entertainment as we watch squirrels run up and down the trunk and limbs.


Massive trees create massive messes. Lots of whirly-doodle things (helicopters, seed pods, I don't know what they're called) all over the driveway, all over the deck, all over everywhere. Clean 'em up one day, be greeted by twice as many the next. I've just learned to deal with it and am trying to love finding those little things stuck all over my car every morning. After all, next season, it'll be leaves. And oh, hey--those take a wee bit longer to clean up.

And then, there are the acorns. And squirrels and chipmunks. And squirrels and chipmunks love acorns. And they love to bury them into our yard. Everywhere.

Check it out--Brad thought he was pulling a little weed out of the front flower bed the other day. Then this came up:
Wading In Big Shoes: Plant Life
There was a TREE growing in our flower bed. Daggone chipmunks planted a TREE two feet from my front porch.

Kids, let this be a lesson to all of you who neglect your weed-pulling duties. You may end up living in a forest by accident.

Then there are the random potted plants we've been trying to rescue from the spastic seasonal change in weather (hot, cold, hot, cold, winter, summer, spring, fall, winter, SUMMER)--lots of temperature drops and rises over the last few weeks. Brad planted some little tomatoes that seem to be doing okay, while I have a few succulents that I'm trying not to kill and some pretty orange and red annuals that I somehow rescued from burning up last week.
Wading In Big Shoes: Plant Life
Wading In Big Shoes: Plant LifeWading In Big Shoes: Plant Life
I took the picture above the other day when I thought these flowers might be in trouble . . .  but they've since bounced back now that the weather has been more consistent (and maybe my watering has been a little more consistent, as well). And when a storm blows through and breaks off a branch, I just take that opportunity to clip off a bud or two to put in the kitchen window. Might as well turn flowers into . . . flower-ade? You know what I mean.

I can't wait to show you more of the projects we've been working on! Stay tuned. :)

What projects have you been working on around the house or yard so far this season? Let me know in the comments!
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