Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sweet Plum Vintage Jewelry Company Owner Dishes on Inspiration and Her Business

I'm introducing a new feature on my blog: Q&A's with creative types who are doing something interesting and unique that deserves attention. Cara Rosaen, Ann Arbor resident and owner of a handcrafted vintage button jewelry company called Sweet Plum Vintage, kindly agreed to let me feature her first.

**Note to readers: Cara is graciously offering 25% off your first Sweet Plum Vintage purchase. Mention that you read this post in the comments section of the checkout and you'll be refunded 25%. Ladies - it's a good excuse for a Valentine's Day purchase for yourself!

Now, on to the questions...

Your jewelry made from vintage buttons is so creative and artsy. How did you decide to focus solely on vintage buttons?

It just kind of happened. I'm not sure if I found the buttons, or the buttons found me. I am obsessed with estate sales and thrift shops, and one day I came across a bag of circa 1950's black and silver iridescent glass buttons. I had never seen anything like them and knew I had to make something out of them! I started tinkering around. Tinkering turned into late nights and early mornings playing with wire, glue, beads and other little pieces of vintage ephemera.

I also know that I was turned onto buttons because I love heirlooms. I love that certain things remind people of people they love, or of fond memories, or inspire them in some way. I come from a long line of keepsake collectors. My Gram, for instance, puts little notes with her things that say who gave her a keepsake and when. This sentimentality, the meaning behind certain objects, is what inspires the heart of my business, heirloom button jewelry collections. I hope the bulk of my business turns into the co-design and creation of heirloom collections. That is where I am heading.

Have you always made jewelry? Was there a point in your life where you knew you were destined for jewelry making?

Definitely not. I was a complete beginner. I continue to take classes and courses on metalsmithing, casting and new beading techniques. I certainly never thought I was destined for jewelry. I am really calm when I am making jewelry. It sits right with me, and after years of heading down different career paths, it felt good to find something that just felt right.

What motivates/inspires you? It can be a person, Web site, TV show, musician...anything!

1) The natural environment, with all of its organic, textural, awe-inspiring beauty.

2) The vintage pieces themselves: the buttons, old ribbon, old pieces of costume jewelry, watch parts, old buckles, old board game pieces....anything I think could be turned into jewelry.

3) Folk music: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Nanci Griffith, Alison Krauss, Taj Mahal...any of these people can transport me into a place where my heart sings and creativity can flow.

4) Other artists! Some of my most recent obsessions include:

BroadStreet :

An embroidered wood grain clock:

Kathi Roussel jewelry:

Maria's Crochet Shop:

Small Things Designs:

5) FOOD! You may notice that many of the names of my pieces are named after food, mostly desserts.

Did you have a career before jewelry making? If so, what made you stroll down this new path?

I spent seven or eight years prepping to become a psychotherapist. I got my undergraduate degree in "Holistic and Atomistic Approaches to Health" (a degree that I designed) and then worked as a research assistant studying meditation and its social emotional effects on teenagers. I continued my studies in a graduate degree program for Marriage and Family Therapy and was seeing clients for about a year when I totally burned out. I realized very quickly that this work touched me in a way that was too raw to continue with for the rest of my life. So, on the verge of having my MFT Master's Degree, I decided to change directions with my life. I quit graduate school and started an online book-selling business, Bookin' Good, to fill my time while I tried to gather my strength again and search for something that spoke to my soul. During this time, I was going to a lot of estate sales, looking for books (which I was never much interested in) and found I really just wanted to be looking at the jewelry. I found some buttons and Sweet Plum Vintage was born.

Writers have writers' block. Is there such a thing as artists' block? If so, how do you conquer it?

Totally. My work offers me the wonderful challenge of having to create something new each time I sit down. Every piece I make is one of a kind, so I have to essentially start from a blank slate each time I want to create a new piece.

I'm convinced artists' block is so often caused by entanglement with the ego, in fear that people won't like my stuff, or that the piece I make in honor of some family member won't be good enough. When I let go of my ego and have the courage to let go of my fear and doubt, the ideas and passion flow again.

I would also add that I get "entrepreneur's block", which I describe as a general state of overload. Owning your own business requires you to wear many hats, and I often feel I am not getting anything done, because I'm thinking about too many things at the same time. The most effective thing for this that I have found is meditation to bring you back to the present moment, and writing things down, so that they aren't swimming in your head.

Do you have any "must read" books, blogs or Web sites for others pursuing a similar career?


"The Complete Metalsmith" by Tim McCreight

"Craft, Inc: Turn Your Creative Hobby Into a Business" by Meg Mateo Ilasco

Currently reading: "The E-Myth" by Michael E. Gerber (I've been told it is a must read for any small business owner!)

Favorite Blogs/Websites:

"Apartment Therapy"

"Creative Kismet"


"The Storque"

I love the name "Sweet Plum Vintage". Is there a special meaning behind it?

I used to live in California with my husband in a pretty magical neighborhood on top of a hill in a little red house. We lived in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountain surrounded by majestic redwoods, soaring red-tailed hawks, grazing deer, acorn woodpeckers and all kinds of fruit trees. I was struggling to find a name that really resonated with me, and one day as I was looking out our big front window, I saw our beautiful plum tree that every year produced hundreds of sweet, juicy plums. At that moment, Sweet Plum Vintage was born. I thought it worked well, as a playful name that references nature as well as vintage materials, pointing to the fact that my work is made from almost exclusively eco-friendly, vintage materials.

What advice do you have for other creative types?

Trust that you have something special to add in this life.

While you may not want to think about the money aspect of a business, don't be afraid to do it. Think about how much money you would like to make a year, and work backwards to determine what you would need to make a month and how you are going to do it.

Don't forget to laugh along the way.


Lindsay-Jean said...

Super fun! Yay Cara!!

Sarah said...

IN LOVE with this jewelry! You can bet I'll be buying something for myself this V-Day. Thanks for sharing. I've been perusing Etsy all day :)

Nikki Little said...

Perfect timing for you, Sarah! I knew you would love Cara's jewelry. It's right up your alley!

dfarmer13 said...

What a wonderful interview. I've known Cara since she was a wee little one and she has always been an energetic, sweet and creative person.