It's time for a new Featured Maker Blog Post. This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Alison from Alison Rose Vintage. We are currently selling 4 of her beautiful vintage-style prints including Hope, Home, Face the Sunshine and Thankful. I loved learning more about her creative process and from where she draws her inspiration. For even more behind-the-scenes action, please join us on Monday November 2 at 7 pm EST on Instagram Live for a further conversation with Alison -- @saltandbranch IG. If you can't make it live we will have the interview saved in our highlights for you to view after 11/2/20.
Featured Maker Q &A
- Tell us about what you do.
My shop, Alison Rose Vintage, helps people connect with themselves and loved ones through thoughtful, vintage-style greeting cards and prints. I write whimsical definitions of words and print them on cardstock and beautiful handmade cotton paper. I also work with customers to print wedding vows, song lyrics, love letters, and favorite quotes.
- How long have you been making your products and how did you get started?
I’ve been making my products for 3 years now. I’ve been a lover of words for as long as I can remember—majoring in English in College, writing letters to friends and family since I was 11 years old, obsessively collecting stationery, and working in content marketing for years. I started out making word art for my own home and a few people asked me if they could buy my prints. I thought, “hmmm, maybe I should make this a business.” So I spent a few months researching and decided to open my shop on Etsy. I started with maybe 15 listings in my shop (I now have over 300!). Shortly after, I also started selling at craft shows and to local shops.
- What is your favorite part of the creative process? Least favorite?
I love working closely with customers to create something that is personal to them and their loved ones. I get to read the most beautiful wedding vows, hear fun facts about siblings and grandchildren, learn about cancer survivors and those battling depression, and grieve losses alongside people I’ve never even met. I truly value playing a small role in connecting loved ones and giving people words or mantras to look at each day that encourage, inspire, and comfort.
My least favorite part is accounting and taxes. I’m glad I sat down and figured out what I needed to do before starting the business (thanks to Janet at Paper + Spark!), but I still don’t like it at all. I’ve also worked in marketing my entire career, but it’s so much harder with your own business—there are so many variables and it’s difficult to figure out where to focus your time. Oh, and I wish photographing products wasn’t so cumbersome. I don’t even do much staging or editing and I still feel like it takes forever to get semi-decent photos.
- From where do you draw your inspiration to create your products?
There are so many sources of inspiration for me. I’ve been mailing letters and cards to my 95-year-old Great Aunt Audrey and my childhood best friend, Leigh Anne for nearly 25 years. I’ve formed very special bonds with them as well as other family and friends that I write to, and I want other people to be able to connect in the same way.
My sister, Amanda, passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. When we were going through her personal belongings we came across a giant box of every letter and card anyone ever sent her—including all of the letters and cards I sent to her over the years. Not only did this make my snail mail loving heart happy and bring back a flood of memories reading each one, but it also reminded me that people truly appreciate receiving these little pieces of love, and they hold onto them. This fuels my passion for making cards and prints that I know will be cherished for many years to come.
My customers and followers inspire me over and over. At one of my very first craft shows, a woman asked me if I could print her wedding vows on the handmade paper I was using for my word definition prints. I said yes and this is now my bestselling listing on Etsy. My repeat customers (including my Mom and Dad!) come to me with new words and ideas all the time, things I probably wouldn’t have thought of on my own, and those items become crowd favorites as well.
I’m also so inspired by other artists. My goal is to keep my work simple, but I’ve loved adding a little color to it by collaborating with artist Patricia Shaw. She makes beautiful watercolors and illustrations. She painted flowers, holly, and other pieces for me to add to some of my prints and cards to make them extra special.
And finally, I look at my own passions for inspiration—like my family, my dog, reading, snail mail, volunteering, social justice, flowers and antiques—and I make art that reflect those passions. Most recently, I started reselling vintage goods because I love searching for and decorating my own home with beautiful vintage and antique pieces.
- What values does your business embody?
Love & hope: The core purpose of my business is to spread love and hope. The superheroes in our lives deserve appreciation. Our friends and colleagues who are working and parenting and taking care of themselves need extra encouragement. Those in the thick of grief need our comfort and support. Even on our worst days, there can be a sliver of hope, especially if each of us is responsible for delivering it.
Sharing is caring: There are two pieces to this—first, I made the decision in the beginning that I would share the good, bad, and the ugly in my social media posts. I want people to know there is a living, breathing human being behind the screen and I’ve experienced a lot of joy and pain just in the 3 years I’ve been in business. I share my experiences, struggles, and wisdom as much as possible. I want my followers to feel comforted by my humanity and vulnerability, but also serve as a reminder that we can all do better. And second, I LOVE small businesses and artists. I shop small as much as I can, share my favorites often, and love to collaborate with other shops.
Give back: Giving is core to who I am, not just gifts, but also volunteering my time and donating my money. Because I’ve been working full-time while starting up this business, last year I was able to donate nearly all of the profits from Alison Rose Vintage to non-profit organizations like Family Promise Metrowest, Equal Justice Initiative, To Write Love on Her Arms, Buddy Dog Humane Society (where I adopted my dog!), and so many more.
Keep it simple: I am not a graphic designer, so I knew from the beginning that I wanted to keep my work as simple as possible with a vintage feel. I literally “design” everything in Microsoft Word and try to let the words be the star of my art.
- Is your business a full time or part time venture? Do you have plans to grow/expand?
I work full-time as a Global Content Marketing Manager, so this has been a side hustle for 3 years now. It’s been growing steadily as I add new products and partner with new wholesale accounts each year. Working full-time has allowed me not to put too much pressure on myself to make Alison Rose Vintage perfect or increase revenue. My dream is to open my own gift shop. Gifts are my love language and I can’t imagine filling my days with anything better than helping people shop for gifts for their loved ones. And I love shopping small, which means I could shop small wholesale businesses and call it work! Hopefully more to come on this next year.
- There are many challenges that come along with running a small business. What is your biggest challenge and what is your biggest reward or success?
The biggest challenge is having no idea what I’m doing. I’m learning as I go, but it’s completely overwhelming when I think about it too hard—am I sourcing from the right places, will USPS deliver on time or at all, should I launch my own website, how do I get more followers and email subscribers? The list goes on and on so I try to center myself on the rewards. The rewards are endless: phenomenal customers, wonderful wholesale partners, and a wildly talented artisan community that I get to be a part of now.
- How do you spend your time when you aren’t creating?
My dog Shiloh, or the Chief Cuteness Officer of Alison Rose Vintage as I like to call her, is my life partner right now. We try to go on as many walks and hikes in pretty places around New England as we can. We’ve taken a couple of vacations to New York, New Hampshire, and Ohio together. We’re also very good at napping!
For nearly 5 years, I’ve been volunteering at Family Promise Metrowest, an organization that helps families experiencing homelessness. I’ve helped with event planning and fundraising, writing and distributing press releases, and social media. They do amazing work transitioning families out of homelessness and preventing evictions.
I also love to read, particularly non-fiction social justice books and autobiographies. And of course I love to write so I send a lot of snail mail.
- Salt and Branch sells only a few of your products. Where can people go to find more of your products?
My Etsy shop can be found at alisonrosevintage.com.
My prints and cards can also be found at a few shops in Massachusetts:
- Avenue C in Framingham
- Five Crows in Natick
- Gracefully Restored in Holliston
- Laurel Grove in Sudbury
- Locally, Yours in Plymouth
- Neatly Nested in South Boston
- Vintage Whimsy at Mill 77 in Newburyport
- Wildflower Flower & Gift Shop in Wellesley
Plus a few shops outside of MA:
- Home and Garden Vermont in Burlington, VT
- Sea Love Candles in Kennebunk, ME – Coming soon!
- The Cozy Cottage in Troy, NH
- Willow in Windham, NH
And I’ll have prints and cards at a couple of pop-up shops in November and December:
- The Burncoat Center for Arts & Wellness at 78 Burncoat Street in Worcester, MA from November 7th to December 30th, visit www.bcawworcester.com for more details.
- Sudbury Art Association Holiday Market at 29 Hudson Road in Sudbury, MA from November 13th to December 24th, visit www.sudburyart.org for details.
- Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I am so grateful to everyone for commenting on, sharing, and purchasing my work. And thank you so much, Melissa, for loving my work enough to add it to your shop and for taking the time to learn more about me. If anyone reading this is thinking about starting a business, I hope you do! There are some overwhelming moments, but there are also people waiting to snatch up what you have to offer and give a piece of your heart a home—it’s definitely worth it!
Alison, thank you for being our Featured Maker for November. If you'd like to get a discount on her products for the month of November please sign up for our newsletter. Be well.