Reunion, admiration, and a giveaway.
This past November, I attended my 20th high school reunion. Despite my great trepidations about attending, it was a blast. Seeing so many wonderful old friends, with whom I spent the night reminiscing, catching-up and laughing, was one of the highlights of my year.
One person who I have reconnected with is Catherine Masi. She is a sweet, funky girl who has mentored and encouraged me with my writing as well as inspired me to aspire to create beautiful things. She is a designer of hair adornments, accessories, silk scarves and jewelry, which she sells in her shop, http://www.shopcatherinemasi.com/shop. Her bridal accessories are so feminine and dreamy.
Every time she posts on her blog, http://shopcatherinemasi.com/blog, I am captivated by her words and the images that accompany them. She is an artist who is genuine, edgy, and so, so cool. That she takes the time to comment on one of my blog posts or send me an encouraging email makes me feel special and valued by someone who has their pulse on both what’s hip and timeless in the same breathe.
And so, I asked her if she would be so kind as to be involved in a very special giveaway in memory of my beloved grandmother, who recently passed away. My grandmother loved scarves, always wearing them around town, to church, to BINGO. Without hesitation, Catherine generously said “yes.” She wanted to donate one of her scarves without any acknowledgement on this blog, but I could not let the opportunity pass without interviewing her and sharing her story with you all.
And so, here is a bit about Catherine Masi and her shop, Catherine Masi, in her own words, answering the questions that I asked her.
Tell us about the journey that lead you to this line of work and how you came to open your own shop.
I was raised by two teachers. My father is a research scientist, physicist, and college professor of material science + engineering. Smart guy. My mother, now passed, was a well-loved grade school teacher and came from a family whose business and art was crafting and painting Italian furniture. So, as a child, the only things I ever wanted to be was a teacher and a rainbow fairy, with secret wishes of living a life of a happy artist.
In college, I ended up with a more “practical” degree in Social Work and Psychology, but only stayed in that field for a short while. When I was working with children, a very awesome woman who ran an art center I took them to had pulled me aside and suggested I explore a career in teaching art. After some thought, I decided to get my masters in Art Education.
That, ultimately, led me out to California, where I worked with children and taught art in homes and in schools. During a portion of that time, I was also working as a production assistant for a television and film broadcast studio. It was here that my skill sets started to expand and my entire perception of how I could make a living shifted. I started thinking about other creative possibilities.
At one point, I was regularly wearing a ring I made in a studio class back in Boston (a sterling silver band with lyrics from a song stamped on it) and after a few friends saw it, they suggested I start selling my jewelry. And that’s how it began… totally unexpectedly. Then, a few years in, I began receiving inquiries into the flowers I wore in my hair… some I had bought, some I made myself. This changed the course of my current business and I went from full time teacher/side time hobbyist to full time business owner. When I began adding hair flowers to my online shop, my customer base expanded into the bridal market; which was a great notch up for me.
Tell us about your customers.
The greatest thing about having an online shop is that I get to connect with customers from all over the world. Most of my US sales come from bigger cities like Chicago, NYC, Boston, and Los Angeles, but it’s also really special to have customers from smaller towns throughout the country. I’m awed, too, every time I receive an order from another part of the world. Some of my repeat orders come from Australia, England (especially around the time of the royal wedding… you can imagine the headpieces!), Canada, and France. Once, in a single week, I had a batch order that included Qatar, Iceland, and Israel. It makes the world feel so very small and interconnected. I am seriously lucky to have such great customers. Many of them are brides who are purchasing a hair adornment for their wedding or bridesmaids. And, while I’ve heard horror stories about “bridezillas”, whenever I work with women on custom designs for their wedding it’s always a really nice experience. I feel so thankful for that. Additionally, I have an entire other sector of customers who are maybe looking for something for a special occasion, for a gift, or an everyday treat for themselves. But, I’m often asked what my demographic is and aside from knowing where they currently live and that many are brides- you know, really, I have no idea of any other details of age, race, socio-economic background, education, career, and interests beyond that they are incredibly kind and enthusiastic people. Pretty lucky.
Tell us about your creative process and sources of inspiration.
I keep writing and visual journals. These are kind of my security blankets and, if I happen to leave home without one, I feel like part of me is missing. I think some people feel this way about their phones (I still use a flip phone with no web connection which I like because I prefer to not have to constantly be “on” when I’m out and about doing other things… also a boost to my creative process because I can better pay attention to what’s going on around me, I think). Anyway, by physically taking pen or paint to paper, or magazine clippings and photos to paper with glue, or decorative tape, my ideas seem to become more concrete and workable. I could also be listening to a song and my ear catches a coupling of words or a line. I’ll write this down because it appeals to me. And then months later it might dawn on me to use it for a name of a design and then my mind will create a story with colors and textures and I’ll base elements of a design off that. Or I’ll see one color over and over again, say, on Pinterest, and note that and start collecting materials with that color in mind. Stuff like that. I also love pretty much anything in art, home design, and fashion from 1890 through 1960, so I regularly pull ideas from those eras. And daydreaming. Lots of it.
What is your vision for the future of your business?
This tends to shift every now and again. At its most basic level, I continue what I’m doing as is because I’m in my comfort zone. At its wildest, I am running a larger design studio outside my home with about 10 employees who help to make the process of getting my designs out to retail stores and designer brands fun and productive (As a shameless dreamer, fingers crossed that buyers from BHLDN, Kate Spade, and Chanel are reading this). At a happy middle ground, I still work out of my home studio, but maybe with a little more space, continuing to make everything myself by hand and contracting out certain limited production designs for larger brands. I’d also really like a day off sometime in the near and/or distant future.
Who is/was the most influential person in your life?
This is a tricky one to answer, so I’ll do my best and hope I get most of them in here.
My husband, Sebastian, is both extremely practical and extremely artistic (these two rarely come together so complimentarily in one person). His experience and knowledge with owning his own shop (he’s a tattoo artist, by trade) has helped me to run my own company. His artistic insight often saves me from wasting way too much material (although he’ll also say that no material is ever wasted if you are learning, but still… I tend to waste a lot when I’m being less practical about things.). He also keeps me sane when I’ve worked myself into a frenzy.
My father is someone who, as a teacher, always encouraged his students to think outside the box. I feel like my creative process was fostered by his quiet and steady guidance.
My friend, Stephanie, who is a designer, is one big creative explosion and is fearless. I have felt inspired by this energy every day since I met her.
My mother’s side, the Natale family, was comprised of craftsmen and artists. Our home growing up was filled with astoundingly well-made furniture, from about 1900- 1950’s, with the most beautiful artistic accents. I feel so lucky to have a few pieces in my own home today. Each time I see them, I am reminded of an artistic legacy I can only hope I am a part of.
What brings you joy?
I love good bread with good olive oil. My husband is pretty great and so is our dog. I love a home filled with all kinds of older books and books with tons of pretty pictures. I have a thing for people who smile with their eyes. I like freshly pumped tires on my bicycle before I take her out on a stroll downtown. Fields of wildflowers. The ocean, as taken in from a bluff. I love it when babies nestle into me. I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes I daydream about beautiful things so much that when I come-to I can’t figure out how long I’ve been “out”. It serves as my best source of inspiration. If all else fails and if the world seems overwhelming, I know that seeing a happy dog will cure everything. Also I love, in equal parts, Charlie Chaplin, Benny Goodman, The Cure, and I never tire of the sunshine.
The giveaway: This gorgeous watercolor silk scarf will be given to one reader.
To enter, please leave a comment. One entry per person please. I will close comments on Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 9 p.m. EST.
Comments are closed. Thank you to everyone for your support for Catherine Masi, her passion, and her shop.
And, the winner of the scarf is: Naomi. Congratulations!