Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with artist and designer Mary Holmes, creator of zonnebloem one-of-a-kind pieces. Mary talks about the goal of her bohemian inspired line and the ups and downs of running her own business.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
Growing up in Wilmington, DE as one of eight children, I was always very curious and looking for ways to express myself creatively and that drive to create never faded. During college, I actually spent a year in Europe, which gave me a lifetime’s worth of creative inspiration.
Over the past year or so I have been designing and creating a variety of up-cycled clothing, fabric and lace dream catchers, one-of-a-kind jewelry, and home décor including framed ink drawings and homemade antique tin candles. Through my brand I try to encompass my own aesthetic and bring to life my love for the unique, bohemian, free spirited individual.
2. What prompted you to start your own business? How did the name “Zonnebloem” come about?
Going into college, I didn’t at all have a clear vision of what I wanted to do or ‘be’ when I graduated; I just knew I wanted to work with my hands and continue creating.
Zonnebloem [n.] – Dutch for Sunflower [my favorite flower]
During my time in Europe, I fell in love with the Dutch language. And since that time played such an important role in my creative inspirations, tying it in with the name of my business only felt right. It also serves as a personal reminder of all the beauty I got to experience while traveling.
3. What is the most efficient way for you to market your products? How have you been able to get the word out there about Zonnebloem?
I am still growing + getting my name out there, but art festivals have definitely been the most efficient way for me to market my products. I have at least five new festivals lined up for this spring / summer season!
I have also developed an Etsy page and Instagram account over the past few months that I hope to build up + spend more time focusing on customers through those outlets. My Instagram page has been a great way to share my newest designs and ideas in a quick day-to-day manner.
4. Where do you get your inspiration for your line?
Growing up I had relatives living in Arizona and cousins traveling out west so I’ve always been so inspired by and drawn to the Southwestern culture, symbolism, and its beautiful landscapes. I would love to live out there someday.
I love finding inspiration in time spent outside, whether it be hiking and camping in a country setting or experiencing the fast-paced city life of architecture, fashion design and urban artwork.
5. If you could work side by side with anyone, who would it be and why?
Wow, so many come to mind, but I’d have to say Isabella and Elizabeth, the creators of Spell & The Gypsy Collective. Little do they know, for the past few years they’ve been an important inspiration throughout the entire process of creating Zonnebloem and in styling my own life and wardrobe. If they weren’t as far as Australia, I would be knocking on their door to collaborate with them or, really, just to hang out.
6. What is a typical day of work like?
I knew starting a part time business so soon out of college wouldn’t be easy + a constant challenge, but there really wasn’t time for hesitations, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do with my time and future.
From start to finish, designing to creating, every single item within my collections is handmade by me, so getting the most out of each waking hour is key. I typically get home from my full time job, pull out my sketchbook and get to planning new dream catcher ideas, jewelry designs, + mapping out new art festival opportunities on the East Coast. I spend a lot of my time going to antique and thrift stores, fabric and craft stores, jewelry design shops, and in front of my sewing machine. In the months leading up to my art festivals I am definitely my busiest prepping and building up my inventory.
7. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced starting up your own business?
8. Where do you see yourself going with this in the next 5 years?
I see myself moving to Philadelphia and building up my brand within the city, getting my products into different stores, and expanding my art festival route. I also know that growing my online customer base would be the next step in my goal of eventually opening my own storefront.
9. Do you have a personal favorite part of your business?
My favorite part of Zonnebloem is, without a doubt, working directly with customers on personalized items.
I have been working on a line of bridal-inspired dream catchers for Jennifer’s Bridal in Hockessin, DE, so those will be on display + for sale at Jennifer’s next month which is so exciting! I have had the opportunity to design a headboard-sized dream catcher for a customer’s apartment, as well as some music related dream catchers and requests for specific styles and color schemes from customers. Building general inventory with my own inspirations is fun, but there’s something about personalizing an item specifically for someone else that gets me really excited. It’s a completely different type of inspiration.
10. Who do you look up to most in your career?
Over the past few years I have developed a long list of favorite artists who have helped push me to start something like Zonnebloem. Career-wise, the one person I look up to most is probably the curator of Moon + Arrow, Chelsea Pearce. Starting out in just a tiny shop in Philly and using inspiration from her travels and her love for vintage clothing, jewelry, and home décor, she built up an entire company + brand and continues to welcome new artists and creators into her space. Her work and passion for what she does is truly admirable.
Behind the Boss: Mary’s vision board
More on Mary Holmes: