I’d like to think that I am a part of a generation that is endlessly creative and savvy at creating small businesses and projects, all while traveling, giving back, and being all-around incredible. (In reality, every generation probably thinks that about themselves and their peers.) One girl in particular stands out in my mind as an exemplar of all the great things about my fellow twenty-somethings: strong and confident; creative to the core; combining hard work and passion to create a career and lifestyle she believes in. Keep an eye on her Etsy shop and put her on your craft project speed dial– as a world traveler, DIY expert, young wife, and maker, Maggie Best (nee Stewart) is one of the most fabulous, up-and-coming members of Gen Y.
You’ve been a maker ever since your early high school days– what were some of your first projects and what sparked your interest in sewing, textiles, and design?
Maggie: My first project ever was this wonky little felt needle book. So two pieces of felt. Flat. Stitched together. Four seams. It was awful. I made it at a friend’s birthday party and was so frustrated that I just couldn’t get it to look neat that I spent the entire party teaching myself how to sew a straight seam. I even missed out on the cake, I think– I was just so determined to get it right! I suppose my driving interest, therefore, was to be excellent at something. I wanted to be able to make whatever I wanted and make it well. Better than anyone else. But not in competitive way. I just wanted to be assured, in my own self, that what I had made, whatever it was, was excellent.
And then I’ve always liked clothes. For my 7th birthday party, I changed five times– ending up in a flowery party dress with a veil. So it was only the natural progression to begin making those things instead of buying them. It was very organic. I would get very specific visions of some dress or jacket in my head and could never find it in the store, so I taught myself how to make it. Thankfully, I moved on from needle-books to my prom dress, wedding dress, etc. and now I make or refashion a majority of my wardrobe. My aunt was a seamstress and taught me the basics, but then it was a lot of trial and error, plus one Home Ec class in high school, topped off with a healthy dose of internet tutorials.
You have an Etsy shop where you share headpieces, veils, all kinds of handmade floral prettiness. What are your plans to expand your brand and where do you see your work in five years?
Maggie: I’m still trying to figure out what “brand” means for myself. I don’t really understand the specifics of it yet, but I am trying. That being said, eventually, I’d like to have my own studio where my materials are strewn everywhere and I have to dig through them to find that one piece of silk or vintage brooch or the sharpest pair of shears. Is that a brand?
Floral headpieces at Maggie’s shop Flower Child Hippy Wild
I claim my personal “look” as GBGB—Global Bohemian Gypsy Badass– and it’s only natural that your brand reflects the things that you yourself enjoy, so I’d like to continue using global textiles, fair-trade feathers and other natural materials, vintage brooches, etc. but in new ways. In the remake of the movie “Yours, Mine, and Ours,” the main lady has this wicked studio where her stuff is spread pell-mell everywhere– and her husband cleans it up for her one day, thinking he’s being helpful. But instead, she comes home and is horrified that she can’t find anything anymore. Because it’s all in boxes. That is so me. So I’d like to have a studio with that vibe someday. A messy, luxurious studio where I am making brilliant creations made with feathers and silk and brooches. Preferably for the Duchess of Cambridge and Lady Gaga. In that order.
Your wedding was the essence of DIY– what projects did you tackle yourself? With DIY weddings all the rage, what advice do you have for ambitious brides who want to do it all themselves?
Maggie: I made my wedding dress, two headpieces, my veil, my husband’s outfit, the flower girls’ sweaters, the bridesmaids headpieces, 20 hand-sewn fabric flower & peacock feather boutennieres, 47 decoupaged wine bottles, a large chandelier sort of thing with a bamboo frame 5’ x 5’ draped with feathers and fabric and other treasures, the ring- bearer’s pillow, 150+ tissue paper flower poufs, the save-the-dates, the invitations, the table cards, the place cards, some hand-carved stamps for the envelopes, and a football- field worth of fabric bunting. It was a very ambitious undertaking and I probably would re- think things if I had to do it over again. I believe that is the standard lament for every DIY bride. But I had a ton of help– two friends would come over once a week and we’d watch Glee and eat McFlurries and get Modge Podge all over our hands for the bottles and shreds of tissue paper everywhere with the flower poufs. My dad made like 10 chalkboard frames that we wrote the seating chart and other signs on, plus he made these two stupendous photobooth backdrops. My mom and nana made 300 cupcakes. My sister made her own outfit plus our save-the-date and place card stamps. All of our wedding party helpers fluffed the tissue paper flowers, my aunt wrote all the signs out, and a friend did our flowers. And then, everyone showed up a day before the wedding and put it all together. It was a very communal undertaking. It was like giving birth, I think– hard, but then your community rallies around you and you are weepy with happiness and thanks for them and the final product.
My DIY advice would be delegate, delegate, delegate. Ask for help– which is hard for the DIY bride because the very fact that she is a DIY bride means she has control issues and is good at certain things and so therefore thinks that delegating is a waste of time because she could just do it better anyway so give me that flower arrangement/tablecloth/strand of fairy lights. But pick people you trust and then let them have at it. Without you hovering all around them! Because honestly, they know your standard of excellence, they have their own vision, and then they will rise to the occasion and beyond it. Also my husband, Justin, has saved me a million times throughout our relationship, but particularly during the wedding planning because he kept saying “What will people remember in 30 years?” That became our motto, so that when I started freaking out about not having napkin rings, he reminded me that no one—absolutely NO ONE—will remember napkin rings or a lack thereof in 30 years. And I was able to relax, release it, and then I was blown away on the day of because someone had come up with ribbons around the napkins. Brilliant!
You’re part of a unique set of people: someone who fell in love in high school, grew throughout college together, and ended up married. After going through so many experiences with one other person, how do you make it work? What’s the secret to long- lasting happiness in a committed relationship?
Maggie: Any relationship I admire and strive to be like says the same thing: communication and humor. Talk about everything, and be humble enough to laugh at yourself and with your partner at whatever life throws you. So that is what we’ve always worked on. When we did pre-marital prep work, our counselor told us that if you get good habits going at the beginning of your marriage, chances are, they will carry you through all the way. That gave me such hope! So we made it a point to start doing things well right away. Do something right the first time, and it’ll be easier to do it right the second time. And the 100398th time.
Communication, especially, makes you vulnerable and requires you to admit you are wrong. Which I obviously never am. But if I was, I’d have to admit it to Justin and then we’d have to work it out together. Communication requires you to talk about horrible things like money and schedules and grocery shopping– but then grace comes in and those mundane things are made wonderful. Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors, and I just read this quote of hers (which I have in a sticky note by my desk now): “How much wilder and truer each holy moment is than any fantasy.” And so I guess those mundane things– the bathroom cleaning, the laundry, the bed-making– are made holy by you and your partner working at it together. It takes work, but it is so, so, so very good when you are in that groove together. I think our generation is in danger of missing out on how rewarding hard work is—but if you are going to work hard at something, if you are going to bust your butt at something, work at your relationship. Having a partner, being that intimate with and tied that tightly to one person can either be awful or so mind-blowingly awesome that you lose your breath sometimes. So I am trying to do everything I can in my own power to make the latter happen for Justin and I.
You’ve traveled the world, studied abroad, really experienced different cultures– what was your favorite trip and what advice do you have to aspiring travelers? What’s next on your travel bucket list?
Maggie: My two most opposite trips are my favorite. I loved my study-abroad time because I was young and with only one friend from home. We lived in India and went to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and then I went to Uganda all by myself. It was scary and I had to rise to the occasion of having to do things alone, of having to be brave all by myself. But I tried so many things and grew so much.
Justin and I most recently went on our belated-honeymoon to a few places in Europe and that just blew my mind on a different wavelength. India was so outrageous and multi-faceted. It was an assault on the senses 24/7. But Europe is a different kind of wonderful—gelato in Rome (three times a day, obviously), and just wandering in Paris, and misty lochs in Scotland where they have signs saying to watch out for fairies. The places I went in Europe were much more orderly than India. Some would call it “sophisticated” or “developed” or whatever. And I guess by some standards it is. You had to look for that multi-faceted experience there; you had to dig beneath the surface for it. I had to find it instead of having it explode in my face like in India. Having Justin for the Europe trip and then even enjoying my sister joining us at the end was another different sort of fun. But I loved both trips. They both hold such huge spaces in my heart for different reasons.
My advice when travelling is a) eat everything, b) take precautions to drink safe water, and c) walk everywhere if you can. (If not, take the subway or whatever transportation other broke locals would take.) Also, pack light, for the love of all things holy. You will survive with just one bag. And your back and wallet will thank you! Next on my bucket list—I’m trying to go back to Scotland forever. Or at least two weeks. And then I want to do Southeast Asia: Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, etc. because their food is the best. Food is a very big driving force in my travels.
Who are your role models? What are your daily, must-read sources of inspiration, online or in print?
Maggie: Alexander McQueen makes me cry. I love his far-out, fantastical interpretations of beauty and his reverence for the female form. I have a fantastic book of his best pieces and then I’m always looking for more bits of that brand. And my parents got me this fabulous book of Alphonse Mucha’s work that I keep on my nightstand—I love his ethereal drawings and how they’re the perfect marriage of fantasy and technique. I enjoy a fashion mag every once and a while, usually Vogue, but sometimes they inspire me and other times they make me feel dissatisfied, so I have to be in-tune with myself to know when it’s appropriate to peruse them. And what the hell did I do before Pinterest? Nothing, obviously.
Inspiration via A Beautiful Mess pinned to Maggie’s board “Arts & Crafts”
I like looking at DIY blogs—I think my top favorites are OffbeatBride, abeautifulmess, and Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing. I do love that Pinterest nudges me towards all different corners of the DIY-isphere, so I’m always on the lookout for the next good tutorial.
Above all, though, I am inspired by women. Particularly by women with different standards of beauty than my own. I studied abroad in India when I was a junior in college and let me tell you– Indian women have got the world beat on beauty. I am constantly blown away with how women all over the world take care of themselves and ornament themselves without the assistance of Vogue or Elle or Pinterest. Don’t even get me started on saris; I think they are God’s gift to women. They are a pain to wear, but the draping around the hips, the pleating that happens around your butt, the revealing of the lower back. Yes! Even the wizened old ladies who walk around my neighborhood look like queens in their saris and white tennis shoes.
The idea of “balance” is everywhere– what are your top five must-haves for balance, sanity, and inspiration?
Maggie: 1. Lots of prayer—breathing, reading, speaking. I am trying to increase the listening aspect of this particular practice.
2. My husband. He is the anchoring peg to my wheeling, diving kite.
5. Travel– even if it’s just the next town over, it gets you out of your own little box and gets your mind moving again. Perhaps in a different way. Travelling even farther from home always puts things into perspective for me.
What’s next for you?
Maggie: I would like a creative, rewarding career making (possibly outrageous) things for people who appreciate them. Also, a tiny, historic house in Philly with manageable rent into which we can stuff our Gypsy Treasure Trove would be fantastic. And then, a baby. With a cherry on top, please.
Keep up with all Maggie’s adventures– abroad and in the craft room– on Instagram; on Facebook; on Etsy; on Pinterest!
Wedding images by JPG Photography; other image courtesy Maggie Best