Maegan Monsees, the founder of Mae in Maine, transforms cotton rope into functional and beautiful home decor and accessories. She hand-coils and sews every piece on an industrial sewing machine and even hand-dyes cord to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Children and adults especially adore Mae in Maine’s gathering buckets for exploring, berry picking or collecting treasures like shells, tiny rocks, and acorns. We chatted with the maker to learn more about how she launched her design business.
Artisan Joy: How did you get started as a maker?
MM: I was in search of toy storage for my first born, who was a toddler at the time. We were living in 800-square-feet, so I needed to be selective on what I brought into our home. I wanted something clean, durable and versatile. When I stumbled upon a cotton rope bowl tutorial, I knew that was it! I started creating my own designs and opened an Etsy shop a few weeks later.
AJ: When did you realize that you could turn your craft into a business?
MM: I really knew instantly. I’ve always been a maker but never enjoyed any craft enough to really turn it into a business. I remember running into the living room to share my first rope bowl with husband, and I told him, “this is it.”
AJ: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
MM: Out of necessity. I love creating pieces to fit in certain spaces or for a certain function. I’ve also been inspired by a trip to Portugal I took with my now husband. I fell in love with everything cork and love incorporating it in my work.
AJ: How do you apply that inspiration to your work?
MM: When we moved into our first home, we needed a letter holder, house planters and storage displays to hang on walls and ceilings. Many designs came from things we simply needed around the house. A lot of inspiration also comes from the Montessori approach we implement with our children. We love natural elements and simplicity, and often times I make pieces for my boys’ room and for them to take with them exploring to promote autonomy. When it comes to cork, I love importing fabric straight from Portugal to line baskets for both functionality and aesthetics.
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
MM: I always dreamed of being a farmer, and I still do. Being a stay-at-home mom and small business owner is such a blessing I never knew I wanted, but I still have plans on running a homestead, slowly but surely!
AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
MM: As someone who’s only been sewing for seven years and is entirely self-taught, there are so many things I’m still learning and techniques I’m working on. There are often times where I doubt myself and get the feeling of being an imposter. But, I’ll never forget the first time someone referred to me as an artist, and it reminded me my work is worthy— there will always be growth and room for improvement.
AJ: When it comes to running a creative business, what keeps you going through the ups and downs?
MM: My children, 100-percent. There have been so many times where I felt like throwing in the towel because it was too much on me—between keeping a home, raising kids, and running a business with little sleep. Being able to help provide for my family and show my boys that they can be entrepreneurs is what keeps me going.
AJ: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in putting their work out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?
MM: As long as you keep showing up and putting your authentic self out there, people will gravitate to that! When people shop handmade, they are buying a story and are supporting a family behind it.
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
MM: I do my best to brush it off and remind myself that I don’t find my success in other people’s approval.
AJ: Creatives are often very in tune with what’s happening in the world. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming. If this happens to you, how do you cope?
MM: It is hard to show up and promote your products when there are bigger things that are so much more important happening around us. I just try and do my best to focus on work and the impact I have on my little family.
AJ: Are you passionate about a cause?
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask you this: What brings you joy?
MM: Being able to live freely!
This interview has been edited slightly for length and clarity.