Meet Betsy of O Bella Naturals -- a lovely, little shop filled with natural handmade soaps, earthwear, knits, and more! I simply love the look and feel of Betsy's shop and designs, and I'm sure you will too.
Betsy is one sweet gal, with a beautiful family. Her mission is to create affordable products that are made from natural materials and ingredients, which are free of chemicals, dyes and additives.
Read on as she takes us on a journey into the world of O Bella, and inspires us along the way.
What inspires you?
Music, nature, mountains, textures, organic colors
Where do you call home? Are you from there originally?
The town I currently call home is West Palm, Florida. It's about 20 minutes away from the small beach town I grew up in, Jupiter. Wherever my family is, that's home for me. My husband and I are living in a little cottage to save to make a cross-country move to Montana, we are aiming for 2010 to be our moving year! We will be leaving a lot of family here, but hopefully some will come too!
Name something unique to where you live.
My favorite local spot around is Jonathan Dickinson State Park. It was named after a Quaker merchant who landed here in 1696, has the historic home of “Trapper Nelson” still intact, and was a top secret radar training school during World War II. It's my family's favorite place to get together, take walks and bike rides, have Thanksgiving, and it's also where my husband and I got married in 2007.
Share an interesting fact about yourself.
I studied music in college, I'm one year away from a degree in music education. Music is my first love, it is where I am most at home with myself. I'm classically trained on flute, but I really like to play piano to rock music and violin to bluegrass.
If you had to describe yourself in a word, what would that word be?
My mom has always told me I'm a passionate person, and it comes out in everything I do, for better or worse! It can be a burden and a blessing but I wouldn't choose it any other way. It means I dive into something I love [a movie, a book, a time period, a song] to the point of obsession! But it also means I love deeply, like my family, friends, music and nature.
What made you decide to open up shop?
When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby in 2008, I started to pay close attention [read: obsess] to what I put on my skin, finding out what toys were made of, what was in my food. I started to wonder why I was told to eat good and exercise while I was pregnant, but it was okay to bathe my baby with soap with additives and let her chew toys made of plastic made with toxins. It really started in April of 2009, my husband, baby girl Isabella, mom and dad took a trip to Idaho to visit my brother and sister-in-law. This trip was really the inspiration behind my whole shop. I had just learned to knit and knitted my baby a pair of hand warmers and had wonderful feedback! It was so rewarding making something useful and people actually asking about it! That was the start of [knits]. While there we made some necklaces from the stones we collected at the lake.. that was the start of [earthwear]. We spent a few hours searching for stones, and my mom also took a trip back to Idaho and must have collected 10 pounds of stones for me [thanks mom!] The summer of 2009 I finally started making soap for myself after wanting to for years. I was spending a fortune on natural soap for me and my little family, and I experimented and came up with a great, functional, natural recipe! Since then it has sort of blossomed from there. Natural function is really at the heart of O Bella.
How did you come up with your shop name? Any special significance?
It is named after my lovely daughter, Isabella. Her 1 year old cousin actually came up with the name. When she was born all her cousin would say was “Oh, Bella,” in such a sweet voice. It sounded like a perfect name. I chuckle every time I catch my self saying it, especially when she has created a big mess on the floor!
Name your favorite thing about selling handmade.
My favorite thing about selling [and buying!] handmade is the connection to people that you can't get buying in a commercial store. There is something very traditional, settling, and grounding about making things handmade and receiving handmade. You know the time went into prepare whatever it is, and time is the most special gift anyone can ever give.
Do you have a day job or sell on Etsy full-time?
My full time job right now is raising and guiding my daughter – it is such a special job! Etsy is like a part-time job with a bonus of potentially becoming a full-time job. I would love for it to be able to be a full-time job while I am in my season of motherhood.
Give us a little glimpse into what a typical day in your life looks like.
I wake up and say goodbye to my ever faithful, hardworking husband in the early hours. My baby girl and I [who is 1 years old today!] wake up, have our toast and coffee [minus the coffee for her] and enjoy the morning while catching up with online stuff like convos, any orders that may have sold, blogs or other things. We play and get ready for the day. I may make soap and other batches of lotions if need be, or create some necklaces. I may head out to do errands, mail packages, get new supplies, visit with some family, go to the park, visit some local shops.. Husband usually comes home in the afternoon and we do dinner and more playtime. We may watch a movie, or I might get to sewing or knitting once the little one has fallen asleep while he records music or some computer stuff. I find time to read late, it's my favorite time to settle down and read.
Share with us a favorite Etsy purchase or shop.
I currently have two ultimate favorite shops on etsy, although there are so many I have found and loved! The first is Gaia Conceptions – she makes eco-chic clothes for the urban nomad. I am in love with her materials and designs, I own one of her dresses and wear it more than I will admit to! The second is Violet Bella, whose store I found on your blog! I love all of her photos, jewelry designs, and clothes, they are so unique and capture a wonderful essence!
List a few of your most favorite pastimes.
Anything that involves things with naturalness - the way things used to be made. We started our own organic garden and I like to find fresh produce and cook with it. I'm really interested in alternative building materials, especially with cob, and my husband and I are in the beginning planning stages of a future cob house. Cob is a building material made from earth, clay and straw, it used to be used in houses in Wales. You mix it with your feet and lay it with your hands. Talk about the ultimate natural handmade project! Some houses still stand today and are over 500 years old. My great-grandfather grew up in one in Ireland, so it will be an amazing and traditional project!
I mostly love to spend time in the mountains in the west - which is pretty far from where I am. I try to get out as often as I can to camp, hike, see small towns, pick flowers, collect rocks, splash around in rivers. While I'm not out camping in the west, I'll visit the beach here or get my favorite lunch [subs and cupcakes] and eat them at the park. I'm also really getting into sewing, it's quickly becoming a favorite hobby!
I love to play music gigs, teach and learn new styles of music. My husband plays guitar and bass guitar and we love to sing and play a good Pink Floyd song together while our little one plays at our feet and dances along.
Read any good books lately?
I have read a few good books lately:
The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson
End the Fed by Ron Paul
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
What is your most prized possession?
After my family of course, which I can't really count because I don't possess them :) But they keep me going, day in and day out, I could own nothing and still have the world with them.
I really cherish the handmade bench my mom passed to me recently. My parents bought it in the 70's, I used to play on it as a baby and now my daughter plays on it. Pretty special to me.
What are three of your favorite foods?
Anything homemade! Some favorites I've made lately are:
homemade guacamole with avocados my husband brought home
homemade honey butter
creamy chicken and wild rice soup
What would you like to learn to do?
I'm learning to sew right now, it's something I've been wanting to learn how to do for a long time, so I guess I would like to learn how to get better at sewing :)
What are you listening to right now?
Hello Hurricane album by Switchfoot
Animals album by Pink Floyd
Soundtrack to Ink
Name one place you must visit in your lifetime and why.
It's always been my dream to visit the old castles in Ireland and England. I have always been preoccupied.... (obsessed?) with the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance eras. I would also love to visit the birthplace or home where my favorite composers lived in Europe.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Thank you to Lory who so kindly took interest in my shop and thanks for doing this interview with me, and thanks for taking the time to read a little about the woman and story behind O Bella. Don't hesitate to contact me with questions or just to chat, I'm always up for meeting new people!
Betsy, thank you so much for stopping by to share with us. It was a pleasure getting to know you better. And wishing a very happy birthday to little Bella today!
Keep up with Betsy and her growing shop by visiting her flickr, becoming a facebook fan, following her at her blog and on twitter, and adding O Bella Naturals to your favorites!
Time for a Giveaway!
Betsy has so generously put together a special sample set for this contest! It includes: A Set of 4 Sample Soaps - Mocha Cream, Brown Sugar, Honeybee, and Lemongrass, a sample Brown Sugar Rustic Butter, and a Natural Vanilla Lip Butter, all wrapped up in cotton cloth! Wow!
To enter, just tell us what your favorite scent is! Maybe you love the smell of freshly baked bread or sugar cookies? Or perhaps lavender, crisp spring air, or the smell after it rains? Don't forget to include your name and email address or Etsy username so we can contact you!
Please read carefully, as the rules have changed!
For extra entries you can:
Tweet this giveaway
Follow my blog and/or Betsy's blog
Blog about this interview/contest
Purchase from O Bella Naturals
Just leave a comment with your answer. Then, an additional comment if you are applicable for extra entries.
For example: If you want to enter and you also tweet the giveaway and follow my blog; leave your original comment + another that you tweeted + another that you are a follower = a total of 3 comments. Don't hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Contest ends Sunday, January 3rd at 11:59 pm EST. Winner will be chosen at random and will be announced the following day.