My older brother took me to Martha’s Vineyard for one week during summer vacation when I was twelve. I fell in love with the storybook villages, the expansive beaches, the rolling waves perfect for boogie boarding, and the feeling that this tiny twenty-by-nine-mile triangle of land was right where I wanted to be.
Each spring I begged my mom to let me live on the island for the summer. She replied that Martha’s Vineyard summers were mine for the taking once I was in college and if I could find a job that could cover my summer and school year expenses.
Soul Cleanse in the Island Breeze
I went to Wellesley College where I met a group of women who shared my dream to summer on Martha’s Vineyard. What a glorious season! I sunbathed, gallivanted, created, and celebrated with young people who were happy to be alive, high on life, and just like me.
And I worked. A lot. I worked at a women’s clothing shop in Edgartown; I bussed tables on a sun-drenched deck on the Oak Bluffs harbor; I served food at the yacht club in Edgartown; I passed appetizers at black-tie events up island in Chilmark; and I made jewelry.
It started with a handful of glass beads purchased from Beadniks, a local, legendary bead store. The colorful treasures fascinated me. I had no formal training in jewelry making or beadwork. I devised ways to connect the beads with wire and pliers to create fun, colorful necklaces. To my surprise, three stores on the island started selling my jewelry. They quickly sold out.
I felt comfortable on Martha’s Vineyard with the locals who stayed year round, long after Labor Day weekend BBQ grills had cooled. Later I would marry a local, whom I met that same summer. After a late night shift, a friend who grew up on the island invited me to meet his best friends, who called themselves, “The Team.” We climbed two flights of stairs to a roughly finished attic room. There were a handful of young men shooting the breeze, enjoying beer. Little did I know that one of them would become my husband a decade later.
College graduation day came and went and I spent the next four years as a corporate cubicle worker. I was only 24, but I felt over worked, unfulfilled, and listless. My heart just wasn’t in it.
In the midst of my doldrums, I booked a ticket to Honolulu to attend the wedding of one of my best friends from college. I planned an extended trip to Hawaii, packed up my belongings, quit my city job, and decided to move to San Francisco after the wedding.
It was a great wedding. Reunited with my college friends and enamored by the ocean, I surfed and swam at Waikiki. Coincidentally, one of the Vineyard attic friends from that chance meeting in 1995, happened to be in Hawaii at the same time. And somehow, between wedding festivities and tourist activities, he and I booked two one-way tickets to Maui.
The Valley Isle embraced us with open arms. We found employment aboard sailing catamarans, bought a “minty condition” used car, and secured a modest rental condo with an ocean view complete with breaching humpback whales. Maui life was good and we fell in love, seven years after we first met.
California Love Beads
Our time on Maui drew to a close and we relocated to San Francisco so I could could begin my graduate program in psychology. There I also pulled out my bead box and started experimenting with jewelry again.
Soon I was making jewelry for friends and selling at craft fairs and street festivals. People were purchasing my quirky, colorful jewelry right off of my neck. By the time I had earned my masters, I had also launched “Stefanie Wolf Designs” jewelry and married my soulmate.
Vineyard Dreams Come True
Seven years later my husband and I were expecting our child, and wanted to raise her outside of a bustling city, so we moved to Martha’s Vineyard (of course!). It is the island where my husband was born and raised, where we first met, and the island that I fell in love with as a young adult.
On April Fool’s Day, 2009, we boarded the Steamship Authority ferry, with all of our belongings, to move to Martha’s Vineyard for good. I was six months pregnant.
Before leaving San Francisco I had amassed a moderate but loyal customer following. I was selling my colorful handmade jewelry wholesale to about a dozen West Coast stores. On Martha’s Vineyard I set up a cute little studio space in the Arts District in Oak Bluffs and quietly knitted while waiting for my baby to arrive. JUST KIDDING!
I peddled my wares around the island, sold at the Featherstone and Chilmark Flea Markets, and got picked up by CB Stark Jewelers, the best jewelry store on the island. I continued to sell online through my website.
After the birth of our daughter, my husband took the role of full time dad and I continued to build the jewelry business (although both of us were stringing beads and packing boxes to ship to customers).
Today, my daughter attends school here, my studio and shop have expanded and relocated to Edgartown, my husband and I own a home (hallelujah!). I sell to over 100 stores nationwide and I delight in how my life has come full circle. From coast to coast, island to island, bead to bead. Martha’s Vineyard stole my heart two decades ago, gave me space to discover jewelry and express myself and then a decade later, halfway around the globe, in Maui, my husband stole my heart again and now we raise our daughter here on the island as I continue the work I love.
My full circle collection was inspired by my life story. Sometimes life has a way of moving forward while circling back around again and again.
Organic like beach stones, yet colored by imagination, these circles reflect the cycle of island life, where old and modern coexist timelessly. Shop the collection here.
2019 was quite a year at Stefanie Wolf Designs! Here are some of the highlights: 1) I was granted a Trademark Registration from the United States Patent and Trademark office. This accomplishment was a long time coming and something I began pursuing several years ago.