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by Stefanie Wolf 4 min read 12 Comments

Coming Full Circle: Love, Life, and the Islands

Vineyard Dreams

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.

Stefanie Wolf Artisan Jewelry Martha's Vineyard South Beach Katama Edgartown Ocean Inspired 1995

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.

Corporate Heartbreak

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.

Maui

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.

Stefanie Wolf Colorful Artisan Jewelry Martha's Vineyard Full Circle Maui Hawaii 2002

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.

Quit Your Job Buy a Ticket Get a Tan Fall in Love Never Return, Stefanie Wolf Martha's Vineyard Maui Artisan Jewelry

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.

Stefanie Wolf Colorful Artisan Jewelry Martha's Vineyard San Francisco CIIS

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.

Stefanie Wolf Wedding Martha's Vineyard Inkwell Beach Oak Bluffs

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!

Stefanie Wolf Artisan Jewelry Martha's Vineyard Beach Ocean Inspired Pregnant

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).

Stefanie Wolf with Family Artisan Jewelry Martha's Vineyard Arts District Oak Bluffs 2010

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.

Stefanie Wolf Colorful Artisan Jewelry Martha's Vineyard Full Circle Edgartown 2019

 

 ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ 

Stefanie Wolf Colorful Artisan Jewelry Martha's Vineyard Full Circle Edgartown

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.

Stefanie Wolf Full Circle Collection Rainbow Jewelry Edgartown Martha's Vineyard
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. 


12 Responses

Susan Falato
Susan Falato

August 19, 2020

Stephanie, I love your story, it is inspiring. I love the Vinyard as well, spent years there summering. I would love to permanently move there some day. I’m planning on it. I’ve seen your studio in Oak Bluffs, I collect your jewelry and every time I wear it it grounds me in my dreams of reconnecting to the Vinyard someday. ❤️

Jane Reilly
Jane Reilly

August 19, 2020

Thanks for the lovely bio. For 40 years we have spent part of September on MV-first sailing there, then ferry trips with kids and now grandkids. I discovered you at the Artisans fair and now love shopping with you in Edgartown—not just for me, but for my daughters-in-law. And now looking forward to something lovely for my new grand daughter-in a while! See you next month-stay well.

RONNA WEINER
RONNA WEINER

August 19, 2020

Great Story. I too LOVE MARTHA’S VINEYARD &Your Jewelry. My favorite is a bangle bracelet with turquoise vineyard charm.

Joan Fournier
Joan Fournier

August 07, 2020

Hi Stefanie,

I too met you one year in OB after your daughter was born. I knew that you had lived in San Francisco because that’s where I live! So many of us share similar stories of spending summers working and gallivanting on the Vineyard duriing our college years. It’s a special story that you were able to return and build a life there. Your bracelets ( I usually wear two at a time) keep me connected to the island that I love as well. Thank you for sharing your story and making your beautiful jewelry. I’m so sad that I can’t come to the Vineyard this summer (first time in 40 years). I’ll be back to the store as soon as I can.

Laura Atseff
Laura Atseff

August 07, 2020

I first came across your jewelry when you sold in the Arts District of Oak Bluffs. It was the summer of 1991 and I discovered your jewelry by walking just 3 minutes from my grandma’s gingerbread cottage to Toni’s Market. (Like you, I enjoyed spending my college summers at MV making as much money as possible (waitressing at Ocean View & Farm Neck & cleaning houses)….and enjoying all the beauty the island has to offer. I bought my first Stefanie Wolf piece then and am grateful for how your business has evolved.

The pandemic continues to be challenging for everyone but truly, being able to purchase a few pieces from you these past few months has helped me feel closer to the island I love and miss. Thanks for sharing your backstory and for staying true to your talent.

Your jewelry is as special as the island it is made on.

Cynthia
Cynthia

August 07, 2020

Loved your story, love your jewelry! Keep up the good work.

Marty Letourneau
Marty Letourneau

February 28, 2020

What a heartwarming story! It has to be wonderful to live your dream doing what you love to do in your very favorite place to live. Your jewelry is beautiful and so unique. Every time we visit Edgartown I always go home with something new from your shop.

Anne Caldwell
Anne Caldwell

September 23, 2019

Stef, even though I knew the gist of your story, this was so wonderful to read. (Knitting ;) You have such a terrific storytelling voice. Your drive and creativity, the ability to re-examine and re-prioritize your life and simply finding what you love and making it work is so inspiring!

Melinda
Melinda

July 13, 2019

To be able to do what you love, finding love on the way and creating a lovely life is what comes out in all your designs Stefanie. We love what you do!

Barbara
Barbara

June 27, 2019

Loved reading your story. I always pick up a new piece on my annual vacation in Menemsha.Your work is so recognizable. One of my new colleagues was wearing your necklace. She bought it on vacation but didn’t know your name. I directed her to your website. See you soon!

Barbara

Michelle Howard
Michelle Howard

June 27, 2019

I fell in love with your jewelry and now your story!! I hope Sundance catalogue starts to buy from you.

Amy Kurth
Amy Kurth

June 27, 2019

I love this story, Stefanie!! It’s inspiring to know people can still follow their dreams and make a living at what they’re passionate about!
LOL @ “corporate cubicle worker” :) Great writing!

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