Rebecca Long is, well, long on talent and short on time. However, that time constraint only fuels her creativity, crafting unique sea glass mobiles, jewelry and more.
When did you first start making your gorgeous sea glass mobiles, and what inspired you?
I made my first mobile in the summer of 2011. As new mom, I found that staying home with my daughter was wonderful, but I needed more. I needed to create and be busy. At the time, I lived in Santa Barbara and went to the beach everyday. I was bringing home all sorts of things, rocks, driftwood, shells, sea glass, bone, anything that was battered by the sea and made smooth. I started researching sea glass and come across an article about a woman in Maine named Jane Moran Porter. She made these beautiful driftwood and sea glass mobiles and to my knowledge, was the first to do it. I decided to try it out adding my own style, and have been tying fishing line to sea glass ever since.
How do you decide what you’ll create, for example, your jewelry?
Design, to me, is equal parts engineering and problem solving. I love to be bound by material, by what’s on hand. When I founded The Rubbish Revival, it was daily trips to the beach that provided my material and inspiration. I now have an obscene amount of sea glass, so I’ll continue to create pieces using sea glass that I’d like to wear, or look at. As long as it’s deceptively simple and really well made. I do occasionally get a request from a customer that hits like lightning and I think, “Oh, wow! Why didn’t I think of that?”, which is really lovely.
Is there a particular theme that you try to maintain?
While The Rubbish Revival did begin at the sea, my main goal is simply to incorporate recycled elements into each item created. I design things with the intention of long-term use –without ravaging our natural resources. It just so happens that I am completely obsessed with glass, all forms, not just sea glass. I find the way that light is captured and bounced, and transformed by it utterly mesmerizing. Lucky for me glass is 100% reclaimable and can be endlessly recycled without loss in quality or purity.
What role do your creations play in your life? Is this a hobby, or a full-time job?
The Rubbish Revival is full-time and then some. I also have a seven-year-old daughter and a dog who get woven into the tapestry that is running a business from a home studio. So it’s madness, but one of the reasons I love doing this so much is that I am the one who drops my daughter at the bus each morning and I’m here when she gets home from school –with the dog barking excitedly from the window.
Owning a business means lots of late nights and weekend work, it’s tough finding the off switch. For me, the key is discovering ways to keep those two worlds spining in tandem. I’ve found that including my daughter in my work, teaching her how to make things, visits to vendors, even how to safely work with power tools allows me to continue with my task list while raising a curious, empowered, hard-working young lady.
What are some of the hallmarks of your art – in other words, when you think of your creations, what makes them unique?
The only claim to being unique that I can make comes after drawing inspiration from nature and others – I always try and improve and make the concept my own. When I’m determined to make a certain ring or knob or mobile, I find the best components and the best process for making that item, which sometimes takes weeks or months to work out. I also pay a lot of attention to the packaging. Most of our products are packaged in tins, all of which are made from recycled steel and are perfect for reuse. Simplicity, quality, and careful design are what I value most from the conception of an idea all the way through to the box it’s shipped in for its voyage to the customer. That attention to detail stimulates creativity, which I feel, is what sets my brand apart in a unique way.
What did your career look like before this?
My background is in graphic design, but I’ve traveled down a handful of career paths, most of which did not require sitting in an office tied to a computer. I worked as a carpenter’s apprentice for years before having my daughter, which I adored. The physicality and problem solving that goes into that kind of work is enormously gratifying. I realized late (well, in my early 30’s) that I’m dyslexic. One of the upsides to that, which there are many, is that thinking outside of the box is my superpower. Being able to fit fulfilling work and natural abilities is elusive for so many, I’m fortunate to have been able to try a lot of hats and be wearing one now that fits so well.
Your Etsy shop is full of really lovely photos of your work. What role does Etsy play in your overall business? Is it your main distribution, or are your designs available elsewhere?
Thank you for the compliment! Great photos are the best tool in my kit for selling online. Being a single-mom, I never would have been able to launch and maintain a business without Etsy. It’s been sustaining in a way that I’ll be forever grateful for. I do sell at local craft events like SoWa in Boston, in local brick and mortar shops, and have presented at trade shows, but all of those take a tremendous amount of time… which I always seems to come up short on! I’m also in the process of building a fully functioning web-store, crucial to keeping an e-comm edge and making sales through social media.
What are your current thoughts on your business? Is it where you want it to be, or do you have other plans?
This is absolutely where I want to be. The plan is to grow, take care of my family, and give back.
What would you like to see happen next?
I’d like to reach a point where scaling and production are less of a challenge than they are now. I’m always struggling to keep up with orders. While that’s a great problem for me, it’s not good for my customers.
What is your biggest challenge?
The other night I got the best fortune cookie wisdom of all time. It said, “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.” My biggest challenge is staying on point. I have a daily to-do list, lately I’ve been making myself do the thing I want to do the least first. The line items I look forward to doing most generally get done around 10pm. That probably makes it sound like I’m winning, but I didn’t mention that there are 20 things in-between that get pushed to the next day’s list… sigh.
What do you consider your most desirable role in this whole process? Head Designer, Head of Operations, CEO, CFO? How do you wish to spend most of your time?
When The Rubbish Revival sees growth that calls for an expanded executive team, it won’t be hard getting me to head up product design and sourcing. Until then, I’m still the Captain of this ship. Running a successful company means understand all its pieces, and understanding where, as a leader, you are lacking. I am always seeking out other people who have something to bring to the table that I do not.
Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur and if so, how does that impact your approach?
This is the third business I’ve owned if you count my Christmas “wrapping” business, Est. 1985, where I wrapped my siblings presents accompanied by a price list I proudly posted on the fridge. So, yes, I suppose I am an entrepreneur. When the things you know best are to try, learn, pivot, and drive, owning a business is pretty fertile ground to grow. The Rubbish Revival is the perfect vehicle for my unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit.
Thank you for sharing the behind the scenes look at your business and your life!
You’re in good company with Rebecca Long and Rubbish Revival www.RubbishRevival.com and https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheRubbishRevival?ref=l2-shopheader-name