GTPulse: Family Business Creates Beauty With Beach Stones
How do you discover what you love to do? Sometimes, it finds you. When Anna Buell was a young girl growing up in Northern Michigan, she loved collecting rocks from the Great Lakes beaches with her family. Today, she turns those rocks into beautiful items to wear and for the home with her small shop Great Lakes Goddess, and she does it all with the help of her family.
“I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid. My family was one of those where, if it was nice out you were locked outside in the summer all day long to do your own thing. So I was constantly finding my own things in the woods to do, or we would go down to the lake. It’s funny that rock hunting is such a big part of my business now because a few years ago my dad gave me a box from my childhood and there was just bags of rocks in there.”
Rock hunting is one of the less talked about appeals of living in Northern Michigan. The towns here are lovely, beaches beautiful, and wine delicious, but the careful concentration that rock hunting requires is truly meditative. Over the unseasonably warm weekend, I went to the beach in hopes of finding a Leland blue. I anticipated the difficulty it might be to find one. I hadn’t anticipated how relaxing the time spent searching in the sun and listening to the waves would be. I appreciated it in a way that I hadn’t when I was a child. When Anna was at a crossroads in her life, she craved the simplicity that she used to have when rock hunting with her family.
“Four years ago I was working and I loved my job, but the environment and having to get up and do it every day really go to me. So I decided to quit one day on a whim. My stepdad is really into polishing Petoskey stones and making things with that as a side business. I called him and said, ‘Let’s make a business out of the stuff you do on the side.’ So we did that for awhile.”
Throughout the years, she always had some kind of creative side hustle, but this was the first time in her life that she was relying on a creative outlet to be her full-time job. As she got more comfortable with it, she ventured out on her own to start Great Lakes Goddess.
“I do a lot of local stuff. I’m really into crystals, stones, and rocks, but for my jewelry I use stuff from all over. But the coasters are all stuff I find out of Lake Michigan. Any stones I find from the area are polished by hand.”
She doesn’t do it alone. Anna just hired her husband and her mom to help collect, polish, and distribute goods.
“It’s quite a process. We’ll go out and find stones, which is work but we don’t really consider it work. It’s fun, it’s our play work. From there you have to come home and wash all the stones and sort them into different categories. Some of the rocks get tumbled. We’re making anywhere from 100 to 200 coasters a week.”
Although jewelry is her favorite thing to make, it’s her coasters that the people can’t get enough of. Petoskeys and other beautifully colored beach stones are packed together in clear resin to display their beauty and keep water rings off of surfaces.
“It’s a two-part mixture. You mix the resin and then mix in the hardener, and then they’re poured in molds. Each coaster gets three or four layers into it. It’s quite a lengthy process because then they have to cure for 72 hours to completely harden.’
They’re time and labor-intensive in that the stones take awhile to thoughtfully gather, and there’s a lot of them in each coaster. Being both pretty and functional, she won’t be stopping production on them anytime soon.
Dreams for the future include expanding her products into more local shops in the area and making more decor inspired by the area. Right now they’re at West Bay Handmade and 254 South in Beulah. She and her husband just bought a new house with plenty of space for them to work. They’ll also be expanding in other ways too.
“We’re expecting a baby in the next four or five weeks, so we’re going to do that first before we do any other kind of expansion,” she laughed.
Anna is happy to be doing what she loves in the place she loves, with the people she loves.
“Last week I was just thinking about how proud I am of this little business that came to be because I didn’t want to work my full-time job anymore. Now it’s so big that I can actually afford to pay my mom.”
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