Etsy Shop Highlight: The Mango Seed


Given my obsession with surf shack decor, the moment I stumbled upon Christina's Etsy Shop, The Mango Seed, I fell in love with her beachy signs and ocean-inspired art. Based out of North Carolina, The Mango Seed's coastal-style inventory boasts over 370 creations made out of  recycled and upcycled materials, as well as paintings on traditional canvas. Whether you need a new custom sign for your beachfront business, art for your walls, custom props for your beach-themed wedding, or whimsical pieces for your child's nursery, The Mango Seed is an Etsy gem! I interviewed Christina to learn more about her store and her life as an artist and business owner.

When did you start making the signs? 
In August of 2011 I was driving around in eastern North Carolina when I saw an old fence that was being taken down at a someone's home. I've always had an interest in recycling and upcycling so I stopped to ask if I could have the wood. At the time I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I brought it home and put it in a corner in my studio. One day I was playing around with different ideas and I took one of the old fence pieces and painted "SURF" on it in turquoise and white. I thought it looked so unique! That was the first sign I made and it shipped several months later to a town in France called Ciboure along the Bay of Biscay. I thought it was pretty neat that a piece of this old fence, which had been weathered for years in North Carolina, found a new home in France.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I love the ocean so I spend a lot of time at the beach. I love the energy that flows from the waves, the coastal wind, and the sun. That's the source of my inspiration. When I'm there my mind is free and ideas seem to come from nowhere.

Who are some of your favorite artists?
I admire the work of Escher, Picasso, Dali and Gaudi. I also love the work of Dolan Geiman on Etsy! His art is so creative, fantastic and magical. I have some of his work in my home now and I'll collect more in the future.

Is The Mango Seed your full-time job?
Yes it is. I've been self-employed as an artist since I graduated from college. In addition to the beach-themed signs, I also paint on canvas and take on custom projects as time permits.

How many signs do you make per day?
It really depends on the day. Some days I feel inspired and focused so I might make a quite a few, or I might paint on canvas. If I'm traveling then I won't make any. However, my iPhone and iPad are never too far out of reach so I touch Etsy everyday.

What is the most surprising thing about running your own business that you had never anticipated?
I had no idea how creative Etsy customers would be! I hear from so many people around the world who have an idea for a custom sign they would like. I love it because I never know what incredibly creative idea someone may come up with next.

What is the most special way you've seen your signs used?
Babies and weddings! I love seeing my signs and artwork decorating a baby nursery or a child's room. I hope the imagery and colors in my work inspires the imagination in their minds. I also love knowing my beachy wedding signs are a part of such a special day for newlyweds.

Proudest moment as an Etsy shop owner? 
When I sold my first triptych in 2012. It was a painting of a hammerhead shark designed across three canvases. I had it hanging on the wall in our sunroom and we loved it. I was happy it sold but sorry to see it go. Maybe one day I'll paint another one.

Most challenging aspect of being a shop owner?
I'm an artist but I'm a mom first. I have three children (9 yr old boy, 7 yr old boy, and 2 yr old girl) and I home school. So we're never bored and we're never short on challenging moments. Our mission as a family is pretty simple -- be nice, be creative, be healthy, work hard, love everyone and add to the beauty of the world. It's a never-ending journey and we try to enjoy everyday.

What is your favorite type of sign to make? 
I love to make the custom surfboards listed in my shop. They are pretty large so I have a lot of space to paint. There's no limit to how creative we can be with them and customers seem to enjoy being a part of the design process. I also love designing surf and beach-themed vintage ads. They have such a classic appeal.

What are your favorite paint brands/materials/etc? 
I love working with reclaimed materials and high quality paint. I want to make art that can be passed down over generations. To accomplish this, I work hard to make sure the materials I use are premium quality and durable. Then I pay attention to the details of the process to ensure a finished product that will last.

Can you share some details about your workspace?
I have four areas that make up my studio and workflow. First, my original studio began in a room built onto the back of our garage. I quickly outgrew that space so then the studio took over the garage as well. I installed metal shelving in the garage like a little warehouse and that's where I store thousands of reclaimed boards. I also keep quite a few tools there like a table saw, a couple of sanders, and hand tools. I use that space for processing reclaimed boards (removing nails, cutting and sanding). Second, I have a space inside my home where I design and paint. Third, I have a designated shipping area where all of my orders are packaged and prepped for shipping. Fourth, I have an office where I work on the computer and run the business day-to-day. Keeping each of these processes separate helps me focus on what I'm doing at that moment. It also helps me keep track of orders as the go from being a blank board to a finished product that's ready to ship.

What kind of support system have you had as a small business owner?
People are my support system. I have a great family and great friends. And I've made a lot of friends on Etsy and through my work.

Be sure to visit The Mango Seed and browse some of Christina's beautiful work! It will be hard not to find something to fall in love with. ;)