Marina Griffin Design: Family Business Gets Creative
by Katie Kobel
Marina Griffin Design is a family owned business specializing in handwoven scarves and jewelry in Peabody, MA and were recently accepted to sell their products in the Peabody Essex Museum shop. As both businesses are members of Creative Collective, I had the pleasure of meeting the family and learning about their family’s journey in business at Marina Griffin Design’s first Holiday Faire featuring local vendors. Marina Griffin Design is a business that was started by Marina Griffin herself along with her five children. Here is what Kelly, Marina’s oldest daughter, had to say about her family’s business together.
Marina Griffin Design was originally started by your mother, could you tell me more about how your mother became interested in the world of creative business in the first place?
(Marina has) been an artist since she was a kid. She would sketch clothes; her mother was a seamstress and would do beautiful work, so she grew up around fabrics and textiles and all that and would draw patterns and everything. She was also an art history major in college. So she has always been a color and texture person her whole life. She actually started weaving in pot holders, like the little square potholder looms, and she found it really interesting using all the colors. At the time she was teaching her brother how to read and it was driving her nuts, so she needed to do something with her hands while he was learning to read. It was then that she realized that she really enjoyed it. She moved on to table looms, and from there to floor looms, and then she trained us [kelly and her siblings] to do it with her. This became a team effort hobby for a long time. The jewelry started as a hobby as well.
How did you and your siblings get involved in your mother’s business?
It was probably in ‘99 when we first took a weaving class. We started making blankets and scarves and all that. It took a while to kind of evolve to what the specialty is, which is very much a subtle color base. Some weavers can do really intricate patterns and designs like checks and stuff. Her [Marina’s] structure is simple but it’s the color angulation that became what our specialty really is. That and the textures that go in it.
Working with your family can be positive and negative I’m sure, and your family seems to work things out pretty well with each person having a specific role in the business. Do you think that this family business brings you closer together?
We’ve always been a strong team. My mom and all of us do a lot of fun things together to not let the negative aspects of our lives trump anything. She’s written scripts for plays and we’ve put on little plays in our living room, we’ve had our own bell choir, so we’ve always done team work stuff. I taught theatre for years and my mom would design the sets, my brother would choreograph and the others would be like stage crew if they weren’t old enough to be in the cast. So doing team effort things have always been a part of my family. There’s ten kids all together, five that work in the business, so it was kind of natural to work together. It was still sticky sometimes. It’s always figuring out who wants to do what. We’ve probably changed CEOs like four times. My mom’s always been the designer and the visionary but how the actual logistics got done is a constantly shifting conversation. Probably too because her health along with two of my sisters’ health have had some issues since moving here. So out of the six of us, three of them are down for the count. So three of us work full time, take care of the business, and take care of them. So it’s definitely a constantly shifting thing.
Some of the roles are pretty logical. Mom’s the designer, so she designs. Joy is this amazing weaver because she’s ambidextrous so she weaves. Joel is naturally a photographer and a wordsmith writer so he writes and does the photography. Some things we have kind of designed around. I’m the most people-person in the house, everyone else is actually an introvert and i’m the only extrovert. So i love going to the socials and talking to people. Some come as natural tendencies and led us to how we would go.
How did your business become what it is now?
When the six of us were in San Diego, working on things for years, we all said “you know we should try turning this hobby into a business”. We did some craft fairs and stuff but scarves are hard to sell in san diego because nobody needs to wear them. So we moved out here five years ago. We had our own shop in Salem for a little while, done craft fairs, just started wholesaling, we just got our first wholesale order from P.E.M. shop which is really exciting. We’ve been doing our home shows for the last, maybe two or three years. We find people really love coming to see the house alone. Getting to walk through the old antique house and see hand made things that would’ve been made in this kind of environment at the same time.
Does Marina Griffin Design have a specialty of threads or yarn? Where do you get your material from?
We have chanel yarns from all over that go into our scarves like the design house in Paris, merino and silk that are all the materials that go into the scarves as well as lots of hours that go into making them to ensure they have the best textures and softness.
On your website in the ‘manifesto’ section it says, “We are not a business. We are not artists trying to make a living. We are artists trying to make art…We are going to create, share, repeat.” Talk a little bit about what this means to you and your family.
Joel actually wrote that. He is our writer. But basically we are all artists. We do things outside of this business, we are writers, musicians, and so much more. After we had started this, we all sat down and were kind of like, okay what do we want to accomplish with this? We didn’t want to go into it with a plan of we want to make money, because we’d die trying. All we wanted was to make art and enjoy our work and share that with others.
Moving here from California all the way here can be a scary thing to do. What did you find was your hardest transition?
The toughest one was actually getting walled by these health issues shortly after getting here. There’s actually been almost nothing about being in New England that we haven’t loved. We even love the winters and the weather. So the actual act of moving was a huge amount of work. Actually picking up from a house you’ve been in for 15 years and moving is strenuous, but I wouldn’t say that anything has been necessarily hard.
What are you most proud of with Marina Griffin Design?
Definitely getting into the Peabody Essex Museum Shop! It was our dream place to get into. It’s just amazing to get our foot in the door. To say we’re in the PEM shop is just such an accomplishment. It was a long process for us, but the people we worked with to get there were always a pleasure. Having our work validated more than just we think it’s great is such a fantastic feeling. I literally went into the meeting and they were like, ‘Yes, we want this, this, and this’. Knowing that someone liked our products that much was an amazing experience for us.
What’s next for Marina Griffin?
We’re just going to continue to make our art. Hopefully we will be able to get more wholesales and get our name out more. But we’re happy to share our art with everyone.
Check out the looms and materials that are used to make the scarves and jewelry of Marina Griffin Designs
Check out Marina Griffin’s website for all of their products and more! www.marinagriffin.com
You can also check out their instagram and facebook
Marina Griffin is now available in the Peabody Essex Museum!
*THESE ARE THE OTHER VENDORS FEATURED AT THE MARINA GRIFFIN HOLIDAY FAIRE (Also members of Creative Collective)
–Island at Night
-Rodan & Fields
A Little About Me
I am currently a Media and Communications student at Salem State University with a double concentration in journalism and public relations. This is my year interning for Creative Collective and I love the experience and opportunities it gives me.