We stopped by the Seaweed & Gravel (Leucadia) Maker Faire recently. One booth had free coffee and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Serendipitously it was the first table we stopped by. That’s where we met Melissa Simons. She was rocking cowboy boots & tank that said “Wheels, Whiskey, Women” in bold. She was selling hand-made whiskey bottle lamps & stained wood taster tables under the authentically appropriate name “Saddle to Sea.” She had also set up a little D.I.Y art table for kids. Our interaction was short, but it left an impression. We reached out to learn more about Melissa, her craft and what the future goals of Saddle to Sea.
SoCal Sessions: You’re re-using liquor bottles to make lamps. What inspired you to start doing that? Where do the bottles come from?
Melissa: I used to bartend for 10 years. I would always see really cool looking bottles that would come across my path. I wanted to do something with them. A friend suggested making lamps and sell them. I did make them but wasn’t interested in selling them, out of shyness I guess. Until I came across a homeless child that was 1 years old, and literally, sleeping on the streets, beach or under the bridge with her parent.
At that point, I didn’t have a lot of money but knew I needed to do something to help. Then I was reminded of the bottles I had started to make. So I started selling them on Etsy, Instagram and [at] Seaweed & Gravel. I wouldn’t say the bottles saved the little girl, but it was a stepping stone to get her to where she needed to be which I will ever be thankful that I was able to be a part of that time in her life.
I am not rich nor do not come from a rich family so everything I do, have and the people I help have I’ve had to be financially creative. Which is another great thing about Saddle to Sea. It understands hardship which helps make me so understanding towards the needs of others.
SoCal Sessions: What’s your background? How did you end up here in SoCal?
Melissa: Oh man ever hear of the song “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash? I feel like that is my theme song. My family and I joke that a few of us are gypsy’s in our family, me being one of them. I lived a lot of places when I was younger. I don’t think we lived in one town, country or state more then three or four years until I was 17.
Maui is the longest I have ever lived anywhere and where I grew up for 18 years. I moved here three years ago from Maui. I moved here to do more with my lifem, I suppose. [It] Wasn’t island fever because I love Maui & actually didn’t want to leave. It was actually a struggle to talk myself into leaving but anytime I would travel I would see that I needed to grow more.
I surf and Maui is a simple life. I could be happy and do that forever but I have a faith in God, and felt there was more that I needed to learn, to see & to do. I want to make a difference in this world, and I knew staying in my comfort zone wouldn’t necessarily be the difference I wanted to make. I was in a four-year relationship that I knew wasn’t healthy or going where I needed to go so one morning literally on a whim ended my relationship, & I hoped on a plane with my dog. I knew it was now or never. I believe that decision saved my soul, my heart and my life in so many ways as hard as it was to make.
SoCal Sessions: What is “Saddle to the Sea”? What does that mean to you?
Melissa: Saddle to Sea started mostly because I would go from spending half my day at the barn riding horses and go straight to the beach to surf. One day I took my cowboy boots off set them next to my surfboard and thought “Saddle to Sea”. And a light bulb went off. What a great name for a company. Then the whiskey lamp project of mine came shortly after so that’s what I started calling them, Saddle to Sea. I guess Saddle to Sea means there’s such freedom in this world to do and to explore and how awesome that we really can do it all. One second riding an amazing sweet creature like a horse then heading out into the surf and catching waves with dolphins the next minute. It really is awesome to have so much freedom if we choose it.
SoCal Sessions: Are you handcrafting anything besides lamps right now? Do you have the “Maker” genes?
Melissa: Ha ha, I don’t know if I have the “Maker” gene but I do know that even at 19 I made beanies and sold them standing on the sidewalk, no booth, full soliciting at the farmer’s Market so I could make money to back pack Europe. I think I have the “determined” gene and love being creative. I am a gypsy remember (laughs). Free spirited with a strong work ethic.
I do make things though. I recently completed an Organic Skincare project with Shem Gott of Mr. B’s. Necessities. By trade I am a holistic esthetician of 10 years. I have been in the Health & Wellness industry for 18 years. So we collaborated on making a very simple organic skincare line. Right now we have a Rose Mist and a Coffee Scrub that you can buy thru Mr. B’s Necessities online or the store front in South Oceanside next to Revolution Coffee.
SoCal Sessions: You’re motivations seem altruistic in a very local way. Less donating to charity, and more donating directly to someone or some cause you’re confronted with. Do you have any long-term plans for doing good through Saddle to the Sea?
Melissa: Oh man, that is really is sweet to hear you say that. I just think that is one, of the many, duties we have as human beings on this earth which is to love one another and to bear one another’s burdens ya know. My personality is more direct and intentional then it is in a mass general sense. I believe even charities play a huge part as well. We need both in this big world.
Again, I am more personable. I love getting to know people one on one. Although there’s not enough time to get to know every single person that comes across my path or help every single person there are times that something stands out, tugs at my heart and I know that I am supposed to help that person or that situation.
Saddle to Sea was started on the foundation to do something that matters so it will continue to do so in any way possible. I am a small, small grass root company that has organically started growing over the past two years (almost like this company is meant to exist before I even knew it). So as long as someone needs help and Saddle to Sea can help I am sure I will continue to grow.
SoCal Sessions: Do you have a workshop or space that you find inspires you too work?
Melissa: I work out of my garage. I started at an old place that I rented that already had a work space built into the garage. I had to move and my new roommate now was so awesome to build me a work space. He is itching to create as well so if Saddle to Sea keeps growing he will officially be my first employee which inspires me to work as well. Helping someone else tap into their creative side. I think being able to come home, zone out and create is so healthy and amazing. It’s another world working with my hands. I love it and it really does make me happy.
SoCal Sessions: Where can people find your stuff, buy your stuff or follow your story?
Melissa: Haha, it’s funny. I don’t have a website. My strength is creating things but the logistics are not. So the best place to go is Seaweed & Gravel in Leucadia. Dave, the owner, and his girlfriend, Sue, have been so supportive of me, and have believed in me. I feel very comfortable and safe selling there and being apart of that community. Seaweed & Gravel does sell the lamps & candles online under their website as well, which is seaweedandgravel.com.
If any say sold out just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a ton of bottles in my garage and can make one within a week or two. Also if you have a special bottle, does not have to be whiskey, that you want made into a table lamp, hanging lamp or a candle I can make that for you as well. If you hashtag #saddletosea on instagram you can also see some of the bottle work.
Again logistics. Still in limbo of creating a whole other page for my bottles. I coach private surf lessons, create organic skincare product, nanny and create whiskey lamps. It’s mostly time that is against me.
SoCal Sessions: Favorite whiskey?
Melissa: I have a few but probably Eagle Rare. There’s always a bottle in my freezer. I love to sip on it and create or play my guitar.
SoCal Sessions: Anything else you want us to know?
I have actually had a hard time living in San Diego because it feels so fast paced compared to Maui. People even seemed meaner here. This year San Diego has finally started growing on me. I have found quiet places to roam and slow down. I think that is so important as a “maker”, creator and mostly as a human being. Slow down and listen. This year amazing people have come into my life and been so supportive. Before that I felt like I was alone and couldn’t trust anyone. So for anyone that has just moved here and feeling that. Hold on there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Something amazing will come your way. There’s a plan at work. Being the wanderer that I am I don’t think I will stay in SanDiego forever but my dream is to live between here and Maui as well as travel where ever my heart desires to help people here in the states or world-wide. So we’ll see …..Dreams do come true (smiles).