SARAH - A creative spirit and life on the Maine coast
Shares stories of a unique career path, time spent abroad, and creating a life near nature. Sarah Storms walks along the sand of the southern Maine coast on a cool fall evening. The sky, ocean, and sand take on soft hues of pink at sunset on the beach. The sound of gentle waves breaking as the Atlantic ocean meets the shoreline is constant, and a slightly briny scent of salt water permeates the air. Wearing Blundstone boots and fleece jackets, Sarah, her husband Greg, and their fluffy dog Watson are the only ones on the beach. “We go to the beach year round, even when it’s snowing” Sarah says. “It’s life changing for me. I had no idea how much it would affect me to be near the ocean!” “Getting outside keeps me creatively inspired, and gives my brain room to expand in a different way.” Greg throws a stick for Watson, who runs gleefully along the sand at top speed. “Greg is a really stellar other half,” Sarah says, smiling contentedly at her husband, her rosy cheeks framed by blonde hair peeking out from under an oatmeal colored knit beanie. “It’s a girl," she says, resting a hand on her growing belly, "and I want to help her form her life in an empowering way.” Sarah, what is your job? I am the co-owner of SGBMade, a creative consultancy and content studio in Portland, Maine. What makes you excited about what you’re doing? We’re taking brands that are about handmade, small batch, artisanal craft, and giving them a digital presence that represents the beauty and function and artfulness of their goods. I get excited about all kinds of design, especially thinking of ways to tell a story about it. This company feels like the culmination of everything I’ve been doing in the previous stages of my career. What did your career path look like, to lead you here? I started with an internship at Vanity Fair magazine, and then an internship at Travel + Leisure magazine after college. As an intern, I lived at my parents house in New Jersey and commuted 2 hours, each way, every day. Later I was an assistant to fashion stylists, and also doing travel writing. I worked at Lonny, an interior design magazine, and then Elle Decor Magazine, as a market editor. I loved it! It was such an education, in the best possible way. After that, an opportunity came to work for Tory Burch. I worked with an amazingly creative team, and Tory herself is such a force. I met my business partner, Megan Boltz, as colleagues at K Colette in Portland. It was a dream job. I was the creative director, doing writing, styling, buying, product selection, working with artisans to create products for the store. Megan was the photographer, designed the website, and was the graphic designer. It was a wonderful symbiotic relationship, and we felt our work was better together than apart. When Karen decided to close the store, it was natural for Megan and I to continue working together. What an interesting trajectory. You’ve had these big, creative jobs, and lived in New York… but when we met, you had a very different job - you were ski instructing! Yes! When I quit my job at Travel + Leisure and moved to Jackson! I was on the corporate track, but I wanted to get out of my suit and into my ski boots! My parents thought I was making a terrible decision, but it was my dream. Thinking about Jackson now, I have the biggest smile on my face! Eventually, I missed being hands on at magazines, the creative work. There was a lot I wanted to explore professionally. That brought me back to New York. That’s very cool that you were willing to make a bold move, and stay true to your dream! You’ve since made another move to Maine, how did that come about? Greg and I loved our jobs, but we didn’t connect with the lifestyle in New York. Greg got an opportunity in New England, and the house drove a lot! Greg is an architectural engineer, so he’s as obsessed as I am! Our house is an 1850’s farm house, near the ocean, with trails from behind our house to a nature preserve where we go running or cross country skiing from our door. What a huge change from the city. What were you used to growing up, did you live in the city or country? Both. I was in kindergarten when we moved to Luxembourg, the one city in the country of Luxembourg. I remember being really young, and being able to go to the bakery on the corner and buy my own pastry in the morning and interact with people…. It clicked with me to be autonomous. I was entrusted to figure things out on my own. By 5th grade we moved from an apartment in the city… to horse country in New Jersey! We moved into a very old house on 24 acres, my mom had a vision for a renovation. I loooved it. Fields, and animals, and the transformation of this structure, the interior and architecture part of it. How interesting. You lived abroad in college as well, didn’t you? When I was at Colby College, I went to Senegal my sophomore year, to do an independent study in fashion design. Junior year I spent in Paris. I took classes in French universities, Sorbonne Nouvelle and La Sorbonne. Senegal for fashion design, that’s unexpected. What was your experience like? There’s this dichotomous culture in Dakar, a split between people who dress in a really modern way, and women who live in the city but wear these beautiful traditional African robes. I wanted to understand how two such different styles and histories and progressive ways to dress could exist in the same place. I interviewed designers, one in particular designed very modern clothes, mostly in denim, lined with African fabrics. A nod to that tradition, in a contemporary vision. Being in western Africa, I was living with a polygamous family, with one of the wives of a man who had 2 or 3 wives. In addition to the fashion experience, I walked away with the cultural and societal experience of truly being out of your comfort zone. What would you say is your comfort zone? There are so many facets to your background and interests - when do you feel the most like yourself? In a cocktail dress having a conversation in Paris…. or trudging through the mud with my dog, chopping down trees with my husband! I feel really, really myself when having either an outdoor adventure that challenges me physically, or having a cultural adventure. I recall something you posted on instagram, about being equally comfortable in Carhartt’s, or a statement sleeve. That does exactly describe you! I love a lot of things that otherwise would stand in contrast! I’ve always been that way. Growing up, I was baiting worms on hooks for my brother on early morning fishing trips… while wearing a spangly princess dress! While on the topic of instagram, your photos are stunning. The advent of instagram has been really interesting for me. A lot of people treat it as a portal into their life, whereas for me it’s an extension of my work. I’m using it as a way to show off my portfolio. When I take a photo, I try to make it perfect because that’s been my job for so long. Instagram is not how my home always looks!
When things look perfect and effortless, there’s typically so much effort put in. What are you looking for when you create an image? There’s a certain balance that strikes me. I’m turned off by symmetry, perfection, or clean lines. I find that images that are successful give the eye a lot of visual context to digest. You’ve been featured quite a bit in magazines and online. What’s it like being the subject, rather than on the creating or curating end? I’m really unnatural on the other side of the camera! But I say yes to opportunities and exposure that can benefit my business. Your life in Maine is the current cover story of Martha Stewart Living Magazine, it’s a wonderful piece. I’m really excited about that, because it’s about community! It highlights people I really love, and makers I love here in Maine. They shot Greg and I with some of our friends and family at our house, preparing Thanksgiving dinner. It’s featuring friends who are food producers, and it's also about the way life has changed, moving from New York. I also like that it shows us using the house how we really use it, gathering friends and family. Being based in Maine seems to be a central part of your business, part of its appeal. It’s a big part of it. It’s a benefit that I have space for a photo studio, and I make things work double duty and use my home for photos. The biggest benefit is that I’m more creatively inspired here! What is life in Maine like? It’s pretty dreamy! We’re a mile away from the ocean. We go fishing on our little Boston whaler, it’s 13 feet and it’s on a tiny river across the street from our house. We grow tons of vegetables. 7 varieties of lettuces, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, eggplant, and we have a raspberry patch. Next is animals! Goats for milk, and chickens for eggs…a few years down the line! What are your future plans with your business? I am so excited about working with these artists. My favorite thing to do, is help someone see him or herself in a new way. Help people see what they are great at, or how they could channel their passion! It’s also my dream to expand this company, and create a nurturing and confidence building company culture. The opportunities I’ve had in my career have been because of the generosity of incredible women for whom I worked in the past. I want to create a space where we celebrate each others strengths. What does success mean to you? Treating myself and others with respect and kindness.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Storms. For more on Sarah and SGBMade:
...and pick up the latest Martha Stewart Living Magazine, out now.