Yelp is all about connecting people with great local businesses, and we recognize that these businesses — led by artisans, doers and creators of all kinds — are the lifeblood of our communities. Behind every business is a great story. The Tucson Makers + Shakers blog series showcases local makers, artisans and innovators. Find out what makes them tick and discover why they love being in business in Tucson
Allow us to introduce Plart, a creative business that encompasses Alexandra Berger’s artwork and passion for gardening and education. Her products range from jewelry and stained glass cactus, to landscaping design and gardening classes, and botanical body products. Plart’s tagline is “Let Love Grow” and it perfectly encompasses Alex’s vision and passion for her business.
Tell us about your business:
Plart is an overarching umbrella for the things I like to do as a multi-faceted person. I make jewelry, I have been making jewelry since 2005. I make botanical body products, a lot of those are custom or special order. I wanted to start making my own body products so I could start using less plastic. The body products aren’t what I’m focusing on very much right now. I’m focusing a lot on my stained glass art work. I create one of a kind small scale glass sculptures that are cacti that you cannot kill. (laughing) You don’t have to water them, it doesn’t matter what type of light you put them in. I make prickly pears, columnar cacti, barrels, chollas. It’s been super fun. I put them in teacups or mugs that I find at secondhand stores. I use a lot of scrap glass, and I try to let the shapes of the glass pieces guide what the final product will look like. The last thing Plart does is gardening and horticultural education, and landscape design. I teach gardening classes and planting in the desert. I do landscape design and installation with my partner Ray Clamons. We do low-water use gardening and rain tank installations. Plart incorporates a lot. It ebbs and flows depending on what I’m focusing on.
How did you get your start?
Plart was the brain-child of me and my good friend Julie Ragland. We were working at Center for Biological Diversity. We both really loved what we were doing there, and we both had art training. We dreamed of opening a shop that was plants and art. We filled our office with plants and art, and it was dreamy and wonderful. When things would get tough we would just daydream. At a certain point I let go of my position at the center and just started Plart. The idea started formulating and I began the Pima County Master Gardening program that September.
What was the moment you knew your brand had to happen?
I was doing non-profit admin work and feeling unfulfilled with the admin side of things. I was daydreaming a lot. I had already been doing jewelry and glass for a long time already at that point. My coworker would bring me cactus and plants every few days and I was learning a ton about them, I was feeling a pull to get my hands dirty and get off the computer screen. The two lines of education I had been following in my life were environmental sciences and studio arts, so I always had this duality and thought ‘I love plants, I love art, how do I merge these things?’ Plart was born. It was sort of an A-HA!. The original idea was to have a retail space. Even though Plart started with this dream of getting a space it hasn’t come to be yet.
What has been your biggest challenge?
There’s not enough hours in the day. We can work from morning to night and still not even get to Plart. Because Plart is not my main money-maker (I do have two other part time jobs) it’s hard to have the energy to keep going when I get home, and to find the space. I need at least a 3 hour chunk of time for it to make sense to me.
What do you do to make sure you are regularly inspired?
I just look around my property at all of my plants. I’m an avid believer in not being able to have too many plants, so we just have dozens and dozens of house and potted plants, and also gardens and native landscape plants. Living in the desert, it is just so easy to let the cacti inspire you. We have a little oasis at our house. I can just go outside and poke around my yard and get ideas for new stained glass pieces. We bought our house about a year ago and have been working to make it a paradise. It’s a blessing to be able to have that around me all the time.
What’s your advice for other makers, business owners or someone who wants to start a small business?
Go for it! As long as you have the passion, inspiration, and motivation just go for it. If it’s something you love doing it doesn’t have to make you money. If you can make money, that’s great. It depends on what your goals are. If you want to get these ideas out of your head and into real life then you need to just go for it….
What makes you most excited about having your business in Tucson?
I’m not a Tucson native, but I’ve been here about 12 years, so I feel like a Tucsonan. I didn’t do well on the East coast, which is why I came here. I didn’t like the fast-paced, anonymous life style that is on the East coast. Tucson is friendlier and more chill. It suits me better. I think the Tucson community is really supportive of makers, artists, and musicians. I think it’s such a tight-knit community, and an excited community. There’s so much inspiration, not only landscape-wise but there’s so many people doing the things they love and making it work. It’s inspiring to see people living the lifestyle they want to live, doing what they love and being happy.
If customers come away knowing just one thing about your business, what do you want that message to be?
Part of what Plart is, to me, is the ability to learn something new everyday. Which is part of the reason why I don’t fixate on one product for too long. Striving to learn new things and not being afraid to not know everything is something I really try to encourage in myself and other people around me. I hope Plart inspires people to learn and try new things.
You can also find Plart products at Popcycle, and at the gift shop in the Tucson Botanical Gardens, in Bisbee at Metalmorphisis, Tubac at the Center of the Arts Gift Shop. She will also be at Fourth Schmourth Handmade Market on December 2nd with her full array of products for sale.
By Amanda Schreiber, Yelp Tucson Marketing Assistant.