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  • December 29, 2018 5 min read 1 Comment

    Mystic Knotwork started with a broken promise

    Joe Courtney and Mystic Knotwork meet in DC

    Each New Year's celebration feels like a time to reflect on the past. I've been thinking a lot about my grandfather and the way that Mystic Knotwork was started and I want to share some of that with you.  2017 was a completely chaotic and crucible year, I talked about it candidly a year ago.  This year was smooth and relaxed while we continued to grow.  I am thankful to our friends and family that support us as we continue to build both the source of nautical knots in the US and a tourism must see in New England.

    A good journalist writes from the broadest information to the details, but we both know I'm not a journalist, so I'm sharing in a narrative form.  Our adventures this year are at the bottom if you want to skip ahead ;)

    Mystic Knotwork, from my point of view, originally was Beaudoin's Rope Locker. By the time I was aware, that name represented two distinctly different modes. On one hand there was my grandfather, Alton, and his amazing artistry. He was recognized worldwide since long before I was born for his artisan skills.  On the other side of the partnership was my grandmother. Ethel was an artisan in her own right.  As far as I remember, she was excellent at the turks head and other decorative knots and she excelled in creative macrame. From my perspective, my grandmother was the more grounded and driven of the two. My grandfather had the love of the art, my grandmother understood the practical need to put food on the table. By the time I was 'aware' both grandparents were full-time knot tyers, and I barely understood how they could be anything other.

    My grandfather, Alton Beaudoin, with one of his famous sennit frames.

    My grandfather, Alton Beaudoin, with one of his famous sennit frames.

    I became 'conscious' that I was helping my grandfather when I was 8 years old. I look back and remember because I remember picking out my Schwinn bike at Ray Willis that year. I had saved $80.00 by earning $.10 per bracelet from my grandparents.

    My grandfather made me promise that I'd never try to make a living at this 'knot thing' back in 1985 after coming in 3rd at the Connecticut State Science Fair.  This is the promise I ultimately broke.

    In 2007 we built our first website and in the first 3 weeks, I had sold more knots online than I had ever sold person to person. As the knot business started gaining traction, I kept trying to hold it back to keep the promise to my grandfather. 

    adjustable nautical narrow sailor braceletstriped nautical sailor braceletoriginal nautical sailor bracelet

    Before I knew it, it was 2009, and I was trying to force my knot tying business down while the market was demanding I focus on it. It was painful to be at the edge. Do I keep my word to my grandfather, or do I find some lame justification to defy his warning and do it anyway? I woke up one morning and I realized ...

    I am not building the knot business, the knot business is building ME.

    Mystic Knotwork at the gift shows

    I broke my vow in 2010 when I quit my full-time job. I closed the door on what I thought I wanted for what I was designed to do, my life goal was to be an engineer and computer programmer.  I enjoyed isolating myself to study and solve problems, but man has my life and approached changed.

    In 2011, I was thrust onto a small stage.

    nautical wedding monkey fist card holder, centerpieceNautical Wedding Receptionnautical sailor knot centerpiece and coasters

    Martha Stewart's director of Handmade, Hannah Milman had noticed us through a wedding we helped Elizabeth Graves put on for her brother.  That started a relationship, working with Martha's team, for almost 7 years.  I learned so much about the handmade business, ourselves, and how special our family business really was.  The confidence we learned through our friendship with Hannah would be impossible to duplicate.

    This year, 2018

    What I learned through our friendship with Martha's team came together nicely.  "Mystic Knotwork was recognized as the Small Business of the Year for 2017 by the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, Matt was invited to serve the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce on their Board of Directors, The Connecticut office of Tourism and our governor presented Matt with the Rising Star Award for Tourism, and he was invited to speak in December before the incoming governor, leaders and politicians in Hartford.  In July, Amazon flew him down to Washington DC to speak before congress people and senators about the value of small and handmade artisan businesses."  

    Eastern Connecticut Small Business of the Year

    For someone raised to be a quiet engineer and designer, Martha's encouragement really helped us realize the value we bring to our greater community.  We are spending more time advocating for the handmade community and helping people explore our hometown and state.

    nautical whale tail braceletred nautical anchor braceletpink nautical anchor bracelet

    We've introduced some new products. We started making whale tail and anchor bracelets.  We've been asked for years to make them, but we wanted to do it right.  The white metal is solid stainless steel.  We have a solid brass in production as well, but they aren't quite ready.  The other is our 'accidental snowman' that I talked about in the last blog.  That's a design we did 10 years ago for the family that went somewhat viral this December; an adventure in itself.

    nautical monkey fist snowmannautical monkey fist snowmannautical monkey fist snowman

    As a company, we've seen some transition.  We added some software solutions to help us fulfill our wholesale orders faster (remember Matt's IT background).  Our marketing consultant was picked up by the Mohegan Sun Casino and her career is blossoming there, but we did pick up Sue Waterman who's helping us with the newsletter, communications, and general business development.  We have things in store for 2019, stay tuned.

    Our daughter, Christa, is in the process of expanding her role in the business.  She's able to make everything we sell, and she's doing a lot of the knot tying training now.  She's also supporting Amie in the shipping area and starting to add new responsibilities.

    Our team is the strongest it's ever been, and we are ready to serve even more weddings, gifts, and shops. 350 locations where you can find our work is only the beginning.  If you know anyone that needs our knots, we'd be honored by the lead.

    We volunteered to fund raise for Terri Brodeur's Breast Cancer fund and the Johnny Cake House.

    Thanks for taking the time to read about some of our history. I hope to have more to share in the upcoming months. Our family of knot tyers could never do what we do without your support. I didn't break the promise to my grandfather lightly. I did it because this thing that was so important to me and my family had become important to you and yours. We are grateful for your friendship as well as your patronage and we wish you the best of all new years!

    Mystic Knotwork at the Charlestown, R.I. Seafood Festival



    1 Response

    Rosemary McBurney
    Rosemary McBurney

    February 12, 2019

    I loved your story and I love the items you sell, keep it up!

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