HANCOCK — Christine Seavey Crowley’s entry into the world of textiles was atypical, even for an independent-minded Downeaster.
Following one semester studying computer-aided design and drafting at Eastern Maine Community College, Crowley worked with her aunt, builder Jill Gatcomb-Grant, for about five years.
She then apprenticed with her uncle, plumber Alfred Rodick, for two and a half years.
“I liked it, but I didn’t love it,” Crowley said of the plumbing. “I loved seeing it done.”
She said anyone who has known her since childhood would understand how she came to establish her Sea Crow Co. with a line of bags large and small.
The two-year-old business is thriving online and at a brick-and-mortar retail and production space at 17 Point Road.
“When I was young, my grandmother used to give me her old purses and I had a collection of them growing up,” said Crowley. “I always liked bags.”
Plus, her mother sewed everything, from Crowley’s Halloween costumes to her prom dress.
Once Crowley hung up her hammer and plumber’s wrench, the 2003 Sumner Memorial High School graduate began embroidering names and logos on hats, T-shirts and sweatshirts.
The business was moving slowly.
Crowley was musing one day about how she would like a plain canvas bag with no handles — she had made one with float rope handles for her sister-in-law a while back.
She couldn’t find any sources for the bags, so she decided to make her own.
“I put a picture on Facebook with a plain bag with grommets and a red float rope handle,” she said. “A friend of mine said she had to have one.”
Crowley then made another bag with plain canvas and an anchor embroidered on the front with gray and teal rope handles.
She made a handful. They all sold using primarily Facebook and Instagram as her marketing tool.
Then, using a highly geometric Chevron print, Crowley put an anchor on the front with initials monogrammed in the anchor.
Soon Crowley was creating a line of products under the name Sea Crow Co. that carries everything from change purses and wristlets (a small clutch bag that can dangle from the wrist) to large canvas tote bags.
Wristlets are her most popular item. The bags’ handles are made with the twine used to tie bait bags to lobster traps.
The 15-inch-wide tote bags are lined with heavy canvas with three pockets inside.
The 18-inch-wide bags have pockets on the outside as well as the inside.
Crowley initially purchased all of her fabrics, but in the past year began designing her own featuring a lobster boat in white and turquoise and white and navy on a light gray background.
The fishing vessel was a call out to her fisherman husband, Donnie Crowley.
“I wanted to make it unique so that it can be copyrighted to avoid knock offs,” she said.
Her work space is inspiring in itself.
Sea Crow Co. is based in a 1,000-square-foot loft space that housed one of the original schools in Hancock.
Crowley made use of the school desks and chairs left behind as display spaces for her bags.
She did most of the carpentry herself — an interior wall, counter and large work table — and is using the original lighting in the room.
Crowley has one part-time employee who pitches in and helps with sewing, ironing and slicing the rope.
Customers often see her products online and visit the shop to customize a bag of their own.
Sea Crow is producing about 650 to 700 bags per year.
She now sells to Elizabeth’s at Hilt’s Landscaping in Hancock; Goosefare Trading, Ocean Park; Beachology, Old Orchard Beach; Lisa-Maries Made in Maine in South Portland and Bath; The Not So Empty Nest, Bangor; Riverlily, Milbridge; Puffins Nest, Damariscotta; Ivy Hall Gift Shop, Long Island, Maine; Sea Glass Cottage, Saco; Boyce’s Boutiques, Blue Hill; Harbor View Gifts, Stonington; The Hut KPT, Kennebunkport; and, in Cape Haze, Fla., the Rum Bay Gift Shop, Palm Island Resort.
But Crowley feels like she is just getting started.
She researched the history of L.L. Bean and Lilly Pulitzer’s classic fabric and designs as inspiration.
“I have pretty big aspirations,” Crowley said. “L. L. Bean was just boots to start with, and Lilly Pulitzer got started by deciding to create a fabric that was stain resistant.”
For more information, visit www.seacrowcompany.com.