HOMESTEAD - Posted Nov. 14, 2015, at 7:23 a.m.
Freeport artist decks doors from coast to coast with Maine cranberry wreaths
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Freeport artist Deena Prestegard holds one of her cranberry wreath creations in her kitchen, where she makes them. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 14, 2015, at 7:23 a.m.
FREEPORT, Maine — In the cranberry zone of Deena Prestegard’s home, temperature-controlled berries await her inspection.
“It’s all about the berries, looking for the best, most perfect berries possible. I handle five to 10 berries for every one I pick,” says the owner of Artful Cranberry, an e-commerce wreath business launched in her Freeport home in 2013.
Made painstakingly — “one wreath, one berry at a time”— Prestegard is creating demand for the bright red holiday rings, assembled with cranberries from Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner. From coast to coast, customers in the five-floor walk-ups of New York City to the sunny bungalows of Florida are snapping up these jewel-toned wreaths that are made to order in her basement.
“It’s becoming a tradition for addresses all over the world,” said Prestegard, who knows the made-in-Maine brand is central to her success.
“Maine has a wonderful cache for people in more urban areas. They see it as a place we can escape, a sane place for us to go.” And when it comes to natural artistry, “Maine has a wonderful reputation for beauty and a lot of wonderful attributes to contrast with urban living.”
Prestegard, a painter, can explain in detail how cranberries are harvested. She knows a good one when she sees it.
“I might be a little obsessed with cranberries,” said Prestegard. “It’s about firmness.”
Such focus is paying off.
In the last year her business has doubled. This fall the New York Times gave Artful Cranberry a shout out for its new heart-shaped wreath. And Prestegard has opted to help out a good cause with her success. Deciding to funnel a portion of sales of the heart-shaped wreaths to the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women program, which highlights female cardiovascular disease, was personal.
“Both Patrick and I lost our parents to heart disease last year,” said Prestegard, whose husband, Patrick Whalen, helps run the burgeoning home-based business. “I thought it would be nice to create something to help all mothers.”
Though calling to mind Valentine’s Day, the wreath can last from Thanksgiving through February and beyond.
Sold alongside traditional bright red rings in various sizes, Prestegard has figured out a way to turn fresh cranberries into door decor without the fruit decomposing rapidly, b esting even Martha Stewart herself.
“We talk about buying local, and the quality of food,” she said. “Cranberries are a great poster child for sustainable practices.”
Tuesday October 27, 2015
Artful Cranberry - News Fit to Print
New York Times, "Front Burner" by Florence Fabricant
December 10, 2014
WMTW Channel 8 in Portland
Made In Maine: Artful Cranberry by Steve Minich
Freeport business decorates the holiday season with beautiful wreaths
THOUGH DEENA PRESTEGARD has been making cranberry wreaths for roughly 20 years, living in the Boston area, it wasn’t until she moved to Freeport in 2011 and took a free class for entrepreneurs offered by Women, Work and Community that her seasonal hobby became a business.ROSANNA GARGIULO / THE TIMES RECORDFREEPORT
Peeping out of a cardboard box, one of Deena Prestegard’s Artful Cranberry wreaths gleamed like a coil of strung rubies as it caught the afternoon light from the kitchen window where it was being packaged for local delivery.
Where's the story?12 Points Mentioned
Prestegard’s unique cranberry wreath startup is thriving in its second season, but the entrepreneur is dedicated to sticking with a simple mission: to source locally and keep it seasonal while showcasing the natural lustre of the native Maine berries.
“It’s very exciting when the cranberries are coming into season,” said Prestegard, who gets her cranberries at Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner. “They’re beautiful when they ripen — they go from a chartreuse green to red.”
‘Created in Maine’ THIS YEAR, Deena Prestegard set an order limit at 100 wreaths, and added a massive 40-inch wreath to her offerings, which otherwise range from 10 to 26 inches. Each wreath in the series is numbered, and mailed with a card inscribed “Created in Maine just for you.”Though Prestegard has been making cranberry wreaths for roughly 20 years, living in the Boston area, it wasn’t until she moved to Freeport in 2011 and took a free class for entrepreneurs offered by Women, Work and Community that her seasonal hobby became a business.
Taking WWC class
“‘New Ventures’ is a fairly intensive 12- week course,” said Prestegard, who was among a dozen others in the WWC class that covers the basics of starting a business. “It was a phenomenal experience to be with all these other entrepreneurs and so important to have a community in which to launch.
“One of the requirements for the class was researching other wreath companies, and I couldn’t find anybody else that was selling cranberry wreaths,” she said, though there was a plethora of evergreen wreath home businesses. “So I started to get really excited that I had this niche — about the uniqueness of what I’m doing.”
This year, Prestegard set an order limit at 100 wreaths, and added a massive 40- inch wreath to her offerings, which otherwise range from 10 to 26 inches. Each wreath in the series is numbered, and mailed with a card inscribed “Created in Maine just for you.”
“The wreaths are called Unity, Peace, Goodwill, Joy, Love and Wonder,” said Prestegard. “Sentiments that I hope to spread out to the world at all times, but especially during the holiday season.”
The polished appearance of the finished product belies the labor put into creating the wreaths, each handmade by Prestegard, whose husband, Patrick, helps separate out wreath-quality berries from 100-pound orders and then sorts those berries by size.
“Wonder — the 40-inch wreath — has over 2,500 berries and takes me close to eight hours to make,” said Prestegard. “For every berry that I put on the wreath, I’m touching probably five to 10 other berries to make sure they’re really good.
“What I mean by really good is that there’s no disease, there is no softness to them,” she added. “I’m looking for good, hard berries, the ones that are going to go the distance.”
Each wreath is also adorned with one ceramic berry, which Prestegard handmakes and initials “AC” before she artfully conceals the token among the natural berries.
“I call them ‘pearls’ because unripened berries can be very light in color,” said Prestegard. “It’s a keepsake, and there is a hole in it so it can be strung or used as an ornament.”
Through the years and hours of standing, sorting and assembling, Prestegard said she approaches a zen state when she works and her diligence in searching for the next perfect berry for her wreaths has honed rather than dulled her appreciation of the little red fruit.
“I have come to bond with cranberries — they’re a very spirited fruit,” said Prestegard. “Cranberries are one of only three indigenous fruits in the United States and they have a very short harvesting season.
“I like that aspect of it — that there is a very narrow opportunity here,” she said. “I support initiatives to eat seasonally and buy as locally as possible, and the cranberry wreath is really the poster child for that — you can only get it this time of year, when the cranberries are ready.”
‘Map with pins’
With orders sent to businesses and individuals in Brunswick, Freeport, Falmouth and Westbrook, Prestegard’s local following is growing. Wreaths have also been shipped as far as Montana, Florida andGeorgia.
“I have a map with pins of all the places I’ve sent them,” said Prestegard. “It’s a cool thing to think about, that our wreaths are traveling to all these places out there.”
Prestegard has also started a “rewreathing” program, which offers a discount to return customers who send the armature back to Prestegard to be used for a second season. Local customers sometimes drop off armatures at her Freeport home, she said, while customers as far away as Colorado have mailed them in this season.
“I realize a cranberry wreath is not for everybody, and I’m not looking to be a factory or sell a million wreaths,” said Prestegard. “I’d like to see a group of repeat customers for whom having a cranberry wreath has become part of their holiday tradition.”
For more information about Artful Cranberry or to place wreath orders, visit www.artfulcranberry.com.
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By Steve Minich
Maine woman turns cranberries into art, not food
Deena Prestegard makes wreaths out of cranberries
UPDATED 10:52 AM EST Dec 10, 2014
FREEPORT, Maine —Maine ranks as the nation's sixth largest grower of cranberries, and while most will end up as food or drink, one woman sees them as decoration.
Deena Prestegard, of Freeport, hand crafts the berries into made in Maine holiday wreaths.
Photos: Made in Maine cranberry wreaths
Her company is fittingly called Artful Cranberry.
Prestegard said the cranberries are fun to work with.
"The array of color, the way they feel, they're energetic. They like to bounce around. They're playful," said Prestegard.
Prestegard and her husband created Artful Cranberry last year out of their home.
"Part of it is to reinforce Maine's wonderful reputation and bring to light that Maine grows cranberries. I don't think people even know that Maine grows cranberries," said Prestegard.
Prestegard purchases tens of thousands of fresh Maine cranberries from Ricker Hill Orchards. Each berry is inspected, with only the biggest and brightest making the final cut.
"It's one cranberry at a time, which one fits in here and how does that one look?" said Prestegard.
She pieces the cranberries together to create the wreaths.
"One of the things you notice about the wreath is it glistens. It really has its own gem like qualities, and I guess I like sparkly things," said Prestegard.
Despite a growing demand, Prestegard limits her production to 100 wreaths.
She said each wreath is an individual work of art that speaks to something special.
"Ours is just so different. First, of all ours is red not green. Ours is made out of cranberries, not tips, and you can only get the cranberries at certain times of the year, so it's a special offering," said Prestegard.
Prestegard said because she glues the cranberries on instead of poking them with a toothpick, the wreaths will remain colorful for four to five months.
Click here to learn more about Artful Cranberry.
PHOTOS: MADE IN MAINE CRANBERRY WREATHS
Portland Press Herald
POSTED: NOVEMBER 9
SOURCE Homegrown: Cranberry Wreath
Artful Cranberry in Freeport has a 'Re-Wreathing Program,' too.
Few things say the holidays like bright red cranberries, the kind that Artful Cranberry in Freeport uses to create their elegant holiday wreaths.
Artful Cranberry, founded by Deena Prestegard, uses only Maine cranberries, sourced from Ricker Hill Farms, to create handmade cranberry wreaths ranging from 10 inches to the new 40-inch “Wonder” wreath that uses more than 2,500 cranberries and works best in large spaces – say, the side of a house or barn. The company produces just 100 wreaths per season; it takes seven to 10 days to make a small or medium-sized wreath, and 14 days for larger sizes. Prices vary, and prepare to open your wallet wide: A 10-inch Unity wreath goes for $95, while the gigantic Wonder wreath will set you back $675. For a standard door wreath, Prestegard recommends either Joy (22 inches for $225) or Goodwill (18 inches for $175).
Over the course of the year, the cranberries naturally darken and dry out, so Prestegard offers a “re-wreathing program.” You can turn your wreath in, and Prestegard will reuse the armature and give you a credit toward your next wreath.
The company sells the wreaths directly; they are not available at stores. To view the designs or to order a wreath, go to artfulcranberry.com. — MEREDITH GOAD
From bog to beautiful: Cranberry wreath company launches in Freeport
By Cathlene Pierce, BDN Staff / Photography by Troy R. Bennett
Freeport artist Deena Prestegard holds one of her cranberry wreath creations in her kitchen, where she makes them.
Left: Freeport artist Deena Prestegard stands in her kitchen with several cranberry wreaths in different stages of completion. Right: Patrick Whalen washes and sorts cranberries by size. Once they are dried, his wife, Deena Prestegard, will turn them into colorful wreaths. Prestegard's cranberry wreaths are only made at this time of year, when the berries are fresh.
FREEPORT, Maine — Where Martha Stewart failed, Deena Prestegard is succeeding.
The Freeport self-starter devised a way to craft Maine cranberries into a striking seasonal emblem — the holiday wreath. Unlike the domestic doyenne, whose cranberry wreath attempts were documented as withering on the vine in her attempt to make the decorations in 2007, Prestegard has built a business around this timeless seasonal symbol.
“It’s an acquired skill. It may look pretty simple, but it’s not necessarily easy,” the 53-year-old said in her kitchen, where bins of just-harvested berries are pressed into stunning red rings. Her love of cranberries is so strong she decided to make a business out of it. Similar to eating sustainably, Artful Cranberry is about decorating with seasonality in mind.
“You can make an evergreen wreath any day of the year. You can only make a cranberry wreath this time of year,” said Prestegard, an artist and entrepreneur who moved to Maine from Massachusetts in 2008. Her newly launched site artfulcranberry.com sells wreaths from 10 to 26 inches in diameter with names such as peace and goodwill. “Words that spread joy and happiness,” she said. They range in price from $85 for a small circle to $445 for a trio of red wreaths.
Topped with a burlap bow and fastened with birch bark, it’s an updated New England approach to holiday style. Each one is shipped with a note that says “Created in Maine just for you.” So far sales have been brisk.
“It’s so special,” said Kelly Irwin, a customer from Falmouth who purchased a cranberry wreath for her mother-in-law in New Jersey this year. “It’s not like giving your average wreath. It’s a conversation piece.” To get the conversation going takes perseverance. This is no slap-dash craft project. It can take up to four hours and a thousand cranberries to make one wreath. “With cranberries, every one is different. I think that’s part of the mesmerizing quality of the wreath,” said Prestegard, who inspects each one for the right hue. “They look like rubies to me, they look like gems. They glisten, they shine.”
Artful Cranberry, whose employees include Prestegard and her husband, Patrick Whalen, is using only Maine-grown cranberries. To make the 100 wreaths in their collection, they drive to Turner to buy cranberries from Ricker Hill Orchards. In the increasingly competitive cranberry industry, every sale counts. Especially this year when Wisconsin is starting to dominate the market.
“I have 50,000 pounds of cranberries and I’d like to be sold out of them by now,” said Harry Ricker, who helps run the farm and orchard. “Anything that takes cranberries off of me is welcome business.” So far this year Prestegard and Whalen have visited the farm three times. It doesn’t make too much of a dent, but “all of our customers are good customers,” said Ricker, who has an acre of cranberry bogs. To Ricker and Prestegard, cranberries are not just a Thanksgiving condiment.
“I hope to create a demand for Maine cranberries through wreath sales,” she said. “We’d like to use them as a poster child for sustainability.” So goes the cranberry queen’s message: Think seasonally. What’s growing here this time of year should be reflected in your diet and decor. Not just on your plate, but on your door. “I’m contrasting it to the ‘I want it now,’ ‘I want it as much as I want it,’’ ‘I want it every day’” attitude, she said. “That isn’t getting us to a good place, certainly not in accord with our natural environment. This is more of an awareness builder.”
New Twist on Tradition – Cranberry Wreaths
By Larry Grarg Igrard@keepmecurrent.com
Posted November 19, 2013 9:36 pm
FREEPORT – Deena Prestegard says that her new Freeport-based Artful Cranberry business is the only place in the world where you can find one-of-a-kind wreaths made from fresh cranberries.
Prestegard, 53, and her husband are the parents of two grown daughters. The family moved from Munjoy Hill in Portland to Freeport two years ago. She has been involved in two companies – a marketing and design firm and a restaurant company with four successful restaurants in Boston. To start up her online business, Prestegard has created 100 cranberry wreaths. Her website is www.artfulcranberry.com. As the holiday season approaches, Prestegard talked with the Tri-Town Weekly about the inspiration for her business and what she loves about it.
Q: How did you come up with such an interesting concept as cranberry wreaths?
A: I saw a picture in a magazine and thought it was absolutely beautiful. I was so attracted to the wreath’s simple elegance. I didn’t know how to make one but I experimented with a few different techniques until I found a way to preserve the cranberries for as long as possible. I’ve been making cranberry wreaths for family and friends for over 20 years now. Last winter, my youngest daughter Julia, who lives in Manhattan, said, “Mom, you’ve got to make this a business. They are so beautiful, everyone will love them.” I ran with that. In March of this year, I took a New Ventures class with Women, Work and Community. I wrote our business plan, worked with mentors at SCORE and SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and here we are. We’re up to our eyeballs in cranberries and loving it.
Q: How long does it take you to make one, and about how many cranberries?
A: It is more involved than you might think. Larger wreaths take several hours and thousands of berries. With my husband Patrick’s help, we go through several pounds of berries to cull the best for a wreath. Then, one berry at a time, we place them on the armature. It’s very meditative and peaceful. Each wreath is specially made for the person who ordered it.
Q: How does one order your wreaths? How many are available, and what is the price?
A: The best ways to order is online at www.artfulcranberry.com or call us at (207) 807-6907. This year we’re making 100 wreaths on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are five standard sizes: Unity is 10 inches, Peace 14 inches, Goodwill 18 inches, Joy 22 inches, and Love 26 inches. We also make larger, custom-sized wreaths starting at 36 inches. Prices start at $85.
Q: What do people say when they see one?
A: Seeing people’s reaction is really the fun part. People love them; they’re delighted and intrigued. Everyone wants to know if they are made with real cranberries and are amazed that they are. The wreaths are a unique spin on a holiday tradition and it’s a joy to see how they capture people’s attention.
Q: Are you excited about starting up this business?
A: Absolutely. First of all, I just love creating these wreaths. The cranberries are so vibrant and, as an artist, I find their array of colors, shapes and sizes inspirational. My professional background is as an entrepreneur. Artful Cranberry is a wonderful melding of these passions and I always have energy and enthusiasm for it. But I’m definitely not doing it all on my own. I have an incredible team of people working with me and without them, Artful Cranberry would still just be an idea.
Our mission is to cultivate a co-creative and honorable organization that is a beneficial presence in our lives, community and environment. Our hope is to reinforce Maine’s positive reputation and to inspire others, especially women, to realize their dreams.
Q: What does your Re-Wreath program entail?
A: Our Re-Wreath program enables clients to recycle their wreaths after the holidays and earn a credit toward next year’s purchase. Clients return the wreaths to us and we reuse the armature (not the cranberries).
Praise – What people are saying about Artful Cranberry Wreaths
"My fresh cranberry wreath was a big hit last year as a new additon to my holiday decorations. The cranberry colors, rich and varied, work beautifully with the lush greens, oranges and reds of the season. I love the textured look. I had a large Thanksgiving crowd and many people asked where they could get a wreath of their own. I love being the first on the block! My wreath lasted outside through Valentines Day... with it's perfect lip-kissing red color! This year I will get a big wreath for the door and 2 of the smaller wreathes to use with candles on my holiday table."
- Kelly of Falmouth, ME
"Deena's cranberry wreaths are a favorite holiday tradition in our home - simple, elegant and all natural. Rich and bright red in December, they mellow as they dry over the winter months, giving a long season reminder of fall harvest that takes us right up to spring...everyone loves our cranberries!"
- Fara of Gloucester, MA
"I just received my cranberry wreath and I love it! The box it arrived in was great, not one cranberry was out of place. The wreath has a beautiful natural effect and is so bright and cheery. It truly adds the perfect authentic touch to my holiday decor.The great thing is, I'll be able to use it to decorate for Christmas too! Thank you so much!"
- Maura of Hingham, MA
"What a delight it was to receive one of your beautiful cranberry wreaths as a gift. It was a work of art in itself and I received many compliments on it. I look forward to giving them as gifts myself in the future – they're a unique and thoughtful gift for the holidays."
– Debra of Westbrook, ME
Meet Maine’s Next Class of Entrepreneurs
By Jenn Dobransky, Women, Work, and Community
Posted June 14, 2013, at 5:44 a.m.
June is graduation time. Thousands of students of all ages will graduate and move on to the next phase of their life, including 25 small-business students from the New Ventures entrepreneurial training classes at two different Women, Work and Community centers.
Allow me to introduce you to the future of small business in Maine.
Nearly 30 years ago, Women, Work and Community launched New Ventures, an entrepreneurship training program that provides formal instruction and connections to resources for individuals just starting a small business. Today, New Ventures is a 12-week, 60-hour class that culminates in a written business plan and the presentation of that plan to the entire class.
During the course, students write their mission statements, identify their target customer, begin to create the brand for their business and prepare a cash flow projection. Outside professionals, including accountants, lawyers, bankers and small-business owners, also offer their expertise and give advice.
New Ventures has helped launch hundreds of small businesses across the state. The startup success of those businesses is impressive. According to outcomes research, 60 percent of New Ventures graduates launch their business after graduation, compared with 56 percent nationwide. Of that 60 percent, a full 97 percent of those individuals are still in business one year after launching, compared with 90 percent nationwide.
Government leaders have come to recognize the value of these small businesses.
“I have seen first hand the incredible work of Women, Work, and Community in helping women and men to achieve economic independence and become entrepreneurs who strengthen their communities,” Rep. Alexander Willette, assistant Republican leader in the Maine House, said. “WWC is a shining example of what is possible when education, motivation, and inspiration combine in an organization that is truly dedicated to improving the lives of Maine people.”
“WWC’s contributions to economic development in Maine have been immeasurable,” agreed Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “By empowering Mainers to start their own businesses, WWC is helping to build a dynamic Maine economy and the entrepreneurship skills of our people.”
As a business counselor and facilitator for New Ventures classes in midcoast Maine, I have seen the emerging power of a group of entrepreneurs who network, support and critique each other. The class interaction is critical and a strong motivator; when a respected peer holds you accountable for finishing your business plan and asks tough questions along the way, it keeps you focused and moving forward. This peer group process is as valuable to the outcome of a business plan as learning how to fill out your tax documents.
“I have no idea how I would have written my business plan without the help and guidance of New Ventures,” recent graduate Leah Twitchell of The Evolved Dog LLC, an online pet boutique launching this September, said. “If you follow through with all the course assignments, the curriculum basically takes you through a very detailed, step-by-step process of writing a business plan. It challenged me to face some of the tougher parts of the plan, like the cash-flow projection and market research. The other invaluable part of New Ventures is the feedback not only from the instructor, but also from the other entrepreneurs in the class who have been brilliant in providing constructive criticism as well as encouraging the creative process that brings a business to fruition.”
Twitchell’s classmate, Deena Prestegard, concurs. “New Ventures is an impressive resource for facilitating the geniuses of many small businesses in Maine,” she said. “It is, without a doubt, everything a new business needs to get their ducks in a row. We are so fortunate to have this help here in Maine. The state presents its own unique challenges to businesses; it’s nice to know getting off the ground doesn’t have to be one of them.”
Prestegard is launching this holiday season. Her business, Artful Cranberry, creates gorgeous and unique fresh cranberry wreaths in Freeport.
Another graduate echoes a similar sentiment. Nicole Nelson co-owns We Are Fragrances and explains her take on the course experience. “New Ventures was a great launching point in helping us pinpoint our ideal market, create a strategy to attract customers, and get comfortable with the financial aspects of our business,” she said. “Starting a new business is a constant learning process and New Ventures is just the beginning.”
Interested in taking a New Ventures class? There are classes beginning in September in Bangor, Augusta and South Portland. Check our class schedule for information.
Jenn Dobransky is the Microenterprise Coordinator for the Midcoast for Women, Work, and Community. For more information on upcoming trainings and business resources in your region, follow us on Facebook or contact email@example.com.