Bob Sperry and Nancy Mills are the forces behind East Coast Lobster Rope Products, a company that crafts stunning and durable products made from new lobster rope purchased from suppliers in the Maritimes. Nancy and Bob create handmade woven mats, baskets, pet beds, wreaths, and more using stunning dyed rope to create a product that is Canadian, handmade, and designed to last for many years. The Good Local had a chance to chat with Nancy about the story behind East Coast Lobster Rope.
TGL: Tell us a bit about the inception of East Coast Lobster Rope Products. When did you come up with the idea of creating products out of lobster rope?
Nancy: Just over two years ago we spent a weekend at a cottage, and I noticed the mat at the door was doing an exceptional job of keeping the dirt and sand from being tracked inside. We set out on the rest of our trip to find one like it. I had taken a picture of what seemed like a very old, used mat, and tried to find a new one. We didn’t realize at that time that the mats was made of reclaimed rope, which was why it looked this way.
We were unable to find a similar mat on our travels. After being home about a week I came across the photo I had taken, and we decide we would try and make our own. Bob went off and bought our first coil of 1200-foot rope for a mat. Being very creative with building, it didn’t take him long to come up with an idea of how they could be made. Also, being somewhat of a perfectionist, he made several before he found his trick to the trade of making them not only strong and durable, but also ridged so they do not flip when stepped on.
TGL: That’s amazing, and then from the mats you went on to make more things with your 1200-foot rope?
Nancy: Yes! Once we had the mats figured out, being a lover of baskets, I asked next that we make baskets. Bob created what I would need to make and design them on my own.
We laugh today when we think we just wanted a mat, but after buying a whole roll of rope, we felt compelled to make more. Once we showed them to a few friends they wanted them too. That is where it all began. Today we are making mats, custom runners, baskets of different styles and shapes, hampers and pet beds.
TGL: You talk about your love for Nova Scotia, how does your location impact your work?
Nancy: Well, what better area to work and play? We have some of the most beautiful shores in the Maritimes. I grew up on the Bay of Fundy in Advocate Harbor, a fishing village. Bob was born and spent his early childhood in the city. He later moved to Amherst, but very much shares my love of the sea, lighthouses, and salt air. As a child I spent a good part of my time on the beach, naturally. It was where I would go in later years when I wanted to think and clear my mind.
TGL: Who are your customers and what do they share with you about their own Lobster Rope Products you’ve created?
Nancy: Our customers are from all over Canada and the United States, and we have shipped as far away as Germany and Luxenburg. Reviews that we have received tell us that our rugs are beautiful, well made, and sturdy, and that our shipping is fast. Customers share that they receive many compliments on their pieces, and that they are happy with how well made they are. These are products made to last many, many years.
TGL: Tell us a bit about the creative process behind creating such beautiful and custom items.
Nancy: Our products are made by both myself and Bob Sperry, my partner in life and business. Bob makes all the mats and large runners, and I make the baskets, hampers, pet beds and wreaths. We joke that he is the mat man and I am the basket case! Although we are both capable of making all items, and we do help each other at times when large orders come in.
All of our products we design and create are made from all new rope that we purchase in the Maritimes from local marine suppliers. We use only new rope so that our products can be used both inside as well as outside, plus our focus is on creating and adding beautiful colour to homes, cottage, and gardens.
TGL: What are your feelings about purchasing local and from small, local businesses?
Nancy: As a new entrepreneur and artisan there is not enough I can say about the importance of purchasing locally. It’s the people in our communities that benefit the most, from local markets who donate portions of their proceeds to community charities, to employment opportunities gained within the community.
Within our business, it’s the post office, the local supply stores, and the local marine supply stores that are benefiting from our locally produced products. By supporting local artisans and helping them generate an income these artisans are better able to give back to the economy. Bob and I both work full time job, as well as run our business, it has given us the opportunity to do all of the above, while creating something we love to do.
TGL: Thank you Nancy for taking time to chat with us about your small business and the impact you’re making with your beautiful handmade lobster rope products!
Interview by Brianna Bell
Photography by Jeannette Breward
Sept 24, 2018
The beautiful and versatile gathering basket featured in this story is available in our store here.