We continue our weaver spotlights with a conversation with Erika of Stewed Rhubarb Handmade. Stewed Rhubarb is one of the weavers that we partner with to make our most sought after handwoven Signature Carriers. Our partner handweavers often are women-led family businesses operating with a small devoted team. We are delighted to share their stories and showcase their textile artistry and intricate work through the Signature collection.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Erika, the owner/operator/'head everything' at Stewed Rhubard Handmade, began in 2012 and took SRH full-time around the start of 2013. Stewed Rhubarb Handmade are a home-run operation in a small city in Saskatchewan, Canada, on the edge of the vast prairie.
Baby Tula: "What inspired you to begin weaving and start Stewed Rhubarb Handmade?"
Erika: "SRH grew organically out of a curiosity and desire to embrace the attachment-parenting lifestyle. While pregnant with my first baby, I'd done a deep dive into all things handwoven, and took a chance on a loom purchase, mostly out of a desire to conquer the complexity of a fibre art I'd never dabbled in.
I was lucky in the sense that my existing fibre art knowledge supported my initial forays into the woven world, and my first warp went smoothly! I was hooked immediately and spent my maternity leave getting to know my baby girl and my new loom. I kept a photo archive of my adventure on my Facebook page, and SRH blossomed into a thriving business, that grew with me as my skills expanded. I'm proud to say we're now a family team of four, between the admin, production, prep, and processing work. It's a joy!"
When we asked Erika how she gathered inspiration for her weaving designs, she replied, "I try my best to 'make what I feel', so when I see something that moves me, be it a setting in nature, a particular representation of colour in another medium (hello interior design!), or even a conjuring of a truly delicious combination of flavours, I try to channel whatever I 'feel' about the subject. It's taken me on plenty of adventures, and often makes me voraciously hungry haha!"
From idea to finished handwoven, the particular method that Erika has come to use over the years generally takes about 4-6 weeks per project.
Being a small business owner creating such personal, creative items, we wondered how Erika balanced her family life and her work life:
"The honest truth is that here at Stewed Rhubarb Handmade, work and family are one and the same! We are a blended family who share parenting as a team; we wrangle a pack of four dogs who hang out in the studio with us during production; I usually cook meals for the whole gang, and we almost always eat together as a big work family, during the week. It can be overwhelming to share so much of your personal life with your work team, but at the end of the day, that's how family works. And SRH is the way our family works, so we just bring our best to one another every day, and pour love into the work. I'm proud of the example we're showing our kids, and the principles we stand for, in tackling our family life this way."
LOVE FOR STEWED RHUBARB HANDMADE
When asked about what SRH fans really love about their wovens, Erika said:
"There's just something truly magical about holding a piece of fabric, with hundreds (or perhaps thousands!) or yards of yarns, knowing that every inch of every strand passed through the hands of someone who poured their heart and soul into creating something with the intention of bringing comfort and joy to caregivers and their littles. That's a lot of positive intention, steeped into every piece of cloth! It's almost a meditation, passed on to the folks who enjoy the final result.
It's a huge priority in our workspace that we only bring good vibes to the work, (we take plenty of personal days, and mental health time is a priority in our workspace), and I genuinely believe you can feel it when you use our wraps or wear our cowls. All the design work is my original concept, and that's something that's allowed a lot of freedom to ensure all the work is a pure joy to spend time on. All handweaving is a labour of love, but I like to think there's something extra chill about what we do, and I hope that love is felt."
And the love isn't just from the community to Stewed Rhubarb, but also vice versa. Erika describes the families that make up the SRH community as being her most loved element of having a weaving business.
"I love so many elements of the process, but the really precious thing about this work is the community. The community amongst Mamas and families, the community of collectors, the camaraderie amongst weavers, the family time it affords us together, even amongst the members of our little team. It's a really loving way to make a living, and not a day goes by that I don't feel blessed and empowered by these things."
If you're wondering what Baby Tula and Stewed Rhubarb Handmade have in the works for future collaborations, Erika shared this:
"The promise of spring in our bitter northern locale is an absolute saviour (this has been a deeply rough winter in our neck of the woods), so I've really been channeling the promise of a warm, sunny season approaching. Plenty of sugary, sunshine coming your way, from HQ in coming months!"
A giant THANK YOU to Erika of Stewed Rhubarb Handmade for chatting with us! If you would like to stay connected with SRH, you can follow Stewed Rhubarb Handmade on Facebook and @hausofrhubarb on Instagram. You can also be part of their really sweet community Facebook group: Stewed Rhubarb Chit Chat.
You can learn more about the Signature collection here.