Hopewell Workshop was founded by long time friends Eliza Kenan and Claire Oswalt. Eliza, an art director and quilter, & Claire, an artist, launched a design studio where they planned to brand, package, and create products. That business wasn’t quite right, but that year they decided to make 12 quilts and sell them during the holidays. Though not ready for sale till after Christmas, the 12 quilts that they made became Hopewell Workshop’s first one of a kind collection, released in January 2013. The name (and general mindset) of the studio comes from the Hopewell Exchange System, a Native American trade route through which materials were transformed into handmade goods and then traded.
Claire and Eliza have since expanded into additional quilts and pillows – the Hopewell aesthetic is a brilliant mix of simple, classic, and fun. The bright colors, clean lines and clever prints make the pieces something anyone would be happy to have in their home.
I stopped by the Hopewell Workshop when I was last in LA and had a chance to speak with Claire and Eliza about their work and their passion for local, ethical manufacturing (they had an amazing list of other LA makers I’ve been following ever since!). Read on for more… Thanks, Claire & Eliza!
TELL ME ABOUT WHAT YOU DO:
We are making heirlooms for the future. Handmade but simple. These will last forever.
We love that we make functional (Eliza), beautiful (Claire) things. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Quilts are the epitome of function and beauty – if women hadn’t made them beautiful many years ago, they wouldn’t exist today.
WHAT MAKES YOUR QUILTS SPECIAL?
We hit on something that’s not in the marketplace. But we know why it’s not in the marketplace! It’s difficult to teach others how to make our quilts – it is a twelve step process.
We made it difficult for ourselves – but in some ways that is good because it is also difficult for imitators to create a lower end version. The bit of ignorance that we had going into it was the blessing that has gotten us this far.
WHY DO YOU MANUFACTURE IN THE USA?
When we launched, Bangladesh had just happened. We were nervous about outsourcing. We wanted to keep our ethics in tact. We don’t take the easy route. We had to try it – and make it work. People are starting to care about made in the USA. We can make a difference.
We care about what we buy. We believe in a local economy and less environmental impact. America is young and quilts are a deep part of American history. Our families have quilted for generations. Staying here felt right.
It also allows us to make sure our products meet our standards – quality control would be incredibly difficult overseas. We like to see the people we work with – we get to know them and build relationships with them.
WHAT EXCITES YOU?
Eliza: Not knowing what’s next. Excitement + nervousness + anxiety are often the same thing… you just have to trust the process.
Claire: Color. Feedback from our fans.
Image of Claire & Eliza c/o HOPEWELL WORKSHOP.