When you write a blog that features and highlights cool new things and also develop products and retail assortments, you inevitably get tired of “stuff.” After a while everything feels the same and you lose motivation and interest… until something new comes around that makes you think, or possibly makes you smile.
The new collection from Scarr isn’t revolutionary but what matters (almost all that ever matters) is that it’s really, really good. Sonia Scarr has taken classic materials and shapes and combined them in ways that feel new and exciting – and everything is done by hand. I’m most drawn to the leather goods for the home, with interesting mixed material applications and thoughtful hand-stitching, but the personal accessories benefit from thoughtful details as well.
A few months ago I noticed that many of my favorite New York makers were collaborating on something called the WorkOf Apartment as a part of Design Week… the Apartment looked amazing (more images here) and was a true collaborative effort that allowed designers to showcase exclusive and new work.
I spoke to WorkOf founders John Neamonitis and Charlie Miner to learn more about their work – the goal of WorkOf is to build a comprehensive platform of independent, locally made design that simplifies the process for both the customer and the designer. John and Charlie were frustrated with the purchasing process – they saw incredible design at design shows and throughout the city, but there wasn’t a centralized site to buy the products they wanted. They wanted to be able to shop an alternative furniture store – one focused on products that were original, authentic and ethical – so they created it.
While the platform itself is impressive, what makes WorkOf special is the focus on community. John and Charlie have a deep respect and empathy for makers and designers, and are building their platform with the goal of supporting, educating, and helping makers as they grow their business. As you speak to them and read through their blog, their passion for their work and for the designers they work with is obvious and appealing. Currently WorkOf is focused on New York designers and makers, but they plan to expand to the West Coast this year… one to watch, for sure!
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.
In my attempts to clean up my beauty routine, deodorant has been the biggest challenge. I’ve spent a lot of money trying a lot of products… and most don’t seem to work, at all. I’ve know that sweating is good for me so I’ve accepted (begrudgingly) the lack of antiperspirant in natural products, but I’m unwilling to put up with something that leaves me sticky and smelly after a few hours of normal activity (maybe even less than normal – I work at a computer all day!). The few products I’d found that were acceptable were available only online, which is great in theory, but who has the time to be proactive about things like reordering deodorant? I’d finish the jar and then find myself at my co-op, desperately looking for a similar option and ultimately wasting a lot of money.
I’d given up and accepted that my deodorant choices would be less than natural… But it always came up when discussing natural products and I knew there had to be a better option. I saw Schmidt’s Deodorant at a local spa a few months ago – the shop girl raved about it – but I chose not to try it because I assumed it wouldn’t meet my expectations. Soon after, the team from Schmidt’s contacted me and asked if I’d like to try the products… I remembered what the woman at the spa had said, so I decided to try them out. Matt and I tested the products for about a month before I got back to Schmidt’s – I have to love a product to personally recommend it, and I wanted to make sure this line made sense for me. I was skeptical and assumed I wouldn’t like the product, but Matt (who hadn’t given up on natural products when I did) immediately liked it… it took me a while to get used to it (I still wish it came in a stick option!) but I can officially and truthfully say I’m a convert – I love this stuff! It manages the smell, doesn’t irritate my skin, and doesn’t stain my clothes. Easily the best natural deodorant I’ve ever tried. I’ve worn it consistently for a few months and am ready to reorder – but it’s also readily available in stores all over the country. The founder of Schmidt’s, Jaime, answered some questions about her background and natural deodorant (thank you to those of you who submitted questions via twitter!) – read on to hear from her and for an exclusive 20% off coupon code for the entire month of August!!
What is your background?
I grew up in Michigan and have an amazing family there. After finishing grad school in Chicago, I worked for a major charity there for several years, then made the move out to Portland. I worked in psychological treatment centers here while developing the product and meeting my husband; today we have a happy 4 year old son, Oliver.
What led you to start Schmidt’s? How did you learn how to make natural deodorant?
I started making personal care products for my family several years ago, and did a lot of R&D on various beauty products in the process. After sourcing and testing the highest-quality ingredients I could find, I developed the Schmidt’s recipe. It was really exciting because I had tried many natural deodorants on the market and they never worked for me, but the one I made did, and extremely well. I started sharing the product with others, and they had the same reaction–shocked and relieved that a natural deodorant could work for them. So I began selling it, and it was a hit locally here in Portland, OR. That was in 2012. Since then, the brand continues to grow and evolve, and we’re hearing every day from people who love the deodorant.
If you knew then what you knew now, would you do it again?
Even more so.
Why is it important to use natural deodorant? What are the concerns with conventional deodorants/antiperspirants?
The underarm is a sensitive area for humans, and we need to be careful about what we allow it to absorb. Conventional deodorants are not natural, and full of dangerous things you don’t want in there–parabens, phthalates, aluminum, etc. Furthermore, you often have to reapply them, and they may have a sticky or unpleasant feel on the skin. The deodorant industry has really been ripe for change for some time–the old ways of making it aren’t completely effective, and they can be harmful to your skin. People are ready for a change in the way they do deodorant.
Are there things we can do to manage body odor naturally? (diet, etc?)
A clean diet and staying well hydrated are crucial. Also, exercising will help the body sweat which is critical for eliminating toxins and bacteria that cause odor. For women, menstruation and stress often dramatically increases the degree of body odor. (note from Rita – I’ve also noticed that my arm pits seem stinkier if I use traditional (not natural) soaps – I’ve seen some people say that a secret to managing odor is not use soap at all in the armpit area, but I’m not ok with that… but when I use a natural, green body wash, I don’t have an issue.)
Is natural deodorant like shampoo, where you almost have to switch brands every year or so?
We have not found that to be the case with Schmidt’s. Our formula remains effective for an unlimited amount of time. Our bodies will, without fail, always take in things that are healthy for it while keeping it in balance. The great thing about the Schmidt’s line is that if you are looking for a change you can easily switch between our variety of scents.
My biggest issue with natural deodorant is the application process – it’s just not as convenient. The consistency feels similar to deodorant that comes in a stick – is there a benefit to applying with your fingers? I’d pay more for a stick form – is this something you have considered?
I cannot speak for other brands, but we package our deodorant in jars for several reasons. We don’t use any chemical stabilizers, which means the consistency of the product will fluctuate with temperature changes. We chose glass specifically because we hate seeing all those plastic applicators going to waste. Our jars are a more sustainable option and can be reused for a multitude of things! Lastly, in the words of our customers and the point I find most rewarding, is that the process of applying quickly becomes an anticipated daily ritual (we hear this regularly from men and women alike!). I love that a normally monotonous and mindless task can be transformed into an enjoyable personal routine.
Thank you, Jaime and Schmidt’s Deodorant! For the month of August, use code ALISTSCHMIDTS for 20% off your order. (I’m personally a fan of the Fragrance-free and Bergamot + Lime versions!)