We had the pleasure of visiting Sarah Harste in her studio after being admirers of hers on Instagram for a long time! Sarah had such a beautiful space filled with all of her incredible work, and she was SO welcoming. We had such a nice time with her there, and it was fascinating to be able to watch her work. Sarah is a beautiful soul who not only shares her talents with others, but teaches them to do weaving as well.
We were lucky enough to get some of her story, and we are so pleased to be able to share it with you here!
Tell me about what sparked you to start weaving!
The day I learned to weave was a pretty magical day! It was a snow day, so I was home from work, and I decided that I was finally going to figure out this weaving thing. I sat down on my bed with the loom I had purchased maybe a month before, and I tried to cobble together a weaving based on the very few tutorials I could find online (weaving hadn't blown up yet like it has now!) Six hours passed by, and I hardly noticed. I had never been so absorbed in an activity in my life -- it felt like time stood still. When I finally took my weaving off the loom, I was sure that it was going to unravel in my hands because it was so shoddily woven together, but I was beaming with pride at what I created. From then on, I've had the weaver fever!
What was the piece you made that inspired you to pursue weaving professionally?
I don't think there was ever a piece that checked that box for me. I started selling my weavings before I really thought they were good enough to sell, but I knew that I just had to start. I had always wanted to run my own business, and once I had made a handful of weavings for friends, I became obsessed with the idea that weaving was finally going to be the ticket to start my own business. It's hard to look back at those early pieces I sold, but I'm so glad I just started. The only way to improve is to make more and get feedback -- starting my business gave me an avenue to do both.
What is the most gratifying part of your work?
The process. Weaving is a slow craft; you can't rush it. Gathering the colors for a piece gives me so much joy -- there's nothing better than an unexpected color combination that just clicks. Once I actually sit down in front of my loom and start a weaving, I feel such a sense of calm wash over me. Weaving is very repetitive -- you're literally just moving your needle over, under, over, under each string on your loom -- and getting lost in the flow of this repetitive motion is so therapeutic. Obviously it's so gratifying to create finished pieces that people will hang in their homes for years to come, but if I'm being honest, the pull of weaving, for me, is the selfish desire to chase that feeling of flow. It's the best.
Put me in the room with you while you are making a piece. Are you listening to or watching anything? What do you have around you for inspiration? How do you choose a color palette?
I love this question! I'm usually listening to music or a podcast -- if I happen to be working from home (instead of in my studio), I might set up camp in the living room and watch something on Netflix. I have to admit that the last custom piece I did, I worked from home, and I made the whole thing while watching "The Ted Bundy Tapes" on Netflix. Podcasts are my favorite though; if I kind of need a pick me up, I'll listen to "My Favorite Murder" -- which doesn't really sound like a pick-me-up kind of podcast, but it's hilarious! I also listen to a lot of business podcasts if I feel like I want to be inspired while I'm working -- "Creative Pep Talk" is my current favorite.
Choosing a color palette is the hard part! I feel like I'm trying to figure out a puzzle -- I'll usually have an idea in mind, and I'll end up tearing apart my yarn collection trying to find the perfect shade of coral pink, or something like that. I'll probably gather twice as many fibers as I would need for a piece, I'll lay them all together on my work table and then start adding and removing and trying different color combinations. Sometimes it's a quick, easy process, and other times it requires a trip to the yarn store.
What is your favorite part of your studio?
My studio-mate! I share a studio with my friend Kaylee, who runs a floral subscription business called Florish. I absolutely am getting the better end of the deal -- her flowers always make our space smell amazing, and it's so inspiring to see her create with fresh flowers! Having a friend to talk about business, who's in the same boat as you, is invaluable. We love talking business strategy and brainstorming ideas -- sometimes the hardest part is having the willpower to put on our headphones and get some work done.
A close second is just having a dedicated space for making and a hub for my business. I didn't realize just how much working from home by myself was impacting my mental health. I had no boundaries around my work, and it bled into every part of my life. It was all I thought about. Being able to leave the studio every night and go home and just enjoy time with my husband and kitties is SO nice -- we all need to shut that part of our brains off every once in a while.
You travel to teach weaving and macrame workshops. What is the best part of teaching?
I'm incredibly honored that I get to serve as that introduction to weaving or macrame for my students. Being creative is one of the most fundamental, basic joys of life, but so many people don't get the opportunity to indulge in creative moments between work and family life. So the best part of teaching, for me, is just seeing that light click on for people when they feel that surge of happiness that's spurred by the simple act of being creative. You get to see a different side of people than the way they may present themselves if you met them at work or at a social gathering. It's a little vulnerable, especially since we as adults don't put ourselves in a lot of situations where we're just complete beginners.
You also host a podcast called Scrap Paper. Tell us all about that!
Yes! Scrap Paper is a podcast for creative entrepreneurs trying to find their way as they run their own business. The whole idea behind Scrap Paper is to talk about the experiments we do in business -- and hopefully, to feel less alone hearing other business owners struggle with the same situations you may be experiencing. I have a few friends that serve as rotating co-hosts with me, and we tackle topics like social media, craft markets, impostor syndrome and finances.
We always ask women that we admire: what advice they would have for women trying to make a name for themselves in their field?
Focus on how you're different -- not how you're the same. A lot of fiber artists that I've seen online gravitate towards neutrals, and that is so not me. And for a while, I thought, I'll never get any business if I don't make neutrals. And then I realized that it was so silly to shy away from using color in my pieces because my use of color is what makes me stand out -- and there is a huge group of people who LOVE bright colors in their homes. Don't try to build your business copying what someone else has done -- you'll find success when you embrace the thing that only you can do.
Who inspires you creatively?
Omg, the list is so long! Lisa Congdon is super inspiring -- her use of color just makes my heart sing. My dear friend Natalie of Natterdoodle also inspires me so much; her art promotes positively and social consciousness. She's taught me that what we create can be about so much more than us (the artist). I've also just started watching Pete Holmes's show "Crashing" on HBO -- he's a comedian and the show is based on his life as he pursued comedy in the wake of his divorce. I kind of love watching creatives go through the trial and error phase of being an artist, and you see that in "Crashing" -- you see Holmes bombing on stage and learning to get better. Side note: my husband likes to refer to my artistic struggles as "the Greek epic" -- it has NOTHING (read: everything) to do with how dramatic I am when I can't untangle a creative problem.
What can we expect to see from you next?
More weaving and macrame workshops in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati and a spring collection in April! And lots of dreamy custom pieces that I'm in the beginning stages of working on at the moment!
A big, sincere thank you to Sarah for having us into her space and letting us get to know more about her!
You can follow Sarah on her website here and on Instagram @sarahharste.