Sarah Harste Weavings is one of the extremely talented Ohio artists that will be at our Ohio Explored Holiday Maker Mart on December 3rd! We were fortunate to interview this local Maker to learn more about her background, her craft, and her amazing weaving skills!
Tell us about your small business.
My business is called Sarah Harste Weavings and it's located in Columbus, OH. I started it about two years ago and transitioned into running it fuIl-time about six months ago. I create woven wall hangings and macrame pieces for modern homes, and I also travel around the Midwest teaching intro-level weaving and macrame workshops. My weavings are very colorful and full of texture and thoughtful details; my macrame pieces are more simple, modern pieces. I also make weaving frame looms and tools that I offer in my workshops and my online shop.
What drew you to your craft?
I just had a gut reaction that I needed to learn how to weave. I started seeing weavings cropping up online about three years ago and knew immediately that I just had to learn. I purchased a loom online and spent this amazing, snowy day in February just sitting in my bed trying to figure it out. It was before weaving had exploded (like it has now!) so I couldn't find a lot of resources online to walk me through it, but I was able to find a blog post on a DIY blog of someone who had tried weaving out. Mostly I just ended up learning through a lot of trial and error. I like to joke with my students that I made about 50 terrible "first" weavings so that their first weaving could turn out beautiful!
Needless to say, as soon as I tried it, I was hooked. Weaving is very therapeutic and soothing -- it's a slow craft and usually takes several hours to complete a piece. But time seems to slip away every time I weave and that's what I love about it.
In terms of macrame, I just learned at the beginning of this year -- and had a very similar reaction: I was hooked immediately! I usually tell people that weaving is my first love and macrame is my steamy affair on the side!
What is your favorite thing you have ever made?
Definitely "Creature" -- a large weaving that I made for an art show this past spring. It's my favorite because as much as I love the finished product, I loved how I felt when I was making it. It took two days to create working around the clock, but it felt almost effortless. It was like the weaving was just flowing out of me the entire time. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in "Big Magic" how the Romans believed that artists and creators "had a genius" that worked through them -- this external kind of artistic god that guided your creations. That's how I felt when I was creating "Creature" -- like someone else was working through me and I just had to keep moving my hands and weaving higher.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer. I was convinced I could be one of the next great novelists. I had several teachers in high school who encouraged me to pursue writing, and I spent all four years at college convinced that was what I wanted to do. I still haven't completely given up on that dream, but after I graduated, I decided I needed to take a break from writing for a lot of reasons -- the most important being that my identity was too seeped into my work.
Learning to weave actually ended up being a way to relearn how to explore my creativity in a healthier way. Because I knew that how tied I became to my writing in the past, I took a lot of precautions as I stepped into fiber art. I was very intentional to see my work as a product of my creativity, but not an extension of me. I think that's something that all artists struggle with -- certainly I still do! -- and it was kind of a fun experiment to learn to "do it all over again" with a new medium.
What is your creative process?
I'm actually not a very visual person, but I'm super inspired by color. So normally my process begins with gathering different colors and fibers that make sense together -- and hopefully are a little bit different and exciting together! I really like creating unusual color combinations in which I put colors together that you wouldn't normally think of going together, but actually complement each other really well.
The thing about color is that a lot of times people are a little scared of it -- they want things to match or they don't want pieces that speak too loudly. But I think when we can let go of that fear, we can have so much fun with color and let it inspire us! There are so many colors that are really moving to me, and I love getting to play with them in experimental ways in my pieces.
Once I select the color palette, weaving is a very organic process for me. Again, I'm not a visual person so I never sketch weavings ahead of time or even really imagine them in my mind. I just begin and see where the piece takes me. Sometimes that leads to a lot of having to take the weaving apart in certain areas and re-weave, but it really just allows me to focus in and see where the piece is leading me.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Stop being so hard on yourself. You've got time to figure things out and your life is going to change in so many unexpected ways. Stay open to the possibilities and stay committed to learning everything you can about yourself and what you want.
Why is it important to support local artists & makers?
It's so immensely important! It's really only in the past year or so that I've realized how much power we have to affect change and affect the world we live in with our wallets. When you purchase a piece of art or locally-made product, you're saying that you want to live in a world where people can support themselves with their art. That's so unbelievably powerful.
Why do you love doing what you do?
Because, even though it's really hard to work for yourself, it's so unbelievably rewarding. Everything is a result of the work that I put in, and I can steer my business in whatever direction I wish to. It's not always awesome for everything to fall on my shoulders (especially when I'm stressed and finishing work the night before an event!), but it means that I get the credit when I succeed.
Also, I get to meet and teach so many amazing people. I'm so inspired by their stories and I love that I get to witness these little slivers of their life where they engage in a creative moment. Helping people explore their creativity -- it's just the best. Teaching will always be a part of my business because it's so meaningful to me, these connections I get with my students.
What advice do you have for other women who want to start their own businesses?
Only you can create what you create. Don't worry about how saturated the market is, if there's already an established person doing the same thing as you're wanting to do in your area, or that you're "just a beginner." Everyone goes through the beginning stages, and you know more than you think you know.
Take yourself seriously and believe in yourself. Again, only you can do what you can do. And the way that you make something or say something or present something -- that may just be the way that connects with a person/potential customer that no one else was able to do.
What is your favorite thing about Exploring Ohio?
My favorite thing is that I'm not from Ohio so everything feels like an exploration! I moved to Columbus four years ago and it's really cool knowing that this is the place I've chosen to be. I love that each major city in Ohio seems to have it's own personality -- I'm always super inspired when visiting new cities, and I've loved exploring Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo and Dayton and soaking up what they have to offer.