I’ve been a weaver for over 40 years and I live just outside of Williams Lake, British Columbia, in western Canada. Weaving was a hobby until about 2010 when I started winding down in my profession and gearing up for a life change. I began Cariboo Handwoven two years later and my business has been growing since. It’s been a wonderful learning experience in many respects.
I weave on a Leclerc Colonial 60” (150 cm)-wide, eight-harness loom. My studio is airy and spacious with several handmade display racks and lots of floor space for examining blankets. I savour all the natural light, with views of Douglas-fir, aspen, and birch through the windows.
I learned to weave on a little pirta backstrap loom in Finland when I was a university forestry exchange student in the summer of 1979. My teachers, new friends at the time, are still dear to me. After returning to Edmonton for my fourth and final year of university, I took an after-hours course in weaving and advanced from a table loom to a floor loom. Once I was in Williams Lake with a new job, I bought a 36” (90 cm)-wide floor loom with my first pay cheques.
Weaving was my hobby while I worked for 35 years in British Columbia as a forester. Now forestry is my hobby and weaving is my passion and business. My forestry background gives me numerous ideas for colours, design, and ecological insights that I often reflect in my work.
My weaving milestones so far include co-presenting a show at the Station House Gallery entitled “To Drive the Cold Winter Away” in 2014, providing six blankets for the 2015 Canada Winter Games VIP Gifting Program, and being interviewed in my studio by Sheryl MacKay of CBC Radio’s North by Northwest followed by the broadcast in October 2017.
I am committed to making quality items that will last for years or probably decades. My blankets have proven their longevity; I have some of my earliest ones from the late 1980s that still look great. My cotton towels last up to 15 years according to many reports and are beautiful and practical throughout that time. And I have many scarves that have received lovely compliments over the years.
I guarantee my work under reasonable use. Anyone with questions or problems with my handwoven products is encouraged to contact me about repairs or replacement.
Cariboo Handwoven originated because my family, friends, and home had all the towels and blankets they ever needed from me. But I was certainly not done with weaving, and ‘Make More!’ is kind of my mantra. Everything I weave is its own interesting experiment of exploration and discovery.
Many of us know we have too much stuff. And I sell stuff. Modern thinking is advising us to focus on experiences, not things. But it’s complicated: For example, is the experience of a trip to Hawaii a better option than buying a handcrafted item from a local artisan? It might or might not be, and it’s for each of us to decide based on our personal values as well as our targets for our consumption limits and carbon footprint.
Cariboo Handwoven is a tiny business that sponsors local arts and culture events and programs and pays commission and booth fees to different venues. My handwoven items are designed and made to last for years and years, blankets for decades. Most of my fibre and yarn sources originate from outside Canada but I rely on Canadian suppliers. Closer to home, local sheep owners in the Cariboo and Chilcotin are producing some beautiful, high-quality wool that I handspin into soft yarns for blanket weft – and the blanket often has a little story about the wool’s origin.
I ask everyone to please consider whether or not you really need something from me. If you decide you don’t, I applaud your self-discipline and look forward to chats at markets or however you want to stay in touch and maybe still follow my work.
But if you do decide to buy a Cariboo Handwoven item, either as a gift or for yourself, please make sure that the new owner loves it and will use and enjoy it for a long time. I stand behind everything I make, whether it’s a matter of taste for exchange, or a matter of workmanship that needs repair. I want you to be happy with my work.
“I got my package today. I am over-the-top so happy with my blanket. And the towel is gorgeous. There is no way it’s going to live its life as a towel tucked away in a drawer or wiping dishes. No way! It’s going to live on places like my dining table or basket liner, and will have a story to tell for years. Love them both. Thank you so very much. It means so much to have a piece of your wearable art. Truly gorgeous. I will definitely order for wedding gifts and such.” - L