The Lesser Bear: Columbus Wedding Vendor Spotlight
It's time for another Columbus wedding vendor spotlight and this time you have the privilege of meeting Kate who is the owner and creative behind The Lesser Bear. If you're not familiar with her work then get excited because you're in for a real treat! Not only does Kate create textile masterpieces hand dyed from natural materials, but she is also such a sweet person who is running an incredible business that is dedicated to making this world a better place.
She warmly welcomed me into her home and let me photograph her in action while graciously answering all of my questions. I was completely fascinated by the entire process and fell in love (even more!) with her ribbons and textiles after learning more about what goes into creating such gorgeous colors. Would you believe that boiling avocado pits creates a stunning soft pink dye? Keep reading to find out more unexpected materials she collects to make her product line of colors!
I’m so excited to introduce you to Kate and let you learn more about her passion for creating a socially and environmentally conscious brand. Be sure to find her on Instagram to see more of her work and leave a little bit of love.
Tell me a little about yourself and your business!
I have a degree in jewelry design and a Masters in Fine and Decorative Arts. Prior to moving to Columbus and turning my focus to textiles, I worked for many years in the Jewelry Department at Sotheby’s in London surrounded by some of the world’s most elegant jewelry. The Lesser Bear is a socially conscious company that uses natural and foraged dye materials to create beautiful ribbons and textiles, while simultaneously doing its part to engage through acts of kindness and generosity. Throughout each year, The Lesser Bear is committed to raising funds for, or donating handmade goods directly to, various charitable organizations. In the past these have included funds for medical aid to Aleppo and to a refugee camp in Greece, quilts for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees in Greece, financial support for the Arts and an LGBTQ Youth Center, as well as Habitat for Humanity, The International Rescue Committee, Moms Demand Action, and Hurricane Relief funds for Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and the Virgin Islands, and more. It is The Lesser Bear's goal to put back as much beauty, through kindness, into the world, as we take from it.
How did you get started in this business?
I am originally trained as a jeweler, but got my degrees at a school which had a heavy focus on textiles. I found a love for weaving and eventually a love of quilting. Once I had children and decided to get back to a creative career, I felt that the chemicals and tools for jewelry making were too dangerous around young children. I began by making hand quilted quilts and soon began dying my own fabric for quilts and table linens. From there, through a collaborations with local wedding vendors, I began to make naturally dyed silk ribbons and table linens for weddings.
Tell me the story behind your business name and how you came up with The Lesser Bear?
I have one of the worse middle names. Seriously, many times when people have asked me my middle name, I have said, "what is the worst name that you can think of?" and they have answered jokingly, "Ursula?" - The next questions is always, "What, like the Sea Witch?" But really my middle name has a sweet story. My Dad is a big guy with a full beard and lots of hair, and is my Sister's step dad. She has always called him Bear. So when I was born, with a full head of fuzzy black hair, she decided that I looked like a baby bear. Ursula actually means 'Female Baby Bear" and comes from Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper, also called - The Lesser Bear.
Can you describe the process you go through to dye all of your fabrics?
Much of natural dyeing is trial and error. Colors can be affected by the time of year that a plant is harvested or the soil it was grown in, the composition of your water, temperature or the type of dye pot you use. I spend a lot of the year foraging in my local area for things like black walnuts, acorns, sumac and flower petals, or I grow plants like marigolds, roses and lilies to harvest. I then heat them in water to release the color and clean and pretreat my fabric. After that, there is a lot of stirring, rinsing and perhaps time in multiple color baths in order to achieve a consistent color.
Can you describe the specific technique you used while I was photographing you?
You photographed me doing and eco print, or bundle dye. This is one of the most fun processes as it basically required scattering a variety of plant materials on the fabric, rolling it tight and then steaming. I do love this process, but it is not for those who like control over a process, as you never know quite how the final fabric will turn out. I love to create delicate and individual ribbons this way, and can also create wall hangings for a couple, using the flowers from their wedding.
What is the most unusual thing you've ever used to dye your fabric?
I love using aloe. I buy great big aloe leaves and slice them before steeping them. I love the bright green and tough outer later and then the completely clear inside. You would never know that this plant cold create colors ranging from yellow to pink.
What is the most surprising color you can create from a food or other additive?
The one that surprises people the most is definitely the pink that comes from avocado pits.
What is your favorite step in the process and why?
I love the testing phase, where I get to mix dyes and experiment with what colors I can create.
What keeps you coming back day after day?
The creativity. Natural dyeing allows me to plant gardens, pick flowers, take walks and grind up plants all while making something beautiful that gets to be used in celebrations of love.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Oh, I don't know how to answer this one! Creative definitely, but I am not sure what else.
How would you describe your style in business/ relationships with your clients?
I am calm and always interested in hearing new ideas and working on new projects to make events special.
Where do you do your best work?
In my house. It is where I do all of my work ;) I love working on my own and do not miss working in an office environment. I do teach jewelry making twice a week at a highly underserved high school and find that is a good break from the solitude of working at home.
How would you describe clients who are a great fit for you?
I work with a large range of clients from wedding vendors to couples. The clients that tend to fit well with me are those who appreciate the uniqueness of natural dyeing rather than chemical dyeing and fall in love with the process as much as the final product.
What was one of your favorite weddings you worked on, and why?
I loved working on a recent winter wedding as the bride was simply the sweetest person and also lives in my neighborhood. I was lucky enough that she hired many of my friends, who are local wedding vendors and we all worked on the vision that the bride and Meredith of Auburn + Ivory created. I am simply in love with the turmeric ribbon that I custom dyed for this wedding and which went so well with the bride's beautiful hair. The photos in the snow were stunning.
What has surprised you the most about your business?
That I would enjoy working in the wedding industry so much. I was married back when the only inspiration was available in magazine and now I get to see beautiful images and ideas by the minute via social media. I have also met so many wonderful people who have become good friends and inspire me daily.
What is the one thing you'd like a prospective bride to know about you?
That most of all I want them to enjoy this celebration of beginning of their married lives. I will work very hard to make sure that they get a beautiful product and enjoy the process as well.
What do you love most about running your own business?
Where is the furthest place you've shipped your fabric? Do you work internationally?
Germany. Yes! My husband is from Ireland and I would love to do more work in Europe. Especially if that means that I need to visit a castle or two. ;)
Why should couples invest with TLB?
Because of my dedication to them, to the environment and the community. I enjoy working hard to give couples exactly what they want, helping them enjoy their wedding day and create wonderful memories. I am also dedicated to using a dye process that is not harmful to the environment and a portion of the proceeds from their purchase will go to supporting good causes.
Where are you from, and how did you end up in Columbus?
I was born in Vermont and have moved a LOT. I have lived in 2 towns in Vermont, Vancouver, Seattle, New Jersey, New York City, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ireland, London, California and now, Columbus. We moved here so that my husband could take a post doc position at OSU and we were not sure that we would stay. But I think we both feel like this is home.
What is your favorite Columbus restaurant?
It isn't fancy, but we love taking our kid's out for pizza a Dewey's. It is locally owned, has great food and very friendly staff. We have been going there since our kids were little and often arrived dressed as a Princess and Batman.
What is your favorite thing to do in Columbus?
We really like to explore the city and surrounding towns and often just wander. I love watching how Columbus has grown in just the 6 years that we have been here.
What do you love to do when you're not working?
Ha, between the two of us, we are almost always working! But we love to just get in the car and drive with the kids to find new town, park, etc. - I also love wandering the Springfield Antique Mall, but not always with the kids!
Tell me more! What have I missed? Let me know what you want brides and other wedding vendors to know about you and your services?
I LOVE seeing how my ribbon is used. It makes me so happy to see photos of happy couples, or images from designers, florists and photographers. Please tag or share your photos as I would love to see them!
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