International Women's Day is an opportunity for me to shine some light on a few of the amazing fellow women makers that I'm lucky enough to call friends.
At This Is J, I've been drawing patterns and creating product for 18 years. The women I've chosen to highlight today are ones that I met early on in this journey and have become trusted friends and collaborators. I often refer to these women as my colleagues as they understand, relate to and empathize with the unique challenges that women-run, locally made, creative and entrepreneurial businesses experience.
Read on to learn more about Arounna of Bookhou and Denise of Matter Company and find out why they're so great.
About Arounna Khounnoraj
Arounna is a maker, teacher, author and the founder of Bookhou, a multidisciplinary studio that emphasizes natural handmade materials and small production pieces. She runs a family business that believes in slow design, making one piece at a time by hand.
Over the past few years I’ve watched Arounna grow a community of punch needle enthusiasts, giving new life to the art form through her workshops and Punch Needle Book. Her attention to detail and ability to bring her audience along on her journey is captivating and inspiring. Those who follow Arounna have long been privy to her creativity, but what is most special about her is her innate ability to teach by sharing her process. She is an open book, nurturing everyone in her orbit.
Arounna is never not creating. Even brunch at my kitchen table has included her rolling balls of yarn in between sips of French press.
I've had the pleasure of collaborating with Arounna on many occasions where we create together just for the fun of it. It's always pure joy to be able to combine our skills to create something that is a unique blend of both our passions.
About Denise Williams
Denise is the founder of Matter Company, a luxe range of all-natural skincare products that embrace a holistic approach to personal care. Her passion for and knowledge about growing, harvesting, and wild-crafting herbs and plants has elevated her to create a line of sought after products for everyday consumption that cater to women, men, baby, as well as, prenatal and postpartum care. For Denise and Matter, the ingredients are the product.
I have known Denise for many years. We first crossed paths at various artisan shows around the country, exchanged business advice, started grabbing coffee, then more frequent late-night dinners after a long day at a show - fast forward 15 years and she is affectionately known as Auntie Denise to my 3 kids.
Denise's passion and drive stem from her deep connection with the natural world. Every one of her products resonate so wholly with consumers because they each stem from a need. She listens to those around her and creates products that not only help heal the body but also nurture the soul. Her dedication to natural ingredients and being Canadian-made shines through in the superior quality of her products. Her hand cream has a cult following and often sells out faster than she can produce it. The smell of her baby wash is so comforting to me as it reminds me of my babies, having used it everyday since their very first baths.
Denise is a wealth of knowledge - in business, life, and all things herbal. She nurtures her business and inspires those around her.
More from Jaimie Harris
Jaimie Harris, Founder of This Is J in her Toronto production facility.
Since 2003, I have been designing patterns and printing my own fabric. This Is J evolved from a simple necessity, my need to keep my hair from falling in my face while studying for university exams. This functional approach to fashion continues to be the driving force behind all our products. Whether it's the performance of the fabric, functionality of the fit, or aesthetic of the pattern, combining comfort and style continues to be the foundation of the This Is J style.
As a small business, we wear a lot of hats and balance many different needs including those of our customers and our environmental and social impact. We strive to create a unique, well made and comfortable product while balancing the growth of our product offering, how we produce it and the materials we use, the pace at which a small company can grow and the wants and needs of our customers.
I dream in bold patterns and bright colours, but almost always dress in black during the day. It's a way for me to calm and control my environment as my mind is always conceptualizing something new. For me pajamas present an opportunity to be fun, colourful and playful in the comfort of your own home. Comfort is key. Nothing is better than shedding the weight of the day the moment your clothes come off and your pajamas go on.
With three young kids running around at home, my life is full and busy. Having a network of knowledgeable, creative, driven, and successful women within arms reach has been a saving grace at times and a guiding force at others. They have helped lift me up when down, championed my successes and encouraged me through the many challenges of running a small business.
International Women's Day is just one day a year, but I'm lucky to be surrounded by my network of strong women at all times as we celebrate our achievements together.