Happy Feature Friday!
Today we have the amazing, whimsical works of Marissa Long from Soft Bloom Tapestries. We are in love with how beautiful and organic her weavings are — and just plain soft and fuzzy looking! The fact that she incorporates so many natural elements into her work (all foraged herself from the Pacific Northwest!) makes her products even more unique and truly have a story behind them. She has a ton of great insight into the world of creating, so keep on reading to hear all about her brand’s start and what she’s learned along the way!
: Tell us a few things about yourself!
: I am 22 and I currently live at the foot of Mt. Hood (Oregon’s highest mountain!), right outside of Portland. When I was a child, my parents were constantly taking my brothers and myself camping and hiking. Getting outside recharges my soul and is still one of my favorite things to do, except now I have a fur-child to come along! I have a golden retriever, Theodore, he goes everywhere with me. I adore plants, I try to be always surrounded by them and that’s why I currently work at Portland Nursery. I also work with Foraged Blooms, creating floral arrangements and helping as needed. I realized early on in life that my heart is fullest when I have a creative outlet, and I love working with mixed medias and trying new things!
: We are absolutely in love with your tapestries! How would you describe your brand and the products you create?
: Thank you! Yikes, that is not an easy question. I describe Soft Bloom as warm, and creative! It’s all about the process of creating something by hand, something that encourages you to touch and explore and experience wonder and warmth. I like to think (hope) that the hangings I create convey my heart, my love of this art form and the way it grounds me and encourages the journey of growth, softness and transformation. I would like to inspire those concepts in the beautiful people that purchase or admire my hangings!
: What made you decide to pick up weaving and how have you learned and adapted along the way?
: I started weaving three years ago, when I saw a tutorial on a d.i.y. blog. I love trying new medias and when I saw Rachel Denbow’s weavings I was instantly in love. I bought a small lap loom (which I still use) and went to work! I got the basics down and then moved on to other medias. I revisited weaving when I moved to California last year. I was job searching and had a lot of free time, and started weaving just as a way to pass the hours. I found that weaving is an incredibly grounding and rewarding way to create! I posted some photos on Instagram, and got a lot of encouragement and requests for a way to purchase them! I was completely blown away by the amount of support and love I received. I did some (a tiny amount) of research and had an Etsy shop up a week later. It has definitely been a learning experience. I had no idea just how much work goes into creating a brand, let alone keeping up with shop updates and social media! Transitioning from weaving as a hobby, to weaving as a job was hard. I really had to change my headspace and realize that I needed to set aside hours for working on tapestries and do it everyday. I experimented a lot with different styles, trying to figure out how to balance what customers look for and what I want to be creating. I am still constantly growing and adjusting and learning!
: It’s so cool that all of your products are one of a kind. Why make individual and unique pieces compared to reproducing the same designs? Also does that mean if you like a certain wall hanging – once it’s gone, it’s gone?
: Honestly, I hate to say it, but making each piece unique is for my own heart. Repetition and routine are not things that come naturally for me and I really have to work at them. I even have a hard time with geometric pieces! This is why so many of my hangings are woven without a straightforward plan, aside from a color scheme. I love to weave very organic hangings, and let my mind, heart and hand create in the moment. I have so much admiration and awe for the time and patience and planning it takes to create geometric or identical hangings. This may mean that I never end up selling large quantities, or wholesale but that is something at this time that I’m willing to step away from. And no way! If you see a hanging that really captures your heart, I do my best to recreate it and maintain the integrity of the piece, while making small changes to keep with my love for one of a kind art. I keep photos and sketches of my designs, so that if I find a pattern that really works, I can use it to build from. At the end of the day, handmade products are always going to be unique just from the very nature of the handmade process and I love it.
: You’re from the beautiful Pacific Northwest. What is your favorite thing about the area you live in and how does it impact what and how you create?
: Oh the PNW, my true love! Trees. Trees and mountains and ferns and rivers. I am head over heels for my home. I lived in California for a few short months before quickly realizing that it was not great for my Oregon-made soul. One of the questions I ask myself before I take a hanging off the loom to finish it is; will this look at home hung on a tree in the forest? Very few of my hangings have vibrant colors in them, I trend towards deep earth tones or swing hard to neutrals/pastels. There is rarely an inbetween and I think that my palette choices are very reflective of my surroundings. Deep, mossy evergreens and cloudy, foggy days are pretty typical in my life and I draw from those inspirations daily!
: We love the meaning behind your name, Soft Bloom. Being a creator and business owner often has its challenges! Have there been any moments running your brand that you’ve had to use your “soft bloom” mentality?
: Constantly. Most of the time with myself! Too often I realize that we as humans are not often kind to ourselves, or others! I can be my worst critic, and I know that is a cliche but it is so so true. I have to actively halt negative thought trains and rework my thinking into positive thoughts. It’s easy to make an Etsy shop, to want to sell the things you are making. What is not easy is the patience it takes, the hard fact there are no overnight successes. Not to mention the pressures that come from social media outlets like Instagram! It’s also easy to fall into thinking that you’ll never get where you want to be and feel envious of people that already have successful, beautiful businesses. But they worked HARD to get there, and they had just as many not so beautiful moments of doubt. Remembering that they are on their own journey and that yours will not be identical it is important. Being kind to yourself and others and loving your journey, comes back in amazing ways. The more I try to live through kindness and love, to be courageous in my honesty and strive to stay soft, the more I see positive changes and opportunities and it is so fulfilling.
: You incorporate natural elements into both your wall hangings and packaging. What made you decide to combine two very different materials? (wool/yarn with plant/tree life) And tell us a little about how fun it must be to forage for these items!
: For myself, wool and plants are not so far apart. Both feel very grounding and earthy. Also, why would you not want to decorate everything in your life with plants?! I’m probably a crazy plant lady but it seemed so natural. When it comes to branding and design, I’m drawn to simple colors and plant/floral themes. WHen I started Soft Bloom, I bought the cheapest, simplest packaging I could get. White tissue paper and cotton twine. I was in California so there was Eucalyptus everywhere! Eucalyptus trees are notorious for dropping branches, so I brought some home and ta da! Easy, beautiful tapestry mounts and decorations for my plain jane packaging. Foraging adventures are so lovely, and productive! I get to recharge my forest girl heart and collect the most beautiful things. Right now I’m on a Licorice fern and Douglas fir kick. There is a wooded area across the street from my home, so I get out there weekly with Theo and trek around looking for things to bring home! I try to rotate where I forage from, and I never break branches off trees. Branches and leaves usually get grabbed off the ground, and things like ferns are picked from overpopulated areas. Sustainable foraging is the key!
: What has it been like to start selling your tapestries and seeing them be enjoyed in other people’s homes?
: It has been a pretty crazy wonderful thing to see! I still have to pinch myself when customers send me photos of hangings in their new homes. Like, I can’t believe I get to make these things that help my heart be creative and soft and then people want to buy them? That’s suddenly just a thing, and I’m still reeling. I love that they bring people happiness and beauty. Life should always have those, and that is what I want to bring to the table, every single day.
: Where do you see Soft Bloom going in the future? Upcoming plans?!
: Yikes! Oh my gosh, yes. So many plans. In the near future, I’ll be selling from Foraged Bloom’s shop (opening in March!) and hopefully getting into a few other boutiques. I’m hoping to work on some collaborations involving dried and preserved florals and greens incorporated into my hangings (because once again, why would you not want plants everywhere?) I’m planning on making a couple of looms, which means larger pieces! And I would love love love to teach a few weaving workshops! Weaving is such a fun, rewarding and grounding outlet and I want to share what I’ve learned! Also, you can do it while bingeing Netflix, so win-win, right?
: Any advice for other creatives?
: Whatever it is that is holding you back from pursuing your passions? Cut it out. Don’t let negativity or self doubt or fear hold you back. You should love what you do, and do what you love! Be kind and radiate love and good things will come to you. Be intentional about your worth and be intentional about your happiness. Work hard. Like, really really hard. That’s how things happen! When you invest your whole self, you see results. One of my favorite quotes is from the book ‘After a While’, by Jorge Luis Borges; and it goes “So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” WHAT A QUOTE! Hits me like a hurricane every time I read it. Also, be supportive. The creative handmade community is so so welcoming and kind and receptive. Immerse yourself in it! I’m pretty sure I mentioned kindness, but I really really mean it.