Making the Maker, an Interview with Abigail Clark
So excited to share this week's Making the Maker with Abigail Clark of Rainer & Bear, a handmade business offering knitwear for littles. While interviewing the lovely Abigail, I discovered that not only is Rainer & Bear a mother-daughter team as well, but that the majority of their work is based upon their Scottish heritage and the landscape of Scotland itself. Uh YES PLEASE! You all know how obsessed I am with Scotland. This was just such a lovely surprise, and I loved learning more about how their products and brand are inspired by the beautiful Highlands.
Abigail is a mother to two boys, Rainer and Logan, whom she and her husband nicknamed "Logie Bear," the day they brought him home. She and her mother, Eileen, create the wonderful products behind Rainer & Bear.
Kayla: Can you tell me a little about yourself? Do you have any other jobs besides working Rainer & Bear?
Abigail: I always wanted to be a Mother and struggled for four years to conceive and even lost my first pregnancy in the first eight weeks. This was a painful, desperate experience for me, and my heart always goes out to anyone struggling with infertility, miscarriage and infant loss. I've worked in a variety of different sales roles, and as a photographer, but my favourite job of all was being a waitress! Although I am now a stay-at-home mum, I regularly schedule time for volunteer work. This is something my Mother always set an example in, and I am teaching my children to prioritize too.
Kayla: How did your business begin?
Abigail: People have been telling my mum [Eileen] to sell her knitting my whole life, but she never considered it until my little boys came along, and we just couldn't find the patterns or styles I really wanted to dress them in. We started drafting, swatching & making our own things for them, and slowly Rainer & Bear came to life.
Kayla: Why do you make handmade?
Abigail: We really love handmade and try to buy [it] wherever possible. I love the thought of using a product or wearing a garment that has been made by another person. It adds value to belongings in a largely 'throw-away' world. We believe that a handmade garment is an investment that should be handed down to siblings and even on to future generations.
Kayla: What inspires your products/business/designs?
Abigail: Our family's love affair with knitting essentially began with my grandmother in Scotland. My husband's family is also from Scotland, and we have spent many, many happy and inspiring weeks there, traveling, drinking in the scenery and history. It feels like a heritage that is somehow woven into our garments and our family.
Kayla: Can you tell me more about Scotland?
Abigail: We love the Highlands, especially the Cairngorm National Park, and have visited it in all weathers, including this year in January when they had a two huge snowstorms, but I can honestly say it's beautiful in all weathers! The landscape is so dramatic and inspiring. We always take the boys with us, and investing in a good baby/toddler carrier has helped them enjoy all the secluded, harder to reach places we adore. Last year we spent some time on the west coast visiting some of the Isles and finding secluded white sandy beaches for our babies to explore. We have travelled all over now, but the one place we haven't yet been too, and is next on our list is Skye.
One of my favourite trips still fills me with warm memories. Logan was just six months, and Rainer was two. My husband had been climbing in the Cairngorms the week before, so we flew to Inverness, and he picked us up from the airport. It was October and very autumnal. One day we set out for a walk through the pine forest a couple of miles from our cottage; we had been walking only ten minutes or so and suddenly the trees opened up and the forest gave way unexpectedly to golden sand. We had stumbled upon a beautiful Loch beach, which we now know as Laggan. It was empty; we felt like we were the only ones in the world who knew it existed. It felt like our beach! We try and visit it every time we go back now, it's become one of our favourite places, and has become the name of one of our designs. We have given each design a Scottish place name as a tribute to the memories and inspiration they have given us.
Kayla: Your grandmother sounds like such an inspiration to your work! Could you tell me more about her?
Abigail: She was born in Scotland and had a tough life raising five children, largely by herself. Knitting, for her, was a necessity rather than a pleasure. She would, like so many in post-war Britain, unpick old garments to use the yarn to make new ones. She taught my Mother to knit and read patterns before she even started school. Life was easier for my Grandmother in later life, and she was always knitting for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I would truly say she was an expert. Sadly cancer took her life in 2013. Although I knew how to knit, it wasn't until after her death, when my mother and I started looking through all of her vintage 1940/50's patterns, that I discovered a real passion for it. This makes me both happy and sad, happy that I am continuing something my Nan loved, but sad that I didn't take more of an interest in [it] whilst she was alive. I feel our style is reminiscent of the post-war Britain look, and I feel that this is also a little element of my Grandmother.
Kayla: Where do you source your materials from?
Abigail: We are not restricted to one place to source our materials. We are always on the look out for ethically produced yarns, with a beautiful colour range. We also love a superwash yarn as, let's face it, kids are dirty little creatures! As for our needles, we largely use vintage needles that were my Grandmother's before she passed away. We talk about her all the time when we are working; about how she would love what we are doing with Rainer & Bear, and also how we would have her knitting day and night for us if she were still alive. She was amazing!
Kayla: What opportunities has making by hand opened for you?
Abigail: Hands down the best thing has been meeting other talented mothers who are making beautiful things all over the world! I have connected with quite a few through Instagram, and we have swapped our creations. This has been a great arrangement and supplied my little ones with no end of quality, ethically handmade clothes to wear, as well as supporting other small businesses.
Kayla: Do you have any regrets or have you made any mistakes when it comes to running a small business?
Abigail: My only regret at the end of a day is if running a business has taken me away from spending time with my children. I am primarily a stay-at-home mum, by choice, so that is why I tend to work late at night or early mornings before the boys wake, or during those golden afternoon naps. The same goes for mum; she always says if the boys ask her to play she wants to always say yes, as one day when they are teenagers, they might not be interested in playing with their grandma anymore! Childhood is fleeting and I don't want to ever look back and feel as if I missed it.
Kayla: What is the hardest part about running a small, handmade business?
Abigail: Disappointment is always difficult when it is your own business as everything can seem so personal, but being personal is also what makes small businesses so special.
Thank you for that lovely interview, Abigail! I feel that I learned so much. How lovely are all of the elements from their surroundings and heritage that are incorporated into their garments? We love that and strive to do the same with our clothing here at Under A Tin Roof! Handmade is a beautiful business (: You can shop Rainer & Bear here or follow along with them on Instagram (@rainerandbear)!
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