Life is fragile
I knew that intellectually - I worried about the future of the planet, the world our daughter would inherit, the struggle for animal rights. But when the fragility of life came crashing into our family in the summer of 2017 I was completely unprepared.
My husband, Cary, became ill, then seriously ill and then there was the diagnosis that changed everything. PNH is rare, I mean one in a million rare, and without treatment it’s fatal. With treatment it leaves exhaustion, brain fog, bruising and muscle fatigue. It’s brutal.
Cary's Ph.d graduation, 2018
What do you do when the world tilts and threatens to throw you off? Cary is more than just my husband he’s my interpreter - having Aspergers means the world often makes little sense to me and the social world leaves me dumbstruck. Now I had to find someway to shore up our income, help him cope and not meltdown. I was lost and very afraid.
The solution started with a conversation in the midst of a tear stained pity-party.
“What can I do? I’m no good at anything!”
He paused, thought and said
“You’re really thoughtful and you care. You care about animals, you care about the planet, you care about waste.”
“Who cares if I care, how’s that good for anyone?”
“You make all of these wonderful things for us,” He gestured vaguely at my spinning wheel and sewing box. “You’ve got to be able to do something with it.”
This Hetty - my beautiful Ashford spinning wheel (vegan fibres only!)
And then he had to sleep. Because sleeping is, unfortunately, a major part of bone marrow disease.
I went through the house and rounded up everything I’d made - from chutney to soy silk thread, crochet mats to body butter, soapnut shampoo to vegan food wrap. I stared at it. I cried a bit more. Then I went to bed too.
In the morning he looked at the pile and taped the wax wrap.
“Why that one?”
“Because no one knows they need it yet.”
And that’s how Rowen Stillwater started. First tentatively on Etsy, then on my own website and then out into shops in the UK, Europe and even the US and Australia.
As we grew I knew that I wanted to keep everything handmade - to choose people who care about the work of their hands. We’re fundamentally craft based in outlook, that’s who I am and who the fabulous people who choose to work with me are.
I still struggle (I never did develop the capacity to make phone calls or speak publicly or, if I’m honest, make eye contact.) but I make products I’m proud of, that meet the needs of people who want to tread more gently on this world and that don’t contribute the worldwide shout of animal suffering.
And now I want to say thank you. Thank you for choosing independents and small businesses. Thank you for supporting the work of craftspeople over corporates. Thank you for putting the planet and all of her inhabitants before convenience. Thank you for choosing to shop like you care - I know that you do. And together we can make a difference.
Meet the Team
I'm the business owner, product innovator and general dogsbody. You know, all the things.
I started to work with Rowen in 2018 as an expert sewer and took over as wholesale manager in February 2019.
I joined the team in July 2019 when the sewing got out of hand.