Textiles that Care for Families - Once Was Lost

It has been such a privilege to be allowed to tell Laura Wortlock's story of her ethical sustainable textile business, Once Was Lost. It brings me back to one of the reasons I started The Maker's Portrait - to encourage and inspire people to do something good to help the community and to support others that do so. I have been so inspired by how she is making a difference. Read on.

How did Once Was Lost come about? And where did the name come from?

The name actually came courtesy of my husband, Andy who, when considering the lyrics of Amazing Grace, thought it would make for a great name for a business, so I claimed it from him!  We also liked the idea that the traditional craftsmanship of our artisans, in a lot of ways, "once was lost" until it has now been discovered by you!

 

What is special about each piece created for Once Was Lost?

We work directly with our artisans and partner with them to create each piece ensuring every part of the process is hand crafted, sustainable for our makers and safe for the environment.  All our textiles are World Fair Trade Organisation Certified which means that we don't just simply provide safe working environments and fair pay, we provide education and training, care for the environment, sustainability for our artisans employment and respect to nature.  More than that, we also work with a sustainable business model - so we provide upfront all the fibres, looms, solar electricity etc to our makers and then when our scarves and travellers are woven, we then buy them back from the teams of weavers, so they are never out of pocket and are paid directly for their incredible work.

 

How does Once Was Lost support the community? Why is important to you?

Most of our artisans work in family groups from their rural villages.  Traditionally the women will spin the fibres, and create the beautiful hand rolled fringing that finishes every piece and the men will do the weaving on the traditional looms.  By being able to work in their family groups, they are able to provide constant care for their children and be close to family while earning an income as well as being able to work locally in their community, through this we help nurture positive change for not just the individuals but communities.  In addition we provide financial support and training, health care and education which cultivates generational impact. 
 

What do you want people to take away from what you’re doing?

Really, our priority is to encourage people to appreciate the beauty found in a handmade product.  To create lasting positive change for our artisans yes, but really to provide avenues that encourage them to continue using their skills and crafting in this beautiful, time-honoured way.  I truly believe in quality over quantity and investing in thoughtfully created products you can love for a lifetime.

 

What challenges have you faced in the last five years?

I think our biggest challenge has been communications and working in remote ares quite a distance away from our studio in Perth.  While the use of technology has helped immensely, nothing beats being able to sit next to our artisans watching them weave designs in person.
 

Who has been your biggest support along the way?

Hands down my husband (I definitely married up) - but also I have an incredible family and close friends who phenomenally creatively gifted and have always cheered me on!

By supporting Once Was Lost you are making a stand for ethical and sustainably produced products that, not only creates jobs for families in rural villages in Ethiopia, but provides education, training and care in a family focused environment. Check out Once Was Lost here.

Cheryl-Lynn Wee