As a superb addition to our month-long series on “women’s work,” we’d like to introduce the ever-so-talented Erin Barrett of Sunwoven. Erin specializes in handmade woven wall art, and with color as her primary inspiration, creates simple, bold designs that convey an unparalleled level of meticulousness and natural skill.
Based out of her bright, playful home studio in Charleston, South Carolina, Erin’s fulfilling career and loving home life are a testament that as driven, hard-working women, you don’t have to choose between a career or a family. If you stick with your passions, put in the legwork, and aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, success is inevitable.
- Age: 29
- Location: Charleston, SC
- Field of Interest: Handmade woven wall art
- What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself? Being a mother
- What Inspired You Today? Daydreaming about summer!
- What Are You Currently Listening To? Sonny & The Sunsets
- Are You Working On Any Projects That You’re Really Excited About? I’m going to be selling in West Elm’s summer catalog and online as part of their Best of West Elm Local series!
Questions + Answers
Your collaboration with West Elm, as well as your successful Etsy shop, serve as proof that you’ve truly managed to turn something you love doing into a full-fledged career. So inspiring! What did this journey look like for you? What was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome?
First of all, thank you so much! I am beyond honored to be a part of this, and am very thankful for the opportunity to share a little of my story.
To be completely honest, all of this was totally unexpected and just sort of fell into place naturally. One evening I came across an online tutorial on the basics of weaving and was really taken with it. I ordered a loom that night, and started as soon as I received it in the mail. Having struggled with anxiety in the past, especially after my daughter was born, weaving quickly became the perfect outlet for me to practice my creativity while simultaneously calming my mind.
Something that started as a small hobby quickly blossomed into a full-fledged business–thanks to so many of my friends and family who expressed interest in my pieces and helped build my confidence to a place where I felt comfortable enough to open my shop. The fear of rejection was by far the biggest obstacle I overcame at the beginning of my weaving journey. Once I managed to work my way through those feelings, I never looked back.
Your company name, Sunwoven, was inspired by your daughter, Sunny. We love that you love being a mom! Has your identity as a mother and caregiver influenced how you interpret the act of weaving?
Definitely. I consider myself very blessed to be able to stay at home with my children. Being a mother is so much more rewarding (and challenging!) than anyone or any book can ever prepare you for. Sometimes when I am weaving I get so wrapped up in trying to accomplish perfection in all of the tiny details that I lose sight of why I am doing it in the first place. Things don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
Motherhood brings out a lot of the same feelings in me. It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day aspects of being a parent that sometimes you lose sight of what is really important. In both my work and my parenting, letting go a little allows for more magic to happen.
Previously, you were a professional dancer for seven years. From what we know about ballet, it seems to require an almost unfathomable commitment from a young age. How has your clear ability and willingness to commit to your passions influenced your success as an entrepreneur?
Dancing was my entire life for as long as I can really remember. It was the most important thing to me, and I gave up a lot from a very young age to try and pursue a career in classical ballet. After making it further than even I could have imagined for myself in a life of ballet, there came a point where I felt it was time to move on and experience new things in life aside from dance. It was the right decision for me for where I was at that time, but I have missed dancing and performing every day since then.
Shortly after I stopped dancing professionally, I became pregnant with my daughter Sunny. I became so completely wrapped up in her life and being a mother that I rarely had time to even notice how much I missed having a creative outlet. Once Sunwoven started to take off, I slowly began to feel like I was gaining back my creative soul; not to mention a dash of entrepreneurship that I never even knew existed! So yes–I wanted to make this happen for myself and did it the only way I knew how- by working as hard as I possibly could.
You run Sunwoven from your eclectic, beautiful home in Charleston, South Carolina. How has living on the coast influenced the aesthetic of your work? Has the laid-back nature of Southern coastal living influenced the way you run your business?
Over the eight or so years that I have been living in Charleston, I have completely fallen in love with this city. I can’t say for sure that any of it has influenced the aesthetic of my work, but my home has played a really big part in how I spend my time working.
As I mentioned before, it’s very important to me to be able to stay at home with my children, which now means making time to work from home and having a proper place to do so. We recently finished off a home studio that has quickly become the favorite room in the house for the entire family. The space is about as bright, colorful, and warm as we could make it. Weaving in that room with so much warmth and sunshine pouring in throughout most of the day is my biggest source of inspiration. There is also nothing better than having a tiny napping baby next to me while I work.
As we mentioned before, the process of weaving seems to be very intimate, thoughtful, and time-consuming. How long do your pieces typically take to create? When you’re sending one of your pieces off to a new owner, is it hard to let go or is it a joyful parting?
This all depends on the style of weaving that I am working on. Lately, I typically stick to two different styles of weavings. The geometric pieces take quite a bit more time than the more organic roving heavy pieces. I honestly love creating both styles of weavings, but there is always a small part of me that yells “Yes!” when someone requests a geometric weaving. It was my first love…
This may sound silly, but one of my favorite parts of the whole process is finishing up a piece and photographing it hung in different spaces around my home. I think it’s sort of my way of getting to know the weaving a little before I send it off to a new loving home.
Who Inspires You?
All of these wonderful ladies are brilliant women that I have connected with via Instagram!
Jen Smith (@honeylakestudio) – Absolutely beautiful interior designer
You guys. I love underdogs. The Danny Woods, the Stephanie Tanners, and the Scotty Pippens (compared to MJ, ya know) are my dawgs. So here's the thing: @dominomag pretend-styled their version of the Full House house for the new episodes, and hello- what do we have here? Ol' grown up, boho musician Steph's room. This old thing! So hilarious. Thanks, Anna! 😂😎 [my bedroom, 📷 @brittanyambridge for Domino, Fall 2014 issue] . . . . #interior #interiors #interiordesign #interiorstyling #interiorinspo #everydaymadewell #jungalowstyle #bohemianhomes #bohodesign #bohemiandesign #flashesofdelight #mywestelm #interiorsforall #interiorlovers #myanthropologie
Shelly Sazdanoff (@shellysazdanoff) – One of my favorite fellow fiber artists
Joti Marra (@forestcreaturedolls) – A very close friend of mine who crafts the most gorgeous handmade dolls