Roots n' Earth - A local family creates sustainable, unique and lovingly made crafts
Roxanne, her husband and her children moved up to Oregon from Santa Cruz, California in search of fertile affordable land, clean accessible water and community. After finding a lush, ten acre piece of land in Cottage Grove, they started their sustainable farm. “We’re a crafting family so a hand-made business was a natural next step. Crafting and farming run deep in our rich Jamaican and Mexican heritages. We try to live up to our ancestors’ practices of caring for the land as well as its people. Our main focus is fiber arts, with knitted, crocheted, and embroidered pieces, all handmade. Some of our pieces reflect our deep longing for justice, because it too is practical. We’re about beauty in resistance,” Roxanne says proudly.
Making vintage style baby hats and felted bowls was what first inspired Roxanne to start selling her crafts. “Making hats is not just relaxing, it gives me a connection to family members that have passed along,” Roxanne says. Roxanne learned to make felted bowls after meeting a woman who made them in Canada. She enjoyed the process so much that she made far too many and had to start selling them. The tools Roxanne and her daughters, Maria and Sahla, use to craft their unique goods were passed down from Roxanne’s Grandmother. “She worked the night shift as a nurse at the hospital. She would crochet and embroider to pass the time and stay awake. We still have this one blanket that she crocheted, cross stitched and embroidered, it took her over a year to make it!”
Maria, 19, learned to knit when she was four years old. She began to make cat toys out of old socks, filling them with catnip that was grown on their property. “I realized that I could make them much cuter if I used old wool sweaters and they would last longer,” she says. Maria also knits customized stuffed dogs. Sahla, 21, embroiders hats with unique art work. “Someone told me that they saw some appliqued hats for $40 a piece at the Country Fair and they thought it would look great with my embroidery. I took their suggestion to heart and went from there! I’ve been embroidering since I was 5, my mom was planning an embroidery lesson for us but it took her too long, so I just took the book she was using and taught myself.”
“Everything we make and sell is made with natural materials, wool and cotton, things that will return to the earth when you are done using them. Nothing we make will clog up the oceans, or take the earth down another level. We make beautiful, durable things that you can pass down to your children, the way that my mother and grandmother passed things to me that I still have. When you are done with them, you can cut them up and put them in your compost pile so they can return to the earth,” Roxanne says.
After five years of living in Oregon, water and fertile land abound but community has been much harder to come by than Roxanne anticipated. “I grew up in Oakland, our neighborhood was considered dangerous but we still had community, you always had somewhere to go, someone’s house, a gathering of friends and family members that felt safe. We haven’t found that here.” Despite efforts to connect with local farmers, the permaculture community and other community members, Roxanne has been deeply saddened and disappointed by the way she and her family have, at times, been treated as invisible or expendable.
“The Whiteaker Market is the first place where we feel truly welcome. Claire says that she seeks out and prioritizes vendors of color and she actually means it. So many people know how to use the language of the ally and few people are willing to take action to make people of color feel safe and protected. The Whiteaker Market is the first place I have found where I feel comfortable letting my children run around and play with other kids,” Roxanne says.
Every item created by Roxanne and her children has been made with skill, innovation, tradition and beauty. You can find their wool jar cozies, one of a kind embroidered hats and woolen cat toys in the shop all month. Follow them on instagram @rootsnearthhandmade to see and purchase the multitude of hand crafted items they create and @rootsnearthfamilyfarm to see the beautiful food, flowers and animals they lovingly tend to on their ten acre farm in Cottage Grove. We must acknowledge that there are people of color that feel uncomfortable and unsafe in our town. By supporting their business, listening to their stories and taking action to make them feel safe, we can build a community that we all want to be a part of.