Visiting Artist: Kitchen Garden Series

This October we will be welcoming Kitchen Garden Series into our shop to share their sustainable kitchen textiles with our Moon + Arrow community. We are excited to be welcoming them back into the shop a little differently than we had originally imagined. Our visiting artist events usually involve physically inviting artists to set up shop within our store and to meet our customers in person. Since Covid-19 has changed this reality our visiting artist series is changing as well. Kitchen Garden Series' textiles will be available in the shop AND online for the whole month of October! We are so excited to be highlighting makers we believe in and support. We sat down with Heidi Barr, founder of Kitchen Garden Series, to ask her some questions about her business. 

Q: What is the significance of your company’s name? 

The name refers to a series of kitchen textiles created to support our cities “kitchen gardens”, also known as  small farms. 

The name was inspired by many connected ideas including; my grandmother’s kitchen garden, her aprons and her quilts, the victory gardens of the second world war, the movement towards bringing food production closer to our kitchens, plant based textiles as part of a garden, to name a few.

Q: In what ways does Kitchen Garden Series inspire their customers to live in a sustainable way? 

By offering high quality products designed to replace single use disposable in the kitchen. I work hard to offer alternatives that are both beautiful and practical. Educating people about how to use linen to store food and why it’s an ecologically sound alternative to plastic. By engaging in conversation about environmental issues surrounding textiles, local food systems, local economies, ethical production, value vs. cost and more through my blog and in person at events. 

Q: In what ways is Kitchen Garden Series sustainable in practice and in the creation of your products? 

My materials are all natural fibers, mostly linen, or reclaimed and vintage fabrics. This means that any new yardage is from flax, a low pesticide and low water use crop that doesn’t require chemicals to process into yarns to be woven for fabric. The category of reclaimed includes new yardage remnants I purchase from other small businesses. This means that scraps from the cutting room floors that would otherwise go to a landfill, are used to make my products.

My sewing is all done in Pennsylvania in small, family owned facilities with good labor practices and safety standards. I work with a small shop in Allentown, make lots of things in my own studio and partner with other makers in Philadelphia when necessary.

I design with an eye towards reducing fabric waste and waste that is produced either goes to terracycle for recycling or gets added to my vermiculture bin for the worms to eat.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a business owner in Philadelphia, in what ways do you see yourself and your company growing and changing with the city around you? 

Philadelphia has such an amazing, diverse community of independent businesses both old and new, it’s so inspiring as a business owner to see so many different ways of making it happen. My business connects me to some of the things I love most about Philadelphia, the urban growers, the farm to table restaurants, ( I love to eat) , the environmentalists, and other artists. I’ve met such generous and interesting business owners and look forward to all of us continuing to share information, cross promoting and growing this local green economy together.

For kitchen garden series specifically, I know my success lies in the food movement; my connection to the growers and  the restaurants ( through  my budding linen rentals business) is what connects my artistic medium (textiles) to the environmental issues that are the thing that matters the most to me. 

Q: We love your blog so much and believe the resources you talk about there are so important to your customers and to the planet! Can you share how you became interested in a sustainable lifestyle and how that journey has grown for you personally and within your company? 

Thank you, that means a lot to me! The blog is both a labor of love and hard to keep up with so knowing that it resonates is encouraging!

I’ve always been interested (obsessed) with a sustainable lifestyle. I was an impressionable child in the 70’s when the first wave of the environmental movement was sweeping our country. I grew up with the ethos of reduce, reuse, recycle. When I started this business I realized that we have to take that further and really rethink our use of material objects (and fuel) in our daily lives. Personally, this means that I’ve gradually found alternatives to 95% of plastic products (single and multi-use ) in my home, not discarding but replacing plastics with alternatives as necessary. I buy a lot less volume of stuff in general, and what I buy is high quality from traceable sources whenever possible. I drive a lot less. I’m healthier, maybe because I eat local, fresh when possible and seasonal. I’m happier, probably because I have relationships with the people who produce so much of what I consume and because I feel good about my efforts.

The journey for my company has been anything but a straight line! It’s HARD to survive as a small business and remain true to your ethics. Adding the linen produce storage bags and  linen coffee filters to my line was a big turning point. Those products really get at the heart of replacing single use disposables and moving towards a sustainable lifestyle. The next big growth came when I began offering napkins as rentals for events and restaurants. This is a big one for sustainability because if I can scale it it will take thousands of synthetic napkins out of circulation and stop them from sloughing micro plastics into the water stream when laundered. 

Now, I’m looking to grow by dedicating more time to the blog.This goes back to rethinking our use of material objects. I want to share information and start conversations in the hopes of encouraging people to make better choices for themselves and the planet. I believe that when we do that, businesses like mine will have more space to thrive.

Q: Can you tell us about the future of Kitchen Garden Series? 

I began making cloth napkins from reclaimed materials in 2012 and committed to setting aside some portion of purchases to support urban agriculture, I called the venture ‘the kitchen garden series.’ The business grew and 5 years later, as I clarified my mission around supporting sustainability and local farms, I scribbled on a torn envelope the words: “My success lays in the food movement. Restaurants. Farms.” My connection to these words guides my business to this day.

Our human culture is deeply intertwined with enterprises that produce fabric for us to wear alongside the food for us to eat. Whether its wool or linen, fabric begins as a crop, just like food, and textile choices are an important part of a sustainable lifestyle. I seek to create a line of textiles that is as equally viable for the environment as organic, urban food production.

Fabrics such as linen are fit beautifully into a regenerative agricultural system and this year I’ve experienced this first hand. The day after Earth Day 2020, during the April new moon, Emma and I planted flax seed on her farm in Pottstown. This modest 1/8 acre of flax has unlocked so much potential. Although we are a long way from processing our crop into fabric, we have made so many connections and have begun laying the groundwork  to revitalize the linen industry in our region. Inspired by the work of the Rustbelt Fibershed (The Cleveland Project), the Chico Flax Project, Fibrevolution and PNW Fibershed, we are excited to join them in striving to build a sustainable textile future. We are forging relationships with local farmers, and are in conversation with the Philadelphia Fashion and Garment Industry Task Force and  All Together Now PA about possibilities for growing flax and a local mill. Among other benefits, we hope that local flax crops could eventually help sequester carbon and help revitalize our local fiber industry. 

This is the beginning of a new chapter for the kitchen garden series. My plan is to strengthen the sales of my heirloom quality textiles designed to replace single use and plastic disposables in homes and restaurants enough for the business to support my work towards a local linen industry. Because of the work of like minded business women @fibrevolution,  what felt like an impossible dream just 6 months ago, now seems within reach. I’m at the very beginning of this new venture and nothing is certain, but the incredible resilience of our flax crop, and the enthusiasm of our community both local and global, gives me great hope and optimism."


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