ARTIST INTERVIEW: Pamela Hunter of Sheltered Co.
Artist: Pamela Hunter
Each Sheltered Co. blanket is woven by hand using approximately 70 yards of deadstock fabric which means each color is only available for a limited time.
The first part of my journey started out when I became a single mother at 18. I’ve always championed the underdog and people in need so even when I was a single mom, I actually housed other single moms I knew until they could get back on their feet. That was my first taste of how important it is to have a community around you. I am still in contact with those women today and I have continued to surround myself with an amazing community of women and mothers. Soon, I found a job as a vocational trainer which allowed me to work with the differently abled. Who knew that I would eventually come to have a daughter of my own, Ransom, who would be diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. That experience taught me so much and helped me to become a better mom and have a deeper understanding of how to relate to those with unique abilities. Another turning point was when I became a vintage buyer for American Rag where I learned about the beauty of vintage, deadstock and recycled goods. My boss at the time, Rudolph, taught me to find beauty in the imperfections and look for things that were unique and not like anything else. As you can see, everything I did played a part in helping me start Sheltered Co.!
Honestly, if I’m not doing something creative I don’t feel fulfilled. I specifically need to create with my hands and make things I can touch. I guess I’ve always been very tactile. I completely relate to my daughter Ransom in that way. As a kid, I used to go crazy if I wore anything itchy or a tag was poking me. I have also always been inspired by recycled materials and using things I had laying around. And of course, my daughter is the biggest driving force behind my work. Since she was a baby, she would cry from discomfort and overstimulation. In the mornings, she’d wake up screaming and overwhelmed and then every night she’d have trouble relaxing and going to sleep. It was desperate times, so I guess you could say it was a mix of my need to create with my hands and a deep search for something functional that could help my daughter.
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
It’s always been my aim to give Ransom tools that wouldn’t make her feel different and like she didn’t belong. I didn’t want her things to look out of place in our home, all clinical and sterile. I want her to be proud of who she is and feel like an equal part of the family. My challenge has always been to find functional and beautiful tools for my daughter to use. Many times, I couldn’t find it and that’s why I’ve made my own bean bags and crash pads and foam pit. I’ve even made my own rock climbing wall and different swings for her. So that balance between practicality and beauty is always what I strive for.
Failure, to me, is not even beginning. I had a period of depression before I launched. I saw all these other weighted blanket companies and the fear of starting something, risking something, was all-consuming. But I just counted on my community to talk me through all the most stressful moments and I did it even though nothing was perfect. I launched my website and began releasing blankets as I was going, knowing that my community would understand that I was learning and growing and they would learn and grow with me. I knew I had an amazing product so I didn’t stress over the website not being completely finished or a million tiny things that I knew could’ve been better. If I didn’t launch because I was too scared then I would’ve failed. I believe success alone is just starting. Just saying yes.
Routines are hard. My husband and I are in charge of different things in the morning. I take Story to daycare and I try to spend time with her every morning, since she’s my youngest and started daycare the soonest. I always tell her, “I get to go to work now,” because it’s a positive thing and give her the sense that I love what I do. Then I get a coffee and the act of pouring myself a cup of coffee signals that it’s “go” time. I take all phone calls in the car. Then I check in with everyone at the office. Then I go out and search for fabrics. Actually, before I even get out of bed and before I go to sleep, I return all social media messages and emails and try to make each response personal. I hope to make our customers feel how important they are to us. So much of their letters are heartfelt and vulnerable. They are writing about anxiety, depression, insomnia, autism, and stress. And I know people just want to be heard so I do my best to truly listen. I do put a cap on how much work I do in one day though since there’s always more that can be done. I try to leave things for the next day and aim for a balance.