4xForth: Sarah Aulie of Hand & Cloth by Clare Johnson


It's 4xForth Friday and today we're highlighting Forth Chicago alum, Sarah Aulie, executive Director + Founder of Hand & Cloth. We first met Sarah at our Fall Salon and were immediately taken by her amazing story and the mission behind the beautiful textiles of Hand & Cloth. Her abundant positivity and inspirational self fills any room with light and we are so excited to welcome her into the Forth community. 

Today Sarah chats about her favorite Chicago bites, sites she lurves, places she frequents in our great city, AND a fun new category about ethical fashion designers.

Best bites in Chicago:

1. Raw: My new favorite!  The owners are two lovely women whose skin glow. I like their Collard Salad with Raw Sauerkraut (no really, it’s actually good) for lunch. Their raw muffins and raw granola are a treat. And if you want to try an amazing chocolate dessert made with avocado, dates and raw chocolate, try Polly’s Brownie. 2. Pho at Tank Noodle Try their vegetarian spring rolls and avocado & mango smoothie, too! 3. Ruxbin: A cozy and creative Chicago spot, owned by people who have become dear friends. I was first struck by the warm hospitality of the Ruxbin staff. Come to find out, hospitality is one of their guiding values. Each member of the Ruxbin staff does a beautiful job carrying out this ethos in the way that they make each guest feel welcomed and at-home. 

Places I frequent in Chicago: 

1. I’m currently frequenting Pilates classes at One Body Pilates Studio for as long as my Groupon lasts! If you visit, make sure to get a class from Nicki – she is trained by the third descendent trainer of Joseph Pilates himself! So I think in the Pilates world, that’s a big deal. 2. Whole Foods: Sorry! Is that not interesting enough? I tried to quit going there but I’ve found that visiting the produce section and seeing the perfectly stacked rows of vegetables makes me feel like my life is in order. 3. Loom:  I am honored to get to work with a group of refugee women artisans and collaborating Chicago designers developing products such as hand-dyed natural indigo textiles, hand-painted silk and a crochet jewelry line. Loom is a social enterprise of Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program.  Each Loom artisan is able to make an additional source of income for her family here in Chicago through the sale of her products. The Loom Studio and Workshop is becoming one of my favorite and most frequented places in Chicago – not only do I love being surrounded by the textiles and naturals dyes, I love spending time with the women - both the artisans and the local Chicago designers -  who have become good friends. Drop by our workshop and visit us any Tuesday from 4pm – 6pm at 4754 N Leavitt St., Chicago. We’ll be having weaving workshops in December with a local Chicago weaver, Kimmy Tolbert Compton.

Sites I lurve:

1. I love to see the Lookbook Collections from Raven & Lily, one of my favorite ethical fashion brands. 2. I also love the site of my favorite shoe brands, Nisolo. Each pair of handcrafted leather shoes gives a fair wage to talented artisans in Peru. Not only are the shoes beautiful, the founders and staff of Nisolo are wonderful, too.  I tend to visit their site often and dream about which pair I would buy next….

Favorite Ethical Fashion Designers in Chicago-land:  (A fun category added by Sarah!)

1. Jamie Hayes, Production Mode  Jamie recently opened up her studio space around the corner from me in Logan Square and hired one of Loom’s most talented artisans to assist her in the production of her new leather jacket line. Jamie and I went to graduate school together and have kept in touch ever since, collaborating on different projects together.  I appreciate the care that Jamie takes with every aspect of her work – from fair wages to artisans to an ethical supply chain.  2. Jackie Corlett Johnson, Motif. Jackie is a British Textile Designer living in Southern Illinois whose work often brings her to Chicago. Jackie worked in Bangladesh for close to twenty years, where she developed a training module for Bengali artisans and founded a fair-trade business called Motif. I first met Jackie in Bangladesh seven years ago and she has become a dear friend, a mentor and a collaborator to both Loom and Hand & Cloth.


Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I will happily join you on a fun-filled trip to Whole Foods or Raw, any day! Also, the drop-in hours for Loom and upcoming weaving workshops sound amazing -- perfect for a Forth Chicago community excursion!

It was an absolute pleasure being seated next to you at the Forth Fall Salon. I loved our little side conversations almost as much as I love the beautiful kanthas from Hand & Cloth. To anyone who is looking for holiday shopping ideas with a side of inspiration and heart, look no further.

Follow Sarah on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Forth loves Weapons of Mass Creation Fest by Natalie Pavela

weapons of mass creation fest You guys! Do we have a treat for you today, and it's called the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. WMC Fest is the premier art, design and music event in the US, returning next weekend (August 15-17) in Cleveland, Ohio for its fifth consecutive year. These three days will be filled with a mix of speakers, artists, and musical acts at the Cleveland Public Theater. WMC Fest describes itself as a place where "creative professionals, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, students, and fans will gather to learn, get inspired, collaborate, network, and celebrate their passion for design, music, and entrepreneurship".

We sat down with two Forth Alum who will be participating in the festival this year - Margot Harrington, designer and owner of Pitch Design Union, and  Jessica Jacobs - Columbia College Professor, artist, designer, and entrepreneur. Hear what these ladies have to say about this unique gathering!

Forth: WMC Fest celebrates creatives and tries to shed light on the struggles, fears, and failures everyone experiences, in hopes of those shared stories will help others feel confident in their creativity and work. Is that what drew you to this group?

Margot: This is part of the festival, certainly. Just being a human, stuff happens, and sometimes we get to talk about it in group setting. My job is to make sure it feels as safe, accessible, and welcoming to everyone. I didn't know much about WMC Fest when I first went though. I was asked to speak, that was my initial entrance, and aside from focusing on that I only knew there would be some internet friends IRL. I figured it would be great for that reason alone. I certainly didn't anticipate to be making a third return trip.

weapons of mass creation fest margot harrington Forth: You were a speaker at a previous year's WMC Fest. In a nutshell, what's the message you shared during your session?

Margot: At the time I'd been feeling super overwhelmed and burnt out, due to saying yes to too many things (sound familiar?). I realized I was having trouble even prioritizing what to say no to, much less how. And that this was the talk I wanted to hear at WMC. Which meant it was the talk *I* had to write. Funny how that goes. I figured out a 5-step process for how and what to say no to, which you can read about here. Even despite this talk, it still took me the better part of a year to really clean up my act and it's still something I work to keep up with.

Forth: Will this be your first time at WMC Fest? What drew you to this group and what are you most looking forward to experiencing this year?

Jessica: This will be my first time at WMC Fest. I saw Twitter comments about it last year, and it looked like people were really enjoying it. It looks like a unique mix of music, art and design, which I think brings a vibrant energy that sets it apart from the usual design conference.

weapons of mass creation fest Forth: You are a co-curator of this year's line up of speakers. How'd you land that role? What are some of the speaker sessions you are most looking forward to and why?

Margot: This was handed down in effect from the original speaker director, Joseph Hughes. We met because of twitter and have been maintaining regular chats and emails since. It's because of him that I even knew about the festival, and it's him who really injected the spirit that we hope to carry on this year. As for the talks/sessions, of course I'm thrilled for the Chicago friends who are speaking. And we've got some really great talent from the east/west coasts too. And the panels and debate are new this year and will really bring the Real Talk. I guess that's... everyone. Ha, I can't decide! That would be like picking my favorite child.

Forth: You're speaking on the Designer's Debate Club Panel, where you'll hash out sticky subjects. Can you share a bit more about the topic you'll be debating? In your opinion, what are some of the tough subjects designers face these days?

Jessica: Our panel is debating the idea of "do what you love". This is a phrase that artists and designers often hear, that we're supposed to throw caution (and possibly a livelihood) into the wind and follow our passions. But, as we all know, it is extremely challenging to make a living as an artist, and "do what you love" seems to ignore these challenges. I could speak to both sides of this, but I will be "arguing" on the "pro" side of the debate. My approach is that you can do what you love, but you need to have a solid business footing and a clear view of the marketplace in which you are operating. I don't know the questions ahead of time--I think we're going to fly by the seat of our pants which should make it a lot more interesting!

weapons of mass creation fest Forth: We love to see forth alum collaborate; in this case with you and Margot both having a presence at the fest. Have you worked with any other Forth gals on projects or fun events like this?

Jessica: I am thrilled to be working with Margot at WMC Fest, and this would not have happened without Forth. Whenever I think about business collaborations, questions, etc., I aways think of Forth first. With my job (as a professor at Columbia College), it is important that I speak at conferences and collaborate with the leaders in my field. So I was thinking about upcoming conferences and saw that Margot was involved with WMC Fest. I also saw that they needed more sponsors. So, I reached out to Margot asking if she needed speakers and if she needed help getting sponsors (because I like to give if I'm gonna get). Long story short, I hooked Margot up with the Columbia College marketing and admissions department, and they are now the lead educational sponsor of the event! So Forth absolutely brought us together, which is the coolest thing. The best part is that I have never even met Margot in person! So it's going to be a fun time in Cleveland.

weapons of mass creation fest Forth: What one or two things make this weekend experience unique and worthwhile?

Margot: Oh jeez! One or two? I actually have a whole list of things I wrote here. But here's one more, just for you! We've just announced a bunch of workshops to add to the mix! Sign on up, y'all.

WMC Fest is a three day conference that just might change your life. Make the spontaneous decision to go, learn and connect next weekend. Tickets are still available!

weapons of mass creation festPhotos courtesy of WMC Fest