As I was designing my bathroom remodel I was certain about the layout, the fixtures and even the lighting was not much of a thought for me. As you may remember in my Color Therapy post I was having a hard time with color. Which is strange for me since color is the one thing I have always felt was my strength. I would even go as far as to say one of my natural talents was understanding color. What I realized in the end was that was the EXACT reason I was having such a hard time with making the choices. I just couldn't get it wrong. So as with most things in my life, once I got out of my own way I finally decided on a main color, French Gray, which lead into knowing the mural theme color which was a collection of blues I fell in love with while trying to find the wall color. I thought the combination was soft and timeless and I was so happy. But then I had a thought...what about a wild card color. I wanted to throw something in the mix that didn't seem like it would go but it did. At first I thought maybe I would by striped Turkish Towels to hang that would give it the eclectic vibe I wanted. Or....maybe.....now enters Becca.
As I usually do at least a dozen times a day, I DM'd Becca about yet about another design decision.
Becca is an OG IG friend of mine. We met with her purchasing a print, me apologizing for the December delay and then we had the misunderstanding of sending to her friend in Illinois who would collect packages for her and then due to her husbands traveling abroad would give them to Becca. Her friend had recently moved and I sent to the previous address. After figuring out what to do and getting sidetracked in conversation I realized I was dealing with a witty, charming and down right hilarious person. That sparked a beautiful DM friendship that continues and has nothing to do with the fact that she's collected so many pieces she affectionally called this photo her "Mel Stalker" wall . We eventually secured our friendship by meeting in real life in Amsterdam where she was living at the time.
So I told Becca about my idea and she said " why not put that idea in a rug" What? No, I have never even contemplated that. My own design....for a rug?!? Hold me back!!!!
She then asked for my inspiration and I sent her this.
This photo had all the charm, whimsy and character that I have ever dreamt of. Becca then started designing off what I sent and what I wanted and I then immediately took measurements. Moments later this appeared in my inbox.
I could not believe it!! I was screaming with excitement. This was exactly the piece that I wanted and was missing. I had not even seen the rug and felt so spoiled. I already had the brass faucets she arranged through a local brass artisan in Marrakesh that were handmade and felt they were such a special addition to the bathroom. I wanted this space that was only for my husband I to be a reflection of our life and story. When we visited Morocco in 2019 (which was the same trip we made the stop off to see Becca and her husband Michael) we had the most magical time together and it changed how we viewed travel, people, culture and each other. So this was the most fitting piece that I could ever have dreamt of.
She immediately made me a color card with the actual wool threads that would be used in its dyed color and sent it off for me to choose that would work in my space. And as we found out was significant to the no natural lighting in my bathroom. The color I thought I was certain about was not the right shade. I went with Sundried Tomato.
I want you to meet my friend Becca. She started this business with a passion and has turned June and Blue into a thriving company that is sustaining a community, families and dreams.
Lets start off first with where is the name June and Blue from?
June was my nana’s name, and bluebirds were her favourite bird. I’m obsessed with her forever, so it seemed like the natural choice to pay homage to her with the name. My story with Morocco had a bit of a bumpy start. The first of the three years we lived there, my nana was struggling with her health and eventually passed away. I was traveling back and forth from Illinois to Casablanca, and in many ways started to resent Morocco as the place I was leaving her to go to. I guess I somehow connect my time in Morocco to her, now that I think about it. (Blue also doubles as a nod to my two little boys, but now I’m rambling.)
How did you get into rug? Morocco?
My husband and I lived in Morocco for 3 years, and while there I just fell in love with all things artisanal. I was still a hairstylist at the time and never thought I would leave that, but after we transferred to Amsterdam and had two little boys, I decided to stay home for a few years. I wasn’t planning on starting a business, but got a wild hair one day and dreamt it all up. A month later I was on a plane back to Morocco buying my first collection. I still look back on it and can’t really pinpoint how it all happened. I’ve learned so much and am so grateful for what it’s turning into. I can’t imagine doing anything else now.
Early 2021 you launched your own line that you designed and collaborated with Interior Designer Abbie Naber, The Checkmate Collection, that has become wildly successful.
Can you walk us through the process of how you go about this with a client or anyone wanting to have one of these fabulous woven rugs? This was seriously so much fun. I’ve known Abbie since the beginning of my IG days, and was so excited to work with her on this. All the rugs in the Checkmate Collection are fully designed, just waiting for you to choose a size and tassel style. And the great thing is, they are all made to order. So, if there’s something else you want to customize, or want to explore different versions…we can! In the end, your bathroom rug is completely different from the Checkmate Collection, but I love that it inspired the process! (me too 😢)
How many women weavers are employed by June and Blue currently?
We are currently close to 50, and always growing.
Giving women economic empowerment benefits not just themselves but their households, their communities and ultimately their countries.
What does it mean to you as a woman owned business to employ so many women?
I can’t really put exact words to it. It is a collaborative effort between the weavers and I, and above all I just feel so lucky to be working with them. To know that it’s all pouring back into their communities, and contributing to the sustainment of this traditional craft really motivates me and keeps me dreaming bigger.
I know you have said before that these relationships you have built out of trust over the years have lead to not just business relationship but one of family. Can you tell us about a particular story that has changed you and tell us a little about their story?
I love this question because it really is what stands out to me when I think about the past four and a half years. I have gained so many friends for life, and feel so lucky to have linked up with such rad people. My closest business contact who is essentially my right arm at this point, has welcomed me not only into his family, but also his culture. When I visit their rural Atlas Mountain town, it honestly feels like coming home. It’s all my favourite things : laughing, eating, playing with their kids, and looking at rugs until I have a layer of wool particles lining my entire being. All while I’m being given a deep dive on Amazigh rug making history and details about traditions that I could never read about in a book. (Read: Their patience is put to the test as I ask questions until everyone runs out of brain cells. Usually me first) There have been so many times that I have been moved to the point of fighting back tears while listening to stories about this culture I have come to admire so much. Like, HOW? HOW DID I END UP HERE? Why do they trust me with these stories? I know that if tomorrow I close my business, I will always carry this with me. Being invited into a culture so different than my Illinois upbringing, has changed my fundamental world view. The moment I realized that you can have nothing in common with someone, while having EVERYTHING in common with them, I became much more open minded and curious about all people and their own experience on this giant rock we are all floating around on. It’s kinda mind blowing when I think about it, and I credit my Moroccan family for so much of who I am and what I value.
As a woman owned small business entering 2022 what are the goals or plans for June and Blue for this upcoming year?
The bespoke part of my business saw huge growth in 2021. In 2022, I’ve set huge goals for continued growth, while opening space back up to highlight my first love of vintage. That part of my business took a backseat last year, but it’s time to pour back into that as well.
About the women you employ, is there one or some in particular you think of?
Well I must give a huge shout out to the atelier manager, Kalthoum (and her husband!). They juggle all the daily happenings at the atelier, which is a lot. All of our weavers are freelance. They work closely as a team, but largely choose their own hours and a few even work on small looms from home. Kalthoum always knows what’s going on, who’s got which rugs going, which are up next, which colors we need to order from the dyers…the list goes on. I do not speak Arabic or Tamazight, and Kalthoum does not speak French, so I communicate through my manager of operations, who by the way, does a ton too. I should mention, June + Blue is proud to work with men as well! It’s true that women are the backbone of all things rug weaving, but it truly takes a village! Our dyers, washing team, photographers, shipping runners (a 2 hour trek one way), and the operational manager who links all these aspects together…are all men! It’s a snowball effect, and every order passes through several hands before being sent off.
"A thorough wash is essential to our rug making process. Our finishing team collects each rug from the weaving atelier and carefully washes and combs them several times. Repeating the process not only cleans the wool, but removes excess bulk and any weak fibers. Only the best wool remains, giving June +Blue rugs an incredible shine and weight that I believe sets them apart. My goal is that you would be able to pick our rugs from a "touch test" lineup." Becca
Thank you Becca for your friendship, vision and community and final piece to my bathroom.....from Morocco with love.💋
Check out June + Blue website or Instagram @june.and.blue