First off, can you please introduce yourself and the other two members of your sweet family?
Hello! My name is Lissa and I live in the San Juan islands off the coast of Washington State with my partner Alex and our 2 year old son Owynn Grey. Alex and I both grew up in these islands and meet in high school. After a few years away we moved back to the islands and eventually were lucky enough to purchase some raw land which we will be paying off for the next 20 years but I think I can say it was the best move ever. So much work but so amazing. We currently both work on the island and run our own businesses. Alex works on roofs usually installing metal roofing. I design and handcraft waxed canvas and leather bags which I sell online. Owynn is outside a lot, always exploring the woods around our home and has a huge obsessions with anything containing wheels. In the summer we hang on the beach or work in the garden and in the winter we dream about summer and take lots of walks outside to beat the winter blues.
Can you tell us a little bit about where you live and how you came to settle there? I read something on one of your photo captions about the cabin being inherited and you trying to embrace the “imperfections” – what was it about this house that told you it was where you needed to be? What are the imperfections that stood out most?
Lopez island is 15 miles long and has a year round population of 2,500 people. The only way to access Lopez is by boat. Growing up here was amazing but moving back as a young adult is when I really fell in love with these islands. Our land is on the complete opposite side of the island I grew up on and has much different landscape too. We have wide open pastures and lots of open sky above. I think that is why I first fell in love with this spot was because of the wide open feeling and amazing southern exposure. The property just felt like home the moment we first walked on it.
Our cabin was built in the 1920’s in a small fishing town on the mainland. It was used originally by fishermen and was settled next to a river. At some point the cabin was moved to our island and eventually it was in threat of being torn down but my dad saved it he had no use for it so he offered it to us as we were in the process of buying our land and he knew we would need a house to live in. We did not really think about it and just said “yes” and within a couple of months the cabin was hitched up again onto a trailer and moved down the road again. We brought it down to the south end of the island to our land. We stuffed it into a thicket of rose bushes and its been a never ending project since. It took Alex about a year of working on it before we could move in. He mostly worked on it during the weekends so it took us a bit of time but we essentially gutted the whole thing. New electrical wiring needed to be done, new insulation and we swapped out all the doors and windows for newer recycled ones we found during that year. We built a glass bath house off the south side to use as a shower, laundry and green house space. This past summer Alex added on a small bedroom to the north side so now Alex and I have our own bedroom and it even has a door!
We still have a bunch of projects ahead for it like new siding, indoor bathroom, expanding the kitchen area but its a sweet little space and feel lucky to call it our home. I love its history and love that it ended up here on our land. So many old buildings are just torn down and it makes me sad. I could never get rid of this cabin as it has treated us so well these past 5 years. I think it has finally found its home!
What is it you love most about where you live?
I love that our cabin get lots of sun exposure when the sun is shining (sometimes rare in the Northwest). We postponed it to be south facing and so when the sun is out our cabin is begin warmed but it.
Is there anything you would want to change?
Yes so many things… because we were given this cabin we never got the chance to design our dream space. I know it would have taken so much time and money and not really in the cards for us to take on a project like that but as our family is growing we need more space and not sure our cabin can be built on anymore. I would love to be able to have a large long table where I can sprawl out on. Have an art project and let it be while we eat dinner on the other end. For now we have a small eating nook which is a cute space but room for a large table would be amazing!
How about home work space? Do you have a room or spot carved out and devoted to your shop makings?
I am actually lucky enough to have a whole studio space to myself which Alex built about 3 years ago in matter of 9 months right after we found out I was pregnant. I did spend many years working in our living space and it was always a challenge so everyday I am grateful to have a separate work space where I can close the doors each night and leave my work behind.
Your kitchen shots on Instagram are my favorite. It looks like such a warm and inviting space to wake up to. What did you guys do as far as renovations there? And what part of your kitchen is your favorite?
Thanks! The kitchen space takes up most of the house. You enter and you are right in the kitchen. We have a large wood stove which we cook on most of the year and then a old ceramic farmhouse sink we collected years back which might be my favorite item. We left in the original window above the sink because it fit the space so well but primarily everything else was swapped out. We put new flooring in, built a concrete counter, and added a kitchen island to the space. Our breakfast nook is where we eat all meals which Alex built. It can fit comfortably 4 people around it but more then that is gets pretty tight. It is a small space but I love that our kitchen and living room area are open and connected. As we all know so much time is spent in the kitchen so you might as well be able to have company hanging out while cooking and cleaning.
Morning routines – what’s yours like?
I am a night owl so mornings are hard for me. I used to go for a walk with our dog every morning but since Owynn was born our mornings are so different and always seem so rushed. I shower every morning. It is the only was I can truly wake up and feel refreshed. Alex makes a fire in the wood stove to warm the place up. Eggs are usually always on the breakfast menu and then before I know it its 10 am and Owynn’s babysitter (usually a grandma or one of my best pals) has arrived to pick him up while I work for a few hours. I would love to wake earlier so I could watch the sun rise and have a few hours to myself before everyone else awakes but it just never happens. One day I hope!
Do you cook regularly? If so, what would you say are your mainstay dishes these days?
Yes we cook all the time. During the winter months we have one lunch restaurant open and one dinner spot and thats it. So not many options for getting take out or going out. Luckily we have a good group of friends who love to cook so sharing a meal once a week with one of them is important and always inspiring because good food is important to us all. I honestly dread dinner more then anything these days. Alex and I both have the hardest time coming up with dinner ideas each night at 5:00. Ususally corn tortillas are always involved. Rice, fresh veggies wrapped in a corn quesadeilla seems to happen a lot as well as big batches of pasta with local beef and red sauce and grated cheese, quiches happen a lot as well because we have chickens and thats always a good use of the eggs and of course on those off nights breakfast for dinner cures all!
How about home decor goes, do you have any shops in specific that you tend to stick to for linens, furniture and things?
When I lived in a city I would thrift most of my household items. But now that I moved back to the island I depend more on the internet and I miss the thrifting so much. I purchase handmade when I can. There are now so many amazing makers making beautiful items for the home. I recently bought a blanket from Gypsya which has a great selection of colorful throws and pillow cases. I love mismatched mugs and tableware so I tend to find these types of items at random. But I recently bought a mug from Mazama and really love it. I love all Fog and Linen items. I treated myself to a new duvet cover after Owynn was born from School House Electric and really love the boldness of it as I usually purchase more natural tones its nice to have some color around too! We primarily build all our own furniture, its all fairly simple but does the job.
Working from home (with children anyway) isn’t nearly as easy as I imagined it to be, would you agree? How do you manage to keep on top of the demands your shop calls for with a cute toddler in tow?
I can barely answer emails when mine are home. I can’t imagine trying to make things on the regular. Yes it is nearly impossible to work with Owynn around. I totally imagined a perfect little scene of me sewing and Owynn sitting near by happily entertiang himself but when he arrived I was in for a quick shock. I slowly began working again when Owynn turned 6 months with just a couple hours here and there. It has gotten easier in some ways as he has become much more independent this year. I can watch him while he is playing outside and he is pretty content by the outside world but usually I just have to save my work for when he is away with a grandmother or one of my girlfriends. I work about 4-5 days a week and Owynn is with a family member or one of my girlfriends during that time. But that is not nearly the time I need so some nights after Alex gets home from work I will go out to the studio to work. Also late at night I respond to emails and order supplies. I often feel like my life is a juggling act which I am sure most moms feel like and I am not sure I will ever figure out the balance of work and mama hood but I try and not stress and slow down because I always try and remind myself he will not be young forever.
What is the best thing about your son at the age he is now?
He is a little lover, he loves to get all snuggly and read books for hours in his bed. I know he will change before I know it and he will no longer want books read out loud. I try and cherish these moments of him beside me and me reading. Also he is so curious so it is really fun exploring the world with him, hearing all his funny questions and seeing how life works through his eyes. It makes you slow down for sure!
I’m always interested in the origins of names: how did you come up with his?
Honestly I have no real story. I blame it on my birth hormones. We waited about 4 days after Owynn was born to name him but then I was so antsy to start calling him something besides “baby” that we had to pick. I have always loved the name Owen and thought it was such a handsome name so we went with that and I decided to re-spell it Owynn which is a Welsh spelling but I have not connection to Welsh people I just thought it was a pretty way to spell it and more unique. His middle name is Grey and I wanted his first name to be Grey but Alex wouldn’t take it because his childhood cat was named Grey and it felt too weird so we settled on Owynn Grey but it defiently took me about a year to not doubt his name but now I know it is perfect for him.
I’ll ask this because I’m always curious to hear what new mother have to say: What about motherhood would you say has been most “surprising” to you so far?
ahhh hard question.. so many things. I was the first to have a little one in my immediate group of friends so I was totally unprepared for what motherhood was like but I would say I was most shocked at my longing desire for alone time. I didn’t realize how important time alone was for me before becoming a mom. I missed alone time so much and I still do but I also have gotten more used to having my little guy around all the time but still a few moments alone is sacred time. Thank you nap time!
What would you say has been the hardest?
The nights! I think the first year I slept no more then 3 hours in a row and basically could not follow along in a conversation that whole year. I was exhausted and it was pretty challenging at times. Naps were key and like my midwife told me nap when the baby does and I think that was super important for my survival.
Your bags are all so beautifully made. How long have you been making them and when did you decide to make it your full time gig?
I have been making bags since 2009 and it started on a fluke really. I had never sewed before but was given an old sewing machine from my friends dad. I was in need of a new backpack for carrying groceries when I lived in the city. So I made a simple drawstring backpack and I totally fell in love with the process. Slowly it started becoming a passion and by 2011 I quit my day job and was making bags full time. I was selling them online and also at our local farmers market in the summers but online really took off and been making bags ever since.
Looking back, how would you describe yourself as at 17?
I moved out when I was 17. My friend and I moved into a barn apartment together our senior year. I loved it, I was so ready to be on my own, making our own meals and just living life. I got my partying in when I was 15 and 16 so by 17 I would say I was pretty responsible, motivated and ready to get off the island. I ended up traveling instead of going to college right away and I think that gap year was the best choice I could of ever made!
What was your first car?
Subaru Legacy Wagon 1990, such a good ride!
What is one thing that would have made you happy knowing back then, about the way your life feels right now?
I wish I could tell myself “It all works out” and “don’t take life so seriously.” I feel like I lived life up pretty well back then but also I remember getting so stressed with school and it really bummed me out.
Guilty pleasures – what’s one (or a few) of yours?
Cereal, leather boots, wool sweaters and lattes from a good coffee shop
What is the worst job you ever had?
Waitressing – it killed my back
– AND the best gift you last received?
A ceramic dutch oven gifted from my mom this christmas.
Follow along Lissa and her lovely brood HERE