A Rum Fellow
Dylan O’Shea admits with a laugh his company’s name, A Rum Fellow, will most definitely send some people scurrying to the dictionary. A rum fellow, he says, is something compelling attractive because of its qualities of oddness and its ability to spark curiosity. Spark curiosity and deepen respect for the artisans who do the work is exactly what Dylan and his partner Caroline Lindsell hope each piece in their textile and rug collection does. They say their partnership with GoodWeave® helps support their mission. “We joined GoodWeave because it raises the industry standard and awareness across the board and I think that’s really important.”
Hardcore travelers, Dylan and Caroline are constantly searching the globe for traditional motifs and techniques from the artisans they meet on their journeys. The couple’s goal is to fuse traditional craft and design with a contemporary aesthetic vision that will startle and intrigue customers. The starting point and inspiration for Rum Fellow designs, the couple says, is found in traditional cultures, many of which they have visited, such as the Quechua weavers of the Sacred Valley of Peru and Mayan weavers from Guatemala.
Importantly, Dylan stresses that they are not only about bringing interpretations of historic designs to contemporary audiences. They are committed to supporting existing weaving coops and social enterprises as well as helping the weavers create their own entrepreneurial organizations.
“We want all the workers who have a hand in the process to have the same rights we have in our society from maternity rights to fair wages.”
The pair launched their London-based studio in 2013 a few years after they met and discovered that each dreamed of starting a business focusing on ethical trade and creative design. Their backgrounds were perfect for the project. Dylan worked in international development and Caroline in the fashion industry. That meeting led to a marriage of fashion industry sensibility and social justice. As Dylan puts it, “ We both wanted to do something with more soul in it.”
The veteran travelers visited such places as Peru, Bolivia and Brazil exploring small villages and meeting local craftspeople. But it was perhaps meeting Quechua weavers in the Peru that launched their fascination with Indigenous craft. In Peru they also discovered the striking embroidery of the Shipibo people and in Guatemala the superb arts of the Hikira and Kaya.
They bought and sold wall hangings, pillows, throws and sometimes rugs, but their attraction to rugs increased as they noticed that rugs seemed to have a particular subtle power. “A rug can change the mood, the tone and even the character of the room,” Dylan explains.
He points to one rug in their collection, a family favorite, Coyolate, a striking and richly colorful geometric piece inspired by the Guatemalan tribe of the same name. “This rug fills the room with joy.” Other favorites that take inspiration from Indigenous weaving techniques and designs are the hand knotted Pumori Rug inspired by a visit to the Himalayan mountains and the flatweave Hikira with its palette of aqua, greens and gray crosshatching.
The couple has not stopped searching out the dynamic, complex patterns and bright colors of traditional weavers worldwide. As Caroline says, they are intent on “fusing old craft traditions with a fresh perspective. ”And, of course, bringing a new perspective to their customers and the industry on the importance of working ethically. As Dylan explains, “GoodWeave helps us do that because it is starting to change a culture for this generation and future generations.”