We are Aaron Reaume and Rachel Dhawan, the makers behind Blisscraft & Brazen, a home object line made entirely from recycled materials (primarily wood and metal). We live and work at Silverwood, our one acre home in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec.
Making things seems to be inextricably linked to who we are. Growing up, we were both deeply compelled to create, whether it was drawing, painting, woodworking, sculpting, or any number of other artistic pursuits. The importance of art attained greater urgency for Rachel when she was diagnosed with a chronic illness as a teenager; an event that clearly directed her to a life devoted to creating. This journey led us both to study fine arts at university, where we met in ceramics study lab and immediately hit it off.
While Aaron quickly mastered working with clay (I totally floundered!), we began feverishly sharing ideas. We quickly realized we had greatly aligned views on life and art. Never quite satisfied with the path of a gallery artist or by the thought of playing by other people’s rules, we pursued a livelihood of craftsmanship without question. There is something deeply grounding in using our hands to make functional items, and we’ve never looked back.
We have each been running our own businesses for years, making sterling silver jewelery for Brazen Design and custom wood furniture. When we bought Silverwood, we were inspired by our surroundings so we started Blisscraft & Brazen for fun. Now have another full-time creative job on our hands!
We go to great lengths to locate, secure and repurpose the materials we use to create our products. The lion’s share of what we make literally comes from what would otherwise be considered waste. It runs the gamut from broken furniture, construction waste, manufacturing scraps, and forest deadfall. We once took apart a broken piano that was being thrown out, and discovered it contained four types of wood! That piano became many bath caddies, yoga blocks and chopsticks.
Our process starts by scraping the wood clean and checking for any signs of rot or treatment. We never use pressure-treated wood like the kind that is commonly used to build patios, as it has been injected with chemicals. We then plane it down until we get a nice level surface. After cutting the pieces to size and drilling any holes, we sand our pieces to 120 grit. If there is decorative wood burning to be done, we do it at this stage. Next comes finishing – and we are serious about our wood finish! We hand rub our salad servers with beeswax, and finish all other items with a natural hard-wax oil that is both zero-VOC and food safe. We use Osmo brand – it’s certified for wooden children’s toys in Europe!
We make our copper herb markers from scraps of electrical wire that electricians discard. I slice away the rubber sleeve and hammer one end flat against a steel jeweler’s block. I then stamp the herb name with steel letter stamps, sand the other end to a point, wash it, and give it a final shine with a jeweler’s cloth.
Creating functional and beautiful objects wouldn’t feel completely satisfying if we didn’t see our objects being incorporated into households around the world. Etsy has made exposing and selling our pieces to a global audience accessible and fun. It makes a major difference to have the Etsy team working to reach broader audiences while providing us with better tools and information for running our small businesses. We are also big champions of handmade, and it gives us a lot of joy to be able to purchase from other Etsy sellers and to turn our friends on to Etsy in the process!
After years of running a creative business, we are far more disciplined and organized than we were when we started. Maintaining a balance between the hands-on production time in our studios with the more sedentary computer and paperwork side of the business is challenging. Thankfully, we have found enjoyable ways to streamline the marketing and communication. The boundaries between life and work can get fuzzy when you work and live in the same place, but that’s also the beauty of living in such inspiring surroundings. We often work through the weekends, but a quick break to go down to the lake, explore the forest or spend time in our garden is all that is needed to restore ourselves.
We are really interested in helping educate people about the history, processes, and evolutions of the objects they purchase. We’re also keenly intent on improving our own methods, learning new skills, and enhancing our understanding about the machines we rely on. We are passionate about sharing these lessons in our blog so that others can learn along with us. This simple act of making has brought us deeper connection to ourselves, our surroundings, and our community.
All photographs by Blisscraft and Brazen.