Grace and I recently made the decision to stop making items for the Howling shop in-house. Instead, we now find and stock goods from small businesses and makers, and we’ve been so inspired and in awe of what these companies are doing.
Stepping away from making goods ourselves was one of the easiest and hardest decisions we’ve had to make. Having met while studying sculpture, we always envisioned art-making as the foundation of whatever shop we ran together. We conceived the idea of Howling back in 2017, while we were in school and looking to extend and expand our creative practices as much as possible. As time has gone on, however, the mission of The Howling Fern has evolved quite a bit. Grace and I realized we were far more interested in sustainability and making a positive impact than we were in funneling our sculpture practices into a storefront.
Many contributing factors led to the shift away from making things: new day jobs, graduate school, moves, and space constraints, just to name a few. But above all else, we’ve just developed a deeper understanding of what sustainability means and how we can maximize our positive impact with Howling. So, we started researching, listening to experts, and learning as much as we could.
We learned more about a circular economy, inaccessibility and inequality in environmentalism, zero waste strategies, carbon emissions and offsets, habitat destruction, pollution, and energy consumption. We read and studied the importance of designing systems and methods of making and sharing goods that could go on indefinitely without hurting the planet - or better yet, restoring the planet. We explored sustainability as a balancing act with a set of ever-evolving and often conflicting factors.
And - to state the obvious - hand-making products is complicated, especially when it comes to sourcing and monetizing things. From finding and sourcing responsibly-extracted raw materials to minimizing waste throughout the design process, it’s a fundamentally different mindset and creative practice than what we were used to. We quickly realized that making goods in-house meant that we had to choose one thing or one kind of thing to make and stock, and that really isn’t what Howling is about.
See, we want The Howling Fern to bring people closer to nature; to inspire joy; to be kinder to the planet; to contribute to worthwhile, selfless causes; and we want it to be something that represents what made Grace and I best friends and business partners in the first place - creativity, environmentalism, rescue dogs, lots of time outside, and a couple of well-made drinks.
By stocking other vendors in our shop, we’re maximizing our impact as much as we possibly can. First and foremost, we’ve found makers, artists, and entrepreneurs who are experts at what they do. They live and breathe their products - and it shows. Many of them contribute portions of their sales and profits to charities. All of them continuously work towards being more sustainable and eco-friendly. By supporting them, we’re able to further their mission and create a cycle of positivity. We then expand this cycle of giving as we donate a portion of our profits to animal welfare organizations, environmental charities, and nonprofits tackling some vital social inequities (hello, Pawsitive Change Program - I love you).
Without the pressure of making things ourselves, Grace and I have been able to be much more thoughtful in how we approach our business. We’ve been able to channel our energy into finding plastic-free packaging and sourcing goods that minimize waste and contribute to a circular economy. We’ve built carbon offsets more deeply into our operations and considered how every facet of The Howling Fern works towards or against minimizing our environmental footprint.
More than anything, though, this version of Howling allows us to offer people visiting our shop a curated, purposeful set of goods that show what a sustainable, joyful, and healthy life is all about.