Sarah's Path To Silk an Interview by Kirsten Rickert @magnesium_blue
Listen to her tell the story while you watch the slides!
With a vibrancy and enthusiasm for life, Sarah is like summer. That moment after warm rain, when the sky takes on a glow, and you suddenly sense, there might be a rainbow. She is a women who spends her days surrounded by and making the full spectrum of color, with hope that families will receive the blessing of rainbow play.
For many of us who are raising children, Sarah's Silks are as familiar an item in the home as a beeswax candle or Stockmar crayons. While one may not have met her in person, we all know her a little, for Sarah is exactly like the silks she makes.
Born in New York City, and raised in Belfast, Maine, Sarah's childhood instilled that imagination play is essential for the well being of children. "I have never seen two children play so much." Her Grandmother would say, as she and her sister anchored their souls in games and make believe. More than a way to fill time, play enhances and preserves life force, and Sarah learnt this from an early age.
As a young adult she became a nurse and lactation consultant, joined the Peace Corp and travelled to Guatemala. Her days in the Peace Corp were spent assisting childbirth and educating indigenous people about sanitation. “My main goal was to teach them to put the machete in the fire, to sterilize it before they cut the umbilical cord.” Sarah explains.
It was in the Peace Corps that she met Mike her life partner and Dwight, her business partner. Together they bought land and started a farm, Frutas De Mondo (fruit of the world) and many years were spent in Guatemala absorbing the rich prism of hand loomed weaves and tropical fruits.
While in Guatemala, Mike and Sarah started their family. With a baby on the way they decided to move to California. The birth of son Josh greatly defined the role she is in today. As a creative mother she wanted to celebrate Josh’s spirit which involved wearing costumes and putting on performances. With a friend and neighbor Ann Platz, Sarah dyed her first silks in the kitchen sink. These silks were embraced by the local Waldorf community and before long, Sarah was combining the roles of motherhood, working as a doula and dying silks. “What do you call them?” Sarah McDonald of Magic Cabin asked, and Mike came up with the name, playsilks.
Silk is imbued with folklore and stories, the spirit of silk is rich, made so by those that have been a part of the history. From the Chinese empress Leizu who guarded the secret of the silk worms, to the men, women and children, that travelled the silk road, one has a sense, of dedication, value, and importance from the fiber. It can be felt that it was this elemental integrity that drew Sarah to it herself.
A fiber that is strong, fine and lustrous, silk will last when taken care of, but as a natural fiber, it will return effortlessly to the earth. It could be said, that silk can be preserved or decompose for the health of the planet. If one were to know Sarah in person, you would feel the parallel nature between her and the material she has dedicated the most part of her life to. Beyond the virtues of silk, Sarah's penchant for play, make believe and for nurturing creativity has made Sarah’s Silks a meaningful thread in the fabric of many lives.
Thank you for being a part, of the Sarah’s Silks Community.
Our latest photo shoot at Summerfield Waldorf school where our children have grown up. Mike and Sarah seated with employees.
We are a small family business in Forestville, CA. Working out of our home, with love for children, creative play and the Waldorf philosophy.
Sarah Lee, creator of Sarah’s Silks, smiles while reflecting on her oldest son’s early childhood days. “Mom, I am a turtle today. I NEED some green to wear.” “I need some wings to fly today – blue ones!” Or, “Logan is doing a play with me. She is the princess and I am the knight. We need some pink, purple and red colors.”
“First I reached for an old silk scarf. My son loved the smooth, silky feel. (Finally something he didn’t declare itchy!). Soon I found myself dying squares of silks to support his play.”
“I discovered silks serve as wonderful props for almost any make-believe game. I began to think about my fellow Waldorf families searching for natural toys to enhance open ended play, and the idea evolved for a line of silk play items.”
Twenty-two years later, Sarah’s Silks are found in homes across the world.
Silk is a natural fiber and renewable resource. Sarah’s Silks dyes are non-toxic, non-hazardous, environmentally friendly, with no heavy metals.
The silks are easily hand-washed.
Green America recognizes Sarah’s Silks as a “Green America Approved Business” for efforts to create sustainable toys.
Silk is an ancient product of China. Sarah’s Silks are woven, dyed, and hand-hemmed in a small village near Suzhou, a beautiful city long renowned for its silk culture. Sarah and Mike Lee enjoy this rich connection to exotic China and their family’s ancestral heritage.
Sarah’s Silks hires Chinese seamstresses who work in their homes, often sitting in doorways, as their children play nearby. Sarah’s Silks offers the seamstresses incentives beyond prevailing wages as well as access to supplemental health insurance as part of their efforts to support the healthy families of their partners across the world.
The hand-hemmed and dyed products travel by ship to Sonoma County, California. Here, women work in their homes to finish sewing, ironing and packaging Sarah’s Silks products.
Sarah and Mike Lee manage Sarah’s Silks from their Sonoma County home, where they continue to raise three boys in the Waldorf tradition. All three of their sons work in the family business by introducing and making string games and scrap bags.
Sarah’s Silks creates simple, open-ended toys that support growing minds. Developing inner creativity at a young age leads to higher levels of creative thinking in adulthood. When children’s inner creative life is nurtured, they grow into more well-rounded, stronger, and creative contributing members of our society, eager to bring their gifts to the world.
Sarah’s Silks offers quality playsilks, toys and dress-ups for boys and girls that ignite the imagination, and capture the magical soul that lives in young children.
Join Sarah’s Silks in creating a “silk and wood childhood” for all of the children of the world with simple, unique and beautiful toys.