Field Trip to Schreiner's

Written by Darla Saarela


Posted on May 26 2023

Emily, Krysta and I share a lifelong love for flowers and gardens. In celebration of the annual iris Bloom Season, we recently took some of our favorite Bolga market baskets to Schreiner's Iris Gardens, a little slice of heaven just an hour north of our warehouse in Eugene, Oregon.

We set off for Schreiner's early, hoping to catch the loveliest morning light before the admiring crowds began filtering into the garden. As mothers with seven children between us, committing to anything at the off-to-school hour (flower garden field trips excluded) can be a challenge. With 20 acres of flowers at peak bloom as incentive, we cleared our morning schedules like pros. With the support of Jesse, who's been an expert basket-shaper for more than 22 years, we departed with a beautiful collection of baskets.

We were warmly greeted by Liz (Schreiner) Schmidt and her two sweet golden retrievers. Through the past century, the Schreiner family has fully embraced their grandfather's love for irises, creating a thriving wholesale and retail operation known for producing award-winning iris hybrids. We feel fortunate that the family chose the lush Willamette Valley as the perfect location for their iris gardens, far from Minnesota's gripping winters and abbreviated growing season.

Liz and I chewed the fat a bit about basket weaving. Having taken a basketweaving course, she noted that she had been surprised to find that wetting a stiff fiber could make it so flexible. She's absolutely correct:  basket weavers in Ghana always work with a small bowl or bucket of water at hand, wetting strands efficiently as they work their way around the circumference. 

All that perfection is promptly smashed, as weavers export their straw baskets flattened so more can fit into a sea container. Bringing elephant grass baskets back to their fully shaped glory with just a little water is truly satisfying. Granted, I don't do it every day like our fulfillment team, so I might get a lecture from Jesse for that comment.

Bringing Bolga baskets and our new striped sisal totes to the iris garden just felt like the right thing to do. Do baskets hang out together on colorful benches? Of course not. Marketing images are often a little absurd, but our artist hearts bloom when we playfully juxtapose colors and patterns. Every assorted Bolga basket affirms that weavers also love to play with color and lean into randomness.

The past month has flown by in a flurry of transition tasks. As we've restructured our team and processes under African Modern, there's been a blinding amount of computer work to be done. We're trying to be intentional about what we each do professionally, and how our time and talents are valued. If we have the opportunity to work hard while enjoying our professional lives, shouldn't we?

Too many of us live through years feeling like our humanity might be invisible. Particularly as mothers, we are expected to be where we're supposed to be, whether it's at home or work or both all at once, and to always be fully present with energy and ideas. We find ourselves growing far more comfortable behind the camera, and terribly self-conscious in its focus. We're rarely asked if we're inspired or if our souls are being fed.

When we find something that brings us great joy, we have to share it. Our goal as a company is to exist simply and honestly as a conduit of beauty and benefit. We are a transition point between disparate but equally beautiful groups of people, all of whom work very hard–whether they work at crafting products or selling them.

We've been a little light on blog posts in the past couple of years, but you can expect to hear more from us soon. We are fortunate to be in the business of bringing people together through beautiful handmade products, so we will have plenty more adventures to recap in the years to come. Thank you for reading about our wonderful day at Schreiner's Iris Gardens. Should you find yourself visiting Oregon in May, be sure to save time for Bloom Season.



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