Well-Crafted: A Family Heirloom Homestead in Rural Oregon

A pair of artists and entrepreneurs lives a handcrafted life on a family heirloom homestead in rural Oregon.

| May/June 2014

From their rural family heirloom home outside Albany, Oregon, artists, entrepreneurs and homesteaders Jason and Cara Hibbs run the successful organic housewares and gift company Oh, Little Rabbit. Living in Cara’s childhood home, complete with several acres of land, a chicken flock, a minidonkey, a horse, two alpaca/llama mixes, bountiful gardens, fruit trees and more, Cara and Jason take inspiration from their homestead and the natural beauty around them for the original designs—which include canning jars, flying pigs,  lanterns, turtles, pinecones, squirrels, trees, herbs, carrots and Sasquatch, among many others—they create for their handprinted housewares.

Baby Bunny

About three years ago, Jason and Cara were living in Albany managing a storage facility. “It was the most boring job you could have,” Jason says. “We sat in an office all day, but no one came in regularly so it was really slow.” Cara had recently quit fine art school for illustration (because she couldn’t afford it), but she wanted to experiment with different art techniques, so she and Jason started making block prints. After printing on anything they could get their hands on—bags, journals, whatever—they decided to make a set of tea towels, “I think because we needed some towels,” Jason says.

They made a few extra, and a friend had told Cara about the online craft marketplace Etsy, so the couple thought, “Why not,” set up an online store and posted some towels. “We posted it on a Friday after work and went to dinner,” Jason says. “When we came back we had sold one. We felt a mix of excitement and a little fear, like ‘What do we do now?’ We’d never done anything like this before, so we were running around thinking about how we were going to ship it. We kept going and everything we posted would sell as quick as we got it posted.”

The two were printing using carved rubber blocks. They liked the effect but not the amount of time it took to create each print—about an hour and a half for each towel they sold for $12. They knew they needed to come up with a more time-efficient way to make their product, so they started experimenting with screen printing, starting with an inexpensive hobbyist kit they bought at a craft store. At the time, the two were living in the 400-square-foot apartment above the storage facility where they worked. As their business continued to expand, “We cleaned out the coat closet and we made this screen printing cart that we could roll in and out of it,” Jason says. “So the business literally started out of a coat closet in our old apartment.”

Jason had been in a competitive nursing program, and missing entry into one phase of the program meant he had three months off from classes. During that time, the business continued to pick up steam. The two realized it was time for both of them to consider jumping in full-time if they really wanted to make a go of it.

“I had been thinking this would be my job and Jason was just helping me,” Cara says. “But during that period I realized it was growing faster than I could keep up with and that I couldn’t do it by myself. So we took that leap and dedicated all of our time to the business.”

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