Kaly Ryan & Bram Sawatzky, owners of Willow & Stump in Vancouver
Kaly Ryan and Bram Sawatzky started Willow & Stump to design furniture for small spaces. And when the pandemic closed their workshop, it opened their outlook. They embraced the stillness, mined this surreal gift of time, and fostered deeper connections with their creativity as well as their collaborators.
“Above all else, we are doing our best to grant ourselves grace every day. In our business and in our personal lives, we are taking it one step at a time.” – Bram Sawatzky, co-owner of Willow & Stump.
Kaly Ryan and Bram Sawatzky have always been inspired to design within the constraints of small spaces. It’s what led them to open Willow & Stump, a studio with a focus on using supplies from their local community to create modern, innovative furniture. But when the pandemic hit, their business came to a very sudden halt. Ryan was stranded in Peru on her honeymoon, and their shared woodshop in East Vancouver became inaccessible.
“Since the scramble in March, Kaly was able to return home, and we have slowly resumed some semblance of our previous business. We work on design and business planning from home and spend limited amounts of time in our shared workshop.” Spring is normally a busy time for their studio as they’re building installations for summertime events, but that work was cancelled.
Sawatzky says, “We’ve been able to do more creative work because we have the freedom from our usual scheduling restraints. Although we are all apart, we’ve been able to spend more time focused on connecting with other designers in our community, our clients, and of course our friends and family.” Some businesses adapted quickly when the pandemic hit, but that doesn’t have to be the standard. If you don’t have it together, you’re definitely not alone. Ryan and Sawatzky took some time for themselves. It gave them a breather and helped reset the business.
Society may equate business with busyness, but the pandemic slowed much of life down. Embrace the stillness and really plan your next steps. It’s an exercise that can produce greater results ahead. Sawatzky hopes others carefully consider what changes to make moving forward. “Instead of focusing on getting back to how things were, we are working on a plan to move forward and to figure out how to bring products to the market that help us live in better ways. We recognize that not everyone has the privilege to take the time and step back like we have done. We want our clients to know that we are using this privilege to join them in imagining a future that is more compassionate, focused on community, and healthier for everyone.”
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