Harper Poe’s Charleston home is filled with colour. Textiles drape over furniture, hang behind doors and are stacked neatly upon studio shelves. At one end, her living area can be found. It is beautifully and purposely furnished with travel trinkets vignetting the corners and walls streaming with bright, natural light. At the other end lies her studio. Bursting with bright fabrics and mesmerizing mismatched pieces from around the world, it is the central workplace of her ethically sourced, international textile company, Proud Mary.
Currently, Harper’s talent as a textile designer extends across the globe, as she collaborates with indigenous artisans from the developing world to produce a range of textiles using traditional and cultural techniques. Her Proud Mary line boasts the most sumptuous goodies including handmade natural raffia shoes made in Morocco, Shibori dyed indigo bogolan blankets, hand-woven mochila bags from Colombia and mud cloth printed pillows that use traditional techniques from Mail, West Africa.
As Harper shows me around her home and studio, she behaves the way I picture her to be in a bustling Moroccan market. She swiftly pulls out pieces of fabric, lays them on the floor, feels their embroidered patterns and speaks of their heritage and then folds them away with gusto and ease. Each piece that Harper presents displays a sense of pride and mindfulness that runs true and consistent with the Proud Mary ethos. It is clear that her heart lays passionate towards indigenous culture and craft and that her interest in sustainable and fair trade practices is driven wholly by the people and cultures that she meets on her travels.
There are some creatives who do what they do because they are good at it and it makes them happy. There are other creatives who do what they do because they find a way to extend their talent and happiness towards others and a greater good. As she roams the world, works with global artisans and assists with designs for her Proud Mary line, Harper works hard to fuel awareness and bridge cultural gaps, staying true to pride, not pity and, I can only imagine, spreading colour as she goes.
What projects are you currently working on?
I'm working on a bedding project that I'm really excited about! The pieces will be hand block printed and sewn in India.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
Travel, exploring new cultures, and traditional crafts/costume.
Textiles are great story tellers. They share the history and significance of cultures in a way we our culture can understand because it's a tangible, beautiful thing and we love "things". There is tremendous opportunity to create economic impact through textiles as many of the world's most marginalized peoples create and produce textiles.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, would you be so kind to share some of your favourite artists?
Yes! Amadou and Mariam, Vieux Farka Toure, Maña, Fela Kuti, Toots & The Maytals... when I really need to get in the zone with work I prefer music where I don't understand the words and can just get into the music.
Do you have a morning ritual?
Coffee, shower, more coffee, and then dive into emails and NPR.
What's your idea of a perfect Friday night?
Evening bike ride, wine on the porch, dinner with friends, followed by more wine on a porch.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Oh man, I think about this daily. Right now I'm dreaming of a surf/textiles trip to Indonesia.
Best piece of advice you've ever given or been given?
My mentor in the artisan/handcraft industry told me when we first started working together in Africa, "Treat your artisan partners as business partners, it must be a business to business relationship for it to work". Pride over pity and no handouts...that's our motto.
What's for dinner?
I am an awful cook so dinner is usually on someone else. I do like to make breakfast; smoothies and avocado toast.
The best part about being a creative?
Freedom to explore
The worst part?
Too much freedom
Day or night? Used to be night, now it's day
Old or new? 50/50
City or Country? City
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
What do you enjoy most about living in Charleston, SC?
Biking, sunshine, beach, and all the yummy food.
Thoughts for the future:
Continue to nurture and grow Proud Mary. Establish stronger and more impactful relationships with our artisan partners. Keeping a healthy balance between personal life and work. Rent a place out of the country for 3 months a year...places I'm considering; Spain, Morocco, and Mexico.