Walking in to the newly-minted Sheltered Co. Blanket Factory is like stepping into a warm embrace, which was certainly the vibe at the company’s #HugsLikeAMother brunch last month. As one of the lucky attendees of Sheltered Co.’s first-ever event, myself and 30+ elated (read: mostly kid-free) mamas gathered in the industrial Boyle Heights space to mingle and awe and paw and be pampered on a Thursday morning in the week leading up to Mother’s Day.
Entering the colorfully appointed factory, the eye is immediately drawn to the countless cozy vignettes sprinkled throughout the wide open room. Think rattan daybeds strewn with pastel colored weighted blankets and oversized pillows, sky-reaching fiddle fig trees and high pile sherbert colored rugs, with soft filtered natural light streaming through industrial-sized windows and huge woven rattan pendant lights shining a path down the center of the domed workspace. The concrete walls that aren’t lined with color-coordinated stacks of juicy looking packages of weighted blankets are adorned with woven wall hangings crafted from the same signature deadstock jersey fabric, and it is clear from first glance that this is a place where big things are happening, and obviously from a place of love.
If the theme of the day wasn’t “it takes a village,” it easily could have been, a sentiment that was bolstered by the other mama-owned businesses sponsoring the morning’s festivities — treats from Kitchen Mouse, portraits by Jamie Arrigo of Arrigo Creative, grazing by MoodBoardLA and tea by Deer Women — all female-owned businesses who, like Sheltered Co., have been held up and sustained by women supporting women. The occasion had a rising-tide-lifts-all-ships sentiment — that with each other’s support we can achieve anything — and it was so lovely.
With a slew of upcoming events on the horizon, the Sheltered Co. team is certainly up for the task, each one of them warm, welcoming, eager to teach a new skill (in this case, tassel making), help with baby wrangling for the under 12 months set, and show off their lovingly crafted handmade wares, never without a proud million watt smile. The all-female team plied us with bottomless mimosas while we noshed and cuddled under the company’s then-yet-to-be-released latest collection of weighted blankets — a veritable rainbow of dusty peaches, millennial pinks, and softs greys — and convinced each other to pose for pictures, both of the selfie and portrait variety.
For those of us who had purchased our weight in raffle tickets in the hopes of winning one of Sheltered Co.’s now famous “hugs,” perhaps the high point of the morning was the raffle drawing. When the time came, Sheltered Co.’s formidable founder Pamela stood atop a high work table to draw winning tickets for the very generous three (which quickly became four) weighted blankets being gifted that morning. Happy tears were shed by many, and, full disclosure, I won a beautiful charcoal grey “hug.” Yes, everything they say is true — these beautiful weighted blankets are so deeply soothing that they promote stillness, something that is difficult to come by these days.
Galvanized by the spirit of the occasion, Sheltered Co. asked the women whose portraits were captured that day to share an example of an instance when they were inspired by a woman in their lives to do something out of their comfort zone, and how that shift had changed their lives for the better. Check out their stories below.
It’s funny you ask that question, because now in my professional life I am surrounded by women and on a daily basis experience their birthing stories and women acting way out of their comfort zones, and I’m constantly inspired by women. But that first woman who inspired me to change my career path and move into a role of supporting other women, at a time they need it most, that would be my sister, who despite not getting the support she needed, persisted none the less.
Let me backtrack a bit. In my early 30s I thought I had it all together. I was living in Manhattan, selling real estate and living a great life. An unexpected move home changed everything. My sister had recently had a baby and was struggling with feeding her. Her life became consumed with attempting to breastfeed this tiny human. I didn’t really get it in the moment, as I didn’t have kids of my own yet, but what I saw made me think there had to be a better way.
I had always assumed that breastfeeding was an easy, natural process, so was surprised when (my sister) experienced feeding issues and low milk supply. I saw the struggle she went through to make it work and the guilt she felt when it didn’t. When a lactation consultant she saw referred to formula as the ‘F’ word, I knew that more compassionate support around new mothers was needed.
At the time I didn’t really know everything that being a Lactation Consultant entailed, but I did some research and with my family’s support, I set out to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, after years of schooling and training, I eventually founded MilkmadeLA an organization dedicated to sharing important infant feeding resources while providing a supporting and non-judgmental environment for families to be able to feed their babies in a way that worked for them.
I spend most of my days surrounded by all types of families: new or expecting. Each one is different with backgrounds and different goals. These are the people that keep me moving on a daily basis. Their stories inspire me to keep going.
The amount of parents that have entered my life since this career change, about a decade ago, probably number in the 1000’s. I learn something new from each new family I meet. I love meeting people where they’re at, judgement free, and supporting them through their feeding journey, whatever that may be, formula or breastmilk.
I try to be that support for new families, the way my sister needed someone all those years ago.
- Jennifer Lezak
My friend Carolyn showed me how to work through disagreements and show up in a real way through the discomfort. We don’t get into many arguments but when we do, we both show up and know that we will love each other through the parts that we may not like. This has made me more open hearted and accepting of mine and other’s flaws. I learned to not abandon myself through not being abandoned.
- Sam Streets
I met a woman that got up in front of a class I was taking and told us the story of how she went to Bali and fell in love with it. She decided to start a clothing business, taking traditional sarongs and sewing them into skirts and selling them in the States. She had absolutely no experience running a clothing line.
Fast forward 15 years, she is no longer with us but she is the one who made it possible for me to have a business in Bali. I am forever grateful to her and feel her spirit with every step I take with BEL KAZAN!
- Belinda Kazanci
When my son was born, I was a single mom from the start. It was such a massive life change. With no family or coparent to help, life became unrecognizable. I was a working actor before I got pregnant and once my baby arrived, the people I worked with all disappeared from my work life. I was lost and didn't know what to do.
A mom friend of mine encouraged me to get into real estate. She was so supportive, and introduced me to some incredible people who I now work with today. Because of her kindness and guidance I am mentored by and partnered with an agent who is not only in the top 3% of realtors nationwide, but he defines his business in service to others, strong negotiation, and laughter.
My days are joyfully, skillfully, and empathetically spent helping others navigate one of the biggest life choices they can make. It's such an honor to do this work. This new career is not only bringing my son and I stability, it is redefining who I am as a person for the better. I am so grateful.
- Amy Ferguson
There are so many inspiring women in my life it's so hard to choose one. I feel like most recently, a dear friend Belinda Kazanci, has really been my advocate for creating art from my heart and not to attempt to conform to a certain style. She has shown me with her own business and creation that it takes making bold moves, and being extremely clear with what you want to make something truly grow and blossom.
I have been so fearful about truly showing the world all the weird wacky images I see in my head and having a best friend that has your back and really encourages your voice makes the jump less scary. Support your friends and their voice. It makes a huge difference.
- Cameron Jordan
There was a time when I always used a breastfeeding cover-up. Halfway through nursing my 2nd son, I stopped. I stopped stressing myself out over making sure I had packed the coverup and stressing over getting it over my neck and over him before I could relieve his hunger. It took so much away from the natural and enjoyable ritual of just feeding him.
He no longer had to be hot steamsauna'd inside a cover over his head, we could look at each other and I stopped worrying about some stranger getting a glimpse of my side nipple. Who cares if they did. I went back to the basics of just feeding him, focused completely on the act at hand and my purpose as his mama bear. It took watching countless of other mama warriors do this at a #dropthecover rally for me to break the habit.
- Claire Broussard
I used to be inspired by the women who made it look so easy, so effortless. She has a cool job or side hustle. Fun date nights with her partner. Gram-worthy bento boxes for the kids. And she IS inspiring and wonderful, but she also makes me feel really sad. Because that's not my experience, and it made me feel like something is wrong with me.
Now, I'm inspired by the women who are vulnerable enough to say, "This is freaking hard. This is insane. I don't know if I can do it alone. I need help." Hey guys, I need help! ❤
- Tina Kapousis
My best friend Miranda had moved to LA a year ahead of me and when I was considering making the move, was so excited and encouraging and immediately looked for places for us to move. She had been surviving as an actress here and inspired me to follow my heart to a city where I knew exactly two people including her. We moved into an apartment that eventually was beset by the plague (termites, flooding, bug infestations) but we weathered the biblical storms of our brand new life and career together.
- Kira Cook
I used to hold onto a lot, I guess you could say it was out of my comfort zone to let go and forgive. It wasn’t one instance, but years of watching my mom forgive and move on, that inspired me to do the same.
We hurt ourselves so much by dragging around pain and resentment. Seeing how easy it was for her to let go, and witnessing the weight it removes from a person, finally made me realize I needed to follow her lead. It’s not always easy for me, and of course there are some things I still struggle to forgive. But overall it has created so much more lightness in my life.
- Chandra Fox
Written by Hanah Snavely
Images by Jamie Arrigo