We believe that every perfect beach day or park picnic needs just a few things: margaritas (duh), salty snacks, and a really good, really cozy, really durable blanket. Enter Nipomo, a brand whose handwoven basket bags and (really good!!) blankets have been an essential part of our daily adventures since discovering them a few years ago. Seriously, a woman-owned, California/Mexico-based brand that handcrafts beautiful, colorful, sustainable goods (oh and did we mention the blankets are machine washable?)...yeah, you could say we're a bit obsessed.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Nipomo founder, Liz Clark, recently to learn all about her founding story, where she finds inspiration, and how the blankets are made! Check out the full Q&A below and head over to Instagram to watch our fun Aloha Live with Liz, too (spoiler: there are lots of laughs AND a blanket rolling tutorial)!
Where does the name Nipomo come from?
Nipomo is a town on the central coast of California and was historically a trading post between Northern and Southern California. On a road trip down to San Diego (where I grew up) I was brainstorming names for my small brand and initially just liked the way the word Nipomo sounded and after doing some research felt it had an interesting connection to us because I work with Mom who lives in southern California and I am up in the Bay Area in Northern California.
How did the idea for Nipomo first come about, and how did you actually go from idea to business?
My mom is from Mexico just south of the border from San Diego, a town called Ensenada and I actually lived there until I was 4. So growing up we went down to Mexico to visit family quite a bit. I was always drawn to the amazing variety of colorful crafts down there and one day I bought a few blankets and brought them back to San Francisco with me. I made a simple leather strap for them and thought maybe I could sell these… I signed up for a craft fair that was just starting out called West Coast Craft and ending up selling all of my stock that weekend. After that some stores reached out about ordering wholesale, which I hadn’t even thought about… the craziest one was Free People ! They wanted to place a larger order and I was like alright I guess I’m doing this! After that I knew I wanted to design my own blankets and that’s when I had to find people to work with.
On that note...what was the process like of finding artisans and materials?
Ya so it took some trial and error but we (my mom and I) ended up meeting a family in Tijuana who worked directly with weavers in central Mexico. Initially we were designing colorways for their existing patterns and then eventually we were able to work with them to create our own blanket patterns!
Could you tell us more about how the blankets are made?
Ya! It’s an amazing process - we have visited a few times and it’s eye opening every time. The yarn itself is recycled from clothing production remnants, so they take all of the offcuts from cutting a piece of clothing and they mush that up to make new yarns. The craziest part was the first time we went to the yarn spinning factory I asked a question that I had been wondering about for a while - why does the yarn have a bunch of different colors mixed into it? And the guy showing us around kind of offhandedly said because it’s recycled… and I was like whaaaaat?! For them it was more about actually getting the fibers to make the yarn and that was just how they were making it, not necessarily as a selling point for the blankets.
The weaving is done in studios just off of the weavers homes, with a lot of the family participating. They work on these large wooden floor looms, with all kinds of foot pedals and shuttles and it takes a lot of coordination to actually weave something. The thing that really impressed me is just how self sufficient they are. They raise their own chickens, turkeys, and grow corn and one of the families even has a wood fire oven where they make their own bread!
Where do you find inspiration for your designs and color ways?
I love being outside - hiking, camping, picnicking, going to the beach. I find a lot of inspiration from being outside and the combinations that exist in nature. But also traveling! I love seeing what different colors are used in other places and I feel that being out of my routine of place helps inspire new ideas.
We love when brands go beyond their products to create community, and the launch of Pop-Up Picnic Club really represents that. Tell us more!!
As i mentioned I love being outdoors and picnicking is such an easy way to get people outside! Since I work from home (now we all are haha) I wanted to create a way to connect with the community and I felt that creating a social gathering around something that is very accessible and fun would be a great way to do that. I also wanted to use it to highlight and partner with different local businesses - we’ve partnered with a local tea company Steep Tea with a cute tea truck to come to one, had snack plates catered by a friends local cafe, and have had cute cans of wine for guests from a local winery. Also there are so many amazing parks in our area that I thought it would be a good way to explore and highlight different places to go hang out outside. At each picnic we have a member card and you get a stamp for attending a picnic - once you get to 6 a surprise awaits!!
Be sure to check out our collection of Nipomo blankets in the shop, and happy adventuring!