When we moved to Provo, Utah about 6 years ago now (what?!?! VERY difficult to believe I’ve lived here longer than any other place in my adult life), a new shop had opened, Harmony. It’s a quilt, knitting, and adorable gift shop on Center Street in an old Pioneer home. It’s owned by Laura Harmon and her daughter Rachel, and run by their various family members. It’s very much the definition of a family-run business. For a culture known for its generations of crafty, scrappy, hard-working women, Harmony both elevates and has become an important community for makers. I find myself visiting for no reason at all, just because I like the idea that I could make something from their lovely array of fabrics. Many a Lars projects have come from this one of a kind shop.
Becoming: Laura Harmon
What did you want to be when you were young versus when it was time to decide what to actually do?
I wanted to be a mother of a big family early on. I had a friend from a large family in 2nd-3rd grade and it seemed like it was the most unimaginable fun. Later I thought I’d become an English teacher.
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person etc.
I consider myself to be a maker with lots of interest in design and color. Learning the skills of making things opens many doors to creativity.
How did your childhood influence what you have become?
My childhood, of course, is everything. My mother sewed most of our clothes and taught me to sew and knit. She would stay up late to finish Easter dresses and other special things having deadlines. I remember waking up to find a new dress hanging on my closet door several times, the sweetest feeling ever. My only sister is just 13 months older than I am, and she is a true artist. She designed most of our clothes and my mother would make them for us! I remember so many of these: matching back-to-school denim skirts and hooded jackets with red polka dot flannel lining and red top-stitching, we bought red boots to match. My sister designed a dress belted with plastic fruits sewn to the ends of bright colors of bias tape: cherries, pears, etc. I remember going to the fabric store and holding up fabrics to see which looked best on us. That’s how we tried on clothes! I’m not really comfortable getting clothes any other way to this day.
Did you feel pressured in any way to pursue a certain career path?
I married unexpectedly young, so wasn’t pressured to follow a career path.
How did you get started in your field doing what you do?
I had years to practice sewing and knitting while raising 8 children, it helped keep me sane and feeling like I’d accomplished something tangible.
What did you study? Did you go to school specifically for what you do?
I studied English and French in college and squeaked out with a BA when our first child was 15 months old. My goal would have been teaching English, as my own English teacher in High School was the best teacher I’ve ever had.
What’s your workspace like?
I’ve turned a bedroom into a sewing room and it’s a currently a disaster area! But it’s a luxury to have a space to close the door on.
You opened up a craft shop in Provo, Utah. What made you decide to do this? What’s been the reaction to it?
We opened Harmony in September 2012 with minimal forethought, looking back. We had always played “fabric store” at our house since I had so much fabric on hand, although before the internet it was impossible to access the beautiful fabrics and yarns I knew existed somewhere. My daughter and partner Rachel had a successful online shop called “Darlybird” since 2006 and had briefly thought of going into a brick and mortar business with it, choosing the pioneer home we’re now located in, as a dream location. I came home from a short humanitarian stint in Uganda with my husband on May 22, 2012, and told Rachel, “let’s do it together!” The pioneer home was still available, and the rest is history. We got it together so fast that I wonder how it happened! Our inventory has grown and improved with time and experience. One influence for me was observing the market women in Africa who, in spite of needing to sell things in order to live, were enjoying being and laughing together. I felt a longing for a community as an empty-nester and Harmony has given that to me. The friends we’ve made have been the best part of it all!
What are some of the challenges of having a brick and mortar shop?
Expenses are challenging for brick and mortar shops: rent, utilities, insurance, taxes, licenses, on and on. Competition from online sellers is very real.
Did you always have an ultimate plan?
What’s a typical day like for you?
I have grandchildren and other friends working for me and just work at the shop two days a week, so my typical days are spent being online choosing fabric and yarn, housekeeping and often cooking for family gatherings. I wish I allowed myself more time to read. I have no desire for shopping since we opened Harmony! I love to spend time making things to display.
What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?
3-year-old Rachel came downstairs with her blankie one morning and said, beaming, “I waked up happy!” We were so charmed that it became her trademark, and she would say it almost every day. That’s my advice for all of us, to wake up happy if we possibly can.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in a creative field?
What’s coming up for you in 2019? And your company?
2019 holds excitement for my husband and me. In April we leave for a one-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’re going to France and will serve anywhere we’re needed in the Northern half of the country. Harmony will be in the loving, talented hands of Rachel and our team! There will be lots of wonderful change and just as much of what people already enjoy.
I live in Provo, Utah, and that fact influences so much about Harmony: we have family all around us. So we all collaborate and help each other, and work there. Provo has a long legacy of makers and strong pioneer women.
What does your dream retirement look like?
I’m living my dream retirement now. Actually, it came early when my husband developed neck disc problems which prevented him from doing surgery, so I was 55 when he retired. I felt way too young for that phase, but luckily we were asked to go on a few missions for our church that took us to Madagascar and Ghana for a total of 5 years. It was a highlight of our lives, and it turned my book-learned French into speech. Best of all: the people!
What artists/designers/creatives do you look up to? Both historical or present
Knitting: Kaffe Fassett, Missoni, Debbie Bliss, Julie Hoover, Dianna Walla, Kristin Drysdale, @knit_cafe_midori, Caitlin Hunter.
Fabric: Josef Frank, Kaffe Fassett, so many I can’t think of now.
What do you do when someone copies your work?
In my work, copying is flattery and not plagiarism, but it would be if I was designing things for sale.
How has social media influenced your work?
Social media has made our work possible.
Who is your work intended for? Example: you, your readers, someone who you hope is watching…
My imagined audience: anyone looking for ideas they can launch from to brighten their lives, feel creatively satisfied, and happify their families.
What’s inspiring you lately?
I crave inspiration and confess that I get some of it from social media. I’m inspired by independent sewing and knitting pattern designers and fabric designers I see there, but also the Vogue Pattern Book, a lifelong source. My sister Leah Tippetts Smith continues to inspire me with her ever more elaborate sewing, embroidery, and art, as do all our customers’ creations.
Are you where you want to be in your life? Anything more/additional you’d like to “become”?
I’m where I want to be, but wish to do it all more wisely and thoughtfully. Being a mother to my particular children has been satisfying and exciting beyond my wildest dreams.
Thanks for your thoughts about “becoming”, Laura! We’re so pleased to have you. Stay tuned for our next interview tomorrow!
Where You can Find Laura: