Welcome to My First Year as a Creator, a series where we ask creators how they got started, and how they have gone full-time doing what they love the most.
Rashelle Campbell’s pandemic baby is growing up fast. Conceived during the sudden lockdown, the 30-year-old Nehiyaw (Cree) multidisciplinary artist, textile worker and designer’s eponymous brand was born from a need for a creative outlet. “During self-isolation, I have become many things,” Campbell wrote on Instagram in May 2020. “A chef, a magician, a knitter, a dance machine, and most importantly, a rug maker.”
“Flubber” — Campbell’s signature series that’s somewhat inspired by the 1997 Disney film — started out with groovy, hand-tufted asymmetrical floor pieces, and has since developed into small-batch jewelry and clothing designs, homeware accessories, and collaborations with likeminded independent artisans and retailers like SSENSE and Superette.
“I was looking for rugs but couldn’t find [one] I wanted, [so I] was like, ‘I’m just going to make my own,'” the designer says, recalling her brand’s origin story. “It’s always been in my blood to work with my hands,” Campbell shares. “Whatever I wanted to have, I would just do it myself. So I bought a tufting bed, had a lot of fun making my first rug, and I posted it online.” From there, her web store rashelle.ca was launched and her name spread online.
An early harbinger of ’90s and early-aughts nostalgia, the brand took off, with Campbell tufting more than 250 rugs in 2021. “I felt like I was given a purpose to make people feel less alone during a lonely time,” she says, adding that she hopes to inspire happiness and comfort through beautifying others’ spaces. “People were really noticing [my brand]. It was brand new, playful, and joyful.”
Campbell notes that she built her audience “continuously” by saying yes to different opportunities, marketing the positive, handmade aspect of her brand, as well as calling attention to the power of supporting local and Indigenous artists.
“The online world is a wildfire, [but] once you have a little bit of momentum, people will recognize that,” she says. “The first year was the biggest for me since that was when artists were being supported the most due to the pandemic. And a lot of truths were coming out [about] bigger brands and their toxic environments.”
While only taking commission work at first, Campbell soon shifted her focus to creating a collection in September 2021. The designer describes the launch as “a major milestone.” “I released 10 pieces and it sold out within a day,” she recalls. “And then my first retailer contacted me wanting to carry a collection of my rugs.”
Balancing an organic cycle of filling orders for global stockists and collaborating with other artists on small collections, Campbell loves creating pieces that are one of a kind. “It’s almost like going to a vintage market and finding something that you can’t find anywhere else. That’s what these collections are all about.”
Having worked with a roster of talent that includes @itchy.glass, Nehiyaw Iskwew (Cree woman) designer @zoeanncardinalcire, @punchjewelryandoddities, and @makirugs, Campbell reveals that more collaborations are underway.
But Campbell has even bigger news to announce: Homey, a new brand that she describes as a “mysterious” homeware collection, will be launching very soon. “It’s going to be more upscale. The rugs will be way bigger, and the materials are going to be more plush and expensive. Really, really high quality,” she teases. “And I haven’t told anyone this yet, but [there’s] gonna be a full seasonal clothing collection.”
After growing a business and launching multiple partnerships throughout the pandemic under her own name, it was important for Campbell to create Homey as something “separate from her identity.”
“That takes the pressure off me as I try to stay true to myself,” she says. “It was my name. It was a brand, but I’m also a human and a creator. … I was being pulled in many directions. … It’s been hard, you know, being the face of everything. So I needed to take that space.”
While Homey will allow Campbell to move behind the scenes, it will certainly remain infused with her now-signature nostalgia-meets-pop-culture style and slow movement principles.
During our interview, Campbell emphasizes that “you are only successful when you are around people that you are able to uplift as well.” She elaborates, “I need to support my ancestors and the youth, because when I was a kid, I didn’t see myself [represented] at all. I didn’t see anyone who was Indigenous and successful. That’s something I want to make sure the youth are [seeing]. I want them to know they can be successful. This world is changing slowly, but they are supported.”
Her second rule of business is that every brand needs a donation plan to give back to its community. “No matter how big or small you are, you need to have [one] no matter what,” she says. “You’re taking space, people are supporting you and things go on a life cycle. If you are receiving support, you need to give that support back.”
While Campbell admits it’s been a wild ride and that she’s still figuring out her 30s, future collections and the year ahead, she’s ultimately grateful that a pandemic allowed her to find her purpose.
To aspiring creators, the designer advises to “just be consistent and if you have an idea, go with it.” Don’t overthink. (“Overthinking is a killer.”) Ignore doubtful thoughts. Put yourself out there, always create and be comfortable sharing your work with others.
“Don’t take your creative process so seriously,” Campbell says. “It sounds so corny, but you just have to be true to yourself. The world is such a sensitive place right now, so you got to create things that make you feel like home.”