Sunday Visit: Arounna Khounnoraj and the Origins of @Bookhou

Every Sunday, Botanical Colors sits down for an interview with a luminary in the natural dye, textile and art world. Grab a cup of tea and settle in to learning about someone you never knew! Catch up on all our Sunday Visits here.

This week we sit down with Arounna to learn about how she got started with her husband and how she grew her amazing community to what it is today.

Can you tell us your origin story? How did Bookhou begin?

I finished art school with a background in sculpture and ceramics and I started doing some teaching at the Art Gallery of Ontario where I met my future husband, John Booth.  Soon after we met, I got accepted to an arts residency that focused on textiles where I learned to print, weave and dye.  John and I wanted to spend more time in the studio so we decided to start a business to showcase the different things we were interested in making, this was in 2002.  We settled on the name Bookhou because it was a simple name that was a combination of our last names.

Has craft always played a roll in your life?

Yes, growing up my parents both made things mostly out of necessity.  We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and if I need new clothes my mother would make them.  It instilled in me that having the ability to make things with my hands can be a very powerful feeling.

We are so excited to host you here in Seattle! Can you tell our audience a little bit about your love for working with clay resist patterns? How did you find the medium? What drew you to it?

Yes ,I too am excited to come and teach in Seattle, it will be my first time visiting.  Printing on fabric has been the focus of my work ever since I began working with textiles.  I started with silk-screening and branching out from there to include many different techniques.  In some ways clay resist has similar properties to Katazome, a technique that I have always wanted to explore,  and is very accessible as you can easily apply the clay with a brush giving the final look a painterly quality, which work well with my designs.

Is there something that inspires you outside of your process? 

I am a big lover of nature and I find a lot of my inspiration from all the different shapes and patterns.

You have built such an incredible community on social media, how has that played a role in your business?

I started blogging in 2005 just before my son was born and when I was at home caring for him and working in my studio, I felt a bit isolated and wanted to connect with others and talk about what I was making and the different things I was doing with my baby.  As I was sharing experiments and items that I was making for craft shows, I started to get interest from people outside of where I lived to buy the items and so I started an online shop.  It was very makeshift and I did the coding myself and it was long before platforms like Etsy or Shopfiy.  It just seemed natural for me to create a journal to connect with like-minded people and the business kind of just grew organically from that point. From the very beginning social media allowed me to share the stories of my life as a maker, and the business, selling and teaching, and social media have always been completely interconnected.

What gets you inspired and primed to work in your craft?

I honestly just feel grateful that I get to work in a field where I get to make all day long, and that people want to share in that experience and buy the things I make.  I think about my parents coming to a country where they didn’t know the language and worked long hours in factory jobs building a life for their family.  I just feel so privileged to live this life and get to create things that people enjoy across the globe.

Come to Seattle to Learn from Arounna