Text by Holly Seng
Business savvy and a passion for textiles have always gone hand in hand for Daria Knowles, founder of Hot Skwash, an Oregon-based company known for its high-end handmade tabletop accents. As a figure skater in high school, she used her artistic abilities to knit mittens and sweaters to sell to other skaters and their mothers. Years later, as a stay-at-home mother, Daria continued to make use of her profitable creative outlet.
In 2007, inspiration for a new project hit while she was shopping one afternoon and happened upon a gingham cloth pumpkin featuring a natural stem. Sourcing stems from local grocery stores, Daria set out to create her own design with fall’s favorite fruit as her muse. Incorporating specialty fabrics, hand-beaded accessories, and crystal embellishments, these couture creations elevate any vignette or tabletop. “Once I started playing around with it, I started having little home shows, and my friends loved them,” Daria says.
It didn’t take long for local stores to start selling her autumnal accents. Richard Bloom, owner of R Bloom’s of Lake Oswego, recognized the product’s potential and brought a selection to AmericasMart Atlanta, where business took off. “He came home with $12,000 in orders, and I literally had to start asking my friends to come and help me,” Daria recalls.
Truly a cottage industry, the early years were spent in Daria’s home with 13 ladies stitching and shipping the handcrafted pieces. The team has since expanded to 19, relocating their operations in 2012 to a warehouse and picking up retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.
In addition to the classic pumpkin designs, which are available in a variety of color palettes, Daria fuels her creativity with her Limited Editions and One of a Kinds lines. “I’m always looking for really interesting and fun things I can incorporate into the specialty pieces,” Daria says.
As artful accents made with high-quality materials, Hot Skwash’s offerings are timeless treasures to enjoy for many seasons to come. “We wanted [the design] to be unusual and special with a distinctive, beautiful stem so that it can be something that kids see their moms love, and it eventually passes down to them,” says Daria.
For more information, visit hotskwash.com.