LORI FELTIS WAS DESTINED TO BE A RUG WEAVER. HER FAMILY STEMS FROM A LONG LINE OF RUG MAKERS ORIGINATING IN PRAGUE, Czech Republic, INCLUDING HER GREAT-GRANDFATHER WHO RAISED HIS ENTIRE FAMILY ON HIS RUG MAKING ALONE.
She grew up watching her grandmother make rugs, and now Lori owns her grandmother’s loom as well as her great-grandfather’s loom. Lori is the chosen one in her family to carry on the rug making tradition.
“I am proud of my heritage, proud of my rugs and proud to be a farmer,” she says.
PERSONAL MEMORY RUGS
Besides her rug making business, Lori is the owner-operator of Feltis Farms in Stewartville. She grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa, oats and wheat—not to mention she has French Charolais cattle, chickens, peacocks, ducks, pheasants and geese. She also runs a CSA that provides eggs, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, asparagus, tomatoes, rhubarb and nine different herbs for her customers. “We are a working farm, not just a hobby farm,” Lori says. “Martha Stewart doesn’t live here.”
However, when it comes to rug-making, the work is more intuitive. Lori, now with 11 rug looms, explains that the ideas for the rugs, the colors and fabrics, just come to her. She uses old aprons, blue jeans and flour sacks to complete her rug designs. “There is so much history in these rugs, even before they are put on the floor,” Lori says. “Every rug has a story.”
She is also working on creating memory rugs for her clients. These are rugs in which she uses old clothing, tablecloths, coats, quilts and blankets—almost any kind of fabric and material from previous generations. This makes her memory rugs personal and rich in family history.
Christine Dahle, owner of Identity Design Graphics & Printing also believes in the power of personal touch. She designs business cards, banners, signs and logos and provides printing, as well.
Christine started her design business 13 years ago out of her home. A year later, she was able to secure her first storefront, and then she moved to a larger location. She enjoys working in Stewartville because of the support she receives, and she feels that it is easier to know and care about her customers in a smaller community.
“I really put my heart and soul into this business,” Christine explains. “These days people can go online and buy just about anything, but we have a personal touch that people cannot get online. I know almost everyone by name who walks through my door.”
At Rustic Bloom, Lesa Welp shares her love for primitive antiques and her desire to preserve the traditions of the past through personalized floral design and arrangements. Lesa offers how-to classes for brides, so that they can personalize and design their wedding bouquets and centerpieces, making each wedding a one-of-a-kind experience. For funerals, she also connects with families so that their casket sprays and floral arrangements reflect the individual.
“When we worked with the floral arrangement for a farmer, we incorporated John Deere items, mixing the antiques with the florals. It’s about that personal touch,” Lesa says.
Lesa is passionate about preserving primitive antiques, which date back to the early 1800s. “Vintage items have quality. The items from back in that time were so well made,” she says.
Rustic Bloom focuses on preserving heritage and tradition while allowing for the celebration of individual style. “I love it when someone lets me create. The rapport I gain with the family and establishing that relationship by making it personal —that’s important to me.”
Editor’s Note: Stewartville is a growing community located about 12 miles south of Rochester. There are more women-owned businesses in Stewartville than mentioned above. Typically twice a year, in the spring and fall, Jean Cuthbertson Dwire hosts shopping events at the Stewartville Civic Center where homemade and professionally made goods are sold. You can find a listing of businesses in Stewartville on the Chamber of Commerce (stewartvillechamber.com) to plan your tour.
Kim Zabel is a writer and photographer. She also works with cancer survivors as a Livestrong instructor at the Rochester Area Family Y.