It’s not often a truly skilled artisan also has the bravery and entrepreneurial spirit necessary to eschew fear, give up everything else and bring their creations successfully to market. Five years ago, Stephanie Pinerio left a lucrative career in New York’s advertising world and followed her muse east toward a new life as a full-time weaver. Within three years she’d bought her first loom and launched her Southold-based business, Shed Textile Company.
Pinerio now has two large looms and sells her fine wool, linen and cotton pillows, throws, blankets, towels and more directly to discerning clients and interior designers, or through her four exclusive retailers in the Hamptons and North Fork. She welcomes custom projects and produces every item by hand, embracing the nuance and individuality this brings, while also managing to replicate her creations in a diverse range of collections–each as distinct from the others as it is part of a clear, overarching vision.
“When I left New York, I had already decided that I wanted to get out of advertising and I had enrolled myself in a one-year accelerated program, Surface Design it’s called, at FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan,” Pinerio says, explaining where she learned to weave and fell in love with the process. “I had always had it somewhat in the back of my head that this was ultimately what I wanted to be doing,” she adds, admitting that a part of her never expected her dream to become a reality. “You just kind of go along, right? You make your life what it is, so I guess I’m pretty lucky in that way.”
After committing to her new life, Pinerio considered moving to a number of small towns, but she had a special connection to the North Fork. A longtime weekend visitor to the region, Pinerio would stay until the last possible moment before driving home to the city, and on the ride back she’d often wax poetic to friends about how enchanting it would be to live full-time in the agrarian paradise, asking, “Can you imagine getting to wake up every day and live here? Can you imagine if this was your life?”
The fates eventually led her to a job working with wall coverings, drapery and upholstery fabrics in the Hamptons, and Pinerio found a home not too far away in Southold. She did her time working for others until finally setting off on her own to open Shed Textile. “By 2018, I said, ‘OK, this is it. This is the love of my life and my true passion,’ so I launched the business.” Pinerio says, recalling the bold move that set her apart from so many others who allow uncertainty and fear of failure to leave them forever teetering on the edge of a life unlived.
Pinerio is the first to acknowledge that her decision has led to plenty of struggle and sacrifice. “It’s definitely something I love because any part-time work I have had during this whole process, I’m really just taking to support the business,” she says. “All that money always gets thrown straight back into building the business, developing the business…in the end, I get to do what I want so it’s worth it, but it’s a sacrifice for sure. A financial one–a big one.”
Owning and operating Shed Textile requires much more from Pinerio than making the products she sells. “You suddenly have to wear many, many different hats and manage all the facets of your business, which can have a huge range,” she says. “I find myself jumping around and shifting gears a lot. One day I’m wearing my marketing hat, the next day my creative, and the next day I’m an accountant.”
In the end, however, everything orbits her devotion to weaving. Whether she’s researching fabrics, patterns and designs or attending fiber fairs to discover new yarns and develop relationships with sources–which are entirely from the United States–it all comes back to setting up her loom’s warping board, adjusting her lift and making something beautiful.
“I have the two looms, so I still do everything by hand,” Pinerio says, noting that she’s looked at ways to scale up or have a mill make her fabric, but she understands the value of keeping things made fully by her hand–at least until she’s no longer able to manage the workload. “There is a quality to the handmade that you’re never going to get once you start farming it out. You just have those subtle nuances,” she explains, pointing out that minor imperfections can be appealing. It evokes the act of weaving and reveals the artisan’s hand behind the object.
“It’s a tactile thing, and the actual creation process that’s happening before your eyes. You’re starting with a single fiber, thread, and you’re walking away with a piece of cloth,” Pinerio says of her magical work. “That, to me, was always astonishing…I can’t wait to get it off the loom. I’m impelled to do it.”
Learn more at shedtextile.com.