A new home is to be treated with the utmost care. Step in the wrong way, bring in the wrong tchotchkes and a hex might fall upon all who live there.
In many cultures, people are deeply superstitious about the dos and don’ts of breaking in a new home. If you are a new resident, you must tread carefully. And if you are a guest? Well, by all means, enter with your right foot first and bring a curse-free housewarming gift.
If you bring bread and wine, it is said that the homeowners will never go hungry or thirsty. Bring sugar or honey and they will enjoy sweet days. Bring salt and their days will be vivid. Bring a golden spoon and they will enjoy great fortune. Bring a candle for happiness, olive oil for good health, bluebird figurines for good luck and plants – or an odd number of flowers – for healthful living.
Think twice about gifting your home-happy friends with knives or scissors. You might sever your friendship in half. Stay clear of any loud-ticking clocks – they imply that your hosts have limited time left to enjoy their new homes.
Thankfully, Sami Wall has created gorgeous housewarming gift boxes that delight their recipients and steer clear of any new house taboos. Realtors will often buy these carefully crafted boxes for their clients.
“The idea is to have a few initial necessities and goodies. I will often put in coffee, granola, honey, syrup, jam, all locally sourced. I include an all-natural cleaning product. I also include candles and a large smudge stick. The idea behind smudging is to cleanse your space, to bring in positive energy and bring out negative energy.”
Wall’s gift box company name – by Broken Arrow – is itself a symbol for peace. “The breaking of an arrow is a symbol for peace in First Nations culture.”
The boxes are all crafted from a naturally light wood. Each box – be it for general occasions, Mother’s Day, brides, grooms – contains a striking floral arrangement sitting in a little vase. The flowers might be peonies, ranunculi, succulents, roses. “I thought it was unique to Vancouver to have the flowers and the wooden gift box together. I wanted to branch away from the wrapped cellophane look.”
Wall, aka The East Van Gifter, makes all of her boxes at home. It’s a busy home that includes Poppy and Liv – two daughters under 4, one child on the way and Reuben the giant Labradoodle. “The boxes started to take over the house. I have all this product. We just organized some better shelving in our den in the basement. We’re still working on it.”
Poppy likes to help her Mum by putting crinkle paper in the bottom of the boxes. It was the children who actually inspired her to start by Broken Arrow. “I had been working in home staging at flüff and in interior design with Melanie Finkleman. I loved both jobs, but wanted to be able to be at home with my kids.” She quit to do just that.
Wall did indeed enjoy being home with the girls but, after awhile, also wanted to keep her hands in some work. “I started brainstorming work ideas that I could do from home. Something that was beautiful and creative.” She made her first gift box for Elana, a good friend who had just had a baby.
“That was almost a year ago. I got a wooden box at Michaels, bought products that I liked, got some flowers from The Flower Factory on Main and put it all together in a gift box. I posted a picture of it on Facebook and started getting really positive feedback. I started my business for under $500. I thought: ‘well, if it doesn’t grow, it’s not a huge loss. I don’t have overhead.”
After graduating from university, Wall had enrolled in the Display and Design program at Langara College. “I loved that program. We did graphic design, interior design, 3D design for displays, merchandising. We made paper dresses, Christmas trees out of found objects. I’ve never worked so hard, but it was really fun.” It is training that proved enormously helpful when Wall set about designing her boxes.
by Broken Arrow has grown quickly through word of mouth. Those who receive Wall’s gift boxes soon become those who give boxes to other friends and clients. Instagram has also been a tremendous boon for Wall’s business. “Instagram has been amazing for me. I love using hashtags, networking with other makers and taking pictures with my phone. All the ones with the white background, I take in a vintage white bathtub. It’s the only place in my house completely surrounded by white.”
Though Wall sells predominantly off her own website, she does do pop ups in stores like West Elm Market and Le Marché St. George. “West Elm was so great and Le Marché is like a second home. I walk there all the time with the kids and Reuben. It’s a magical neighbourhood gem.”
Off and online, Wall’s mama and baby gift box is one of her most popular offerings. “I try to throw in products for Mum and baby. For Mum, there might be sitz bath, nipple cream, candles, bath salts – things that will help her body feel good and relaxed. I’ll always throw in treats for new Mums too: maybe caramel popcorn, caramels. When I was nursing, my go-to snack was peanut butter and jelly on toast, so I might throw in some East Van jam. I will include a stuffie, a hat for the baby, teething oil, a little book. I’m always mixing it up. The boxes evolve depending on the local products I find and what I’m excited about.”
Hunting down local products has become one of Wall’s favourite parts of running her business. “All these makers are amazing people. I will only carry their products if I think they are great people. It’s an incredible support network.”
Wall is looking forward to seeing where her business takes her next. “I’ll play it by ear and see how it goes. At this point, I’ve been able to do it all myself, but if it gets too busy, I’ll hire one person.” No matter what, it’s important to Wall that by Broken Arrow boxes continue to be curated with care. “I put so much into each one. I love doing it.”
Written by Elizabeth Newton
Gift box photos courtesy of by Broken Arrow