Interview with Raithe Handiman
Interview with local business owner and organic bedding pioneer Raithe Handiman of Blessed Earth
Holistic Bliss Magazine: Tell me a bit about the Blessed Earth story.
Raithe: We started 6 years ago in Melbourne when my partner couldn’t buy organic cotton underwear. We had the crazy idea to try and make it and sell it by mail order. Had we known how difficult it would be we would probably never have started.
First of all, we had to find scarce organic fabric on the world market and then find someone who could make it for us. We were lucky to find a machinist who had been retrenched from a large corporation when it moved its production to China, so we started in a shed. I had to learn pattern-making and cutting the hard way.
It was very slow at first, as the need to have organic cotton near your skin wasn’t in the public consciousness. We were forced to expand into retailing organic cotton clothing, then bed-linen through our website.
It was soon obvious though that if we were to pay the bills we needed to open a retail shop. That was even tougher for a while as there was so little stock to choose from, so we had to keep making things to sell – including organic cotton mattresses… That story would fill a book!!!
Cotton is a bit hard on its own, so we moved into the manufacturing of wool innerspring mattresses. As the factory had no knowledge of this product I had to go in, pick out a couple of helpers and make them from scratch.
As time went on, we realised metal springs created a magnetic field and a lot of our clients are not just chemically but also electrically sensitive, so we began making futons. They became popular and to this day we can’t keep up with the orders.
We provide a whole certified organic bedding service from mattress through toppers, quilts and pillows to the bed linen; all certified organic.
Holistic Bliss: What effects do chemicals in conventional bedding have on people’s health?
Raithe: It’s a cumulative process. When you’re asleep, our bodily heat causes whatever chemicals are in the bedding to become volatile. We then absorb traces of them through our lungs and skin into the blood stream.
A really healthy person might not feel it in the short term but a lot of these chemicals, like Formaldehyde, are designed to persist. The more we absorb over time, the more likely we are to exhibit symptoms of allergies or degenerative diseases like cancers. Bedding is most important because we are at our most vulnerable when we are asleep- especially infants. Dr Stott from New Zealand has found in his research that chemicals found in mattresses are the sole contributor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
What the body really loves is natural, chemical-free fibres and anyone can prove that with a muscle test.
Holistic Bliss: How important is heart and soul in your work and in life?
Raithe: I just do what I do. I don’t have any idea that I’m doing anything special. I’ve done a lot of things; been an organic farmer and had a macrobiotic restaurant, so I’ve always been on an alternative and holistic journey but there’s no point being judgmental about those who don’t relate to that journey. Heart and soul is everything but it’s more just about getting on with what I naturally enjoy doing. It’s extremely rewarding work.
We’ve been over to India and Egypt and observed the organic growers’ sustainable practices first-hand. We love how they are treated so fairly by the cotton processors.
There’s a consumer-driven revolution taking place in the cotton industry and it’s wonderful being a part of it.
Holistic Bliss: What can people expect from Blessed Earth over the next few years?
Raithe: More exciting bed-linen. We’ll be offering more stylish and affordable colours and prints in organic cotton bed-linen. Organic needs to be fashionable as well as being good for us and the planet.