Sarah de Lean is the founder and owner of An Ode to Women, an online store that embraces the necessity for everyday rituals through a carefully curated selection of art, everyday objects, and wellness products. As two women operating a small business we cherish all that An Ode to Women stands for, and resonate deeply with her vision to create a space for her community to invest in themselves, the Earth, and the founders behind the brands they buy.
Here in the midst of a Melbourne lockdown Sarah kindly answers our questions, sharing her personal insights and accrued wisdom around life, ritual and work.
What is your full name and star sign?
Sarah Kathleen de Lean
Scorpio sun/Aries moon
How do you spend your working days?
I normally balance myself between my two businesses. One being ‘An Ode to Women’ and my other I work in-home with young children. With the current restrictions in Melbourne - I have had the time to focus solely on An Ode which has changed my pace drastically. I normally manage the store after hours and on weekends - so it has been so lovely to have the time to start little side projects for the space - with the ‘At Home Series’ and the journal - as well as plan ahead for new additions and little changes to the offering.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
A routine is essential for me to get moving in the morning! I love a morning snuggle in bed with my partner and our pup Lulu! However I also find if I stay in bed too long, it can throw me off balance emotionally and energetically for the entire day. I have struggled with this a little in lockdown - and has taken almost all of the 6 weeks to find a rhythm that works for me.
In life and in work, where do you draw most of your inspiration?
Nature, people, architecture, art, books, photography & music.
Rituals are something we are drawn to in our daily lives. Do you have something you do everyday for yourself?
Each day can be a little different - but I have a pool of rituals that I dip into for what I need for that particular day, and honestly somedays I find it hard to take care of myself. But I always know I feel better when I do!
My mornings normally start with my Totum elixirs ‘Resilience’ and ‘Settle Petal’, my Beauty Chef ‘GLOW’ powder, plus a cup of tea or coffee. During the day I spritz my face with rosewater or essential oils. Evenings I light candles, diffuse essential oils or burn incense to relax and unwind. My evening shower (or a bath once a week) is also a special time for me and necessary for a good night’s sleep. Reading helps to regulate me, leaving my spirit feel well fed. With more time at the moment simple stretches or yoga sequences out in the sun has been so nourishing with the beginning of spring. I am also so looking forward to regular swims in the ocean once the restrictions ease!
If you could change one thing about your industry what would it be?
Mass production and ‘fast fashion’ and all that comes with that mentality. The idea behind An Ode is about investment. Investment in one's self, the Earth and in the Women who have created the products.
Who is your favourite artist, and why or how does their work move you?
Oh this is such a hard question to answer as just one favourite - so I will need to elaborate - music wise Agnes Obel - she is melancholy and sensitive and I always feel calm after listening to her.
I love art - and have always had the secret dream of wanting to be a painter - but I really don’t have the patience. In the last year I have fallen in love with Lucy Roleff - her paintings are old worldly and romantic with the contrast of elements that are so very specific to our modern world. She is sure to become a classic.
Authors I am loving right now are Laura McPhee-Browne author of Cherry Beach and Victoria Hannon author of Kokomo. Both debut writers from Melbourne - there is a realism to their writing that I am very attracted to. The beauty and the pain that exists in life and us as individuals.
Photography - Ilsa Wynne-Hoelscher Kidd, capturing life and people as it is. Honouring and celebrating the beauty in the unique and natural - she captures feelings.
Architecturally husband and wife duo Alex Nielsen and Liz Walsh who own The Barn Tas and The Bae Tas - just yum! They have an eye for design that is so beautiful, smart and practical. Elements of old and new. I highly recommend staying at both of their air bnb’s when we can travel again!
Your most treasured - item, place, and time?
My most treasured items would be my books - piles stacked throughout my home. I have adored books since I was very little. I especially love the musky smell of books as they age.
Tasmania has a special place in my heart - I was born there and we hope to move back to the island at some point. The land, sea, forest and city that collide. It is also the place my partner and I went on our first holiday. I also look back longingly at the adventures in Scandinavia with my cousin - I don’t know of a time in my life where I have experienced such continuous laughter.
I have some really beautiful memories from my early 20’s - first moving out of home, the summers felt endless. Filled with friends. I was studying, lots of travel. One of my closest friends had her first baby. A really special time. Life felt slow and so full. Like you could really take the time to soak it all up!
Ode to Women celebrates the achievements of women, and provides a supportive space for women in business to express themselves and their products – what was your driving inspiration behind starting Ode to Women?
The concept started at a time in my career working with children where I was feeling a deep desire to connect - particularly with women.
Anyone with or working with children knows how much of yourself you give but how isolating that can feel at times. I absolutely adore the families I work with and am so invested in their lives - which has made me the caregiver I am, but at the same time I kind of lost direction for my own life.
I realised I was needing to find something to explore another more creative part of myself as well as something which will hopefully make room for a time when I am ready to have my own family.
Although the two businesses seem quite different - the values I hold for both are very much the same.
As small business owners our personal lives often become entangled in our business. What business values are most important to you that you see translating into your daily life?
The store has inspired me to encourage rituals throughout my day - it is what I know works for me and what I can see works for others. We all need to ‘fill our own cup’ in order to give to our friends, family, partners, children, work and creative endeavours.
Has there been a particular moment throughout your time with Ode to Women that stands out to you as an, ‘AHA’ moment, and what was your biggest learning from this?
I am not sure if it is an ‘aha’ moment - but the very essence in creating this space was to connect with and celebrate women - and seeing that grow into genuine mutual support and rapport with makers and founders of other businesses is really quite beautiful. The idea for the store was more than selling beautiful earth friendly products - the story and the person and people behind those products - that is what is most important for the space I aim to create.
What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
To take chances, learn something new, make mistakes and try again. I think that is something that I have learnt and value within children - their resilience. Adults often mistake their learnings as failures, which can prevent growth. Children however, practice trial and error as an opportunity for growth.