Kari first started keeping bees during her maternity leave. Earlier this year she took a leave from teaching to focus on being a full-time mom, which of course meant she also had several side businesses on the go. She and her dad upped their number of hives, donned their bee suits and got to work.
At Made by Few last week in Arkansas, Cassie shared a story during her talk about Kari that had some attendees in tears. Kari’s dad, Bob, (who is Kari’s beekeeping partner in crime) was recently diagnosed with cancer. He had a suspect sore in his mouth so talked to his doctor about it who told him not to worry. Some time later, it was his dentist who rang the alarm bells. Merely days after his dentist appointment he was booked into Princess Margaret in Toronto for surgery where he had most of his tongue removed and replaced with muscle from his thigh and a subsequent six-week bout of radiation. It was serious business and Kari and her family were open about the whole process and in our opinion, utter heroes. As soon as Bob was able, he was back out with Kari taking care of the bees again. We don’t know Bob, but to many – including us – he is such an inspiration. Cassie shared this story as an example of the resilience that belongs to people out here in the country, where you often have no option but to keep going. But to keep going with grace and optimism is a choice.
“I am so glad we get to do this together. His dad kept bees and so it’s been of special significance to both of us as we took up beekeeping together – a bit of a legacy.” – Kari Raymer Bishop
This year Kari and her dad didn’t anticipate any harvest at all. The hives and bees are new and so they expected just enough honey and honeycomb for the bees to winter with; next year with their homes already built, the bees would be able to produce a lot more honey. Still, in year one, Kari’s hives managed to produce 140 cases of honey. Kari sells individual jars and cases off her front porch at William and Willow in Paris. Locals know that when the sign is out in the front yard, the shop’s open.
“I love meeting new people at the front door when they stop by for honey. I wouldn’t get to do that if it was on the shelf in someone else’s store.” – Kari Raymer Bishop
Design-wise, this was a simple job and Kari even paid us partly in honey. This worked for us both; we love honey! And it gave Kari a chance to recoup some of her expenses from the many hives she purchased this year. Because Kari just sells the honey locally (“farm gate sales”) she didn’t need a nutrition label, which negated a need for much packaging design. For our part, we simply needed a charismatic emblem to be used on a round sticker that exactly fit her mason jars.
While we explored and were inspired by higher-end honey labels, it was necessary to stay true to the Bishop Family brand: local, handmade, and “good” – good for people, good for bees, good for the planet. We poured our effort into crafting vintage lettering into a form that mirrored the energy of honeybees, the golden, viscous sweetness of honey itself, and the elegance of a timeless label. If you squint at the original grey and yellow label you may even see the traditional black and yellow striation so familiar to honeybees across the label, a happy accident in the design process.
Because of the nature of bees and their pollen collection, honey often tastes differently depending on where the hives are located. Kari had her hives at several local farms and wanted labels to differentiate each location. We built a colour system into the brand that would make that easy, including a special yellow edition for the “Friendship” blend, gifted by Kari’s dad mostly to those who have helped along in his cancer journey this year, including staff at Princess Margaret. “Friendship” is the name of a boat Bob shares with his best friend, a friend who has also been instrumental in keeping the bees going this year despite his unfamiliarity with apiculture.
Next year, Kari hopes to partner with more retail settings including restaurants and cafés that have approached her about carrying the honey as part of their local ingredient offerings. She currently has a smart arrangement with a potter friend, Rosemary at Dundee Pottery, who is crafting hand-thrown honey pots and a jar of honey for anyone seeking a one-of-a-kind holiday gift.
For the moment, Kari still has honey in stock, but she warns that last year folks were disappointed when she sold out and it is a long wait until harvest next summer! She also has beeswax available for making lip balm, soap, and other beauty products. Kari may make some of these herself over the winter. The mead, however, is for Kari’s closest friends (hot tip: join the Women’s Institute book club if you want a taste, we heard it was shared around that group!).
We thank Kari for giving us the opportunity to do some design for Bishop Family Bees, for letting us share her story here and for letting us crash her father-daughter adventures to take some pictures. You can follow Kari’s fascinating beekeeping adventures on the Bishop Family Bees Facebook page and on Kari’s blog.