Boulder H&G: RAD by Ada

This article first published in the Fall 2022 issue of Boulder Home & Garden Magazine.

Radiant Renewal

Artist inspires healing through foraged botanicals
By Kate Jonuska

Turn a corner and your life can change. Such was certainly the case for Ada Schwehr, an artist and a forager of nutritional and medicinal plants who turned a corner in the Pacific Northwest woods to find a life-changing leaf.

“I saw this gorgeous Oregon red grape leaf all by itself, and it was for me a big magic moment. I immediately knew I wanted to preserve the leaf because it was so beautiful, to take in this fallen botanical and give it new life,” says Schwehr, the creator of RAD by Ada, which stands for renew all designs. “Also, I knew I wanted to inspire women specifically. I didn’t know exactly how but I wanted to encourage and renew through this amazing material.”

Flashing forward through several years of experimentation, this magic moment has become a thriving small business which Schwehr runs through her website as well as at select Boulder County Farmers Markets. Working mostly in jewelry but also dabbling in portraits, her process starts with lightweight wood, which is painted or stained before being adorned by hand from an extensive collection of foraged botanicals.

“I take out each individual piece to break or crumble or tear as needed, then I use a special epoxy sealant over the top,” says Schwehr. Explaining why foraged materials appeal, she adds, “I’m drawn to preserve the beauty in what is broken. I love all the colors and textures and shapes. I love being able to be curious about what will preserve well and what holds color well.”

Her favorite material remains Oregon grape leaves but others include birch bark, ginko, irises, rhodendrum and fallen leaves of all varieties. By recombining these dying and broken materials into a beautiful new piece of art, Schwehr hopes to inspire folks (especially women) to find the beautiful paths still possible despite the broken places in their own life stories, those times of loss, betrayal and pain.

“Renewal is something I wish collectively for the world and people individually. Things that hold brokenness and pain are still worthwhile because they’re renewing,” she says. “I can try to infiltrate the culture with compassion and grace for one another. The heart of my work is wanting to instill honor for one another no matter what.”

That dedication to healing is what drew Schwehr to also produce foraged portraits, which are especially poignant to mourn the passing of a loved one. And as documented on her Instagram, she recently hosted a session to produce “foraged selfies,” which helped the women involved show their beautiful selves by cobbling together broken botanicals to make self-portraits.

Though she’s growing the business slowly, one day she hopes to add pendants, journals and other products to her RAD by Ada line. Much as her journey began, though, Schwehr is ready to go wherever her healing imagination takes her.

Stay tuned to Ada Schwehr and RAD by Ada on the web at, on Instagram as @radbyada, or at the Boulder County Farmers Market.

This article first published in the Fall 2022 issue of Boulder Home & Garden Magazine.

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