Sequoia Sierra spent much of her life in “nun mode.” The San Gabriel Valley native who moved to Orange County seven years ago, spent her youth frequenting the hospital and retreat house of the Carmelite order. She visited the sisters there on a weekly basis while growing up.
“They held me before my parents did,” Sierra said.
It’s no surprise that with an upbringing like that, Sierra would feel called to a life of service. However, it wasn’t the calling she expected. Little did she know that a skill taught to her by her mother when Sierra was just 4 or 5 years old, would blossom into her life’s work.
That skill is sewing, and it has led Sierra on a journey from Hollywood red carpets to entrepreneurship as owner and creative mastermind of The Liturgical Co., a local company that designs, creates and repairs vestments and habits, as well as other religious and liturgical items and church furnishings.
A DIFFERENT CALLING
Despite her time spent visiting the convent, when Sierra was around 18 years-old, she realized she wasn’t called to the sisterhood. Dealing with autoimmune disease wouldn’t make convent life feasible. So, she turned to her other passion – design.
After getting her education in the industry, Sierra enjoyed a successful career as a designer in television and film. She even won an award for work on an L.A. show. But she found that she didn’t care for the environment.
“I had to ask myself if morally I could do it,” she said of life in Hollywood.
Oftentimes, the answer was no, and she would find herself turning down projects. She knew it was time to step away.
“What now, Lord?” she asked. “I’ve got these skills. How am I going to use them?”
Having grown up with the Carmelites and identifying as a “lay Norbertine” affiliated with St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado Canyon, Sierra knew a person or two involved with the church. A friend who was a sister needed a habit remade. That simple request from a friend who needed a favor was the spark.
“I don’t even remember how it took off,” she said of The Liturgical Co. “One day it didn’t exist and then it was a business. The word was out there immediately.”
Now she spends her days living a melding of her two passions she never imagined was possible – her faith expressed daily through her talent as a designer and seamstress.
“When you find that perfect balance of what you love, what the world needs and what can pay the bills, it all connects. I’m very blessed,” she said. “God made the switch very easy for me.”
Sierra’s clients come from places as far afield as Africa and Croatia, though about half of her clients are locals. Her business has grown through word of mouth and the reputation she has built as a creator of beautiful religious pieces who understands she is more than a purveyor of textiles.
“I approach the work with a prayerful attitude,” she said. “This is a way to live out the faith in a very visual, tangible way, it’s more than a fashion item.”
Her clients feel comfortable entrusting these projects to her because they know she understands.
What further sets her apart is her commitment to quality and professionalism. Oftentimes, sisters would make their own habits and much of this work was done in-house. Sierra’s formal training allows her to provide topnotch pieces of only the highest quality.
WITH SUCCESS COMES CHALLENGES
But with success comes unique challenges for a Catholic business owner. Sierra explains that industrywide, there is a shortage of seamstresses, whether it be costume designers for theater departments or business owners like herself.
“If you can sew, you’ll never starve,” she said.
It’s a particular problem for Sierra because she aims to hire Catholic seamstresses. She seeks people to work for her company who share her understanding and respect of religious life. It’s that “sense of the sacred” that she seeks in those she hires.
Sierra has had the joy of seeing friends become ordained and use her garments.
“Those have a special place in my heart,” she said.
Of all that she crafts, the vestments are of particular significance to Sierra.
“The vestment is a huge way of carrying out the liturgy, she said. “As one priest told me, for every set of vestments I make, I receive graces from every Mass they are used in.”
As her business continues to grow, Sierra – who came to O.C. to be closer to the abbey -stays true to her vision for her business.
“It all boils down to beauty,” she said. There’s so much ugliness in our culture. I have a lot of friends who aren’t Catholic, but the beauty in these pieces touched their hearts. Beauty points people toward God.”
To see more of Sierra’s work or inquire about her services, visit theliturgicalco.com.