Not everyone can say that the Dalai Lama has used one of their products—but Dyan Eagles can. Lawrence–based DharmaCrafts, founded by Eagles in the 1970s, has received great acclaim at home and abroad for its handcrafted meditation cushions and resources.
Eagles stumbled upon Buddhist meditation by chance. Originally, she studied dance in Boston, but sustained an injury that prevented her from continuing. Describing the moment she found her calling, Eagles says, “I was walking down the street and I saw a sign for a yoga class. This was in the ’70s, before yoga was very popular, but I thought it sounded interesting. It turned out that the class was more of a front for meditation, and that’s how I started my study.”
It wasn’t long after that DharmaCrafts was born. “I was driving a truck for Pepsi Cola and living at The Cambridge Zen Center,” says Eagles. “I had a chance to enter the company as a corporate employee. But I really didn’t think I wanted that.” While mulling over her options, Eagles began taking orders for hand-stitched yoga pants. “It took me hours to make one pair,” Eagles says. “I advertised by nailing posters to telephone poles in Harvard Square.”
Another stroke of good fortune introduced Eagles to her neighbor, Sofia, a Syrian stitcher. “I told her what I was doing and she offered to help. The next day, I got three orders. Sofia came over and I showed her how I cut each piece, pinned them, and stitched them. She took the pieces from me and showed me another way—what used to take me a few hours took her five minutes. After that, I did the cutting and piecing and she did the stitching.”
Shortly after meeting Sofia, Eagles introduced her now-signature meditation cushions. “I wanted to create something durable, beautiful, and functional, that would last a lifetime.” Handcrafted out of the best materials, little about these cushions has changed except where they are made.
As a holistic resource for Buddhists and students, DharmaCrafts offers many products. “We phased out apparel when the garment industry moved overseas,” Eagles explains, “I wanted to focus on lifestyle items—home furnishings, incense, and other items that can be physical reminders of meditation principles.”
The company was primarily a catalog retailer until 2010. Now, most of its business occurs online, where visitors can find just about any product a Buddhist could want—even meditation supplies for kids. “We still send out about 150,000 catalogs a year, but that’s down from over three million yearly,” says Eagles. The company takes other eco-friendly measures, too, using organic fibers, recycled packing materials, and eco-conscious practices in the office.
DharmaCrafts’ mission is to support the Buddhist community and to make its teachings accessible. To this end, they provide educational resources for everyone from beginners to experienced practitioners, including audio dharma teachings, an interactive meditation room, readings, and sources for local meditation centers. “I never dreamed DharmaCrafts would grow to the point it has, but I’m happy to have the chance to provide education in Buddhist principles.” dharmacrafts.com