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Nativen is an American heritage workwear brand, for hands-on women with know how. 

From our curated collection of vintage pieces to our thoughtfully crafted USA-made workwear,  we are passionate about providing you with the kind of products you will love to live and work in.

We believe that you don't need more stuff. You need better stuff.

 

Story

 

 

Alice Saunders: Forestbound Bag Co

Lily Hetzler

Alice Saunders is a collector of history, infusing new life into a forgotten past.  The beautifully crafted bags she makes under the moniker, Forestbound, are inspired by and collected from old textiles.  Each design is built to last with an aesthetic that feels both unique and instantly familiar, much like Alice herself.  If you sit and chat with the designer for even a few minutes her passion and excitement around the pieces she makes, and the story they tell is clear.  From WWII-era Flea Market treasures to vintage Toyota Land Cruisers, Alice's world may be filled with things from the past, but she's built something to remember.  

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Nativen:  Where are you from?

Alice:    Hopkinton, New Hampshire.

Nativen:  Do you think growing up in Hopkinton, or New Hampshire even in general, influenced the work that you're doing now at Forestbound?

Alice:    Yeah, for sure. I think that my work and my aesthetic is very much rooted in New England and is definitely influenced by where I grew up and what I was surrounded by. I started going to flea markets at a young age. There was a really good one right up the street from my house and I'd always go with my neighbor on Sunday mornings to find old treasures. I've always surrounded myself with beautiful old objects and those pieces have been such an inspiration to me over the years.

Nativen:  Awesome. Was there a moment when you realized that you wanted to pursue your own business… pursue bag making?

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Alice:    I had always made small pouches and bags starting around middle school, just using my mom's old Singer portable sewing machine. Then when I was in college, I would make zip pouches sell them at punk rock flea markets in Boston and realized that it was a way to make a bit of extra money. 
During college I was doing farm and garden work and in New England you don't farm in the winter. I was tired of looking for winter only work, so decided to give Etsy a try (this was right around the time Etsy started up). I started a shop with pouches and pieces of jewelry and people responded super well (I’ve been overwhelmed ever since).
It was around this same time where I had a seriously ‘ah ha’ moment .. I was at an indoor flea market in Massachusetts and came across a WWII era duffle bag. I thought to myself .. "Oh, I can take this apart and use this canvas and make something new" In that moment, everything kind of clicked in my head. I bought the duffel bag, brought it home, took it apart, and made a shoulder bag out of it. I put that bag on Etsy and it sold in five minutes. 

Nativen:  ...People want this.

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Alice:    That was the start of me truly understanding how I can mix these passions in my life: history, specifically military history, flea markets and beautiful old canvas. 

Nativen:  That's a cool little journey through your creative process.

Alice:    Yes, and this winter I’ll celebrate Forestbound’s 10 year anniversary. 

Nativen:  That's a big deal. It's awesome that you're in a new space for that transition, too.

Alice:    Yeah I’m really proud of being in business for 10 years. And this new space definitely feels like it houses a grown up version of what I started all those years ago. 

Nativen:  Exciting. What do you love most about Somerville, and do you think it's integral to your work in any way?

Alice:  When I first started Forestbound, I lived in a big house many roommates. We had an attic space upstairs that I used that as my studio. This space was part of the reason why I could start a business when I was 22-years-old - I had very little overhead. After a few years my business outgrew my home studio so I moved into a space outside of my home that I shared with another bag maker. A few years later I  moved my studio again, but this time it was into a co-working space in Somerville called Fringe. That was really the first time that Forestbound was surrounded by many other small businesses. 

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Alice: There was a letterpress business, floral design studio, a couple of illustrators; so I was surrounded by all of this new creative energy. I feel like moving to Somerville, and becoming part of this community at Fringe, helped me take my business to the next level. I built Forestbound on my own having basically zero knowledge of what having a business really meant and having no one to bounce ideas off of, and now I was surrounded by so many inspiring business owners who were there to help and support. I was definitely able to grow Forestbound because of the community that I found in Somerville.

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Nativen:  That's great. Do you have a favorite restaurant here in Somerville?

Alice:    I do. There's a place called Sarma that I really love. It's Mediterranean food, but it's small plates. It's incredible. 

Nativen:  Wow. Do you have a favorite home goods or clothing store?

Alice:    My friends that just opened Queen of Swords.
I'm a little biased because they're good friends of mine, but it's truly a beautiful store.

Nativen:  What about a favorite park or outdoor space around here?

Alice:    I live in Jamaica Plain, about a quarter of a mile away from the ultimate outdoor space in the city - the Arnold Arboretum. I try to go there every day with my dog and I especially love going on walks in the evening during the summer.. you can be up on the hill and hear nothing but the sound of frogs in the ponds below.

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Nativen:  Oh, wow. Do you have a hidden gem around here?

Alice:    There's a pub in Jamaica Plain called the Galway House. It’s one of my favorite places because the food is actually very good but it’s also super cheap, and you can still get $3 gin and tonics.

Nativen:  Wow. What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here?

Alice:    I think just community, for sure.

Nativen:  Yeah.

Alice:    In a lot of ways Forestbound can be run from anywhere. But I have such a great community here of friends and other small business owners here in Somerville and that is an invaluable resource that you can’t find just anywhere.

Nativen:  Right. You're isolated. This is the asking you to pick your favorite child question. Do you have a favorite bag or favorite thing that you've produced?

Alice:    I did a project in this past fall where I was contacted by one of the producers of a WWII era movie.
She wanted to get some gifts for the cast and the crew, just as a thank you. She was familiar with my work and was interested in having me make bags out of materials that would correlate to the movie’s time period and location. It was basically my dream project since I got to really tap into my inner canvas nerd. 

Nativen:  Wow!

Alice:    It was such a fun project and I know that the bags were going to people that really, truly appreciated the heart of what I do.

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Nativen:  That's awesome. What part of your process brings you the most joy?

Alice:    I love finding old canvas, that's always the thing that will always bring me the most joy. It's like a blessing and a curse, in that I go to flea markets, and the only thing that I see is canvas. I'll go to the flea market with a list of many things but once I get there the only thing I come away with is old duffel bags. It's crazy; it's all I can see.
Another benefit of New England living is that there’s so many old treasures here.. there will always a new barn or basement filled with really beautiful old things. 
I think what brings me the most joy for selling the ESCAPE Bag and these things that aren't made out of old canvas, is being able to interact with my customers and knowing that they really love the product. I put a lot of time and effort into my customer service and I love writing hand written notes with every bag. I think my customers really appreciate the little things like that.. I like to make the experience of buying Forestbound bags special.

Nativen:  Right. What is the greatest struggle for you, in your work?

Alice:    Doing it all myself is very hard, but that's a choice that I've made. I've had many people work with me over the years, but I'm in a place right now where I want to do it by myself. It’s also taken me ten years to understand that even when you own your own business, you can't work all the time. I'm in my mid-thirties now and I don't have as much energy as I did when I was 25. I can't work 70 hours a week and then expect to be present for my boyfriend and my friends. I’m doing my best to balance life and work, but that will forever be a struggle. 

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Nativen:  What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?

Alice:    I would love to hike the PCT; but that's something where you would need three to five months to do which isn’t really an option for me right now. I would absolutely love to do it some day though.. I love physically challenging myself and my body.

Nativen:  Yep, I think it's an important part of a feeling of life accomplishment to push yourself and really see your physical limitations, because living in the technology driven world that we live in and a world of convenience. I mean, we live in that world, and we forget that we're animals still.

Alice:    Right.

Nativen:  If you weren't making bags and running your business, what do you think you would be doing?

Alice:    I always thought that I would be working on farms. That's what I really, really actually love to do, is grow food and be outside and be around plants. I actually struggle a lot with finding myself in a job or in a business where I'm inside all day. 

Nativen:  What destination do you want to travel to next, if you could go anywhere?

Alice:    That's a good question. I've been doing a lot of New England only travels the last couple of years. Part of that is because my boyfriend doesn't really like to fly, and we do so much camping and there's so much to see in New England. But I would really like to go to Mexico. I've never been there before. I think that being in a completely different environment that is very colorful, energetic, and the complete opposite of New England would help reset and reenergize me. 

Nativen:  You should do it. I don't know if you listen to music while you work… is there anyone that you've been listening to regularly?

Alice:    I think I'm on kind of a Van Morrison kick lately. I've also been nostalgically listening to The Traveling Wilburys a lot.
They make me think of my childhood. My mom used to play The Traveling Wilburys all the time, so it's comforting music. 

Nativen:  What are three words that sum up your work for you?
Alice Saunders:    I would say classic, durable, utilitarian.

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Nativen:  Yeah, absolutely. That's great. Is there anything you do with your work to specifically connect you back to your community currently?

Alice:   I've done a lot of fundraising work in memory of my dad who passed away in 2014. Through Forestbound I've hosted raffles and sold a number products where all the profits go to charity. I try to use my platform to talk about not just the positive parts of my life but also the really hard times. And raising money and awareness for the AFTD, for the ACLU, and for the Disabilities Rights Center helped bring some positivity into a heartbreaking time period of my life. 

Nativen:  That's great. What's the most helpful advice you've received, or what's advice you might give to someone who's looking to pursue their creative goals?

Alice:    I’d tell them that it's really, really hard. Even when it’s your dream job.. it's not going to be fun and easy all the time. People look at what I do and they say, "Oh wow, you must truly love what you do. It's your passion.” And yes, that’s true, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy. It’s hard and you doubt yourself all the time. I think that a lot of times people go into starting their own business and expect that it's going to be easier than what they were doing before; but it tests you emotionally, mentally, on all these different levels that you don't anticipate.

Nativen:  Right.  Do you have a hero or someone who's maybe helped influence your work in a big way?

Alice Saunders:    Yeah, my dad, for sure. He raised me and is the force behind my strong work ethic, but he also taught me compassion and thoughtfulness. His example was work really, really, really hard; but also love really, really hard. I try and do that with my personal life, but also in my business. I care so much about all of my customers, and I want them to know that. 
My dad really taught me to value the people around you. I'm very appreciative and very humbled by the fact that I get to do what I do and that I couldn’t do it without the people who surround me.

 

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Nativen:  What are three things you can't live without?

Alice:    My dog, for sure. She's brought a lot of joy into my life, so I definitely couldn't live without her.
Probably my truck. It's an '88 Toyota Land Cruiser. My parents actually bought a Land Cruiser in 1989, new. It was our family car, and I learned to drive on it. It became my car, and I drove it into the ground.

Nativen:  Amazing.

Alice:   I have a little silver pendant that my dad's first wife gave to me, just a month or two ago.  It just has AGS inscribed in it. That's my dad's initials. 

Nativen:  That's really touching.

Alice:    Yeah, so it's a really, really special little thing. It's only been in my life for a couple of months, but it’s become my most prized possession.

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Interview by: Lily Hetzler

Photography by: Ethan Covey

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

Natalie Shook: Supersmith

Lily Hetzler

There’s something to be said about people who throw all sense of convention out the window, and follow what compels them.  Natalie Shook, is one such woman.  When you step into the storefront cum collective maker haven that she and her partner have created, in Supersmith, it’s instantly clear that beauty is more about the process for her.   A true hands on woman who takes inspiration from her past, and pushes it into the future through her community driven space.  This is collaboration at it’s finest and I can’t wait to see where she takes it.  Jump on the wagon and take a tour through Natalie’s evolution and the building of a beautiful brand.

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Nativen:  Do you think growing up where you did in Cleveland had any effect on your choice to become a woodworker and painter?

Natalie:   Yeah. You know, my parents were always super supportive of me. You know, I came here for painting, and I pursued that really heavily from when I was young, you know, like maybe 15, I started painting seriously. They were super supportive, but I guess I was doing sculpture at the time. My grandparents lived just a few blocks away. My grandfather had a wood shop in his basement, like men did, you know?
He had this tool chest, which his father built so my great grandfather.

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Nativen:  Oh, that's beautiful.

Natalie:  So I played with all these tools when I was a kid, and my parents were amazing. 
My grandparents had passed, but they kept the house. So they would let me live in their house alone on the weekends. And so I would just like hang out in the shop and build stuff. Now that I look back I'm like, why did my parents let me do this, but they did?  So I would just, spend the nights making sculptures, using the shop machines, you know, like little bits, the little table saw and lathe and stuff. And I was just messing around. 
And then, I took all those tools with me. Not the tool chest, I just got this last year. But all my handles have always been my grandfather's. So, yeah, I think their support and having grown up in this. When I was really young, my grandfather would pick me up from school. I think I was getting out of school earlier than my sisters. And I would just spend the afternoons in the basement with and he would be in his workshop. Which was so fun, I loved him. I've got his desk sign here. He was wonderful. 
I think also growing up in Cleveland, it was a really nice, quiet town and I feel like there was a lot of time to do that. 

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Nativen:   Was there a moment in your life, like an epiphany when you realized that you really seriously wanted to pursue this as a trade? 

Natalie:   Yeah, you know, it was totally unplanned. The sort of short version of the story: I was making these robotic paintings. And I was using my friend's shops to build them. I only really built one and I wanted to build more. And my father passed and I slept for six months and then I woke up and had like $1,000 dollars left. I basically had spent all the money I had and I used that money to buy my first set of machinery because I wanted to make my own robots. 
Then as soon as I had the shop, I did the same thing I did here. I rented it out to seven different people so I could keep down the cost. And then as soon as I had a shop everyone was like "oh can you build me a table? Can you build me a bench?" So I just stopped the art thing, like right then and there. It wasn't a conscious choice. ... It just happened. 
To be honest it's like my favorite thing I ever gave up in a way. Because I miss painting, but more like the mental exercise, you know? And the practice. But ... the pursuit of being a career painter is really hard. Trying to come up with that next thing. Whereas my ego isn't attached in the same way with all this stuff. 

Nativen:   Which in a way can actually be really creatively freeing because you're not associating your self worth on that really profound level. You're just like, I really enjoy this,  but if things work or don't work it doesn't feel personal in the same way? 

Natalie:   Exactly. 

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Nativen:  What do you love most about Brooklyn and do you think it's integral to the work that you're doing? 

Natalie:   I think it's integral to the work that we're doing because this project sort of started because we wanted to be able to build a store, so that I could develop my own work. And if I built a store then I could sell my own work, I could just have a platform for it. So I do think that Red Hook is very integral because it's so easy to set up something like this. There's so many people in need of a shop or a shared shop space. We have a variety of things that we have because we have wood and metal and ceramics.
 In some ways it feels like a no brainer here. I think this is sort of the first phase of this project of developing our own work off of this sort of launching pad. 

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Nativen:  Can you talk a little bit about where you're hoping to take this? 

Natalie:   I feel like I think of them as two separate projects in a way. So Supersmith, we just started the classes which we're really enjoying. The boat building class is really great and we really want to expand that. So we're supposed to take over the rest of the building, and we're looking forward to what we can do there. I think the boat building is going to be part of that. 
We're doing more events here. We’re doing seasonal supper clubs. We're doing a crab boil in June and a pig roast in July with the meat hook and tiger shark. So that's fun, we're going to do those every season. We're sort of doing more things like that to activate the community and ... bring more awareness. 
Then as far as the store goes… So my sister does ceramics and I was doing woodwork, so our plan the whole time since we came up with the whole idea of this project, probably five, six years ago. I've been developing this, now my sister, she had kids, but there older now, can step in and start taking more of a role in it. We’re planning on collaborating together to develop this line. Shook and Co. is the store, Shook Manufacturing is our little brand that we're starting. So yeah we're really looking forward to it. 
So this summer- now that we have all these classes and events happening, and we have a program to follow, now we can start working on that project. 

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Nativen:  So these are just a couple of rapid fire questions. But do you have a favorite restaurant in Brooklyn? 

Natalie:   I would probably still say Diner. We used to have our old shop on south 11th street, between Berry and Wythe, so we were just a couple blocks from Diner. And I have to say that may be the only thing I miss from Williamsburg. Really I mean that burger is out of control. 

Nativen:  Awesome. Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space in Brooklyn? 

Natalie:   That's a good one. ... I really love City Island. Which is not exactly a park, but it is an outdoor space.

Nativen:  Do you have a hidden gem in New York? 

Natalie:    A hidden gem in New York ... Gosh, Red Hook?

Nativen:  It still feels that way which is great. Even though this area is growing there's something about the combination of it still being somewhat inaccessible that creates that feeling. 

Natalie:   Yeah it really does. In Red Hook I walk Bones [Natalie's dog] to the pier with a beer. There's nothing better than that. The luxury of walking to the pier with a beer in hand at the end of the day is heaven. 

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Nativen:  What do you think is the greatest resource to your work in Brooklyn or in New York in general? 

Natalie:   I guess I would just say this community, you know? In a way, we've built a community here but it already existed. We just sort of pulled all of these incredible people together. So that is, I would say hands down the biggest resource. We have the privilege of working with so many wonderful people, not just creative and ... so intelligent but just wonderful. We really get to enjoy each other everyday which is a real gift. 

Nativen:  Inspiring, too. 

Natalie:  Yeah it's like we couldn't be luckier. So I would say that is because we can also depend on each other. When we were building the shop- this is one of the most incredible experiences of my life in a way. Zach and I, we started this project with the tiniest pile of money. So it literally was just the two of us who built everything. So we were- and it took us two years to do all of that. It was just an empty plumbing supply and we put the skylights in, we did everything. All the floors- it was just epic.   

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Nativen:   So this is the asking you to pick your favorite child question. But do you have one piece that stands out as your favorite piece? Or maybe something that was your greatest accomplishment? 

Natalie:   Again it feels like the beginning of a project. It feels like there's been so much work already but, this wasn't really the end goal yet. So I feel like that work hasn't started. So this just feels like the foundation. So I'm proud of this foundation.  
All the work before this was sort of, at this point it feels so far away. When we left the old place, I abandoned- I left all my paintings there. 

Nativen:   Oh, wow. 

Natalie:   So I don't have any anymore which is so weird. I just walked away. I was hit by a cab, I had a broken arm so I was just like "I guess I'm just going to leave you guys." In some way, it was great. A little cathartic. 

Nativen:   In just the process of your work in general, what part of your process brings you the most joy? 

Natalie:  That part when you're creating something out of nothing. That's the best part, right? I was never really going to go to grad school for painting, but I was interested in going to business school. Which at this point, I think actually just starting a business is obviously the best training you can get. But I'm really interested in that aspect, that challenge.  

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Nativen:  What part is the greatest struggle for you? 

Natalie:  The greatest struggle I guess is probably seeing things through. I think because I do enjoy so much the ideation phase. I'm like "nailed it." Will, someone else help? But then there's no one else and you're like "oh. I've gotta do this?"

Nativen:  What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet? 

Natalie:  As it relates to this, I think the thing that I actually want to do, is develop work out of this thing. I really want to do that. I'm really looking forward to producing my own designs and making that, getting that started. 

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Nativen:  That's cool. If you weren't doing this what do you think you would be doing? 

Natalie:   Being a mom. Looking forward to that. 

Nativen:  What's one destination you have always wanted to travel to? 

Natalie:  Since I was young- and I guess I haven't thought about it in some time, but I've always felt really drawn to India. I guess, growing up my best friend was Indian. I think maybe that was part of it. ... I'm Cuban, or half Cuban and I've gone to Cuba a couple of times and now these days I kind of just need a break and all I want to do is go back to Cuba. It's all I think about is how do I get back there? That place is pretty dreamy. 

Nativen:  Cool. I don't know if you listen to music at all while you work, but is there a song you've had on heavy rotation recently or something maybe that gets your creative juices flowing? 

Natalie: That's interesting. But well, yeah I don't know. When you came in I was just listening to a little reggaeton in the morning. 

Nativen:  What's the most helpful advice you've received or what's maybe some advice that you would give to somebody who is looking to kind of build their own thing? 

Natalie:  I think this is something that I struggle with... I heard at one point, and I come back to this thought because it's hard when you don't necessarily have the means to, or you're not at the point in the business where you can sort of hand off aspects of the business. But to learn not to work for the business, but work on the business. You know? 
I think when you start, it's so easy to get bogged down with the working for. And I think that if you're not careful ... that can really hurt it. And hurt your general happiness. 

Nativen:  Do you have a hero or maybe somebody who has helped influence your work and where you've gotten to?

Natalie:  I guess I would say my father, you know. In a way he was sort of the inspiration for this whole thing. He was just a wonderful person. I loved him, we were so close. He called me everyday with a wake up call at 8:00 AM and we'd just talk all throughout. We were very close and he was wonderful and always told me to be the best me I could be. Which is so silly and of course a father is going to say that to his daughter. But he was just so loving and supportive and I think when I watch myself not being the best me, I sort of use him to check myself and consider him when I'm making choices… I think he would be excited by this project. 

Nativen:   What are three things you can't live without?

Natalie:  Bones. [Natalie’s dog] Bones is number one. I don't know, Julio I guess maybe. Is that terrible? 

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Nativen: Oh, poor Julio. 

Natalie: I mean I love him. I kind of had to learn to love him. Which I feel bad about. I don't think he had the best kitten upbringing. I really feel like I didn't know how to love him. 
I'm gonna say, I have two sisters but Cal is the one who is here. Emmy lives in Ecuador and she has four children, she's very busy. My family overall, my sister's extended family, everyone is wonderful. 
…Were you thinking objects?  My truck.  It's such a piece of shit but I love it. I just love being able to get out of here and get around. Bones and I go camping in it a lot in the summer. It's my little bit of freedom. 

Nativen:  You gotta have a getaway vehicle

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Interview by: Lily Hetzler

Photography by: Ethan Covey

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

Susan Burnett: Mojave Sands

Lily Hetzler

If you ask anyone in Joshua Tree who Susan Burnett is, they will joyfully exclaim something along the lines of "oh... Sue B!"  Many call her the unofficial mayor of the small desert town, but Susan is much more than a community head.  A woman with a rich history, and a well-traveled soul, she is an endless well of incredible stories.  From her stylist days in NY and LA in the 80s and 90s to her pioneering motorcycle adventures with her ladies through the desert that lead her to her place at Mojave Sands, Sue makes friends everywhere she goes, and her impeccable style leaves a mark in your mind.  Though she may never claim it herself, it's easy to call Susan, the real queen of the desert.  
On a recent trip to Joshua Tree for the rowdy trade show cum music party, Desert & Denim, we sat down with Susan, to here her story, and how she maintains her luxe meets laissez faire lifestyle in a way that appears second nature.
Enjoy her journey with us, and visit the homepage to check out our latest editorial featuring Susan in some of our favorite new Vintage Selects pieces.

photos by Jac Potorke

photos by Jac Potorke

Nativen:    Where are you from?

Susan:    Originally from Texas. Born in Fort Worth. Grew up in Dallas and went to college in Austin.

Nativen:    Do you think Texas influenced your creative pursuits in any way?

Susan:    Oh well... I definitely think it influenced who I am and what I'm interested in.
And I guess even my creative pursuits to a certain degree, but I had to go somewhere else to really experience that, you know? When I was a teenager, maybe 14 or 15, I remember finding a box in the attic that had all these clothes from the 50's - my mom's stuff that she'd saved - and that was when I started wearing vintage, you know? But I wasn't “thrifting”. I grew up in kind of an affluent suburb in Dallas and you know, girls all wore the same thing, but I didn't wear any of that.

Nativen:    Ah. A stranger in your own land.

Susan:    I wore boys clothes, too, so Levis and white t-shirts were kind of my thing along with some of my mom's vintage. When I was 16 and 17 years old I worked at this clothing store in the mall called “Judy’s”. It was actually a California company. It was the cool store, where like, parachute pants were first sold. So, for Dallas, it was really kind of forward. 
When I was working there this lady would come in. She was actually a stylist, although I don't think she called herself that. But she pulled clothes for catalog work from the stores in the mall. So one day she just offered me a job. I didn't really have any idea what that was gonna be like but I just said, "Okay." And it's funny because I ended up doing that everywhere I went. 
People occasionally ask me, "What was it like being a stylist in the 80's and 90's? Did you set out to do that?" I’m like, “No! Never!" I had a little vintage clothing store that was just my own thing but I didn't do any styling work.
Then I went to San Francisco and did a video for a band, then another video, and then I moved to New York and I got some work there. The whole time I had other stuff going on but I just kept coming back to that until I ended up in LA eventually. 
I did all kinds of stuff. Music videos, commercials, I did a lot of print work for big magazines. It was crazy.

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Nativen:    It was a different time then because the “job stylist” wasn't something that officially existed then.

Susan:    That's true. But people ask me, “So, how did you get into it?" Well, I studied clothing design in college but you know, I'm so old that, at the University of Texas back then they only had a Home Economics Department and I wasn't into that! So I studied art and later transferred to the University of North Texas because they had a design school that was part of the Art Department. I studied there for 2 years then went back to Austin and finished my art degree there. They had this amazing collection of vintage clothes donated by wives of some really wealthy oil magnates from Dallas and Fort Worth. And I did the new acquisitions and repairs. So I got to see everything.

Nativen:    That's amazing.

Susan:    So in the early 80's I was seeing original Diors from the 50's, Balenciagas from the 60's so, you know, I learned a lot.

Nativen:    I'm sure! Well at that point you’re a historian. That must have been amazing!

Susan:    It was amazing.

Nativen:    So, from there, how did you land in Joshua Tree? Was there something that happened in your life that that was like, “get me outta here!”

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Susan:    Well, I would come out here sometimes for work. That's how I discovered it. And then in the mid ’90’s friends and I would ride bikes and go camping out here. Then I had a friend who moved here in the late 90's and I thought she was crazy. It was really different then - like scenes from “Breaking Bad”.

Nativen:    Yeah. That's the real deal right there.

Susan:    It's not like that anymore. It's all 30-something couples that buy their AirBnB and decorate it so they look like a Free People ad. 

Nativen:    So what do you love most about Joshua Tree?

Susan:    Well I like the geography. For sure. The wide open space. The big sky. It's hard to describe but it directly translates to your soul, kind of, immediately. You know what I'm saying? If you're open to it.

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Nativen:    Yeah. So was that the thing that caused you to be out here full time or was there a moment or an epiphany in your life where you're like, "I'm out"?

Susan:    Well, I just wanted to get away. I mean I've lived in a lot of places and I knew that I was at a certain age where if I stayed in LA I was gonna be stuck there. And doing what I did. And living that life. So I really just took a big leap.

Nativen:    Yeah but you know, ultimately it's about prioritizing what happiness and success means for you.

Susan:    It's all worked out. Because I get to be myself, you know? Really myself. It's really hard to describe but you just get to be exactly who you are in a really big way, you know? It's amazing. You don't have to please other people. And especially as a woman, it can be hard for us in our culture to figure that out.

Nativen:    So these are just a couple of rapid-fire questions but do you have a favorite restaurant in the area?

Susan:    La Copine.

Nativen:    Yup. I haven't been there yet but I'm excited. How about a favorite home goods or clothing store?

Susan:    The End.

Nativen:    Very good one. Well this is kind of a hilarious thing to ask in this area in particular but do you have a favorite kind of outdoor space or maybe some kind of outside sanctuary that really speaks to you in the area?

Susan:    Well I love [Joshua Tree] park. Anything in the park. I have a pass so my dog, Rupert and I can go anytime we want. But he can't run the trails so we have our other little secret places.

Nativen:    Is there a hidden gem in the area that you can share?

Susan:    One of my favorite things is the Noah Purifoy Museum. And that really was something that people just didn't even know about until LACMA did a retrospective last year. Have you been there?

Nativen:    I haven't yet, actually.

Susan:    It's really close to here and it's just 10 acres outside. It’s this cool combination of really high concept art and sculpture, and weird junk that he turns into some real high concept pieces. It's an amazing place. 

Nativen:    So what part of your process in the work that you do now brings you the most joy?

Susan:    Well my work here [at the Mojave Sands] is always pretty fun. I get to stay in one place and meet people from all over the world. 
I have some people here from Australia today, San Francisco, Germany, New York ... yeah so it's really fun. And you know I love people so ... I know that's such a cliché but I really do.

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Nativen:    It's great to be somewhere where the world comes to you.

Susan:    Yeah and it's small, so I can spend time talking to people and finding out who they are and what they do and what brought them to Joshua Tree and I can try to help influence, in a way, what kind of experience they have here, which is pretty cool. There's a few of us here that do that and we're obviously doing a pretty good job, because we had two-and-a-half million visitors in the park last year. Up from 2 million the year before.
So now we're in this place where, how do we keep doing this and grow, but grow in a good way so that it doesn't get out from under us and turn into some gross tourist place, you know? 

Nativen:    Yeah... shepherd that responsibly.

Susan:    But really, you know, interacting with people is my favorite part of my time.

Nativen:    That's great. What do you think is the greatest struggle?

Susan:    Cleaning up after people.
Trying to get people to understand what it means when I say we're on a septic.

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Nativen:    Well, you seem to be living a relatively well-balanced life out here. But is there one thing you’ve always wanted to do and haven't done yet?

Susan:    Oh, I could probably give you a huge list.
But, you know what I'm saying? I've never ridden a mule down into the Grand Canyon, which is something I'd like to do. I've never been through the Badlands and South Dakota and that part of the country. I love to travel so the one thing about this job is that it is a lot of work, which I'm okay with. But there are a lot of trips I'd like to take that I haven't done yet.
A little at a time.

Nativen:    Yeah.

Susan:    Last year I went on this amazing trip down to Baja. I won't even say where I went because it is a super cool place. And it was amazing. Spent every day on the boat in the water and water skied with 200 dolphins in a giant pod.

Nativen:    Like you do.

Susan:    But it wasn't like a glamorous vacation. I was sleeping on a cot in the yard of some old house where we had a flushing toilet but no electricity. But, because I am willing to travel that way, man, I have had some amazing experiences! We caught all our own food - crabs, clams, fish, and then we'd make our meals every day and … yeah.

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Nativen:    That sounds lovely, which actually transitions nicely into my next question ... what destination would you travel to if you could go anywhere? No rules. No obligation, just wherever you want to go.

Susan:    I'd go to New Zealand …  Australia. For like a few months.
I really like to travel, but I like to go and be somewhere for as long as I can. People come here where they're just like, "We're gonna cram it all into one night”. I'm like, "You can't come to Joshua Tree and check in here at 3 o'clock and leave at 11!” That's just not enough time, you know? That's just a roadtrip. It kind of breaks my heart. I've been here three and a half years and I haven't done it all! You know what I mean?
I haven't been to the Morango Preserve since the winter. And that's amazing. It’s just a short little hike. Have you been down there?

Nativen:    Yeah, I have. I went horseback riding near there a couple years ago. It's beautiful.
Do you listen to any music while you work or do you have a song that keeps your...

Susan:    I'm on a John Doe kick right now. He's a good friend of mine.
I work at Pappy's, at the door. People always say, "Why do you work at Pappy's?", “Because I like to go see music and if I work the door at Pappy's I save about $120 a month on tickets.” So that's fun.

Nativen:    Yeah. You meet interesting people too, I'm sure.

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Susan:    And hear all kinds of music. I love a lot of different kinds of music. I'm older so I've been listening to music for a really long time. The cool thing about working at Pappy's is that I just get to go and experience and hear whatever is happening there, so it can be anybody from 80 year old Wanda Jackson to Little Dragon.

Nativen:    Super eclectic mix. That's cool. 
What's the most helpful advice that you've received or that you might give to someone that's looking to pursue their creative dreams?

Susan:    I'm not very good at giving advice. I always think I want to give somebody advise because I'm bossy. Which is a good way to be because I'm sure of my own mind. I took a lot of risks. I have not lived a very safe life, you know? If I wanted to move somewhere, I did. I kept thinking when I was younger … just go do it. Because when you get older, you won't want to go and do it. But I moved here when I was 50 years old. With what I could fit in my car, you know?
I think I would just tell people that sometimes you have to take a risk and you have to believe in yourself and even if it goes bad, it can still be a good thing. You can't always think that you know what outcome is gonna be the best because sometimes the outcome that isn't the best turns out, in hindsight, to have been a really good thing. And if you're constantly trying to control how things turn out, you might miss making a mistake that will actually catapult you into a place you really wanted to be, you know?

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Nativen:    That’s really good advice.
Okay so this is our last question: What are 3 things you can't live without?

Susan:    My dog Rupert, my friends ... I really have always been a person that made a lot of friends. I'm a social girl. But this place is really ... there's some crazy magic here, you know?  Even though we all work a lot ... we make the effort. I don't have a TV. My phone doesn't work. I mean, I talk to my dog because you can get really isolated here. So I think it forces us to really maintain some ties and we have a lot of fun and we get to do stuff that when I was living in the city and working 14 hours a day... it didn't seem that regular. 
So I would definitely say my friends and... I don't know... you don't need a lot here. I need my car, I guess.

Nativen:    Sure.

Susan:    It would be a drag if I had to ride my motorcycle everywhere in the dirt. It's not a dirt bike.

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Interview by: Lily Hetzler

Photography by: Jac Potorke

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

Lane Walkup: Metalsmith

Lily Hetzler

They say the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but when you enter the three dimensional world of Lane Walkup, her illustrative style truly bends the rules.  Her simple, yet highly expressive work is both playful and moving.  On a cool, but long-awaited sunny morning, I paid a visit to Lane in her new Portland studio. We got into all the details from pioneering her way through the boys club of southern metal smithing, her goal to empower young girls through working with their hands, and the enchanting smell of old books.  Join us for the story behind Lane's creative world. (Plus check out the song that gets her going, below)

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Nativen:    Where are you from?

Lane:    I'm from Texasoriginally. Born there, moved to North Carolina when I was eight, and then, lived there most of my life. I moved here four years ago. 

Nativen:    All right. So, you're like fresh into Portland.
Do you think, where you grew up influenced your creative work?
 

Lane:    For sure. I started with welding and blacksmithing. Blacksmithing has a rich history in North Carolina, and, my dad had a friend who’s German, but he moved from Germany decades before. He started a blacksmith shop. I hung out with him for a little bit. I don't know if I honestly would have gotten into metal working had I not lived in the south, because I think I had something to prove a little.
Yeah. Out here I feel like people would be like, "Oh, yeah.” You know, “doesn't matter." But a girl doing it [there]? I was the only girl at these meetings. I would go to with my dad. I just felt like I had something I had to prove, that I could do it too, and better probably.

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Nativen:    Yeah, absolutely. Well, that's a powerful motivator to sort of feel like you're pioneering your way in a field. 
Was there a moment in your life where you realized you wanted to pursue metal work?

Lane:    Yeah for sure. As soon as I started doing it something clicked in my body and I was like, "this is it." This is my thing. It was harmonious, I don't know how to explain it. I’d never had anything like that in my life… 
I started a sewing club in high school and made my prom dress. I was very into sewing and textiles. In fact I went to college initially for textile design.
It just didn't feel right. The more I was doing it, I was like, "I don't think this is for me. I don't really want to sew all day." I was doing more of the science background behind textile design. The school I went to, they designed Kevlar, the textile, so that was cool, but it just wasn't as inspiring for some reason. Then I started trying to paint. 
Actually, my degree is in nutrition and public health. So I have a heavy science background. I thought I would do that. I went to school five years because it takes a long time to do nutrition. I got out and I did a little bit with it, and I was like, "I can't do this!" 
It was really depressing. And the health care industry's so f-ed I as a person need something lighter in my life because I have a tendency to really feel the weight of the world. I need to do something that's adding lightness and even though I'd be helping people it was just kind of crushing me.
[With] my dad one day I was like, "teach me how to weld," and he was like, "okay," so I did it. And I was like, "this is it. Metal work. This is it." 

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Nativen:    That's great. That's a good evolution. It sounds like you're on the right path. What do you love most about Portland? And do you think it's integral to the work that you're doing in any way?

Lane:    That is a good question. Well, I'm going to have to say that moving across the country, Portland was probably the best city for me. Especially from the south. Because people are pretty nice in the south, and friendly. And it's really similar here. And I felt like that made it a lot easier for me to meet people.
As soon as I visited here, it didn't really feel like a city, it felt more like a town. I feel like that aspect of it I fell in love with, that it was like a warm, small city. 

Nativen:    Do you have a favorite restaurant in Portland?

Lane:    Luc Lac

Nativen:    How about a favorite clothing store?

Lane:    I love BackTalk because she's awesome. And she kind of took me and my stuff when I was just starting out. I have wire stuff all over her store. I just liked her, I always liked her aesthetic and her vibe a lot. I was like, "Man, I would really make it if I got in there."
It's really awesome. I still don't feel like made it all, but at least I accomplished one goal... And then my friend has a shop called Johan, which is really awesome too. It's really Scandinavian, but she has a really good minimalistic eye.

'The Bod' on display at BackTalk in Portland

'The Bod' on display at BackTalk in Portland

Nativen:    Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space in or around Portland?

Lane:    Around Portland… The Washington side of the gorge. 100 percent. Which is not Portland, but it's very close. I guess, in Portland, I really, really love Peninsula Park, when the roses are in bloom.

Nativen:    Cool. Do you have a hidden gem in Portland?

Lane:    Yeah, the downtown library is really cool. I don't know if it's a hidden gem but it's a cool spot.

Nativen:    I think it is, libraries are one of those things that are really fascinating too because obviously living in a techie world, they're less of a destination maybe than they used to be. It's kind of fun to wander into those little worlds. And that smell that occurs when you're in a library, that old book smell.

Lane:    I know. I wonder if that's going to go away when ... decades from now. People are not going to know what that is.

Nativen:    I know. I feel like somebody should make a candle that smells like that. 
What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here?

Lane:    Honestly ... the shops are really cool here. They have really good massive warehouses where I can get stuff for pretty good prices. As cheesy as this sounds, just being able to not be in a city and go somewhere where it's quiet and feels very vast is really good for flipping the script. Just clearing out the general anxiety and stressors of living in a busy place.

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Nativen:    So this is the like asking you to pick your favorite child question. Do you have a favorite piece that you've made?

Lane:    I don't know if I have one favorite piece. I feel like that would mean that I wasn't still… you know, I'm kind of glad that I don't because I feel I wouldn't keep trying to do more.
I have things that I really loved making, and tipping points kind of, when I first did Hangers, I started making some hangers for my friend Lars who has a clothing company. And that just changed the game for me a little bit. These mouth hangers I was doing. That kind of put me in a position where I was like, "Okay, I have a little more focus and I know a little bit more what my interest and aesthetic is." So those are near and dear.
I also really love making these masks that I've been making. They're just wire masks that are kind of weird. 

Nativen:    What part of your process brings you the most joy.

Lane:    Honestly, just coming to a studio space and just being alone with my thoughts and not, having something in my head and being able to hold it a couple of hours later is the one of the best feelings ever.

A face on display at BackTalk in Portland

A face on display at BackTalk in Portland

Nativen:    What do you think is the greatest struggle for you?

Lane:    Oh. Trying to make money. It's one of those things where if you really love it, you almost don't want to do things that you have to do to make money. I'm kind of figuring that out. It's becoming easier and easier but it's a really long process to go from loving something. And making it ... clearing a path, evolving as someone who makes art and also someone who makes money. So I think getting the business side of it down is difficult. And I think most people who make things would agree with that.

Nativen:    What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?

Lane:    Honestly, travel somewhere where I don't know the language and I'm totally alone.

Nativen:    Ooh, that's good.

Lane:    I guess I've done it, but in Europe. I feel like if I was somewhere with a bigger culture shock where I didn't know the language, I didn't know anything about the culture really, and I was just alone. Because I think it would be horrifying but I think it would be really amazing to see how I did it.

Nativen:    Is there somebody or a song that you've been listening to a lot lately? To get your creative mojo on.

Lane:    I mainly eat up podcasts when I'm working. But if I'm not listening to a podcast, or I need a break from them, I love listening to hip hop but I also like new wave a lot. One of my favorite bands to listen to while I'm working is Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.

Nativen:    They're the best. What are three words that sum up your work for you.

Lane:    I think, there's a sense of humor to a lot of my work. It's kind of a little weird or a little whimsical. I'd just say ... illustrative.

Nativen:    That's a great word, and seems very fitting. Is there anything that you do to specifically connect with your community here?

Faces & flowers on display at BackTalk in Portland

Faces & flowers on display at BackTalk in Portland

Lane:    I want to do workshops in Portland in general because I feel like there's a lot of people here who like using their hands but they don't really have access to tools like metal working. I want to be able to incorporate that into my life and be able to hang out with people… I want it to be more a hang ... where we just make things. People are so excited to do something different with their hands and walk away with something they made and designed.
My long term goal is I really want to write a grant to work with teenage girls in the foster care system. Because I found metal work to be the most empowering thing I've ever done. I feel like being able to connect that with people who might not always feel really empowered and really need that outlet but don't have access. Or they're just not able… they're not supported in that way.

Nativen:    Definitely. It's nice to be able to inspire people. And when you feel like you can do that, especially with young ladies. 
What's the most helpful advice you've received, or maybe some advice that you'd give to someone who's looking to pursue their creative endeavors?

Lane:    One of my good friends who has always been right there with me, trying to pursue odd goals, a little bit. He was like, the hardest point is the point where people give up and the people who keep going are the ones who become successful, [if] only because of the fact that they kept going, weeded out all the people who stopped. So not even if you're the best thing ever, it's just that you stuck with it.
I think about that every time. I just gotta keep with it because statistically speaking ... something will come from it.
It's an endurance race, is what it is.

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Nativen:    Definitely is. The tortoise always wins. Do you have a hero or maybe somebody who's really helped influence your work in a major way?

Lane:    I didn't know of him when I first started working. It wasn't until I started making wire things that people were likening my work to his that I was like, "He's my spirit guide." Alexander Calder is amazing. It was just this amazing connection I felt.
Also, I really like the sculptural work of Heikki Seppa. He is amazing. 

Nativen:    Final question. Three things you can't live without.

Lane:    Duct tape. My car. Not because I don't love biking, but because it affords me this sense of freedom that I get really stifled. Having a car just makes me feel like I could literally just drive to the beach right now if I wanted to. That gives me some sort of mental clarity.
And ... my cat.

Nativen:    Ahh. What's your cat's name?

Lane:    She's the best. Scoot. I took her from North Carolina.
I hope… I mean I'm going to have to live without her one day … but if the odds are in my favor. She is the best.

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Interview and Photos by: Lily Hetzler

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

Mandy Aftel: Aftelier Fragrance

Lily Hetzler

When the door to Mandy Aftel's resplendent home opened, we were at once greeted with the comforting and somehow familiar smell of history.  A careful collector with a clear love of story, Mandy's hub for Aftelier Perfumes holds an impressive array of curatorial oddities from antique essence bottles to a staggering vintage book collection.  Her organ, which is the heart of her fragrance process hosts a luscious assortment of essentials from all over the world.  Advisor, author and aromateur, join us in a walk through Mandy's garden of earthly smells and inspiring tales....  Plus hear the music that gets her creative blends mixing, in the link below.

mandy at the organ_aftelierperfumes

Nativen: Where are you from?

Mandy: Detroit… Detroit, Michigan. 

Nativen: Do you think growing up in Detroit had any influence in your decision to pursue perfume making or fragrances in general?

Mandy: You know I don't know… I've lived in California much longer now than I lived in Detroit. I came to California in 1970, so I've been here forever, and I loved California the minute I saw it. I just ... I thought Northern California was the most gorgeous place I'd ever seen. 
This will sound strange…. I find I'm very attracted to winter, which they don't have here... and snow. The seasons, things that are very intangible, but you don't know you've experienced them, which is what I think of about scent. I think some of the experience of growing up in that cold climate and what it looked like and that time in Michigan has had a huge affect on me.
I also was a product of the sixties, so it's hard to disentangle all of that… but I was always drawn to things that were sensual and beautiful, from long ago.

the organ

the organ

Nativen: That's lovely too, a little romantic.

Mandy: Yes, very.

Nativen: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue fragrances as a career? Was there a specific event in your life that influenced the decision or was it some kind of gradual thing?

Mandy: I had a long life as a psychotherapist for artists and writers. That was what I did for 30 years. I liked it, too. I liked helping people and I liked knowing about their lives. I was very interested in other people and their lives and how they put them together. They were like little novels to me. I really loved what I was doing. I had written a book called "The Story of Your Life", which is about plot narrative in fiction and in life. 
From there, I got this idea ... I have no idea how, but it's very typical of me, that I would write a novel and make my main character a perfumer, which I didn't know much about. Then I started to do all this research and collect old books, which I did know about. I had collected and researched a lot of anything I fell into. 
I knew, somehow, that perfume was synthetic and I was very interested in earlier perfume. I started to read books. I went and I took a class at an aromatherapy studio around here, and I just fell in love. I'm not a person who has a plan. I was so excited and wanted to pursue it. I had a little bit of talent from the beginning, to blend, and a friend who said, "Lets start a perfume line." She said, "I'll do all the business and you'll do all the creating."

Nativen: That's a great arrangement.

Mandy: So, I did ... and it was a complete nightmare.

Nativen: Oh no. 

[laughs]

Mandy: We launched though at Neiman Marcus and at Bergdorf’s and got a lot of attention. Then, I lost the business. It came to, kind of, not a good end. After that, I had all the books. I had all the stuff, and no perfume business. The person I had written the book, "Story of Your Life" for ... She wanted me to write a book on perfume. That was 20 something years ago and I wrote this book "Essence and Alchemy" which is credited with starting off a lot of people in artisanal natural perfumery. 
Very slowly, after I did my book, I thought, well I'll just do custom perfume. Then I thought, well I will have one perfume. This is the "not having a plan" approach, until I had perfumes, I was working with chefs, I'd written three more books… But, it was all kind of organic, out of my pursuing what really turned me on. That’s how I ended up where I am now, but pretty organically.

Nativen: It sounds like story collecting in a way too. Fragrance really does that for people as well.
What do you love most about Berkeley and do you think it's integral to your work in any way?

Mandy: Yes. I really love Berkeley... I wrote about it some in my last book, "Fragrant". I think Berkeley is so beautiful, physically beautiful. I love the arts and crafts houses and touches around. I love that so many people have beautiful gardens in their front lawn, so when you go for a walk, you see all these very beautiful plants. You can feel the artist's hand in Berkeley, in so many charming ways. I love being here. I feel very inspired being here.

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Nativen: In Berkeley, do you have a favorite restaurant?

Mandy: Yes, I don't go out very much, but we go to Poulet. Poulet, which is down the block and has been here for a very long time. It's a deli, but they have take out food. It's run by Marilyn Rinzler, who I know. We get our dinner from there a lot. She's been in business like 30 years. She just has very interesting food.

Nativen: How about a hidden gem? Do you have a hidden gem in Berkeley?

Mandy: Yes… We go for walks every day. We walk around and we see all these wonderful places and there is this one place that is very, very interesting; very weird and interesting. It's a village ... Normandy Village. It's very cool.
It's got little turrets and very interesting brickwork. I look a lot at the brickwork in Berkeley. If someone has brickwork ... very odd brickwork, I'm always completely impressed, or if they have clinker bricks ... Texture ... I'm very down in the weeds.

Nativen: What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here?

Mandy: I feel so moved by the materials I can buy and find. I like the hunt. I like looking for them. I like that they disappear. I like the whole thing. I like their connection to other cultures and other places. I like them being both exotic and far away and sometimes nearby. I like, when you open them up, they're so layered and so transporting. I feel like everything that I make, comes back to the quality of materials that I'm able to work with. Also, a kind of vocabulary grammar I've developed about how to work with them. 
It's kind of a wordless way of crawling inside those materials and understand how they interlace with each other, which is kind of a privilege, very thrilling to me. I'm always learning. Every time you put one essence with another, that's somewhat controllable. If you add a third or fourth, things happen. Magic happens, or putridness happens. All kinds of things. It's very metaphorical about life and I'm aware of that, as I'm doing it. When I teach, I'm very interested in deconstructing and understanding ... Getting at the mysteries of those processes of making art out of beautiful raw materials. It's like cooking.

mandy kitchen_aftelierperfumes

Nativen: Do you have a favorite fragrance in your line, or something in the history of fragrance making that you feel was your greatest accomplishment? Maybe a standout…

Mandy: I am often partial to ones that are not my most popular ones. Oftentimes, very difficult to make and very meaningful to me about what they were about. 
I always create the same way. I start off with two essences that I view as "in conversation" with each other. Even though that would not be obvious to anyone else. I feel very free to pick any two essences and make them work. It's about what they have to say to each other, how they interact with each other, so that's that. It's about a feeling. Like, say we were talking about Michigan. I have a feeling about when it was really cold at dusk. That was a feeling about how the air would change. I have this feeling that's not conveyable in words, so ... That's in my head when I work. I'm looking for that, to make that more vivid. 
I have this perfume called Sepia, which is one of my favorites. It was from this absolute passion I have for the Gold Country here in California. I really, really like it. I like everything about the Gold Rush, even though it was a horrible time. I like these little towns. I go drive around and look at them and I realized once, looking at them, that when they had an old building and they fixed it up, I didn't like it as well. I'd see a church and then you'd go see it, they'd show it to you in this ramshackle way. Someone had gotten their hands on it and fixed it up and I didn't like it any more. 
I liked where you could see the past and the present. Which is some aspect of what my work, I think, is always about, is the layers of smell, the layers of the past being in the present. I have several that are like that. Sepia was about driving around the Gold Country and seeing this past somehow underneath what was there. It smells like old wood. It smells, kind of, round and soft, but like old wood. I like that one. It feels to me like it captured that feeling. 

mandy blending_aftelierperfumes

Nativen: It’s storytelling ... Fragrance is such a huge part of memory and perception of our surroundings. It's one of those things that's so ephemeral, you can't photograph a scent, you can't record a scent, so having that kind of relationship and being able to encapsulate it into a bottle.

Mandy: When someone buys my stuff, I always feel like "Yes", we are connected. I feel like I'm this message in a bottle, being handed to that person… a piece of me that is resonated with that person. I'm very honored and touched by that kind of experience.

Nativen: That's great. It's such an intimate thing, fragrance.
What part of your process brings you the most joy?

Mandy: First, not to sound as I’m avoiding the question, but ... I have a lot of joy about a lot of the process. I don't find even the drudgy aspects drudgy. I like everything about it. I'm very deeply and meaningfully connected to the Chop Wood Carry Water, kind of piece of it. I like cleaning the bottles. I like putting them in smaller bottles. I like packing the packages. I like writing the cards. I like all of that. I think the biggest joy is when I'm creating something new. It's also a little bit of torment, too, because I'm always very unconfident and uncertain when I'm creating. 
I always have this kind of thing that I'm thinking of, but it isn't it, or maybe it's getting close to it, or ... Then, I throw a lot out. I'm not a person who keeps old blends. When it clicks into focus, like in a photograph, I feel like it's clear and I know it's time to stop, and it is it, it clicks into being itself.

mandy in office_aftelierperfumes

Nativen: The literal and metaphorical distillation.
What do you think is the greatest struggle for you?

Mandy: I think the greatest struggle for me is, because I'm very honest. There is a lot of dishonesty in my field.  I see a lot from where I am, that is not in keeping with the values that I have in terms of fragrance… I often have to deal with people who have wrong ideas. I'm trying to be very careful with how I explain things to them because I feel like I'm telling them there's no Easter Bunny. I find that hard.  Like, if someone comes to me and they tell me a lot of perfumes that they like and they ask me if mine will last all day. I really try to be as careful as possible to explain to them, you know, we're using natural materials, how different it is.
I feel very privileged to work with these materials. It's like these very beautiful colors that are there for painters. It's like endless. I'm never going to get to the end of this. Never. I'll be in my grave, still thinking of, "I wonder how this would be with this".

Nativen: The circle of life. What's one thing you've always wanted to do but, haven't done yet?

Mandy: I’m not a person with a lot of that. I've really done a lot of stuff in my life… 
I'm starting a little museum. 

Nativen: That's so exciting.

Mandy: I've wanted to do that for a while. I'm very actively working on it. It's outside. It's going to be called the Aftelier Archive of Curious Scents. 
I got another organ and it's going to have little exhibits about the material so I can share my love and my knowledge of how great these materials are. All the old things I've collected. I've wanted to have a place because I've collected for 30 years. I really have an extraordinary collection of the history of materials, but I don't want my things to fall into commerce. I want it to be something people can learn about as a kind of art form. It's about the materials. So, we're doing it.

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Nativen: If you weren't doing perfume making, at this point, what do you think you would be doing?

Mandy:    I think I would be trying to write fiction really poorly, which I might try. I'm very transported by good writing and I tend to write non-fiction. I don't think I have any talent for fiction but, I've always been really interested in it. I would be one of those people who was like working on something in a notebook forever, never made the light of day which would be absolutely terrific to me. 

Nativen: Absolutely, the process is very rewarding. What destination do you want to travel to and do you think that might alter your work in any way at this point?

Mandy: I tend to go back to the exact same places. I'm very boring I think. I go to London. I love the crooked streets and the whole little decorations on buildings. I like little odd things like I like here. Love the Gold Country. Love the land in Northern California. Places I go already, I would go back to.

antique and one-of-a-kind perfume jars

antique and one-of-a-kind perfume jars

Nativen: I don't know if you listen to music at all while you work...

Mandy: I always listen to music while I work. I listen to deafening, deafening music while I work. I never make a perfume without listening to music.

Nativen: Is there a track or piece of music that inspires you?

Mandy: I listen to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and there's one Bob Dylan song in particular that was very much for Sepia. It's just fantastic and I must have listened to it a million times. I kind of fix on one song that is very involved in the perfume that I make. That one was for Sepia. It's called Brownsville Girl.

Nativen: What are three words that sum up your work for you?

Mandy: Three words that sum up my work for me ... Meaningful, fragrant, and Sui generis… Sui generis is one of a kind.

Nativen: Beautiful, that's a great word. Fragrance is such a person to person relationship, but I'm wondering if there is anything that you can talk a little bit more about what you do to sort of connect with your community specifically?

Mandy: I feel very connected to the community. Particularly the community of people who love fragrance. I feel very connected, and grateful of people that are living through their nose. Whether they're doing it in food, or fragrance. I feel like they're very special people who have worked out that the smelling of things is a really huge aspect of being human. I feel very connected to that, which is why I work in food and in fragrance. 

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Nativen: What's the most helpful advice you've received or what is some advice you might give to someone who's looking to pursue their creative art?

Mandy:    To do ... To make, what you would like to buy. To do what you really would believe in. What you would be doing if nobody paid you and nobody saw you. To just do what's closest to your heart, the best way possible and then improve at it. That would be my advice.

Nativen: Do you have a hero or maybe somebody who's really helped influence your work?

Mandy: Bob Dylan, my hero.
But, he's also an example of a person who's going on and evolved through his whole life and hasn't cared what people thought. Those are all things that I admire.

Nativen: Absolutely and especially under the eye of ... The monocle of surveillance, it's so great to see people do that.

Mandy: He's been himself and I feel like that is the most important thing, plus he's so ungodly talented.

Nativen: What are three things you can't live without?

Mandy: Well, Foster... That's one. All my oils, I love all my essences, and my bathtub.

Nativen: Oh, that's a good one.

Mandy: I really like my bathtub a lot, it's really the perfect bathtub.  I looked at a lot of bathtubs and we got in this one in Home Depot, the two of us (Foster and I) together, and thought this was the one. 

mandy and her organ_aftelierperfumes

Interview by: Lily Hetzler

Photos by: Monica Sermergiu

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen and Monica Semergiu

 

Chloe Swantner and Mamie Minch: Brooklyn Lutherie

Lily Hetzler

It was a cold grey day when we went to visit the shop and creative headquarters of Brooklyn Lutherie, but the smell of wood dust and tea, and the resonant quality of a well-loved instrument warmed the space of musical doctors, Mamie and Chloe.  From a small community of boat builders to the diverse streets of Brooklyn, these two have forged the perfect balance of impassioned creative craft, and a value for the simple joys of life.  Read about their journeys through self-discovery and the stories of the instruments they repair….

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Nativen:  If you can just start off by telling me where you’re both from that'd be awesome.

Mamie:     We're from opposite sides of the country. I'm from Delaware. I Grew up in Wilmington. I was born a little bit south of there in Virginia. My parents were, …actually we both have parents who are sailors. 

Nativen:  Wow.

Mamie:     My folks, my mom and dad built a boat in the years before I was born. I was the third kid and they were like, "What are we going to do? Three children.” They started a ‘green’ building business in Delaware, so I basically grew up in Wilmington, Delaware.

Chloe:    I'm from Washington state, from a small boat building community. Victorian seaport, as they like to call it… Port Townsend. Small town life - close to Canada and it's out on this peninsula, so it attracts all these wacky artists. So I had a lot of really powerful people to look up to and mentor me.

Nativen:  You obviously both come from some sort of a building background. Do you think that where you came from specifically influenced your choice to build, repair, and work with musical instruments? How would you actually describe what you do?

Mamie 

Mamie 

Mamie:     Well the business is restoration and repair. The business isn't building. Although Chloe's building violins and violas all the time, so what do we do? What do we do here? It's like a hospital for instruments.

Nativen:  Oh, that's such a great way of describing it.

Mamie:  The spirit of it is restorative, right? Like a lot of these wonderful, old things might otherwise be in a sad situation if someone didn't know how to help them, and I think we also are like facilitators. We facilitate art being made.
And I really like that role, and it's the spirit of “fixing”. Rather than this consumer culture where you chuck a thing and get a new one.
Also, new things are made to be chucked and replaced, but old things were not made that way.

Nativen:  Right.

Mamie:    I like that the character of what we do has more to do with the way that things were intended to be used when they were built.

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Chloe:    Yeah.

Mamie:    We kind of specialize in these World War II Gibson guitars that are flat top guitars built during World War II. They happen to have been built in the factory during wartime when all of the experienced workers were young, capable men who were off fighting in the war, so they had to replace those workers with local women and old people. So these specific guitars were built by young women and people who weren't of fighting age, so that's kind of a neat thing to be associated with.

Nativen:  That's a wonderful way of describing it. Just looking at the scope of your work it was difficult to define in one sort of arena.  It's like “stewardship” in a way that is really cool. 

Chloe:  Yeah.

Nativen:  Do you think your childhood - where you grew up - specifically influenced your desire to pursue musical instrument repair?

Chloe:  Definitely. The people I grew up around gave me an immense appreciation for keeping old things alive and caring for hand built things.

Chloe

Chloe

Mamie:    I would say I was a weirdo. I mean, I wasn't like one of a group of people that I knew who were into this stuff.
Old music and old clothes and objects. More like my family - a family culture.

Nativen:  Was there like a moment in your career or your development when you realized that you really wanted to pursue this seriously? Did you have an epiphany or something like that?

Chloe:  I definitely did. I was going to school in Maine for marine biology.
Which is still like a very deep passion of mine, but I have been playing violin since I was a kid and I just randomly met this guy sailing on his wooden boat down the coast of Maine who was building a violin, just for fun, and it completely split my mind in half. I was like "What? This is something that people do and it's not just a factory thing and it's like a portable trade? All the tools are so small and you can just be traveling and building violins?" I was like, "That is what I'm going to do."

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Nativen:  What an amazing correlation though, coming from a background of boat builders…

Chloe:    I know! It was very bizarre. I met this guy when I was sitting on the dock by my school eating dinner. I saw him rowing out to a boat that looked exactly like my dad's boat, which is a really unique Danish double-ended wooden boat.
That's why I like hailed him down. I was like, "Hey, is that a Danish Spidsgatter?" And he was like, "Why yes. Come on out."

Nativen:  “…and I'll change your entire world."

Chloe:    Totally. It was like kismet.

Nativen:  How about you, Mamie?

Mamie:    Mine was more like a slow confluence as a visual artist and like small, pokey things. And also, I play old music.
I was playing old guitars and I was in my like mid-twenties and working at a vintage guitar dealership. So there were a lot of old guitars around. Then one night I had a dream where I was sleeping alone in my bed with a guitar (because sometimes you want to wake up and play a guitar).

Nativen:  Right. Like you do.

Mamie:     Yeah, and it's a guitar from the 1930s. It's a cool guitar. Not fancy, like beat up, you know? But I had this dream that I was waltzing, and as I was waltzing I kicked my leg out and I kicked the guitar out of bed. I had a loft and the guitar went 'pyoo' and fell to the ground.
Smashed one side of it. So, I fixed it and I was like, “Duh, of course you can fix these.” And it’s pretty satisfying.
So then I applied for the repair department at the place where I worked and I got the job and then I turned out to be pretty good at it.

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Nativen:  It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with you and historical instruments.

Mamie:    Yeah.

Nativen:  What do you love most about Brooklyn and do you think it's integral to the work that you're doing in any way?

Mamie:    I'm a little allergic to Brooklyn's current artisanal trend… but, there are worse trends in the world, you know?

Chloe:    Right. A beautiful thing about Brooklyn, I think, is the concentration and diversity of age and culture and race. And our clientele is so diverse and vibrant. I think my favorite part about having a shop in Brooklyn is to have our hands in a lot of different music scenes and schools. And old people picking up instruments for the first time.

Nativen:  It’s amazing to have access to that kind of like cultural diversity.

Mamie:    Yeah, I really appreciate that in Brooklyn we have people of different ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender expressions coming to us.
We've worked in other shops where that's not what happens.

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Nativen:  Do you live in Brooklyn as well or are you..?

Mamie:     I just moved to the East Village like two weeks ago.

Chloe:  And I live in Bed-Stuy.

Nativen:  Do you have a favorite restaurant in your neighborhood?

Chloe:    The Ethiopian place. Bunna Café on Flushing. That's probably my favorite place.

Mamie:  I like Barrio 480 for their tacos and what else do I like? Genet Ethiopian is great. I've been going to Angelica Kitchen a lot in the east village. Love Angelica Kitchen.

Nativen: You kind of can't, not love it. It's been there for a bajillion years so there's something very reassuring about that. You know, in an ever-changing New York it's comforting to find those places that have prevailed against all odds.
Do you have a favorite home goods or clothing store that you shop at?

Mamie:     I don't shop so much. Where do I shop? I have to buy things somewhere, right?

Chloe:    My mom still sends me underwear.

Mamie:     That's amazing.

Chloe:  And I make all my clothes. Most of my clothes... I go to Salvation Army.

Mamie:     I mostly buy vintage. 

Nativen:  Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space?

Mamie:    Yeah, Prospect Park. Hamilton Fish in the East Village is also pretty great.

Chloe:    Yeah, Prospect Park. I'm a cyclist and my boyfriend really is getting into mountain biking lately and like all year round we'll bomb the trails in Prospect Park. It's really, really fun. There's so many of them. So many.

Nativen:  Do you have a favorite “hidden gem” in New York?

Mamie:    Oh. Barbès. That's my favorite bar.

Nativen:  Awesome.

Chloe:  Jalopy.

Mamie:    Jalopy, yeah. Really love Jalopy. 

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Nativen:  What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here?

Mamie:     It would have to be our clientele.

Chloe:    Yeah, and each other.

Mamie:     That's true. The spirit of collaboration with one another. That's like a huge deal. 

Chloe:    Well, yeah, and just like getting perspective. I don't know, there are tough jobs, there are tough clients, and having someone to pull you out of a downward spiral, you know, seriously.

Nativen:  Yeah… Okay, so this is the like asking you to pick a “favorite child”, but do you have a favorite instrument you like to work on, or a project that you've done that you were like, “This was the greatest accomplishment or most exciting thing that I've ever worked on”?

Chloe:    I did a really major cello restoration recently for my friend Tiana. This cello had been sitting with this splintered top for fifteen years. It was sitting in somebody else's shop. They never had time to do it and she brought it over here and I was like, "Let's make this happen." It involved a lot of little tricks and techniques that I'd never done before. I think the challenging ones that you learn from are my favorite for sure.

Nativen:  You're like nursing something back to health in this intense way.

Mamie:     Yeah, and that’s so right. She's literally making a plaster cast of what’s there, then sculpting away the plaster and then pressing it in to how you want it to be, you know? You're reverse engineering the way it was built.
I did a full restoration on this guitar from the 1930s, which is actually like one that I play. His was a 1936 National-Dobro steel guitar with a wooden neck where the company moved from Chicago to California in 1935. They took with them a bunch of unbuilt, random pieces of guitars that were never fully realized. 
They stopped making any new models after that. They just started piecing together these and those and those. Models of guitars are like models of cars, you know?
Holt's got a mahogany neck and these weird tuners. But these guitars were wacky, so it did a lot of unexpected things, opening the whole thing up. Sawing into it with a band saw and driving a wedge in to change the angle of the neck. It was like all of these funny little techniques and you end up collecting this knowledge from people that you talk to over the years and I got a chance to use all of it in one guitar.
And then when the person picks up a guitar, if you do your job well, no one knows you've even touched it.

Chloe:    It's just like, “Oh, this feels like it should feel. And it looks like it should look.”

Mamie:      Right, and that it plays in tune.

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Nativen:  What part of your process brings you the most joy?

Chloe:    Just the gratification of seeing someone really elated that their baby's back and healthy.

Mamie:     Yeah. The return. The ‘here you go’. That's really nice. I really like that I can have a job that gives you money where I show up every day and I'm happy about it.

Nativen:  What part do you think is the greatest struggle for you?

Mamie:     Deciding how much of my free time I'm willing to give up to further my professional life. I think we live in a time when we are all supposed to be really passionate about (our work), and have all things synthesized. I'm going to tweet about every single f-ing thing in the world.
I like my quiet time. I like my supper time, and our community is like people who totally geek out. People do it from when they wake up until they fall asleep.

Nativen:  What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet? 

Mamie:    I've always wanted to make a pair of shoes. Chloe's mom's a cobbler.
Or make like sculptural ladies' hats.

Chloe:    But also, more related to work, I'd like to build like a “mandocello” and like a “parlor guitar”.  I'd like to build more.

Mamie:    A mandocello would be amazing.

Chloe:    Electric guitar. I want to make an electric violin. Just needs to be eight weeks in the month.

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Mamie:     Yeah.

Nativen:  I can relate to that. So if you weren't doing what you're doing, what do you think you would be doing?

Chloe:    I'd be scuba diving. I'd be a scientific diver.
And eating the fruits of the sea every day.

Mamie:     Which are oysters or what?

Chloe:    Even seaweed and fish.

Mamie:     That's great. I could tell you what I am interested in doing. I would like to be able to spend a month in a refugee camp.
That would be a pretty worthwhile thing to spend your time doing.

Nativen:  Yeah. Absolutely.

Mamie:  In an alternate life, I was a print making instructor. I might do something like that. That would be more like a career, you know what I mean?
It’s “hands-y” and I like teaching, but you don't get as much peace as in a situation where you have a chance to do your own thing.

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Nativen: What destination do you want to travel to, and do you think that might inspire or alter the work that you're doing in any way?

Mamie:  I have a boyfriend, Taono, who speaks a lot of languages and we like to travel a lot. We're talking about going to Tobago, to Trinidad and Tobago, where the music tradition is pretty interesting and hot. Really vibrant and really exciting.
I recently traveled to Cuba maybe a year and a half ago. It was before the embargo started to be lifted. They're building instruments there out of repurposed things in the most smart and ingenious ways.

Nativen:  How inspiring.

Mamie:     I know. They gutted all of the casinos in the 1950s, but what they didn't take was the Venetian blinds - called “Persian blinds”. They have these big long slats of straight cedar that are split-cut and they're all still there and they've been aged for sixty years. So you glue two together and you have the back of a guitar. It's beautiful.
And then they were getting all this imported hardwood furniture from the USSR - and so you take a table leg and it's the neck of a violin and it's like they were doing things like bending wood on a gasoline tank from a motorcycle that's sawed in half and you put a hot coal inside. Then you bend your wood.
They figured it all out. And they're building things that are beautiful.

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Chloe:    I would like to travel more in Africa. My boyfriend and I went to Ethiopia ... it was amazing and I think musically, that would really inspire me.

Nativen:  I don't know if you listen to music at all while you work, but do you have a favorite song or artist? 

Mamie:     We listen to so much music. We listen to a lot of different music.

Chloe:  Yeah. We have a favorite mutual song.

Nativen:  Oh?

Mamie:     Ted Lucas, “It's So Easy When You Know What You're Doing”. It was on this radio program that we listen to, “Chances With Wolves”.
I got really into Tone Tank. He's like a rapper, but he's like a doofy kind of Italian guy from Brooklyn. It's pretty great.

Nativen:  That's sounds amazing. What are three words that sum up your work for you?

Mamie:     Wood.
Patience.

Chloe:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mamie:    I exercise that every day. 

Chloe:    Yeah, for sure.

Mamie:     Sometimes someone will bring you a guitar and they're like, "This is buzzing." Okay, so there are forty-nine and half ways that a guitar can buzz.
Yeah, it's not an objective thing. So there's some massaging.

Chloe:    Patience, yeah. What's another word for like long-lasting.

Mamie:    Resiliency?

Chloe:    Yeah, or like ...

Nativen:  Longevity?

Chloe: Yeah, maybe.

Nativen:  Is there anything that you ladies specifically do to connect with your community in the work that you're doing?

Chloe:    I think we both want to do more of that.

Mamie:     Yep.

Chloe:  I think our main outreach has been with the “Willie Mae Rock Camp” for girls.
We've gone there and spoke to their camp kids and repaired instruments for them and donated instruments to them.

Mamie:     Right. We sent a couple instruments to Standing Rock protesters.
And then we both are performers, so I think people know us now not only by that, but also being connected to Brooklyn Lutherie. I think it's important to just be stable and represent women owning a business and doing something that they believe in.

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Nativen:  Happy to hear that. What's the most helpful advice you've received or maybe advice that you would give to someone who's looking to pursue their creative dreams?

Mamie:     I think get nerdy and don't be scared to really dive in.

Chloe:  Yeah. There are so many ways to educate yourself. And even before you find the teacher or the job, there are a lot of ways to experience and teach yourself. Mess around and ruin some instruments, you know?

Mamie:     Don't be scared.

Chloe:    Enjoy learning how not to do stuff and figure it out.

Mamie:     Also, like my dad used to say, “Show up on time. Show up on time.” Create a community by making sure that people know that they can trust you.

Chloe:    Right.

Nativen:  Super good advice. Yeah, I think making mistakes is such a huge part of that. We think we're supposed to have it all figured out right away.

Mamie:     No, totally right.

Nativen:  Do you have a hero or someone who's influenced your work in a really meaningful way?

Mamie:     I'm thinking of two people. Linda Manzer. Linda Manzer is a wonderful instrument builder. She's Canadian, and she's kind of been at it for long enough, she's in her sixties, so she learned her craft in the 1970s building classical guitars. We interviewed her for “She Shreds” magazine. Do you know this magazine? It's a magazine for women guitarists and bassists.
We interviewed her for that magazine and she was like, “Learning to build guitars is like taking a vow of poverty." Like it wasn't glamorous and it wasn't something that would make you a lot of money, so ...

Chloe:    And it was going to be like, hanging in the shop with a bunch of guys, just all the time.

Mamie:     She talked about how she grew up with brothers - she was pretty rough and ready - but it was definitely like going to work at an auto-body shop. But then she found this kind of beautiful group of guys who didn't make it difficult for her to be herself and at some point she started making really wacky instruments. She's made a few of these eight necked, forty-two stringed instruments.
And they're not just like a novelty show. They're beautiful.
She's done the physics work-ups and she knows how things vibrate. I really like the way her guitars play. The sounds are dark and resonant and like a little wet, almost murky, but not muddy.

Chloe:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mamie:     And they sell for $30,000.  She's top of the game, you know?

Nativen:  Right.  What are three things you can't live without?

Mamie:    I feel like some of these are going to be tools. For me, three quarter inch chisel ... Do we each get three or do we get a collective three?

Nativen:  Yeah, you each get three. You're separate people. [laughs] You can have your own in general. User's choice.

Mamie:    Coffee with cardamom. Yeah. Three quarter inch chisel. Coffee with cardamom, pocket knife ... I feel like at one point I did like tried online dating and I had to answer this same question.
It drove me bonkers also. I was like, "No one's ever going to look at my profile if I don't have three things!" I mean the truth is like, making out with Taono is on the list.

Nativen:  Hey, it's good to know what you need in life.

Chloe:  Yeah. Black tea, record collection-

Mamie:     Oh, yeah, music. Yeah.

Chloe:    Music. Bicycle.

Mamie:    Yeah. Okay, pocket knife, coffee with cardamom, and-

Chloe:    Love.

Mamie:    Yeah. Fela Kuti.

Nativen:  Ooh nice. You like encompassed both of them. Music and love, within Fela Kuti. 

Chloe and Mamie

Chloe and Mamie

 

Interview by: Lily Hetzler

Photos by: Ethan Covey

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

This song contains explicit lyrics

Rachel Budde: Fat and the Moon

Lily Hetzler

Rachel’s bungalow in the woods outside of Nevada City imbues all the qualities of warmth, tranquility and the sweet, woody, welcoming smell that we long for in home.  Fat and the Moon, is rich with story, from her Slovenian heritage of herbal healers to her new California roots. On a warm Autumn day we sat and chatted with Rachel and her four-legged friend about the beauty of healing, the art of creating from the natural world, and the inspiration of travel… Take a journey with us from the woods of Slovenia to the mountains of California.

Nativen: First off, can you tell me about where you're from?

Rachel: Sure. I'm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I lived there up until the time I was 18 and I moved to New York at that point. It's interesting because it’s the Midwest and I actually learned so much from growing up there. I’ve always been really different than my family, so eventually going to the coast made a lot of sense for me just because that's where I really found myself. But when I think about the Midwestern ethic—hardworking and trustworthy—I have come fully around in my adulthood to really value that kind of upbringing actually.

Nativen: Do you think the environment or anything else about Milwaukee inspired you to create Fat and the Moon.

Rachel: My mom's side is Slovenian and my grandmother was a big part of my upbringing because she helped raise my sister and I. We went back to Slovenia a lot. Both the connection to the garden and the connection to nature was there because of her influence. But also living in the suburbs I really felt it's lack. I had a strong desire to connect with something more, or to connect with a different way to be in the world, so living in the suburbs was influential by contrast. Then I went to a high school for the arts in Milwaukee and that was huge because that was a total shift from just living in the suburbs and being a weirdo, and to being in a den of weirdos.

Nativen: I don't quite know how to define you as a creator, but would you call yourself an herbalist? And was there a moment when you really realized that you wanted to pursue herbalism as a career? Was there a epiphany moment or something that happened in life specifically to tip you in this direction?

Rachel: Yes, well I'm an artist. I think that's the way I would describe myself, an artist and an herbalist. I was going to art school in New York, and that's what brought me there. The work that I was doing was always influenced by mythology. I was super interested in Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. So I would ask, “What is mythology about?” It's about how people orient themselves in the place that they're living. It’s about their connection to the plants, their connection to the animals, to the landscape, to the weather patterns. I was living in New York City and had no relationship to those things. At the same time, I was doing a permaculture course, and I heard this idea that really that changed my life: weeds that grow in urban landscapes have a direct correlation with the illnesses that people suffer from in those same landscapes. 
All of a sudden, I noticed these places where a dandelion would be coming out of the concrete or burdock or mugwort. This thing that seemed ugly or derelict became alive and full of magic. That cultivation with those plants was like a remembering of my own Slovenian heritage and I realized that the way that my family has used plants I had taken for granted. It was a real coming back to the idea of what being an artist is. For me it's been a pursuit in understanding compositions, understanding relationships, how things come together and what the bigger picture is in that. It really changed my life. At that time it felt like herbalism, feminism, and my life as an artist had converged in Fat and the Moon. It was this perfect organic synchronistic series of events that just put me in that direction. I realized we are nature. The relationship is continued even in the middle of a concrete jungle. 

Nativen: You’re in Nevada City now. What do you love most about it? Do you think being there is integral to your work in any way?

Rachel: There's so many things I love about this place. I think coming here also felt like a magical journey. There's just something special about the people, the landscape, and this sense of community. There's so many makers here, it's amazing. There's brilliant people all around here. That both Fat and the Moon could be held here, but it could also give back, it just felt like a perfect place to do this work. 
Then just personally when I'm traveling and I think about coming home, I feel so excited. It just feels like a little haven. 

Nativen: Do you have a favorite restaurant in Nevada City?

Rachel: There's a couple of good places. I like Three Forks—that's a good spot. I love the co-op. I'm a health food store connoisseur. The co-op is really my jam. Then Sushi in the Raw, but you have to get reservations five days in advance. 

Nativen: Do you have a favorite home goods or clothing store?

Rachel: Kitkitdizzi. It's run by really incredible people. Really cool ladies.

Nativen: We're surrounded by it, but do you have a favorite outdoor space in and around Nevada City?

Rachel: I mean everybody in Nevada City says this probably, but the Yuba River was a big part of me moving here. The influence of that amazing river. My time on the Mendocino Coast by the Pacific, which is such a powerful, formidable body of water, was very much that: crashing, vast, rich. Here, the river is much sweeter. Powerful still, but a little more nourishing. 

Nativen: What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here?

Rachel: A sense of community and seeing other people's creativity. I'm really blown away by the people here and I feel really lucky to be in the midst of these folks.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite product or something that you produce?

Rachel: Every product is for a pretty important purpose. But the deodorants have been the huge thing. I get to meet the people that my potions armpits are in, it's so intimate, and there's something that I creepily like about that. That I get to be invited into that space in a small way is really cool. When I came up with that recipe I felt really good about it. It was like a divinely inspired recipe. I'm very grateful for all that's come my way because of deodorant.

Nativen: What part of your process brings you the most joy?

Rachel: That's a tough question. It's thinking about the greater life of this business. I like seeing where the direction goes, imagining where and how I can tell the story of the plants through this business. I think that brings me a lot of joy. This business feels like a vehicle for a bigger message of self-care, self-love. Connecting to the plants, connecting to the fact that you're nature and that it's joyful and fun and humorous. I think the story of Fat and the Moon is what I take a lot of pleasure in. That looks different sometimes: sometimes it's writing about products, sometimes it's teaching workshops, sometimes it's coming up with a recipe, or asking people what they think about the recipes. 

Nativen: What part of the process is the greatest struggle for you?

Rachel: I think the business side of things. I’m not a “business woman.” In terms of numbers and profit, it’s all very alienating language for me. I can't say enough about my employees and I think one thing that I've really learned is to surround myself with people who have skills that I don't have. There's so many skills I don't have. To see that people take joy in things that I find really tedious, like accounting or spreadsheets, has been an epiphany.

Nativen: What's one thing you've always wanted to do, but haven't done yet?

Rachel: I want a farm. I want Fat and the moon to have a farm and that's my goal. 

Nativen: If you weren't an artist and herbalist, what do you think you would be?

Rachel: I can't even imagine myself not being an artist, that's just such a core part of the way I look at the world.

Nativen: That’s a good sign you’re on the right path. What’s a destination you want to travel to and do you think it might inspire or alter your work in any way?

Rachel: There are places in South America that I'd really like to go. I think I'm really interested in cultures and in places where the connection with the plants is still very strong. That's something that’s really dying out for a lot of different reasons. I would love to go to Peru, I would love to go to Brazil, I would love to go to parts of Japan. There's so many places. 

Nativen: Do you have a song or music that you listen to or that's really inspiring to you?

Rachel: I just went to the Beyonce concert. It was so amazing, and I just love Beyonce. I feel like that's my new goal. If Fat and the Moon can be part of Beyonce's toiletries, I would die feeling complete. The song I like is “Girls”. There’s been a lot of power behind Fat and the Moon from that song.

Nativen: What are 3 words that sum up your work?

Rachel: “Relationship”. That's really what this is all about in the end. Reconnecting with relationship, the relationship with ourselves, our bodies. Both the plants and with where things come from. I think that's a really big one. Another word is  “nature”. We have this idea that nature is somehow this separate thing from culture, from who we are. I always try to take an opportunity to break that down a little bit more. That we are nature and the decisions that we make are connected to nature. We know that humans are having a really negative impact on the natural world. Then I think “self-care”. What that means in a much bigger sense around connecting back to what really feels good and what really nourishes. Often times there's a lot of this self-destructive loop. We think we want something because it'll make us happy, but if we really examined it, it would be because we think that there's something wrong with us that we need to fix. If we can be in a relationship with ourselves where we're really caring for ourselves, I think that we would act in such a different way. It would be fun to be around humans who are really caring for themselves.

Nativen: That's a beautiful way of describing that. Is there anything you do with your work to specifically connect with the community?

Rachel: Kitkitdizzi is the center of a lot of the worlds of the makers around here. We also collaborate with farms like First Rain Farms and work with different organizations in town. One is Women of Worth, which is a shelter and resource for women and children in domestic violence situations and also human trafficking situations. We’re also working with New Roots. They're in Sacramento and in Oakland, but they basically make farms and community gardens available to refugee populations who have had to flee their home countries and completely lost their way of life and their connection to the land. This is something that as we grow is a bigger piece of how I want Fat and the Moon to live in the world. 
Essentially herbalism is about healing. So the question is how do I take that idea and make that the ethos of this business? 

Nativen: What do you think is the most helpful advice you've received, or maybe advice that you would give to someone who's looking to pursue their own creative endeavor?

Rachel: That's a good question. I've gotten a lot of wisdom along the way. It's just one baby step after another. It's important to keep the big vision, to keep your eye on the prize, but let things evolve organically. Try not to get too ahead of yourself because then you can't enjoy the steps along the way.

Nativen: That's some solid advice because I think people get turned off by the having to do it all at once sometimes. Do you have a hero or maybe somebody who's helped influence your work in a big way?

Rachel: My Slovenian grandma—the difficulty of her having to leave where she was from, and her influence on me as a little kid, the love, but also just her connection with plants and with the natural world, and going back to Slovenia with her and seeing her there. I feel like she has been a guide in my life and I have followed her story backwards and it's been such a rich process for me to uncover her story, find out what happened, and understand what were the circumstances in which she had to leave Slovenia, what were her skills, who were her neighbors,w hat was the house that she lived in. That has given me the gifts and also the traumas. I've learned a lot about pain, about medicine and pain, about medicine and the wound. That's been my work in this world and it's really because of her.

Nativen: What a beautiful lineage. What are 3 things you can't live without?

Rachel: Chocolate. I'm fueled by my god, the cocoa plant. Connection to both humans and to the plants. I couldn't live without it, that's for sure. And I think curiosity. There's just so much in this world that is so fascinating and I feel like every day I'm learning so much. I couldn't be who I am without curiosity.

Interview by: Lily Hetzler

Photos by: Monica Semurgiu

Edited by: Mary Warner (This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

Greta de Parry: Woodworker, Welder, Furniture Designer

Lily Hetzler

Greta is one of the hardest working women, I know. The ultimate hands-on sculptor, she lets the playfulness of process define and refine each of her pieces.  Hearing her story about finding the creativity in the skillsets she took for granted, and the pioneering family that inspired her to get there, is a motivating one.  Greta de Parry is a natural, and her work and the story that got her here is too…

photo by Erica Gannett

photo by Erica Gannett

Nativen:    Where are you from?

Greta:    I'm from Michigan. I grew up there. My mom is from the Deep South, and my dad is from France. He is a home-builder, so I spent a lot of time on construction sites, job sites. He always had blueprints scattered across the table. Both of my parents were business owners as well, so I think that's kind of my influence. I spent a lot of time in the South and overseas. 

Nativen:    That's great. Do you think Michigan specifically influenced your work in any way? 

Greta:    It's hard to say. That's a really interesting question. I wonder if it would have been the same scenario if I was in Idaho or something, if I would have been inspired differently. I don't think Michigan the state necessarily influenced my work. More so, my teachers; I had really, really great, influential teachers at a really young age, and both my parents were super supportive of me wanting to draw all of the time. Nurturing my creative desires, whatever they were. I think it would be more people than location.  Michigan is a great state. Not to knock on Michigan at all. 

Nativen:    That’s wonderful to have people as a catalyst because it has a fluidity to it that doesn't necessarily lock you to one area of the world. Was there maybe a moment of epiphany that you came to that made you realize, "Yes, I want to be creating, woodworking," or was it just a gradual process?

photo by Alyssa Miserendino

photo by Alyssa Miserendino

Greta:    I don't think there was any ephiphanal moment that stands out. Honestly since like 2nd grade, my art teacher was like, "Greta, you should think about going to art school for college." I loved to draw and knit things and paint and all sorts of stuff. So I had my mind set from that point on going to art school. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do because I really liked a lot of things. I did work with fine arts, charcoal was my medium in undergrad, then I did a lot of graphic design. I'm really interested in typography, and sculpture has always been there. It wasn't necessarily even at the forefront until I moved to Chicago for school.  Like say if I needed corner shelving for my dorm room or something like that, I was able to make it because of my dad. That wasn't really art per se, because it was more like a straight, “I need some storage, how do we do this efficiently? “When I moved to Chicago I took this woodworking class my very first semester. Again, I had a really good professor. I'd never taken a formal, traditional woodworking class. I've taken metal sculpture, and other sculpture and I really just loved it and it came really naturally to me, and I really cared about the process. It sort of enveloped my time and set the tone for the rest of my time at the Art Institute. Then I got a job working in the shop, as a shop tech, and after that I spent all of my time in the shop. It wasn't furniture then, it was first sculpture, and installation pieces. I started to make the furniture that I needed in my apartment, and I used my woodworking skills there. Yeah, so It really was a gradual thing, and by the end of my time at SAIC I had developed a solid skillset in wood and metal. My foundry professor, he was a former artist in residence at this program that was affiliated with the BBM with the Art Institute. He was in charge of recruiting. When I was in the program they only took one artist at a time, and it was to learn at this farm outside of the city, and work with a master craftsperson. So I was able to do that, and that was really transformational. If I hadn't done that, who knows what I would have ended up doing? I was just immersed in furniture, and I lived up there for a few years, and it's been nine years, and I share shop space with the partner who I apprenticed.

Nativen:    It's such a nice journey through your creative process, because for you, it started out as something that was sort of second nature and somewhat inherited through learning from your father. It sounds like it was a skillset that you took for granted, and then through other creative pursuits, you found the art in it again.

Greta:    Absolutely. It's so true. It's funny, when I think about this, my most successful furniture pieces, the pieces that I love the most or that people appreciate the most, every single one of those pieces came accidentally. I was either working on other projects at the time, and happened to have off-cuts, or forms that weren't working and I was trying to fix. Those are the pieces that are really beautiful. It's much more difficult for me to sit down and design a chair. That's sort of why I design. The world is saturated with so much stuff. Why put more and more unless it’s really special.

photo by Jim Prisching

photo by Jim Prisching

Nativen:    Absolutely. What do you love most about Chicago? Do you think it's integral to your work? 

Greta:    I really enjoy Chicago. It's a liveable city, there's so much going on as far as my alma mater, major shows at the art museum. There's a big solid community of woodworkers. I live in the city but then escape the city to the studio, so to have that, it's a really nice balance. At the same time, I'm not making every single piece by hand anymore, I'm working with really great local manufacturers and fabricators that help this process become way more efficient, and even more beautifully made then I was able to do by myself. They're able to develop new products, which is very exciting. I think that could happen anywhere, though. It seems like all these cities that I visit have good solid communities, which is really exciting. 

Nativen:    Do you have a favorite restaurant in Chicago? 

Greta:    That is a tough one. I love the Publican. There are so many great places in my neighborhood…. Stout is a great one in Chicago. 

Nativen:    Favorite park or outdoor space? 

Greta:    Millennium Park. 

Nativen:    Is there a hidden gem in Chicago for you? 

Greta:    Yeah, there's so many hidden gems. The neighborhoods are packed with hidden gems. I live in a great neighborhood called Wicker Park, it’s just full of dive bars with great jukeboxes, and a lot of outdoor spaces. I think it's the dive bars in Chicago. 

Nativen:    What do you think is the greatest resource to your work in Chicago? 

Greta:    I’m really close to the fabricators and manufacturers that I work with. There's an abundance of them. When I was starting to figure out how to get the steel base made for my barstools, I looked up welding companies in Chicago, and there are 50 of them. That’s an amazing resource being in the city, and if you're a person who is starting to develop a product line, that’s not made by you. Letting go of something that's like your baby, is hard enough, so it’s nice to be able to go by, and be more hands on that way. 

Nativen:    Do you have a piece that's your favorite? Or maybe it was the greatest accomplishment throughout your work thus far?

Greta:    My favorite new piece would be a bar stool called the Nico Stool. It's just really beautiful and smooth and comfortable. I just love it. My standout is definitely my Coleman barstool. You know when I look back at the evolution and the course that it's taken, because I've been making this thing for almost 7 years now. The path, where it is now and where it started, just feels good. It's a really beautiful piece, and now the process is really buttoned-up, and I make it in all these colors. 

Coleman Bar Stool

Coleman Bar Stool

Nativen:    That's a really cool thing to look at as a creator, one symbol that can imbue that evolution for you. As far as your creation process goes, what part of it brings you the most joy? 

Greta:    Definitely the prototyping, the studio time. My process always starts in the shop, instead of pen to paper first. I feel like I can draw more with my hands in it, and do a million renditions of it… it's just endless amounts of tweakage. Something else will come by way of doing one project, and then ... I'll push on that for a bit ... It definitely starts in the shop. 

Nativen:    What part of your process do you think is the greatest struggle? 

Greta:    For a while it was the reverse engineering of it. I have a background in graphic design, but studio modeling programs were just never my thing. I never got the hang of them. So translating pieces over to CAD was challenging at first. Now I have trusted people, and I have a system that works for me, because it's really essential: working with people that want to do a rendering of a space, that's how things are operating these days. 

Nativen:    If you weren't doing furniture design, what do you think you would be doing? 

Greta:    If I wouldn't have gotten my artist in residency, I was in the application process for the Peace Corps, so I think I probably would have joined the Peace Corps. Also, I love kids and I love pediatric art therapy and that sort of thing, so I think I would have either been in teaching or something academic. 

Nativen:    That actually transitions really well into my next question, which is what destination do you want to travel to next? 

Greta:    Oh my gosh, I think about this all the time… I'm planning a trip right now to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. That will be in the spring. I've never been to the far East, I've spent a lot of time in Europe, but I've never been anywhere in Asia. 

Nativen:    Do you think that might inspire or alter your work in any way? 

Greta:    Definitely. I'm sort of like a sponge when it comes to architecture, and design, and seeing how people integrate cultures, and how countries use objects in different ways. You're always imagining those things that you don't necessarily think of until you travel through other countries. 

Nativen:    When you're immersed in another culture, you see not just their functional evolution from an engineering standpoint, but how that interplays with the decorative elements of the culture, like in the way that they speak to each other. I don't know if you listen to music at all when you work, but do you have any songs that influence you right now? 

Greta:    I always have The Current streaming. It's a public radio station based out of Minneapolis. They play an amazing mix of music. The DJs are awesome. It's everything from Miles Davis to Die Antwerp ... It gets all the genres, and just really good music. I also have a secret love of mashup mixes, with 30 minutes of mashup dance jams that get me moving. 

Nativen:    What are 3 words that sum up your work for you? 

Greta:    Contemporary, authentic, and lasting. 

photo by Steven Sampang

photo by Steven Sampang

Nativen:    Is there anything you do with your work to specifically connect with your community? 

Greta:    I donate pieces every year to different charitable auctions. A friend of mine is part of Save the Children, which is sort of an ongoing thing. I would like to eventually root myself with an organization that I can give part of the proceeds to… I've thought so much about this, I care about trees obviously and I care about the planet, but it's kids that pull at me...

Nativen:    That's your calling? 

Greta:    Yes. 

Nativen:    What's the most helpful advice you've received? Or what's some advice maybe that you'd offer to a creative, that's looking to develop their own work? 

Greta:    I would say don't be afraid. There are a few parts of that. If it's a person that's coming and wanting to get into the shop and learn how to build stuff with their own hands and make things, the first piece of advice I would tell them is call or email carpenters or cabinet-makers in your area. Tell them you’ll clean their studio, if you can learn some things and help them in their shop. People don't turn down free labor, so it's a really nice way of learning. The second thing I would say is, don't be afraid to fail, because most of what you’ll make will be a failure, so you have to get over that hurdle. Not everything is going to be the final piece. Just make, make, make, make, make. Hone your skillset, because that's very important. 

Nativen:    That's good advice. I think culturally, we don't acknowledge that fear is a necessary part of success, that you can't have success without fear. Do you have a hero, or maybe someone who's helped influence your work in a big way? 

Greta:    My grandparents are my heroes, for sure. There are a lot of other furniture makers and designers who have inspired me I guess, but just as a whole, to the core, I think my grandparents definitely. I just like to think about them and for any hurdle that seems like a challenge, I'm like, “I got this. This is all good,”. They're such incredible hard workers. My grandfather is actually one of the leaders in Ukrainian Independence, and he fought in the Ukraine. He's a nuclear engineer, a brilliant man, and went through a lot, lost everything, to come here and they lived for their family. 

Nativen:    That's inspiring. What are three things you can't live without? 

Greta:    Coffee is definitely a big one. I can't live without coffee. 
My Action Book – it’s a really smart, beautifully designed notebook by the Behance team.  I’ve used the action method for 5 years now, it works well for my brain.
I don’t want to say my phone…. But I kind of have to say my phone.  It’s really helpful for tracking work. I’m also constantly listening to music and podcasts, so it’s kind of a lifesaver.

photo by Jim Prisching

photo by Jim Prisching

Interview by: Lily Hetzler

This interview has been condensed & edited

Laura Evans: Outra Textiles

Lily Hetzler

As daunting as the leap from the strangely reassuring cacophony of urban existence to the cricket chirp-filled lull of a rolling green mountain town may seem to us city-dwellers, in Laura Evans’ sun-soaked Asheville studio, it’s clear that life’s pleasures do indeed prevail in the South. Laura’s North Carolinian pad is filled with inspiring images of what a home can be: simple, beautiful, and playful.  From her Southern roots to her days as a Brooklyn landscaper, Laura finds her art in quiet moments. Now based permanently in Asheville, Laura’s creativity finds its genteel yet contemporary expression in the novel world of her brand, Outra Textiles

Nativen:    First off, where are you from?

Laura:    I'm from Georgia and Alabama. My parents are both from Georgia and my mom has an enormous family; she grew up on a farm with 10 kids! When I was five, we moved back to Georgia. I grew up there and went to college there. 

Nativen:    So you're a real Southern woman?

Laura:    It doesn't totally feel like that! But I guess, by definition. 

Nativen:    How do you think growing up in Georgia influenced your work and your creative life?

Laura:    When I was growing up, I was pretty mainstream in a lot of ways. Georgia is a conservative situation, and it doesn't accept people who are very different. I think when I was in high school, and even more in college, the creative part of me started to feel like creativity was a way to resist, a very safe way to break out of that mold. 

Nativen:    How do you define your work? Would you call yourself a textile artist?

Laura:    Yeah. I went to school for landscape architecture. After graduating in Georgia, I moved to Brooklyn and worked for several years doing that. But my excitement for it wore off pretty fast. I realized over time that I'm more interested in patterns and graphic representation of things, as opposed to design spaces. Landscape architecture as a whole is pretty tedious, like an office job for the most part. You're at a computer 95% of the time. 
I was majorly questioning whether I wanted to stick with that, and we decided to move to Asheville. When we moved, we didn't have work, but we thought it would be fine. We were moving from a big city and thought that we'd find work, no big deal. But that's not how Asheville is, and I didn't have a job for the first month that we were here. It was really uncomfortable for me. My life in New York was constantly crammed, so it was pretty uncomfortable to not have many friends, not to have anything going on. But, during that time, while it was hard, it gave me space to think about what I was actually really interested in. I started making stuff for our house, and that felt much more satisfying than anything else I had done in a long time. I needed to break myself a little bit and sit with the uncomfortableness in order to get back into my creativity. It's hard, but that's part of my process now. 

Nativen:    Beautiful things grow from dirty places. It's good to have that. What do you love most about Asheville and do you think it's integral to your work in any way?

Laura:    One of the biggest things is that there isn't a big focus on career here. It’s really nice. It’s not that I don’t want to be productive or motivated, but it's nice not to have that pressure. It works well for me. There’s also a big sense of community here and a big crafty community. 

Nativen:    Do you have a favorite restaurant in Asheville?

Laura:    I'm on a funky diet right now so I don't eat out a ton anymore. But there’s this place that looks really cheesy, but the food is actually so good, it's called Posana. It's downtown and they have a really nice outdoor seating area. 

Nativen:    Do you have a favorite home goods or clothing store?

Laura:    The shopping in Asheville is not awesome. When we first moved here, there was just Old North, a men's clothing place. When I stumbled upon it, it felt like a haven. Luckily, they did well, and they expanded to women's and a couple home goods. It's beautiful and well curated. 

Nativen:    Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space? 

Laura:    There's a ton around here, so it's a little tricky to pick! There is the North Carolina arboretum, which is associated with UNC and is really wonderful. They have pretty Rhododendrons and covered trails, and the gardens are also really gorgeous. Then there's an infinite amount of hiking trails and swimming holes around here.

 Nativen:    Is there a hidden gem in Asheville?

Laura:    There's a park close by that’s not well known called Azalea Park, and there’s a spot there where you can get into the river. There aren't that many places close to town where you can access the water, so that feels pretty special. It gets a little overrun sometimes with some bizarro people, but anyway…

Nativen:    What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here in Asheville?

Laura:    There is a really awesome craft gallery downtown, The Center for Craft Creativity & Design. It's a pretty contemporary take. The space is really beautiful and it’s a very accessible community. My husband and I are pretty plugged in with them. 

Nativen:    What part of your process brings you the most joy?

Laura:    Probably that moment when a new design occurs to me. But sometimes, it comes a lot harder. I have to sketch a long time before I can come up with things that feel new and fresh. But the stuff that I end up liking the most usually occurs to me really quick. That excitement is about making something new that I haven't felt before. Novelty. That’s definitely the most alluring and addicting part of the whole thing. 

Nativen:    What part is the greatest struggle for you?

Laura:    Probably the time right before that. Like what I was just saying saying about that feeling—the novelty—like it's not going to happen again. And then there’s just feeling exhausted. Like all right. I'm done. I've had all the ideas I’m going to have and it's not going to come to me again. But the longer I do it, the more I am comfortable sitting in the uncomfortable space. I know that it's only temporary, and there is a whole other side to it. I'm also used to being in a studio environment where I can bounce ideas off of people constantly. For better or worse. That constant feedback (or lack of it) can be a real struggle. 

Nativen:    If you weren't a textile artist, what do you think you would be? 

Laura:    Who knows! I like looking at design books and thinking about design. I am also very into interior design, and thought about studying it in college. But when I was picking a major, somehow, I just felt really self-conscious about going in that direction. It felt like such a housewife thing to do. But still, that’s just what I gravitate towards. I've been dancing around it for a while now, but I don't know how much I'll ever get into it.

Nativen:    Do you have any tracks you like to listen to while you work? Anything on heavy rotation at the moment?

Laura:    For the last couple of years, I've had the really bad habit of listening to podcasts.

Nativen:    i think that's a good habit.  

Laura: Recently I made a playlist of Erica Badu and Alicia Keys that I feel very into. I think the music is very good but they are both really strong self assured women. It's really good. 

Nativen:    What are three words that sum up your work for you?

Laura:    I'm bad at describing my work. It's such a struggle to describe what I do. It’s this weird edge between something that is really off-putting as well as something that feels classically beautiful. It's weird to call your own stuff weird. 

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Nativen:    There's got to be a word for that in some other language. That's such a great image of describing your work. Is there anything that you do specifically to connect with your community? 

Laura:    I work a little bit for a non-profit design center that has architects and landscape architects. They do small projects for people who have a blown budget that wouldn't otherwise be able to hire a design firm. I also volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. The first time I went there, there were some really warm women, most are retired, that I started talking with. They gave me giant hugs. They love me! This is the first time that I've really had friends that are a little bit older and it's such a nice experience, because, at least for me, it makes me feel so much less fearful of getting older. They're totally smart. And I have things in common with all of them. They are sharp and edgy and subversive and still really active and involved. 

Nativen:    What do you think is the most helpful advice you've received or what's some advice you maybe give to the person who is starting to pursue their creative work?

Laura:    Expect the struggle to continue! Early on in my career, I read an article in Business Insider that talked about how even entrepreneurs who are really successful constantly doubt. You are always going to feel like you're a phony, like you're losing your creativity no matter how well you do, no matter how much validation you get from the outdoor world.
I also got this really good advice at one point: try to rely less on external validation. When you get an exciting magazine placement or whatever, be excited about it but don't let it define you. That's not the key to satisfaction. Sooner or later, it’ll fade and you might not sell anything for a month and that's a major bummer. Try to sit somewhere in between, easier said than done, but have enough integrity so you are less affected by the external. I do this because I enjoy creating, not because I'm looking for fanfare. 

Nativen:    That's solid advice. Do you have a hero or maybe someone who has influenced your work in a big way?

Laura:    As far as inspiration goes, the women who run Sight Unseen. I am so incredibly inspired by them. It's not a mainstream website, but it's sparked, and people feel excited by it. They're a big one. 

Nativen:    What are three things you can't live without?

Laura:    Sunshine. That's pretty huge for me. I'm bummed about winter coming. I also definitely need those close friendship connections. Newness is also big for me. I'm always craving especially visually new and stimulating weirdness I haven't seen before. Back to the novelty thing.

Interview by: Lily Hetzler

Photos by: Ethan Covey

Edited by: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

Katie Levinson: Mixed Media Artist

Lily Hetzler

Katie, is a collector of stories, a romantic and an archivist of a playful past that we can all remember.  It was a sunny, humid morning when she welcomed us into her studio and greeted us with fresh fruit and iced coffee.  We could sense right away that “home” is something important to Katie.  As I sat and chatted with her, I felt both at ease and rejuvenated by the story of her creative process, and the things that inspire her.  From tiny seashells to epic glaciers, read on for a look inside Katie Levinson's playful world…

Nativen:  First off, can you talk a little bit about where you are from?

Katie:  I was born in Korea and then I was adopted, so I came to New York when I was just three months old. Yes, I grew up on Long island - actually in Ronkonkoma. It was in the suburbs of Long Island and I do feel like it plays a role in my art. Most recently, I had been living in Chicago and just moved to the city for the first time.

Nativen:  How do you think growing up in Long Island influenced your work specifically?

Katie:  It's funny. I see a lot of kids drawn to my stuff and when I started creating a lot more, I was taken aback by some of the small nuances or themes that were, not immature exactly, but there was a juvenile quality to them. By that, I mean a lot of collecting and organizing and scaling things down. Thinking about it in retrospect, I see that having been a child in the suburbs and having only a limited amount of space to explore, like just your backyard, I would collect rocks, I would collect sticks, I would cut out pictures of magazines, but then I would sort them in very specific ways - the ways that I liked. 
That’s the world I see. Maybe it's not so much about suburbia. Maybe children all over do the same thing whether you live on the farm or wherever. But in my context that's what I relate to from my childhood.

Nativen:  It's lovely… it's kind of a romantic organization of sorts. There is like a cleanness and a preciseness to your work. When you think about it with that context in mind, it's actually a very romantic idea. 
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue this art? Was there an epiphany or a moment in your life that really influenced it?

Katie:  Years ago, if I met someone who said that they had wanted to be a teacher since they were a child and they always knew. I’d say, like, ‘man, that must be so great to exactly know your passion and to go after it’.  But you know at some point I realized I actually always knew that I wanted to pursue art. But the path wasn't always so clear.
There was a period after high school that I really stepped back from it. But one of the things that got me back into art was having to take liberal arts courses (in college). I said, ‘cool, why shouldn't I?’ I took art history because I've always liked it and being immersed in it again, it's like, ‘ah – this is just so refreshing’. It was like I forgot how much I loved this.
Around that same time I randomly found a New Yorker article about how David Hockney had written this book about how renaissance, or even pre-renaissance artists used instruments to help them draw and paint realistically - like the camera obscura and things like that, which kind of turned my understanding of art on its head. 
I had known what contemporary art was and what modern art was, but it just helped to really solidify where we are now in the art world, and that art expression today can be anything. It didn't need to be very realistic representation or what I used to consider artistic skill.

Nativen:  Classical skill or classical tools or ...

Katie:  Exactly, it just seems crazy to me. I mean, shouldn't art be something they teach you when you are in first grade? It's great to draw the apple so that it looks like the apple, but it doesn't have to. Your expression doesn’t have to be internalized or externalized in that way.

Nativen:  What do you love most about living in New York and do think it’s integral to your work in any way? 

Katie:  I guess it's hard because it's still new. For me, it's not moving to New York, it's returning, even though it's my first time in the city. The city feels new but my mom still lives out on Long Island so that was a part of my moving back. Sometimes I’d be at Artists and Fleas (a weekly Brooklyn maker and vintage market) and they would ask some of the artists to make pieces called, ‘Why New York?’. 
You can translate it however you want, but I had an idea that fit into that. I did four framed pieces and they were all labeled ‘History’. Those geodes over there (pointing to a nearby shelf), I actually cracked them open. So one piece was arranged geodes.

I did one where seabricks had been eroded by the water, from a place that was on the beach 10 minutes from my mom’s house, where I had worked two summers when I was younger. One of the others was made from pieces of branches near our house ... my parents moved after I graduated and so I was becoming very sentimental about letting go of that house that I grew up in. 
They built the house and so I had to go back and visit. I knocked on the door and I asked the people who live there, 'do you mind me going through the backyard and cut off a piece of branch from a tree?’ My parents had a live Christmas tree that they had planted in the 1980’s and it's still there.

Nativen:  It's nice to discover your evolution and to be re-introduced to your childhood space, that's so inspiring. 
Now that you’ve been living in New York for a brief minute, do you have a favorite park or outdoor space?

Katie:  When we were living in Chicago we were right by Lincoln Park, so we thought it was really important when we moved to New York to be by a park. We thought it would be a sacrifice not to be near open water or a park. We were hoping to get one or the other, so moving here we obviously were aware that it was close to the park and we thought that was great - Central Park. We had no idea how much use we would actually make of it. It sounds stupid but Central Park bing so close - we really made use of it, especially since summer started. When it was hot in here and the AC wasn't going on, a little later in the evening we’d take our dinner down there and eat dinner in the park and say to ourselves, ‘we're living in New York!’ Stars in our eyes.

Nativen:  What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here in New York?

Katie:  This is going to be corny but it’s my husband. The first time I displayed my sculptures was in Chicago at a renegade craft fair and it was as we were driving away… I don't even know if this is the right quote... but he said, ‘you know, Eleanor Roosevelt said that one person can't achieve success by themselves that it takes another’s support.’ I'm not sure I would have been able to do it by myself even though I strive very desperately to be the person who can do these things by themselves. 
It was in July that I had a show up in Beacon and I had to do the installation. I had never done an installation before. The entire time leading up to it I wasn't nervous about all the work that I had to do. And I was very stoic about not asking him for help or anything. I was looking up online for instructions on how to install stuff.
There are so many aspects to it and maybe I could have done it in two days but I needed to go in at 7 o'clock in the morning and have it up by 2 o'clock in the afternoon. There is no way that I could have done that by myself.

Nativen:  That's a sign of a good partnership. You feel like you have somebody who is in your corner. So this is like asking you to ‘pick your favorite child’ question, but do you have a favorite piece that you've made?

Katie:  There is. There is one, it's called ‘Little Things’. They are really small, like millimeters small - absolutely tiny. They are fully formed shells that I arrange, and I attached a chain and a magnifying glass. Even though I'm still doing sculptural things in frames, it was the first time I started getting a little further away from that. 
After ‘History’, the one I was telling you about, the frames actually have brass pull drawer handles on them so that they all slide into a wooden cabinet, which you can then pull out. So I'm starting to go down that path where I am still working within the frame but then incorporating more outside sculptural elements to it.

Nativen:  It's very cool and it's a wonderful idea. Again, it sort of like capturing a romantic moment of your past in what you're creating. That's really nice.   What point of your process brings you the most joy?

Katie:  It's funny that you ask that because I am very candid, I think, about the process and about just being an artist and how hard it's been. I used to see this therapist - she was great. She was a Jungian therapist. But then she became more of an advisor to me. A couple of years ago I had had a great month where I was just creating and I was at ease. I was like cruising and making and doing and being really high about it, and then all of a sudden that momentum and inspiration just stopped for whatever reason. It went back to like clawing - trying to be productive - and making myself sit at my desk even when I didn't want to. So I went to her and I was talking about it and she laughed at me and she was like, 'Oh, I am sorry. You thought it was going to be easy?' 
I guess I thought I was going to reach this plateau of like “creative enlightenment” or whatever and it would just be ... I'm just making art. This is just how it will be forever.
But to answer your question, when I'm finished with a piece and I know how hard it was sometimes to sit down and engage with the piece and interact with the piece, that would bring me the most joy and pride, knowing that the fruits of my labor are complete.

Nativen:  That's a lot more rewarding in the scope of things… feeling like things are flowing out of you, which is beautiful, too. But also to know that you had a dynamic relationship with a piece and then to see it finished - it's just very gratifying.
What do you think is the greatest struggle for you in your process? I think you sort of touched on that, and the dynamics of that, but if you can re-articulate it.

Katie:  I guess it's more commonly applied to writers but just sitting at the desk, forcing yourself even when you don't feel it. I'm trying to think of the percentage... but let’s say 25 percent is inspiration and obviously the other 75 percent is the working hard part, both, if not all of that can be hard to do. Sometimes I think that I'm a bit of masochist because some of the stuff that I do is so small and so precise, it can be back-breaking work hunched over something, cutting and… Those struggles of, ‘I have this idea of a project on this other plane that I then need to take from up here and translate down here’, but I know in that process that it's going to be hours of horrible work.

Nativen:  Decision to precision.

Katie:  Yeah. The hardest struggle is to motivate yourself to sit down and to discipline yourself.

Nativen:  What’s one thing do you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?

Katie:  I would love to go to all of the Scandinavian countries because I love their design and settings. I think it translates a lot in my work, how much I admire that. Most of all I want to go to Iceland. We just booked our tickets for September so I haven't gone yet, but I am excited.

Nativen:  That's so exciting. Do you think Iceland specifically might inspire or alter your work in anyway?

Katie:  I do and it's funny because there are things that I started working on already that I see influences of. I kind of identify with Scandinavian countries because I love their clean, simplistic aesthetic. Especially in Iceland, I love their contemporary art and even their music but there is also a playfulness with it and a colorfulness that I really like, and the landscape as well.
I have a small sculpture… it's an iceberg… it's called ‘My Native Land’. People always ask me, ‘Oh, where are you from?’ (someone thought I was Inuit), and I have to tell them ‘no, it's just that out of the geographical landscapes, glaciers really resonate with me and so it's just kind of re-occurring theme in my work’. (Pointing) The three on the bottom are my most recent pieces. 

This one on the end on the right hand is called ‘Fjord’ because it's formed when a glacier comes by and there are two plateaus on either side and water that runs between them. The other one is just called ‘Reccurring Theme - Glaciers’ because it's very archetypal of humans. And that last one relates to our talking about my childhood house.
What I'm doing now is a bunch of pieces that relate to items or things that I was inexplicably embarrassed of when I was a child. We had a yellow and green-striped shower curtain ... You know when you are a kid and you are just like ... 

Nativen:  Like you are weirdly mortified about ambiguous objects? 

Katie:  Yes. We had two white cars and I remember being really embarrassed that we had two white cars. Why, who cares? No one else thought anything about us having two white cars. It's just something I personally felt and it's the same thing with the shower curtain. Nobody came to my house and said, ‘Your shower curtain is ugly!’. But I was just very embarrassed.

Nativen:  That's funny. It's interesting - the glacier thing, too. It makes a lot of sense because you know it is the original forging of landscapes in those places.

Katie:  Yes, I think there’s something in the history of it… there is so much held inside. And also, it's a monolith. It's just so big and almost unfathomable - something that endures before us and after us.

Nativen:  That's great. What are three words that sum up your work for you?

Katie:  The first I go to is ‘clean’. I know it's not like there isn't self-awareness there. I know how stripped down things are. 
I want to say I hope it's not too sentimental for other people because I think there is such a fine line with that, but for me it is ‘sentimental’. Even if something seems a little stoic it still rings for me, so, ‘sentimental’.
I'm trying to be more ‘playful’. It's funny, because people will come up to me and people will appreciate how clean it is and that’s the design aesthetic that I like. But also, I can go on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. I appreciate so much the baroque and the embellishment - especially color. I just love when pieces have color in them because sometimes it's white and I'll look at it and just feel like ‘no’, it's just doesn't fit with me. So, at what point do I try to break out of myself a little bit, and at what point do I listen to my intuition and stay true to my vision.

Nativen:  Is there anything that you do with your work to specifically to connect with the community around you?

Katie:  There are a few pieces that I'm working on now that I would like to connect with a couple of larger groups. One is the World Meteorological Organization. This sounds so silly, but I just watched “An Inconvenient Truth”. I had this idea a while ago to do a catalog for the different types, to make graphic representations of them. I’m working on that now.
One of the things that I would like to do is to help bring awareness of our surroundings. For example, I wanted to go into the surrounding New York area and regenerate native moss. It's really easy to do. And then have their Latin names and a little description displayed in some way just to bring awareness of natural and ephemeral surroundings.

Nativen:  That's beautiful. I love that idea. What's the most helpful advice you've received or some advice you would give to someone who is looking to pursue their creative endeavor?

Katie:  One thing I have heard and a hard lesson that I've learned is how much of your success is going to be due to resilience. Everyone has a different path, I think very much so in a creative field that resilience is key. I don't want to say above talent but it's a necessary characteristic if you want to do it. 

Nativen:  Yeah, that's an important thing to remember. Success is often born out of failure so you'll have to be willing to go through that to get to the other side. It’s sound advice.

Katie:  The thing is, obviously, I'm still learning. I'm still new to this, but the stuff that I’ve learned I always am eager to share with people. If I have any small knowledge or something, I'd love to give that to someone and help them, because sometimes I think there isn't a transparency with creativity and with pursuing being creative… that there is this romantic veil that people think is very easy in a certain way, but how much work and resilience it takes, and how work, resilience and discipline are something that people don't necessarily associate with pursuing art. And they are so key and so fundamental.

Nativen:  That's good solid advice. Do you have a hero or someone that's helped influence your work in a meaningful way?

Katie:  Yes. One person who I love is Joseph Cornell. You can definitely see how that resonates in my work, too. My love for Joseph Cornell – it’s the same thing - that he lived with his mom and his brother in Queens… and for me it was in his nature – that, if nobody recognized his work, he would have kept making it. It was just in him that he needed to keep making it. And even though it is hard to sit down at the table and to sometimes be productive, I think you have to have that always in you. It's about letting yourself be the conduit.

Nativen:  That's great. And last, but not least, what are the three things that you can't live without?

Katie:  Cheese. [laughs] It was the first thing that came to my mind. 

Nativen:  That's awesome. You are not the first person who’s said that. 

Katie:  It's hard because I'm trying to be minimal, as a lifestyle, so I'm trying to think, ‘what are those things that I can just arbitrarily cannot have?’

Nativen:  That's a good way to live your life if you don't feel attached to things.

Katie:  But then my only answer is going to be cheese. 
[laughs]

Interview by: Lily Hetzler

Photos by: Ethan Covey

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

Ori Cosentino: Personal Chef & Painter

Lily Hetzler

On a cool Spring morning, chef and painter Ori Cosentino surprised us at the new Nativen Headquarters with a brunch to kick off warmer days.  The perfect juxtaposition of worldly style and unrelenting creative energy, Ori seamlessly blends her natural cooking flavor with an urban artistic voice.  A sunny morning meal and a tour through her painting studio, showcased Ori's visionary aesthetic.  Join us for this perfect weekend brunch, and check out her recipe below, along with a playlist curated specially for our Spring meal...

Nativen: First off, can you tell me a little bit about where you're from?

Ori: I am a rare native New Yorker, from deep Queens in the Flushing area at the end of the 7 train. It’s most multicultural subway line in the world. 

Nativen: New York City is obviously a big part of your painting, but how do you think growing up in Queens or New York in general has influenced either the work that you're doing now or even your choice to be in the world of food?

Ori: I definitely think that I was exposed to so many cultures as a kid. My friends were from every nation. There were grocery stores, restaurants and just access to stuff from all over the world, always. I was always kind of curious about it. I liked the smell of incense and the smell of different foods, sights, sounds and smells. I think it influenced me in the sense that it made me want to travel and find the things that I had just a little taste of.

Nativen: You're a woman of all trades in so many awesome ways, but were there epiphany moments in your creative journey where you realized you wanted to sort of pursue these two avenues in particular? 

Ori: I think it all came really from wanting to discover different cultures. For me, the first way I
discover a new culture is through food—it’s my first portal. But as a kid, I also always wanted to make art and do crafty things. It was always my biggest pleasure to have a table full of art supplies and set up a fake desk where I got to work. Ultimately, I did go into art school, to the School of Visual Arts. My parents advised me not to pursue Fine Arts as a major, though, our
compromise was graphic design. After I graduated, I worked for the New York Press, which was an alternative New York City newspaper, the competition of the Village Voice. It was a little dirtier and less popular, but because of that, you could really do whatever you wanted.

Nativen: So where did the food aspect start to really come in?

Ori: I’ve always worked in the restaurant business, front of house. That's how I made spending money in high school and put myself through college. All the time I was studying art, I was also working already in the service industry. I loved the pace, the hours and the excitement—no two days are alike and I guess the social aspect of it. I already liked all those things. That's kind of how these two things grew up together and eventually married each other.

Nativen: How exactly did that marriage happen? Was there a single moment or a coalescing of events?

Ori:  I guess you could say that travel was the catalyst. I didn't really want to do graphic design anymore, and I wanted to keep traveling. So I bartended for a few years, saved up a whole bunch of dough and then just started to travel. Whenever I ran out of money, I would come home back to New York, get a job, make a bunch of cash and leave again. I did that forever, like a decade. 

Nativen: After all those years, what finally grounded you again? 

Ori: While I was in Paris, I bit the bullet and I was like, "Okay. Let me see if I can work here." It was super hard to find a gig as a bartender there because they were still in the archaic
times of hiring only dudes. They wanted me to be a waiter and I was like, "Okay," having never really been a waiter before. It was new language, a new job, so it was really, really hectic. Plus the whole style of service there is…well, French people can be really unfriendly. They were not amused by me with my American accent trying to recommend wines. I would literally beg this
chef to hide me in the kitchen. 

Then the chef (who was Australian) and his partner were like, "Sure. You can help us translate and be our assistant." The minute I got back there I started working, I was like, "Oh my God. This is it. This is what I want to do." It was all of the joys of everything I learned in art; composition, you work with your hands, there's surprise, there's things that can change, it's improvisation, it's color, it's texture. It was everything…and it was also a job.

Nativen: What brought you back to NYC? 

Ori: I decided to come back to New York to figure out what I was going to do with food and art, but without the language barrier. When I first got back to the city, I worked for a bunch of catering companies. It was easy to do with even just a little experience. You don't really need solid culinary education per se. Eventually, I wound up deciding to go to the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health rather than studying the French techniques. Frankly it's not hard to make food taste good with fat, butter, lard and pork, you know? So I opted for an education that would teach me how to make vegetables and healthier food. It was a vegan program, actually, before everyone was a vegan allergic to everything, and it was going to teach me how to make all that stuff taste great on a gourmet level.

Nativen: What do you love most about New York? Do you think that's integral to your work?

Ori: I do. Obviously there's a lot to it now that I choose to ignore. I'm really clingy to the way things used to be and I dig my fingernails in to see it all like it is now. What impressed me most growing up here was the sparkling energy that this city has. Just this excitement everywhere, you know?

Nativen: Just a couple of rapid fire questions here. Do you have a favorite restaurant here in the city?

Ori: Whoa. That's a tough one. Oh, God. Things are so inconsistent. I want to stand up and be like, "SriPraPhai," in Queens, a Thai restaurant where you feel like you're eating in a laundromat. But now it's been reviewed by the New York Times so everybody's heard of it. 

Nativen: Do you have a favorite home goods or clothing store?

Ori: People of 2morrow. Over in Greenpoint. I have really gotten some gems there. It's a little expensive, but I can handle it, because like I said, "gems."

Nativen: How about favorite park or outdoor space?

Ori: There's this outdoor space on the edge of handball courts on the corner of Houston and 6th that has been my bench for twenty years, probably more. It has been my bench for so, so long. 
I remember before even going to SVA, just being on that bench smoking a blunt with some high school friend. Fast-forward three years later, I remember being by that bench in college and being like, "Oh, yeah. This bench." It became the bench. I sat there and I would write. You can look all the way downtown. You can look all the way uptown. You used to see the Twin Towers at the end of the block. 

Nativen: What do you think is the greatest resource to your work in New York City?

Ori: This guide. I was actually just thinking about that today: if I see a certain view when
I'm walking or whatever, I'll shoot reference photos. All the time, reference photos, reference photos. Today I was looking down the street and I was like, "Should I walk all the way down there to get a reference photo?" What I did was I looked at the sky and I said, "The sky is not good enough." 

Nativen: What part of your process brings you the most joy?

Ori: As I was saying off the record, I lay down these found parking tickets in the under painting of all of my paintings. If I'm painting something, I'm painting on top of dirty, decrepit, gross parking tickets that I have hodgepodged since the mid-90’s to my canvas. I do it with a little bit of intention, but I really also like it to be a surprise. The scene is really benefited by the design of the ticket. Whether it's the color or the typography or some aspect, it's kind of lining up with the scenery and giving it a texture that's very believable. When you get close you're like, "Oh, it's a parking ticket. Oh, that's the barcode."

Nativen: What part of your process is the greatest struggle?

Ori: Just getting to the studio is a struggle because of life, career and family. Also, just straight up good old fashioned procrastinating. I'm just like, "I have so many details and New York City’s just got so much shit everywhere. What am I doing? How am I ever going to translate all of this into a believable piece of artwork?" I guess I just have to turn the brain off at some point and focus on the tiny part of the painting. Just really screw myself into it because if I'm just lolling around, nothing happens. Also, just painting in general. I didn't study it, and I’m not actually a great painter. It doesn't come naturally and it never really did. I forced myself to draw all the time when I was traveling. I feel like I got good because of quantity and because I developed a style. But I can't draw an animal to save my life. 

Nativen: What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?

Ori: I would really like to work with leather. I've started to dabble with sewing lately, very little, but I did squeeze out a shirt that I made out of a skirt. I was proud of it, but leather is a fabric I'd love to explore and whack something together someday.

Nativen: What destination do you want to travel to next? Do you think that might inspire or alter your work either in the kitchen or on the canvas in any way?

Ori: Right now I would really love to go to Indonesia. I love the beach, I love being far away, and I love food cooked over wood. Once I found this Indonesian cookbook on the street, I don't even think I was a cook yet, but I kept it. The recipes were so fascinating, so beautiful, so many little parts and details of so many flavors. I'd like to go there and really have it the way it's supposed to be so that I can continue explore it at home.

Nativen: You obviously listen to music. Is there a song that you've been listening to a lot lately that maybe inspires you/ is kind of your jam right now?

Ori: "Point Me at the Sky” by Syd Barrett. Well, it's by early Pink Floyd. The recordings are literally him playing two bars and being like, "Wait. Oh, no. I'm going to start over." Just totally unaware that he would start again and just rock out a song. 

Nativen: Is there anything that you do with your work to specifically connect with your community?

Ori: Ever since I've had the studio, I have participated in all of the open studios here in Bushwick, which have been really fun. I made nice connections through there, tried to volunteer to help out in any way I
could. 

With food, I'm always trying to feed people, like pass off leftovers. I call people up if I think it's an opportune moment for them to swing by and eat. Pack stuff up, ring doorbells, leave
food as presents. I think good food equals good life.

Nativen: What's the most helpful advice you've received? Or what's some advice maybe that you'd give to a creative looking to pursue their own work?

Ori: I just wrote it down because over the years I've met so many people of all ages, all places and all styles. I feel like my whole existence is just a gathering of what I've learned. But I guess I should pass on this incredible advice I got from this extraordinary millionaire: “do it now.” To help me not get swept into something else, I have a list. For Monday it says, "Do it now." For Tuesday it says, "Do it now,” and so on. 

Nativen: Do you have a hero? Is there someone who you would consider maybe a hero or someone who's inspired to work in anyway?

Ori: I have so many heroes. I can barely pick one. I've really been sore about David Bowie for so
many months. He's one of my heroes. I don't know. My mom's my hero. You're my hero.
Name someone. They're probably my hero a little bit.

Nativen: What are three things that you can't live without?

Ori: Coffee. I mean water. You know, the basics. I'd prefer not to live without my studio but I could. I'm particularly grateful for this place because it makes me grateful for everything else. I come in here and just think about all of the things I have to be grateful for, you know?

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

Edited by: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen


Baked Eggs w/ Mushroom & Asparagus, Breakfast Hash, & Brunch Salad w/ Poppyseed Dressing

Baked Eggs w/ Mushroom & Asparagus, Breakfast Hash, & Brunch Salad w/ Poppyseed Dressing

ORI'S BRUNCH RECIPE:

BAKED EGGS with ROASTED MUSHROOMS, ASPARAGUS and FETA

An impressive way to cook eggs for a crowd, with all of the prep done in advance. Can easily substitute any variety of vegetables and/or cheeses. (serves 6)
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces 10 ounces mushrooms, sliced 1 shallot, small dice 4 tablespoons oil, divided 1 dozen eggs 6 tablespoons crumbled feta, heaping 6 tablespoons heavy cream 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.
In a small bowl, toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast in the oven about 10 minutes or until just tender. (Can be made in advance)
Do the same with the sliced mushrooms, diced shallot, 2 tablespoons of oil, salt and pepper. Place baking sheet in oven and roast mushrooms until brown and caramelized. About 30 minutes. (Can be made in advance)
Reduce oven to 350F.
Use the remaining tablespoon of oil to coat the inside of each ramekin.
Crack two eggs into each ramekin. Sprinkle asparagus/shallot mixture evenly between (6) separate ramekins. Add mushrooms and top with approx 1 tablespoon of feta. Drizzle with one tablespoon of heavy cream over each.
Season with thyme leaves, salt and pepper and place the ramekins on a baking sheet.
Slide baking sheet into the oven and bake the eggs for 10-12 minutes until whites are just set and yolks are soft, or until desired doneness. Serve immediately.

VEGGIE HASH

A hearty hash is sure to beef up any meal, even without the beef. (Serves 4 as a side dish)
2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
6 ounces veggie burger or veggie sausage, chopped into small pieces
1 large potato, small dice
1/2 cup onion, small dice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 stalks celery, small dice
1/2 jalapeño, minced (optional)
Salt and pepper

Warm the 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and cook the veggie burger or sausage pieces until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan along with the potatoes, onions, thyme, jalapeño (if using) and celery, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until golden and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cooked veggie burger/sausage until heated through. Season well with salt and pepper.

BRUNCH SALAD

A sweet-savory salad is the perfect fresh compliment to classic brunch favorites. (serves 6)
1/2 lb baby spinach leaves (or seasonal mixed greens) 1 beet, peeled and sliced paper thin 2 oranges, sliced into segments 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced 1 avocado, diced
For the salad: Toss spinach with beet slices, oranges, cucumber and a few tablespoons of POPPY SEED DRESSING (recipe follows). Top with avocado and serve immediately.


POPPY SEED DRESSING

3 tablespoons honey 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 lemon, juiced 1/2 small shallot, minced 3-4 tablespoons champagne vinegar 1 tablespoon poppy seeds 1/2 cup olive oil
For the dressing: Place all ingredients except the oil in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add the oil, whisking to emuslify with the ingredients Check for seasoning and adjust as desired. Store in a lidded container in the fridge, up to one week.


Ori's Brunch Playlist:

Brunch just wouldn't be right without a soundtrack. Keep the weekend vibes flowing with this funky playlist, inspired by Ori's soulful cooking and eclectic taste, and compiled by our music editor Kat Parker. 

Natalie Stopka: Book & Textile Artist

Lily Hetzler

A creative life in the city often leads to one's necessity to flee to the wild places, and so remains true for textile and book artist, Natalie Stopka.  The striking nature of her work melds both urban and organic seamlessly, with natural, often cosmic looking prints in bold and electric hues.  We sat down with her to talk about her evolution on classic arts, and the value of a good cheesemonger.  Read on...

Nativen: Tell me a little bit about where you're from, and how your upbringing has influenced your work. 


Natalie: I'm from Massachusetts. Both of my parents have art degrees, so I had a really creative upbringing. My mom is a textile designer, so textile projects were part of our creative experience from a young age. 
Moving to New York City was an abrupt change, and it really spurred my interest in working with natural dyes. I wanted to get back to using natural forms and naturally derived materials in my work. As soon as I didn't have them, I wanted them. 


Nativen: When did you realize you wanted to get into paper and textile arts? 


Natalie: It was a gradual transition. My degree is in illustration, so a residency program at the Center for Book Arts was an easy step into book arts. I wanted to control all of my bookbinding materials, paper and fabric. It's really great to be able to create your own surface patterning and your own palette. Soon, I started using natural dyes and marbling to pattern my paper and textiles. 


Nativen: Obviously, there's a history of marbled paper in bookbinding. What’s the relationship in your approach between the historical and the contemporary? 


Natalie: Well, I love history. Pretty much everybody that's interested in bookbinding has a love of history and historical forms and structures. It's definitely important to keep your own voice and aesthetic and not just mimic the historical patterns. It's too much fun to experiment just to keep re-creating. For instance, I try to meld both European traditions of marbling with influence from Japanese suminagashi. 


Nativen: Is there something about living in New York or the West Village neighborhood that you're in, or even being out here in New Jersey, that is integral to the work that you're doing? 


Natalie: I meet a lot of interesting people who are pursuing sort of parallel paths in other art forms. I teach a lot at the Textile Arts Center; they have a studio in the West Village and the one in Gowanus. There are so many creative people there. That would be the biggest touchstone for me. Besides that it's not important, really, where I am. I get a lot more influence working upstate or in Massachusetts and foraging for natural dyes. Working in the country is more important than probably being a city dweller. 


Nativen: Do you do a lot of foraging now? 


Natalie: My fiancé’s family has a place upstate, so I get to go up there and forage for things a lot. It's really fun. I also do all of the natural dying up there and all of the marbling here. 


Nativen: Just a couple of rapid-fire questions... Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space? 


Natalie: Washington Square Park is great. I also like occasionally taking the water taxi to my studio. It’s so much more refreshing than staying underground. 


Nativen: Yeah definitely, that's nice. How about a hidden gem? 


Natalie: I don't want to share it.


Nativen: The hard reveal. 


Natalie: I don't know. I'm going to have to think about it more. It's unfortunate so many things are closing. But I suppose I’ll go with NY Central. It's hidden in plain sight and my favorite art supply vendor in NYC. 


Nativen: Well then... What do you think is the greatest resource for your work in New York City? 


Natalie: The material vendors. You can get really specific high-quality amazing materials from these tiny mom and pop shops that have been in Manhattan or in Brooklyn for a generation or two. If they don't have a presence online, you would otherwise have no access. You know you're in, once they learn your name. I feel the same way about my cheesemonger. 
[laughs]

Nativen: Do you have a favorite piece that you've created? 


Natalie: I have been really enjoying working with the large-scale suminagashi prints. I've been looking a lot at drawing traditions from the East to influence that work. For instance, I’m really enjoying this large-scale suminagashi on fabric, using experimental additives. These are natural dyes that I foraged upstate. It's mostly tree barks printed on silk cotton blend and each one is a mono print just made large. 


Nativen: They're gorgeous. What part of the process then do you think brings you the most joy? 


Natalie: Getting into the mindset where you can create something. When you get back to a place of naivety. You are in charge of the materials but they are pulling you and you can set up a system where the natural elements and the materials can all express themselves and you’re just sort of a conductor. It has to do with sort of letting go of your preconceived notions of what you want the piece to look like and letting it express itself. That is a moment I am proud of when I can attain it. 


Nativen: That's a very rewarding and liberating experience to operate from, I think, when you can sort of touch that zen zone. What do you think is the greatest struggle for you? 


Natalie: Probably getting to that place. You start working with all these thoughts and concerns and deadlines. You're going to have to let all of it go or all of your anxiety will come out in your work. 


Nativen: Yeah exactly, but what a beautiful relationship there. In order to create your best work you have to be a peaceful and happy person basically. 


Natalie: I think it's true, and it's only more recently that I've started realizing that. The things, the pieces that I'm most proud of come from those moments. 
There are mundane struggles as well. I'm working with a process that requires some delicate chemistry. It can be really difficult to get the chemistry working in your favor just because of the humidity one day or adulterants or any number of things. 


Nativen: One thing you've always wanted to do, but haven't done yet? 


Natalie: I have been so interested in and influenced by Japanese textiles recently, but I’ve never been to Japan. That would pretty much be the top of the list. 


Nativen: Anywhere in Japan in particular? 


Natalie: I haven't allowed myself to research it too much because that is a very expensive daydream to indulge in and get attached to. 


Nativen: Do you think traveling to Japan would inspire or alter your work in any way? 


Natalie: I think that there are some really practical material considerations that I would love to learn. But I also think that it's a little bit dangerous to have too much knowledge of a tradition that you're playing with, because it becomes precious at that point. If you become tradition-bound, you can't experiment as much. Here, on the other side of the world, I don't have a master or a mentor that's teaching me these things. I'm coming up with it on my own. Right now, it's quite free. 


Nativen: Do you have any songs or music on heavy rotation now? 


Natalie: Well, the Felice Brothers are my favorite band so that's always good. Today I love 'Lincoln Continental.' I've also been listening a lot to Buke and Gase, 'Hard Times'." 


Nativen: What are a couple of words that sum up your work for you? 


Natalie: Natural, I guess. I try to keep things natural. Shape is something I play with a lot, even working in two dimensions. It's all about shape. 


Nativen: Is there anything you do with your work to specifically connect with your community? 


Natalie: The biggest way is my teaching. I teach a lot of classes, which I really enjoy. Teaching, educating people who are already excited about learning the technique. They come with so much curiosity. Ready with questions to ask of me and we get to spend some time together making art. Whether they're artists or novices or they work in a textile industry and they just want to get their hands dirty. 


Nativen: What is the most helpful advice you've received or advise that you might give to someone who's looking to pursue their creative dream? 


Natalie: Well one of the things that I learned from a teacher of mine is that you have to make something 20 times to understand it. It's really true. Every time you reiterate the process, your understanding of it is exponentially increased. The amount of time it takes is decreased and that has shown itself to be true time and again, so you just have to keep at it. 
It's also important to get to the point where you really understand your process so that you can give up a little bit of control over it. Allow your hand to show again. So many artists and artisans are initially focused on making something that's perfect and they can't let go of that, but if you can allow your hand to show, then it's a much more interesting object at the end of the day. 


Nativen: Absolutely. It's a personal object that you can connect to. Do you have a hero or maybe someone who's helped influence your work?

 
Natalie: I guess you could say Don Guyot is someone who has written a lot about marbling, both in the European tradition and in the Japanese tradition. He has made that information available to a whole new generation of people that might not have had access to the information. 


Nativen: If you weren't pursuing book arts as a career, what do you think you would be doing? 


Natalie: Maybe I would be an historian. Yeah, another bookish trade. I really love history. I listened to history podcasts the whole time while I'm working pretty much. 


Nativen: What are three objects you can't live without? 


Natalie: I'm very attached to my sewing machine. It’s been in my family for a long time. Any bookbinder would also say their bone folder... There's just so many... 


Nativen: It can be from your personal life, too.

Natalie: Then cheese, obviously. 

Interview By: Lily Hetzler

Photos By: Ethan Covey

Edited by: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

Corinna Mantlo: The Missfires

Lily Hetzler

With her long black wavy hair, and her fifties workwear style, Corinna Mantlo of Via Meccanica and head of the all women's Motorcycle Club, The Missfires; looks every bit the champion motorcycle maven.  A true Jane-of-all-trades, there's much more than meets the eye, though. From custom motorcycle seats to movie festivals and costumes at the Met, her New York story is an invigorating one.  Read on, and ride on!.. 

CorinnaMantlo1.jpg

Nativen:    First off, I'd love to know a little bit about where you grew up.


Corinna:    I grew up in the East Village and Upper West Side in New York. My mom is on 93rd between West End and Riverside. She's been there 30 years now.


Nativen:    You're a woman of many trades. Can you talk a little about the variety of things that you do?


Corinna:    I've always been into cars and bikes, but I come from fashion, specifically, costumes and costume history. I guess I’ve always been interested in figuring out how to fix things. Like, when my sweaters were falling apart, I learned how to knit. 
I think my love of cars and bikes kind of falls into that also, it started from having to fix them and reupholster them and now I've been doing the Motorcycle Movie Night Cine Mechanic for 6 years! That's every week playing vintage motorcycle movies in a bar and the music that goes along with it. We also have the Misfires Motorcycle and Car Club. It's 155 girls in 7 cities. And then there’s also the Motorcycle Film Festival.

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Nativen:    Can you talk a little about the Misfires?


Corinna:    We just hit our 2nd anniversary. We never really started with a plan, it just kind of happened, the only connection is that we like motorcycles. Just because of the affiliation with a club in New York, girls have come from Germany and Paris. Everybody does something else. They're artists, they're lawyers, they do a million things, but we all come together about that one thing, motorcycles. I think, for me, it’s about community and family. If you give to it, it will give you back tenfold.


Nativen:    Do you think growing up in New York in any way inspired your interest in motorcycles? 


Corinna:    I have a bunch of friends who are also from New York and into motorcycles—3 of us. It's just a vintage. We didn't have to drive or ride growing up here, so it was definitely a conscious choice. I mean, we all went to public school in the city. We took the Subway. One of my best friends (who grew up here) got into motorcycling and cars the same time I did. He is now the top mechanic in Brooklyn. It was all because we watched way too much Brando and dressed out of the 50s. That was literally it.

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Nativen:    What do you love most about living in Brooklyn or New York and how do you think that's affected your work?


Corinna:    I don't love Brooklyn. I'm for Manhattan. Brooklyn is not New York. I lost my rent-controlled apartment and that's why I'm here. That being said, my apartment is awesome and my studio is awesome and this is the first time when I've felt like this is what living in New York used to be and should be.


Nativen:    Do you think being in New York has affected the work that you are doing now?


Corinna:    No, it's just where I grew up. My mom moved here at 19 with an infant from Ohio, went to free college at Cooper Union, met my dad there and they were able to raise kids, be political activists, be artists, go back to school to become legal aid lawyers and public school teachers. They’re still in New York. That's a dream that I think has been lost in America, but in New York specifically. It led me to fight for my neighborhood and advocate for tenant's rights. 
The main thing that I hate about New York is gentrification and the whitewashing of a city. There’s nothing like sorting out loopholes in New York City housing policy to make you really involved in community.


Nativen:    What form does your community involvement take, for example your work for tenants rights?


Corinna:    I worked on a documentary that was never finished about East Village evictions and did one on South Street Seaport being moved to Hunts Point. But when I came to Brooklyn and got into motorcycles, I immediately found myself fighting for the motorcycle community and happily settled in there. Now I organize a ton of stuff. I help get permits for events, fight for biker rights in the city, organize Misfire stuff…all of that kind of came out of community activism. But I will always be involved with fighting for and documenting whatever the hell I'm particularly interested in. That's pretty much a lawyer and teacher's daughter.

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Nativen:    A couple rapid-fire questions about New York in general: do you have a favorite restaurant in the city?


Corinna:    Not anymore. My mom's macrobiotic and I grew up macrobiotic, so I guess my favorite is just good feeling home food. I'm going to dinner at my mom's tonight, actually. 


Nativen:    Do you have a favorite home goods or clothing store that you frequent?


Corinna:    Same thing—all the vintage is gone! I used to manage and work at almost every vintage store in the city, literally the list: Family Jewels, Alexander Ground, Cheap Jacks…. I was just thinking to myself the other day, what the hell is left, 7th Street Style?
Actually What Goes Around Comes Around is still amazing for looking. And RRL and No Relation on 1st Avenue between 12th and 13th. Also Metropolis and Search And Destroy. I'm always amazed that their prices never change.


Nativen:    Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space?


Corinna:    Thompson [Tompkins?] Square. It’s still so cute. There's still a rat usually running around and there's still the heroine corner and the chess corner. Everything kind of stayed the same.
When I moved to Brooklyn, my mom came and visited. We were walking to get lunch and walked through McGolrick Park and she was like, "This looks like Thompson [Tompkins?]  Square, this is all right." It was like her first kind of grumbly okay with the neighborhood.


Nativen:    What part of what you do brings you the greatest joy?


Corinna:    As pertains to fashion…when I was in art school, I didn't care about what people thought. I'm a LaGuardia High School dropout and a fashion/art school dropout, but I kind of realized early on that it was the process of any of it that was important to me, so I never really cared about the degree. It was going through the detail of actually making of the object that I really liked. 
When it comes to motorcycles, I think there's something about being the sort of goofy, unintimidating girl in the center who can bring together real old school bikers in kind of a way they haven't seen anyone else do before. It's so inoffensive. It's not Harley, it's not Honda, it's not any specific style. You can kind of like say, "No, we're just here to watch films," and then you look across the room and realize that there's a Bonneville salt speed record champion and the winner of the Isle of Man sitting next 2 girls who've been riding for 6 months. That's pretty fucking cool.

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Nativen:    What part do you think is the greatest struggle for you?


Corinna:    I don't think it's anything different for anyone else: I hate everything I make. I mean every seam. Everything. I don't think there's any way to do anything, any piece of art of craft where you don't look at it and see some tiny detail that makes you want to throw it in the trash and start over. It doesn't happen that much anymore, but on every single seat I can think of, there’s one stitch that's not quite right. That bugs the crap out of me. 


Nativen:    That's the game of the brain, right? Once you have this perfect unachievable vision in your brain, how do you manifest it?


Corinna:    With fashion too, it’s always the same for me. The details of all of it, whether it's actually the construction or the design of it, it can be infuriating.

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Nativen:    Is there one thing that you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?


Corinna:    Related to motorcycles specifically…I just want to spend more time on a bike. Travel a bit more. I've always had vintage bikes. It's inspiring to be around the girls in the Misfires now because so many of them have been riding a decade less than me and they have put so many more miles on bikes. They’ve ridden in other countries, gone cross-country a bunch of times, just stuff that I've never had the time or money to do or just never did because I was doing other stuff. 


Nativen:    If you weren't designing seats and busy being an active part of this whole motorcycle culture, what do you think you'd be doing?


Corinna:    I worked at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, so that's kind of where I always saw myself, a costume historian teaching classes and working in a collection. Very behind the scenes, very quiet. I think I could've been a cop or teacher.


Nativen:    If you could travel anywhere right now and drop everything you're doing and go somewhere, where would you go?


Corinna:    Actually, the United States. It's one place I haven't seen that much of. Since we were from New York and didn't really have family anywhere else, we just never traveled in the country, always abroad, to Paris, Greece, that sort of ting. If I could do anything right now it would be, take a good amount of time and actually see the American West.


Nativen:    Is there any music you have on rotation at the moment?


Corinna:    It's always old country and American, all the folk music. It’s my obsession. The only records I collect anymore are all the motorcycle movie soundtracks— they always come with me no matter where I go. 

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Nativen:    What are 3 words that sum up your work?


Corinna:    Vintage, for sure. And I think just kind of for lack of a better word “work-wear.” Just simple. Yeah, simple. A lot of people say that to me about the seats—simple’s just kind of my style. 


Nativen:    Can you elaborate a little bit on what like what the community aspect of your work means to you?


Corinna:    I really needed a community 5 years when I lost my apartment and a couple people passed away. I sold my bike and a friend bought me a tiny little stupid dirt bike. I'd had real bikes before, and because it was Japanese and not British, they connected me with NYC Vinmoto, which is a vintage group but most of the guys are Japanese bikers. Within 2 minutes of being on the email list, I knew that I could go to bar matches on Monday and watch the races. They had events every weekend and threw this block party. It was just immediate. It was so easy to say I'll come help sell t-shirts at the block party or I’ll volunteer for this. Literally, there have been days they just adopted me and they do that to everybody. It was just like wow. They were there for me when I needed them. It's an amazing community and now I also have it tenfold with these women, the Misfires. 


Nativen:    Do you have maybe like a hero or someone who's helped influence the work that you're doing?


Corinna:    I think my dad. He was a comic book writer for Marvel for years and wrote everything for them in the 70s and 80s. Then, he left it all and I remember him telling me when I was 8 or 7 that he was leaving it to become a real life super hero. He became a public defender. Ultimately, he ended up having a car accident and has been in the hospital for the last 25 years. He hasn't been in my life since I was 12, but the way I was raised was with a sense of moral obligation and an interest in art, in fighting for what you believed in. My mom at the exact same time did the same thing. She was an incredible photographer who then went back to school to become a teacher. She worked in Harlem for 25 years as a public school teacher. 


Nativen:    Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs or old school bikers or any New Yorker just trying to balance it all?


Corinna:     Know your neighbors, know your city! If you're going to be here, actually be here and same for bikers. If you're going to play motorcyclists, actually involve yourself in the community.


Nativen:    Last question. What are 3 things you can't live without?


Corinna:    Stupid girl stuff like lip gloss! Seriously, I want to say the motorcycle, but if the motorcycle disappears tomorrow, I'll walk somewhere or hop a bus. I think it’s the ability to be able to go wherever I want that matters to me most. At this point I don't need anything anymore, which I think is kind of the amazing thing. 

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Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

Edited by: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited)

all images copyright of Nativen

Leeta Harding: Photographer

Lily Hetzler

Exploring the rolling green landscape of Murfreesboro, replete with miles of decaying early American estates, gave us a unique window into small-town life, it's charm and mystery. Photographer Leeta Harding's most recent work, is deeply rooted in the south and the history of America, which is what inspired our latest editorial collaboration.  We spent a few days exploring the area and discussing the benefits and challenges of life there, and the development of her work.  Read on...

Nativen: First tell me a little bit about where you're from, where you grew up. 

Leeta:    I grew up on the west coast of Canada in a fishing town called Campbell River. My roots were based in the land and I grew up riding a horse. My dad was a logger and my mom was a dressmaker. Growing up in the late '70s, photography, music, and nature were really the fundamentals. So when I moved to Vancouver in 1983, it was because of a David Bowie concert. My parents were free to let me go, they thought that I could handle life on my own. I was 15 and I did. And I really never looked back after that. 

Nativen: Was there a moment in your life, an “aha” moment which made you realize that you want to pursue photography? 

Leeta:     At 20 I was backpacking in Europe and learning about European culture, going to Turkey and Greece and thinking, "God, this is such a huge world." It was the quest of the traveler; you're searching, you're looking and you're discovering. I was most comfortable behind the camera, because I was shy, I was able to observe people and I found out pretty quickly that I was good at photographing people because I was very easygoing and I put them at ease.

Then, after spending a month in Turkey, my girlfriends and I moved to London and got jobs illegally. I remember I was walking through Hyde Park and someone said, "What do you want to do?" And I was like, "Huh? I want to be in New York and be a photographer." I just said it matter of fact. I guess it was in my brain by that point that that's what I wanted to do. 

Nativen: So when did you move to New York?

Leeta: I was 22 when I landed in New York and I knew that that was a place I could live because it was a melting pot of people just like me, searching, looking for an identity. I went to SVA for a little, and I knew that my background had to be art. I chose my education a la carte and I paid for all my classes on waitressing tips. 

Straight out of art school I ended up working for Harper's Bazaar and then Index Magazine and then all the other glossies and downtown magazines. That was complete fluke in a weird way, but it was a time in the '90s that there weren't a whole lot of women out there doing that. 

Nativen: What made you decide to leave New York in the end?

Leeta:    After 20 years living in New York working for magazines and having a diagnosis of cancer and living through that, I knew I had reached an endpoint in my career that I didn't need to explore any further. I felt like I had done a lot of what I'd set out to do there, and that was a great feeling. I was just looking for change. I was tired, and I wanted quiet. It was 2008, and people were leaving in an exodus looking for life outside the city, and I knew I needed to be out in New York State. I wanted to try something completely different and my then boyfriend (who is now my husband) and I went on two trips across America photographing old abandoned theaters and diners and ghost towns, and I thought, "This is something I love to do, I love taking photographs but I don't need to be a commercial photographer, a magazine photographer anymore." I had reached my saturation point and I was just, again, that point of searching and wanting something new. 

Nativen: How did you wind up in Murfreesboro?

Leeta: Serendipity brought us down here and we happened to find this house. It was the story of the house and the renovation project that enchanted us. We both had money, we were able to do it, so we spent two years in another world learning about the South. Looking back now, it was about the love of an old home, saving this home in a weird way. Maybe it was like saving myself or saving my soul, and wanting to be connected to land again, to have property, to have animals and let my dog run free and not walk her to Tompkins Square Park. I really wanted a quiet, simple life away from the art world and the fashion world.

Nativen: What effect did the move down south have on your work?

Leeta:    It wasn't, I think, until I moved here that I was able to take all of my published work and put it aside and start again. Here I was able to work in isolation without any outside influence and strip myself of what I knew. All of a sudden, I didn't have a deadline. I didn't have to produce images for anyone or anything as a way of survival. I dug deep and then dug deeper, trying to find that voice. When you commercialize yourself and you measure something, it changes. The freedom of not having to make money was a wonderful feeling to start again, to begin again. 

In my search for solitude, a happenstance encounter with an old dilapidated plantation called, Myrick Plantation, in a very rural little farming community propelled me to pick up the camera out of sheer joy. It was me and bats in a room, just me being alone with the wind and the creatures of this antebellum home, and feeling this ultimate sense of timelessness, of peace, and my breathing and the sound of my shutter.

After that came more old plantations and an old home called Smith Farmhouse in Milwaukee, North Carolina, another rural town. Soon it occurred to me that I didn't have to be me alone in these places, I could bring new life to these homes, and I decided to do a search for models who would sit for a portrait for me in these places. It’s a great explanation or a great definition of rebirth, really, isn't it? Recycling things that are existing but forgotten and no one cares about anymore. 

By creating this work, for me, I wasn't really conscious I was creating a body of work. I just said, "Well, we'll see what happens." I didn't know it was really going to turn into something over a period of a couple of years, but I was working mostly with Africa-American girls and it was very important to me to connect with the black community because it's not by nature my experience. Before, I’d photographed mostly white girls, models in New York. I really had to strip myself of what I knew in order to experience something completely different in portraiture, and even skin tone, for instance. 

Nativen: How did this kind of creative process go down locally? 

Leeta:    There's no getting away from it; I'm not an activist. I didn't start out thinking I was going to draw attention to racism at all. It was more about my own love of creating beauty, finding some of these girls that were living in these tiny little towns, and to approach them. 

At first, I was like, "Oh, how am I going to find models?" But then driving in town, going home, and I saw this girl walking down the street, who was absolutely perfect, and I pulled over, jumped out of the car, went running up to her, and was like, "Please don't think I'm crazy. I'm a photographer but I'm doing a project for an exhibition, and I really think you would be perfect for my project, my photo series." 

She looked at me and she laughed, she said, "I've been praying for somebody to come along and take my photo because I really want to be a model." Her name was Shea and she went on to become a model in Miami. She's very successful now.

Nativen: What part of your process, your photography process in general, brings you the most joy? 

Leeta:    For me the joy comes after or before. I like the research and the collecting of imagery or clothing, it's like wrapping Christmas gifts. It's like the time you have alone, steaming the clothes or choosing the lipstick color or the search for the right shoes to create the story with creating your props, building your collection of things to choose from. That is exciting. 

Then once you're behind the lens and then you get everything into place and you get the image, and you know you've gotten the image, that's the joy, but then it's the editing afterwards that I end up getting excited, really excited because it's fresh, it's new. 

Nativen: What part is the biggest struggle for you, do you think? 

Leeta:    I'm a one-woman show. I art direct, I style, I do makeup, hair, I edit, I write, I have to be all these things or do all these things.

Nativen: What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet? 

Leeta:    Go to India. When I was four years old, my babysitters were Indian and I loved the food and the smells coming out of the kitchen. I love the colors and the saris and the gold jewelry. I just think Indian women are just extremely beautiful. And then there’s…the light. 

Nativen: I don't know if you listen to music in any part of your process of inspiration or editing, but are there any songs or musicians that you listen to regularly?  

Leeta:    I was watching the Grammys a couple of years ago and there was an amazing performance by Jack White, and Ruby Amanfu. They did this song called Love Interruption. The styling of both of them and their lyrics and their performance was so charismatic, it stopped me in my tracks and so I downloaded Blunderbuss. I listen to that album over and over and over, driving the back roads of North Carolina.

Nativen: Your work is very much about engaging in what's happening around you in the community here, but is there anything through your work that you do to really try and specifically connect with the community here? 

Leeta:    I keep in contact with the girls that I photograph and have a dialogue with them. I became a mentor to one of the girls who interviewed me for her 12th grade project. Feeling like I made some difference in their lives, whether it's just through an image that they will have of themselves documented at this age that's a beautiful, iconic image is kind of a heartfelt feeling. But also just having personal relationships with a community of women who I wouldn't have gotten to know.

Nativen: What's the most helpful advice you've received or what's advice that you'd give to someone who's looking to build a career out of their creative interest? 

Leeta:    Have faith in yourself, first and foremost. You don't have to justify creative process to anyone. Keep trusting what you do, if you love what you do, and continue, hopefully, to work on that relationship with trust and respect with people, but then, ultimately, with moving forward if you feel stuck. Because in those places, those in between places of waiting for something to happen or self-doubt, those are the times that you need to hang on to because when the going gets good, that's not necessarily going to be your best true work. 

Nativen: Is there someone who's really a hero to you or maybe someone who's really helped influence your work that's been a vehicle through all of this? 

Leeta:    I was in my 20s in New York and I happened to be walking along Broadway and I was feeling very alone and not knowing how I was going to do what I wanted to do. I saw this sign, and two girls were sitting at a table with a sign that said, "Free Advice." I sat down and we just started talking. They said to me, "What is it you really want to do?" I said, "I really just want to take photographs and travel the world." 

They asked me, "If you could do that, what would you do right now?" I said, "Well, I'd probably go up to Central Park and photograph people, but I have to go to work." They said, "That's what you should be doing," and it was just that simple.  It was one of those things; it just occurred to me, if that's really what I think about all the time, then that's what I really should be doing. It was that simple anonymous advice from two girls I don't even know.

Nativen: What are three words that sum up your work for you? 

Leeta:    Finding personal truth.

Check out the editorial Leeta shot for us here!

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

Edited by: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited)

all images are copyright of Nativen

Kat Parker: Sweaterweather Music

Lily Hetzler

Winter is here, and it's the perfect time for hunkering down with a stack of records and a pot of homemade soup. This month we have a special feature: taking a trek through music maven, Kat Parker's impressive vinyl collection, and the influences that brought her deep into the world of music... I couldn't be more excited to announce that Kat, or as we know her, Sweaterweather, is the mastermind behind our new music section, Nativen Sounds.  

Read her story below, and travel with us through the first of many playlists to come...

Nativen: First off, can you talk a little bit about where you're from?

Kat: I'm from Minneapolis, which is surprisingly actually a lot like Brooklyn. It's sort of this little island in the middle of the Midwest with a lot of great theater and music and restaurants and progressive politics.

Nativen: Do you think growing up in Minneapolis with the type of upbringing that you had had any effect on your musical pursuits, and your interest in record collecting specifically?

Kat: Definitely. I played piano for ten years and my mom is really into music. She’s a trained classical vocalist, so growing up we always had on classical music or jazz in the house. She wanted us to understand music so much that in the car, we would play this game: what is this? Is it Baroque? Who do you think the composer is? What instruments do you hear? Is it a concerto? When I was little, I was annoyed by it, but it’s served me really well because it tuned my ear as far as listening to music theory and picking out instruments and listening to rhythm.

Nativen: When did you really start collecting records?

Kat: I always grew up with records, knowing how to play them and take care of them. But it wasn’t until I met my husband, Tom, when I was in college that I started collecting seriously. He was really into vinyl and took me to my first record fair 12 years ago when we were in London. I didn't even have a record player at the time because we were traveling through Europe with backpacks. It's funny because instead of going to the Louvre, we went on the hunt for record stores. So I've never been to the Louvre, but I bought my first record as an adult (Billie Holiday!) on that trip to Paris.

Nativen: What do you love most about living in Brooklyn, in particular as it pertains to your relationship with music or record collecting?

Kat: There are a lot of music lovers and vinyl lovers in Brooklyn. The vibrancy of being around a lot of people like that, surrounded by sounds and movement, gives me so much energy. There are record stores and record vendors on the street, and lots of places to buy vinyl in Brooklyn, even if it's not the cheapest!

Nativen: Do you have a favorite restaurant in Brooklyn?

Kat: Right now, I’ll go with Talde. It's one of those places where you read the menu and you're like, "those things are disgusting together." Then you get it on your plate and it’s mumbo jumbo magic!

Nativen: Do you have a favorite home goods store or clothing store?

Kat: I love to shop at Eva Gentry. But also, Brooklyn has this awesome thing where we all put stuff out on our stoop that we don't want. It's just such a cool way to recycle things, to give and take. Seriously, people put out the weirdest stuff.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space?

Kat: Prospect Park is kind of the reason we moved right here. It’s gorgeous, the same guy who designed Central Park designed it, and you've got everything from fishing and to ice-skating and roller-skating. But the best part is just the huge, long meadow. It’s this expansive green space where your eyes can adjust to this long view that you don't usually get in a city. It just feels so healthy.

Nativen: What’s your M.O. when it comes to collecting records?

Kat: I've been a collector for over a decade. My theory on collecting is that I just buy what I like. I've bought stuff out of the dollar bin because I like the cover. I love to take a chance, even if it doesn't always come through. A lot of people are “completists,” and they say okay, this is a band that I like right now, I'm going to buy every single record that they've ever made. I want original pressing, I want mint condition, and I'm going to buy records by them that I don't even like and I'm going to buy multiple copies because I want their complete catalog. That's not me at all. I buy stuff because I like the way it sounds or it's challenging.

Nativen: Do you have a standout record or maybe a favorite that has really great significance or lasting power among your collection?

Kat: Back in the day, I had the CD of Dizzy Gillespie's “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac” checked out from the Minneapolis Public Library for like, 5 years. I was getting all these back fines on it, but I couldn't return it because it was so good! It's just this amazing sort of back-to-Africa moment in jazz, a beautiful convergence of African rhythms and instruments paired with American jazz in the 60s and 70s. I looked for the record for years and years until I finally found it at the WFMU record fair. I was so excited! I saw it hanging up as one of the featured records at one of the booths. I've subsequently found it two other times; once at Princeton Record Exchange, and then, of course, my husband found this pristine, perfect copy for $10.

Nativen: You've curated and put together playlists, and DJ’d some events and spaces. Can you talk a little bit about your own musical journey?

Kat: I love being tasked with DJ-ing a specific kind of event or making a specific kind of playlist because it’s a fun way to shop your own collection and re-listen and reexamine and make connections. But I don't consider myself a DJ in the professional sense of the word because I know a lot of professional DJ’s who are amazing and I wouldn't put myself in their company. I consider myself a collector who likes to curate soundscapes in intimate environments, whether it's my home, a good friend's wedding, a party or an art opening.

Nativen: How do you organize your records?

Kat: We have two really big record cases that hold the bulk of everything. And then we have a bunch of crates and piles that are invading the rest of our house. One side is all rock—some blues-rock, indie rock, folk rock, and classic rock. The other side is a mixture of blues, jazz, soul, and funk. Then it's alphabetical by very large genre umbrellas—but we also have specific crates for specific things.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite section?

Kat: I think is our coolest section is Arhoolie, which is this record label started by Chris Strachwitz in the late 50s that recorded all these American musicians from the turn of the century and the 20s and 30s that were starting to pass away. He was a kind of modern songcatcher, without him, their music would have been lost to history! They still put out albums even if it's not so much like, go and find a dying blues guy in Alabama. But they still sign regional artists to their labels.

Nativen: What are your thoughts on digital music?

Kat: Not to sound like the proverbial broken record of what every person criticizing digital music says, but we really don't listen to albums anymore, so the act of listening to an album is fun. When you put on a record, you play the entire thing through, as opposed to an iPod, where you've just made a mix that you're playing over and over again. That’s not to say that I don't also listen to digital music, because I have Spotify playlists and playlists I've made on iTunes.

Nativen: If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go?

Kat: Musically, I like places that are kind of at the crossroads where different sounds and genres collide. I think Morocco and Spain would both be really cool to visit because there's such heavy tradition of African and North African influence with sort of a European flavor.

Nativen: Do you have a hero or motivator that really inspires you musically?

Kat: There are people that I admire from afar, but I don't have a specific mentor. Then again, I'd like to say East Village Radio (even though it’s off air now), because I really used to love exploring and turning it on and hearing what was going on. I know the girl who ran the station for a while and I have a friend who had a hip-hop show on it for a decade. It was a place that was totally free of the commercialism that has taken over radio. There was every genre imaginable, it was such a mix! Some stuff you liked and some stuff you didn't, but I just liked that it was such a free place of musical exploration.

Nativen: What part of the curation of soundscapes brings you the greatest joy?

Kat: Just being able to go through all the records that I've bought over the last decade and make connections between them. Figuring out that combination of walking the edge of familiar and new, but making it a totally pleasurable experience and bringing people along on this ride. Ultimately, I make the mix or create the soundscape for myself, but I’m also always thinking about the listener who's going to be at the party.

Nativen: And, finally, what do you think is the hardest part of pursuing your musical passions?

Kat: Time. Always time. I am fervently against the idea that there's no good new music out there. Anyone who says that there's not good new music being made is not listening. The more music I have, the more music I realize that I don't have or I don't know about, but I want to. My appetite's insatiable—I'm like the blob.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

Edited By: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited)

all images copyright of Nativen

Check out playlists on Nativen Sounds, our new monthly music section, brought to you by Kat Parker, aka Sweaterweather.

Drake Patten: Cluck

Lily Hetzler

Anthropologist turned farmer and master homesteader, Drake Patten, is the paradigm of do-it-yourself entrepreneurial spirit.  She strikes an inspiring balance between city life and community stewardship with back-to-roots rural farm life.  I started our cool Autumn morning with a tour of her growing Rhode Island farm, led by her expert canine tour guide, Bella; and sat with her at the home base of her community focused shop, Cluck!, a converted 60's gas station with sun-drenched herb beds and a little zen hen house. Read on to hear about the travels that motivated her to start this urban agricultural hub....

Nativen: Where are you from?

Drake: I'm from here now, but I was raised all over the place, outside of the US mostly. I have a Danish mother and an American Father.

Nativen: It sounds like your life was a bit transient when you were younger, do you think that had any effect on your decision to start this business in particular?

Drake: I think that living internationally you see a lot of things and that includes food and farming traditions. I'm an anthropologist by training, and an archaeologist, and I think that training taught me to see things in a particular way, to pay attention to what was happening and why it was happening in a certain way. And while that definitely played a part in what I've done with in life and with my business, I think that the connector for those things has been how much I really like people. I like engaging with things that can make the world better, not in a romantic way, but practically.

Nativen: Was there a kind of “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to pursue farming as a business?

Drake: My “aha” moment came from talking to my dad. I had been in the non-profit world as an executive director for multiple organizations, but after some time, I knew that I was coming to the end of it. My dad said, "I always thought of you as being business.” And I was like, "Dad, I've only every done non-profit. That's crazy!” He wanted me to get a job at IBM, where I could wear nice suits and heels. I went home and I poured myself a glass of wine and thought, "What would business be for me?" 
I knew it almost immediately when I asked myself that question; I wasn't traumatized by it, I didn't deliberate. I just knew that I wanted to do something with food and self-reliance and that it would be a friendly place and there would be education. It would be in the community and it would be beautiful.

Nativen: What do you love most about being in Providence?

Drake: I would say it’s the scale of this community. Not just this neighborhood I chose, but the entire city. It’s just the nature of our state, the joke is that everybody knows everybody else, but it's not really a joke, its kind of true! Most of the time, that's an incredibly powerful thing. Connection is really critical for all of us with micro-businesses.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite restaurant in the area?

Drake: Too many! I would say my husband's kitchen to be diplomatic.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space?

Drake: Yes! I really love Roger Williams Park. There is also is our city park, it's like our Central Park. It has a botanical center and it's just a beautiful place. I just love that park!

Nativen: Is there a hidden gem in the area?

Drake: My hidden gem for me is my own land. I've just waited a long time for it and I find such beauty there that I don't need another gem anymore. Everyday it changes as the light and the seasons change. I'm a little in love with my own farm right now.

Nativen: What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here?

Drake: My customer base. I listen to what people are looking for, what they are feeling insecure about, what they are feeling confident about. There are so many opportunities for local makers and growers. If you look around the store, there are a lot of Rhode Island and New England people here. They are here because the customer base I have is excited about it. 

Nativen: What part of the process of running this business brings you the most joy?

Drake: I would have to say that it’s the people who come back and share a success or even a failure. That’s what I want this business to do in the end. There are people who bring me their harvest to show me, "I grew this." I have people who bring me honey from their beehives. I have people who bring me chickens. Sharing the job is what it’s all about. There are also those people who come in and are like, "This thing totally failed." And we sit down and have a therapy session about it. That's actually my favorite; it’s why I'm here. If that kind of thing didn't happen, the business might be fine doing what it's doing, but it would be a one-way conversation. For me, that conversation is the joy.

Nativen: What part is the biggest struggle for you?

Drake: Financing. People call us a small business but I'm very specific about it; this is a micro-business. I am one person.

Nativen: What is one thing you have always wanted to do, but haven't done yet?

Drake: I want to open a little bar in Venice and live above it. I used to go every year, and I love it there! There is still time, when I'm older.

Nativen: Perfect segue to my next question: do you think traveling somewhere in particular would inspire or alter your work, in any way?

Drake: I want to see the big land of our country. I was fortunate to see a lot of the rest of the world as I was growing up, so I’ve seen very little of this country. I would like to do a big trip with my family across country.

Nativen: Do you have any music or songs that are on heavy rotation at this moment?

Drake: I am listening to Chris Bathgate’s "Salt Year." I find it haunting and lovely. But I live with a man who has 8,000 records, so nothing is really ever on heavy rotation. We listen to them all. But I do have phases. Sometimes I am this weird, serial, listener, but I don't listen to music on the farm because I like the sounds of the animals and the trees. I find that is my music at home. Here, there is opera Sunday, but mostly, Cajun, Zhivago, and Bluegrass.

Nativen: What are three words that sum up your work?

Drake: Fun first and foremost. Second, I’d say hopeful—I’m very hopeful about what we can do with our food future. And third: gentle.

Nativen: Is there anything you do with your work to specifically connect with your community apart from having your store?

Drake: Education. We do classes, workshops and author events. Now I’m trying to do film events, community screenings.

Nativen: What is the most helpful advice that you have received?

Drake: One person I really admire said, "You need to take more time away from your business." His point for that was that, if you step away, you can be more analytical and look critically at what you are doing. Even though I haven't been able to take advantage of that advice yet, I really heard it.

Nativen: What are three things that you can't live without?

Drake: My dog. I have this ring that I bought from a contemporary German jeweler that is a signet ring with a fingerprint on it. The fingerprint is mine, and it’s symbolic of a number of things in my life before I got to this place in my life. And, honestly, these days I really need my shepherd’s crook.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

Edited by: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited)

all images copyright of Nativen

Norva Bennett: Shen Shu Acupuncturist

Lily Hetzler

Stepping into Norva's office, I felt instantly at ease.  It's clear not only from her space, but also from her calm and balanced demeanor that Norva is a healer.  Shenshu Acupuncture is indeed an oasis from the zoo of NYC's midtown, and the journey through the world Norva left behind to found it, is an inspiring one.  From the backstages of broadway to the streets of Guatemala, take a walk in Norva's shoes....

Nativen: First off, where are you from?

Norva: I grew up in Dallas, but I was born in Michigan.

Nativen: Do you think growing up in Dallas affected your choice to pursue acupuncture?

Norva: No. I grew up a dancer. I ended up going into the theater and became a stage manager. When I decided to leave the industry, it was because I felt like my life was becoming my job, instead of my job being an aspect of my life, and I wanted to change that.

Nativen: When did you realize you wanted to be an acupuncturist?

Norva: I was working on Broadway and was supposed to take a show I'd been working on from workshop through to production. At the last minute, I got a phone call that they had decided to go a different route. Later I found out that that person didn't go a different route, she just decided, because it was her first big, big show, to hire her friend. I was really exhausted at the time, and I was like, "what am I doing this for?” I hadn’t had a week off in four years! That was when I was done with the industry.

Meanwhile, health was always something that I was really interested in and focused on, so I first looked at being a nutritionist. But being a nutritionist in America has nothing to do with food. It has to do with chemicals and compounds; it's a science degree—a very long science degree. I decided that wasn't the right route.

I got into acupuncture on a whim. A friend was studying Chinese medicine. I loved the idea that someone can come in with a headache and I wasn't going to just give them a pill, but that we were going to figure out how to get the headaches to never come back again. I literally got the idea, looked into schools and within two weeks was in class. I had never even had acupuncture, which was crazy!

Nativen: What do you love most about living in New York, and how do you think that's integral to the work that you're doing?

Norva: I think there's an element of possibility, always. Even if someone feels stuck, in a moment that can change. I’m not sure what New York adds to my job other than the fact that people are very open to healing. I could always move to a place like Detroit where there’s not so many acupuncturists and offer a service that's not offered there, and create great change.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York City?

Norva: I don't have one favorite restaurant, I think what I love about New York is that there are so many favorite restaurants.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space?

Norva: Central Park. That's my backyard. I live on the north side of the park; it's so much quieter.

Nativen: How about a hidden gem in New York?

Norva: This summer, it feels like Fort Tilden has been my hidden gem, even if it's not so hidden. To be able to go to the beach every weekend and live in New York City is kind of amazing.

Nativen: What do you think is the greatest resource to your work in New York?

Norva: A lot of teachers come through New York. Some of the biggest influences in acupuncture either live in New York or come through New York very frequently, so access to further education and other points of view is generally readily available.

Nativen: What part of the process in the work that you do brings you the most joy?

Norva: To change somebody's quality of life for the better is what it's all about. Somebody who comes to an acupuncturist generally has been to multiple doctors for that condition before they come. To help somebody change something that they didn't think was changeable, something that Western doctors have just given up on, that's where it's all about. That, ultimately, is what attracted me to Chinese medicine, this idea that I could actually change people's lives. When I first started getting into it, everybody was like, "Oh, it's so different. It's so different. It's such a change." But the way I see it, I just stage-manage people's individual lives now.

Nativen: How about struggle? What is the greatest struggle in the work that you do?

Norva: There's this element of, "Am I doing my best? Am I giving this person the best healthcare? Am I approaching this the best way?” that’s always in the back of my head. Also, working on myself, always. I really don't feel that I can work on someone else, or guide someone else, if I'm not willing to do the work myself.

Nativen: What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?

Norva: I've created a life at this point in time that I keep doing all the things I want to do. When I want to do something, I make it happen. I've really built the life I've always wanted to live.

Nativen: I don't know if you listen to music when you have patients, or to get yourself in the mood when you're working?

Norva: Wah, W-A-H, an artist who does mantra-type songs. The music becomes something that's just in the background. It's something that actually takes out the noise of the city.

Nativen: What are 3 words that sum up your work?

Norva: Gratifying, openness and change.

Nativen: Is there anything you do with your work to connect with the community?

Norva: I used to volunteer in Brooklyn and give free care, but then we lost our space. I also go to Guatemala once a year and do aid work there. Because of the logistics in the United States, it's actually easier to go to a place like Guatemala and provide healthcare there than it is here. In Guatemala, we can treat 1500 people in a week. The bureaucracy in the States makes it much more difficult to even get to put something like that together. Which, I think is really sad.

Nativen: What's the most helpful advice you've received, or what's the advice that you would maybe give to a young person who's looking to pursue their own thing, or maybe develop a business?

Norva: Be like water. A stream starts as a small little trickle. Though you may come across a dam some day, in the end, you're going to get to something bigger, but you have to go with the flow sometimes. Just to be open to where it's going to take you.

Nativen: Do you have a hero, someone who's influenced your work in a big way?

Norva: My colleague Dan Wunderlich was a big influence in setting up my practice, and business-wise, and how to begin to work. He's now become a good friend of mine, and I work with him in Guatemala.

Nativen: What are three objects you can't live without?

Norva: A good shower. Is that an object? A comfortable bed, and it's not an object, but it's something I think is really important, and that's just love.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

Edited by: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited)

all images copyright of Nativen

Kari Morris: Morris Kitchen

Lily Hetzler

A continually gentrifying maker's capital, the sprawl of industrial spaces that make up Bushwick, Brooklyn are host to a wide variety of creative businesses and hypnotic street art.  It's the perfect hub for a craft business, and the sun lit mixology kitchen and offices of Kari Morris' Morris Kitchen, are no exception to the rule.  It was a welcoming open space, when I sat down with Kari at the long rustic table in the center of her office; and it became clear as we chatted that community and sharing are a big party of what makes Morris Kitchen so special... Plus, take a look at the bottom of this interview to check out one of the songs that keep her creative juices flowing.

Nativen: Where are you from?

Kari: California. But I've been in New York for ten years now.

Nativen: So, it's official. You’re an official New Yorker now.

Kari: Yeah. I think so. Feels like I jumped the gun. I grew up in Sonoma. I also lived in Washington State. I was born up there.

Nativen: Very cool.

Kari: Yeah. Wine country.

Nativen: Do you think growing up in Northern California affected your decision to go into syrup making, specifically?

Kari: No, it was an accident.

Nativen: Really?

Kari: I went to CCAC. Growing up in Sonoma, my parents had an art supply store. My dad was a painter. I was always drawing and creating . There was always an arts and crafts project. So, going into Art school was sort of a natural transition.
I think that had a big influence on where I am now. 
I graduated from Art school and had a job in New York. I was working in The Art World, in the gallery setting, and so I felt pretty disconnected from art and creating, but I didn't want to be a fine artist. I got really into cooking when I was in school. I was working in a fine dining restaurant. I think, for me, cooking was a way for me to stay creative and make things that I felt I could put out into the world that had value, that could also function as a business.… In order to pay my student loans back. [laughs]

Nativen: Right. The nice thing about cooking is that it can be such an independent journey, too, in a creative sense. It doesn't necessarily require huge investments of materials and things like that. You still have the opportunity to get creative with portions, presentation, flavors. It's such a full sensory experience.

Kari: Right. Instant gratification. You see the feedback immediately when you're done. There was a lot of things that were very intriguing about it, and so I sort of shifted from art to food and one thing led to another.
And here I am making syrup.

Nativen: Yeah. Was there an event or a moment or something that happened that made you realize "Syrups are the thing that I want to pursue?"

Kari: One of my brothers is a chef and he and I ended up living together in Williamsburg. We reunited and tryed to figure out what we were doing with our lives , so I put him to work. I said "Tyler, you know how to cook. Let's get a group of people together and we'll do a dinner party at our house," and it turned into a supper club. I think we did one every other month. We met a ton of people and we really liked working together. 
I had been in the South of France. I was there for work. One of the things that I picked up was syrups. Ginger syrup, as like a utilitarian product there. It was this very concentrated liquid gold where you could make salad dressing with it, sodas, cocktails. I posed to my brother that we'd bottle and make ginger syrup, to which he said "why would anyone ever buy ginger syrup? It's so easy to make." Which I love and I still tease him about because he's a chef, so of course it's easy.

Nativen: Haha… Right.

Kari: I was like "but we're going to put it in a beautiful bottle and the packaging is very important." Everything was letter pressed. I studied print making in school.
That's how it all kind of started. So, together we produced this product. Sold forty of them at a flea market in a church basement and found ourselves in a room with a bunch of other people who were also starting food businesses and/or wanted to dress up in elaborate costumes and make deviled eggs. There was a real mix, there was all this energy around it.
The ginger syrup was a hit. A year later I quit my job and that's when we started turning it into a syrup company. We grew the line. We now have five syrups and three cocktail mixers.

Nativen: Whoop-whoop.

Kari: I like to say that I sort of fell into it.

Nativen: Yeah, but that's such a great evolution. It’s interesting that you were sort of talking about the inspiration of the journey starting in The South of France. Obviously France is famous for perfumes and fragrance in general, and things like that, and syrups are sort of one of those base essences of a food experience.
It's such a refined, but at the same time, simple version of what a culinary experience is. There's so many applications that can totally transform a beverage or a meal with just a simple ingredient.

Kari: Exactly. Yeah. I mean you see it so much ... Jams, jellies, pickles. Preserving is such a huge staple. 
Taking great ingredients and preserving them and syrup is the same thing if you're using good ingredients and processing them.

Nativen: Yeah. What do you love most about living in Brooklyn and do you think that's integral to your work in any way?

Kari: I do, yeah. Like I said, there are so many people that were starting this journey at the same time as us. I feel like we really helped each other, we boosted each other, and we sort of created this ... There’s a lot of energy and buzz around the food movement, and we still get together and talk.

Nativen: Right. A support network, and all that.

Kari: Yeah.

Nativen: In Brooklyn, what's your favorite restaurant?

Kari: I think Roman's. It's a go-to.

Nativen: Yeah. It's a good staple. They have a very delicious menu.
Do you have a favorite home goods store or clothing store?

Kari: I often wander into Bird, and I think Kaufmann Mercantile, even though they're not a brick and mortat. Their offices are down the street from here and I think they always do such a great job.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space?

Kari: I live right next to Prospect Lefferts. I actually think that's the most beautiful piece of the park. So, I feel a little lucky to have that.

Nativen: Yeah, you go in and you're like "I can't see city anywhere." You're just completely surrounded by trees. 
What do you think is the greatest resource to your work in New York?

Kari: I would say the Green Markets are amazing, I mean Union Square. Such a great opportunity to get inspired. The C-S-A's in Brooklyn are a great way to just get faced with a huge bounty of berries or lemongrass or ingredients that you're like "I would never buy this. What am I going to do with all these berries?" And then you have to make something.

Nativen: Yeah. It forces you to get creative. 
Is there a favorite syrup or mixer that you've made so far that sort of.

Kari: Ginger syrup is the most popular.

Nativen: Is it your favorite?

Kari: I would say probably overall, yes, but right now I'm excited about the mixers, the Grapefruit Hibiscus... How versatile it is and how easy it is to use. It's exciting for me because I'm often the one that people say "Make me a drink, make me a drink," so this is like, "Here. Make it yourself. I've already made it for you. It's in this bottle."
[laughs]

Nativen: What part of the process brings you the most joy?

Kari: I really like the production. I like being on the line and watching the bottles come in, get filled, the label goes on, it goes in the box. It's kind of like Mister Rogers. I'm going to take you on a field trip to see the Crayon Factory and you get to see how it's all made.

Nativen: What part of the process is the greatest struggle for you?

Kari: The actual act of running the business and planning for the future and knowing where we should be investing our time and money and how to get more time and money.

Nativen: Right. This is the nature of life, right?
What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?

Kari: There's been a handful of products that I've wanted to make along the line. 
Pastes. Which is kind of weird.

Nativen: Ooooh, interesting.

Kari: I've always wanted to ... And that started early on when we were preserving our own lemons and then pureeing them to make the lemon syrup. We were sort of, by default, making this lemon paste, like a really thick puree, which I wanted to package and sell. Something that you would find in like a quince paste, but with apples and lemon and ginger.

Nativen: That would be amazing.

Kari: Like a paint tube style.

Nativen: Mmmmm. I could totally eat that with some cheese. That sounds fantastic.
If you weren't making syrups what do you think you would be doing?

Kari: I have a confession to make.

Nativen: Ooh.

Kari: No. I love real estate. I love home renovation projects and I would love to create beautiful spaces and/or ... Make it a business somehow to make beautiful spaces.

Nativen: Maybe there's a furniture staging business in your future. 
What destination do you want to travel to next and do you think that's something that might inspire or alter your work in any way?

Kari: I would like to go to Italy, again. I think that there are some things for me to see there, as far as packaging, too.

Nativen: Definitely. What are three words that sum up your work to you?

Kari: I was going to say labor of love or blood, sweat, and tears.

Nativen: I like blood, sweat, and tears. That's great. It's the title of your rock album and the summation of your work.
Is there anything with your work that you do to specifically connect with you community?

Kari: Yeah. We have been for quite some time now, bringing in students that are part of an organization called Exalt Youth. They’re teenagers that have been through the court system and/or are having a hard time at school. The program helps give them basic job skills and then puts them into an environment where they're working. We've had quite a few come through here and they do everything from running into the city to do deliveries, which they love. To helping with recipe testing, shipping and computer work.

Nativen: That's a really interesting way to relate back to the city and what's actually going on with people in your community.

Kari: It's amazing what their take-away is. When they see us in this office and we're running a business, but then they go into the city and they go to Whole Foods and they see the product that they helped make in some way, sitting on the shelf in there. I think it really helps them sort of connect the idea of what can happen in an office, in a business, and how they're helping. How their job is important.

Nativen: To make something physical. Absolutely. I think with the evolution of technology, it's really rewarding for young people to be able to see physical manifestation, as well.

Kari: Hands on, yeah.

Nativen: That's great. What's the most helpful advice that you've received? Or what's advice that you would give to young creatives who are looking to develop their own work?

Kari: Keep it as simple as you can in the beginning, and let it evolve organically within some sort of structure.
Because the product and the response that you get from it will sort of dictate the direction that it goes. It's a business at the end of the day. Even though it's something that you love it still needs to make sense financially.

Nativen: Right. Do you have a hero or maybe someone who's really helped kind of influence or inspire your work in a big way?

Kari: Well, my brothers. Both of them. They've been great and inspiring me and keeping me on track.

Nativen: That's good, it's important to have a support network.
What are three objects that you can't live without?

Kari: I'd say ... Beautiful home objects. Chatski's.

Nativen: Chatski's. That's good. [laughs]

Kari: My perfume. That's a good one… and I'm going to say chips.

Nativen: Yeah, that's crucial to survival.
[laughs]

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen

Tiandra Cummins: Parts Per Million

Lily Hetzler

Portland is undeniably an epicenter for creative minds, and those seeking the space and community of a build-your-own-adventure lifestyle.  As a fellow explorer of the hands-on, makers way, it was no surprise that Tiandra Cummins of Parts Per Million and I would share a creative kinship.  A morning bicycle ride along the Williamette River into the Southeast Region of town, a neighborhood famous for galleries, restaurants, and the historical Ladd's Addition; I rolled up to the open-plan workshop that Tiandra shares with a team of like-minded makers.  Our talk delves into the benefits of an unconventional lifestyle and the freedom of endless creative exploration.  Get inspired by Tiandra's work, adventures and her builders beginnings

Nativen: Where are you from?

Tiandra: I'm from Southwest Colorado, a little town called Cortez that nobody's ever heard of. It’s in the most southwestern corner of the state, near the four corners. Like the juniper lowlands, desert divide, but then you drive an hour and a half and you're in Telluride surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks.

Nativen: Do you think that growing up there affected your choices to become a creative?

Tiandra: Definitely. I grew up in a wood-shop; my dad's a cabinetmaker. I have been working for him, unknowingly, since I was nine. We'd run around and play on these crazy rock formations all around the shop all day while they worked until we were old enough for them to put a sander in our hands. Dad's like, "sand this," or "come over here and stand on this while I nail it." Regionally, too, there’re a lot of Indian reservations around there. Like the Navajos and the Pueblo Indians, they have amazing silver-smithing skills.

Nativen: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue jewelry and woodworking?

Tiandra: I took some years off after high school, moved to California, was a beach bum, and spent all my money on beer. I knew that I didn't want to be in school because I was like screw this. I was reckless and restless. But I've always wanted to teach. So when I moved back to Colorado I started going to school for early childhood education and was taking random art classes as electives there, but I was really frustrated with the school system. I was doing my TA hours in art classes at the middle school that I went to with one of my old teachers, and was suddenly like: what am I doing? I want to make things! So I switched over to fine art. I took a silversmithing class, I had never done anything in metal before and I was like, “this is awesome.” After that, I found Oregon College of Arts and Crafts out here in Oregon. They have an insane metalsmithing program, super intensive. We moved out here and that's all she wrote.

Nativen: You were sold.

Tiandra: I dove in headfirst and really struggled with the conceptual side of things in the beginning because I was so used to the utilitarian side of woodworking as a job. I just wanted to make things; I'm definitely more of a crafts person than an artist. At the same time, it's really nice to be able to find within yourself the ability to tap into that so you can access it as a fuel to make something different.

Nativen: What do you love most about living in Portland now? Do you think that's integral to your work in any way?

Tiandra: I love the area, and maybe it is because it gives me the freedom to continue doing all this outdoor stuff I love so much. There are all these local hardwoods, access to fir and maple and walnut and all these things that grow in Oregon. I also love my space and my shop mates; I could never really do a solo space. There are a lot of people making things here, but a lot is supersaturated. I've experienced the super creative community, and I've also experienced people that are really shut off to it because they want to be doing something that somebody else isn't doing. It's a love, hate I guess.

Nativen: Just a couple of rapid-fire Portland questions. Favorite restaurant?

Tiandra: I have to say Pok Pok.

Nativen: Favorite home goods store here?

Tiandra: I'm marketing's worst enemy. I hardly ever buy anything retail, there's a Goodwill up over here on Seventh and Grand-ish and it's gigantic. That said, if I want something really special, Beam and Anchor. Those guys are badass.

Nativen: Favorite park or outdoor space?

Tiandra: Forest Park. I saw you there yesterday! They have Wildwood Trail, that's a good one. All the way up to Pittock Mansion. You feel like you're in a jungle but you can still hear the highway sometimes.

Nativen: I know it's wild. As soon as we got to the edge you sort of feel like you're falling off the edge of the city because you know it's up, up, up.

Tiandra: Also Rocky Butte, though I don't go there often. It's like this bald, grassy thing on top of this weird rock cropping that they built for a radio tower off towards the airport with this really beautiful view of Portland. You can watch the planes landing and taking off.

Nativen: How about a hidden gem?

Tiandra: Bar-wise, I would say the Happy House. It's a Chinese Restaurant on the Interstate that's got this awesome dive-y bar attached to it. It's super close to my house, too. They have $1.25 Rolling Rocks on draft. It's a lot of regulars. I like those places where the bartender just yells "Frank!" And Frank’s like, "yep," and she brings him another beer. That's how stuff happens there.

Nativen: What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here in Portland?

Tiandra: My friends. The people that I've met along the way in Oregon that encourage me and offer nothing but support, but also, just aren't afraid to be like, “what the hell are you thinking? 
Get off your ass and do this.”

Nativen: Is there a piece that you've made that was a huge accomplishment that you didn't think you could do?

Tiandra: I think one of my “biggest accomplishment pieces” was a teapot from sheet metal that I made in school. It was definitely the thing where I was like, "I made this. I can make anything." We spent like almost two grand on material for my sterling silver teapot.

Nativen: What part of your process brings you the most joy?

Tiandra: Procrastination. It’s when you're stuck on something that really fun things happen. I love wasting my time on these stupid little things. Sometimes it ends up in the trash but there's something about that, even, where you're like, now I know that doesn't work. Deviation from the path brings me so much joy.

Nativen: Is there a part of the process that's the greatest struggle for you?

Tiandra: Procrastination! I do goof off a lot. I have a million things going on all the time in my brain and, unfortunately, I don't have enough time to execute all of those things. So I do five percent of this and five percent of that and it makes it really hard to feel fulfilled in actually getting one thing done.

Nativen: What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?

Tiandra: Knife-making because it's this awesome marriage of my metalworking skills and my woodworking skills (for things like the handles). I 've always loved a sharp edge, and I have all these files kicking around. I love blacksmithing and have dabbled in it quite a bit, and I've done quite a bit of forging and stuff like that. I really would like to build a small forge for my shop. I also have this idea to do a line of lockets. I love the challenge of really small-scale mechanisms. Those are two things out of a million.

Nativen: If you weren't doing woodworking and jewelry, do you think there's something else you might have gravitated towards?

Tiandra: Try as I might, I just always end up in a job where I'm using my hands and my body. Right now I'm a florist. I work for this awesome flower shop downtown. I can't imagine every doing something that isn't with my hands.

Nativen: What destination do you want to travel to next? Do you think that might inspire or alter your work in any way?

Tiandra: Actually, it's not even that far of a destination. My friend Greg just bought a hotel in Joseph, which is in way, way Northeastern Oregon in Wallowa County. It's like the town is at the end of the road, it literally just stops there. He's trying to get a folk school started up there. I would love to go out there for a month take a couple of really simple tools like my anvil and hammers and just kind of pare it back down. There's a lot you can do with very little. And no distractions! No phone, no computer. I hate computers anyways. Just make things and play music.

Nativen: Speaking of music, is there a song that you have on heavy rotation when you work right now?

Tiandra: Black Sabbath’s self-titled album is my shop CD. I blast it in here. I also listen to a lot of 90's like old 90's country and I'm not ashamed to say it! I just went to Garth Brooks, he's like rebel country. I love George Jones and Hank Williams and Johnny Cash and all of that. But I also like shitty 90's country, Alan Jackson and Randy Travis. It reminds me of my childhood.

Nativen: Is there anything you do with your work that connects specifically with the community here?

Tiandra: Not at the moment, but I mentored a foster kid a while back, which was such a frustrating experience, actually. It was really hard to be able to get the time with my mentee that I wanted. Unfortunately, the program lost funding and was shut down and I haven't pursued more mentorships since that all fell apart. But I would love to teach because while I wasn't the worst kid, I definitely didn't love school. It sucks for those kids that aren't book learners. I'm not a book learner, I need somebody to show me something and then I can do it. I just need to use my hands and I'm sure there are a lot of kids that need that too. I suggested to Greg that we do scholarship programs for at-risk kids and hold workshop weekends for at-risk and troubled youth. Just to help them recognize “oh my god, I can do something.”

Nativen: That's really cool.

Tiandra: It's funny because, especially now, we're glorifying this resurgence of the “crafts person.” I'm not saying that that's not awesome, because it is. I'm glad that people are being self-sustainable and really enthusiastic about making things for themselves and buying things from people that are making things. But we're also not doing anything beyond that to support our crafts people. It hasn't trickled down in to the education system. We're not building a generation of people to do that.

Nativen: Absolutely. Giving kids skills like that is priceless. How about your own teachers, influencers and heroes?

Tiandra: Larry Sharp—my dad. He's a bad ass. He can make anything. And my mom, too, she also busts her ass. They've worked together in the cabinet shop for over thirty years now. They still have it, and they're still trucking away. It blows my mind that they’ve never seen themselves as artists or crafts people, it’s just how they made their money and fed their family. It's like the true grit of it, and that’s the truth.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

Edited by: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited)

all images copyright of Nativen

Alea Joy & Sarah Helmstetter: Solabee Flowers

Lily Hetzler

The smell of freshly cut greens and the flurry of moving pots and buckets of water, were my first glimpse into Solabee, and the botanical space of green-thumbed duo Alea and Sarah.  Over a cup of aromatic tea inside their shop in downtown Portland, we discussed childhood flower stands, a youth spent in the Ozarks, and the beauty of the Oregon landscape. Their commitment to sourcing locally, and the bold delicacy of their work, show it's clear these two feel more natural in the natural world.

Nativen: Where are you both from?


Alea: I'm from Oregon. I was born in Eugene and lived in many small towns until I moved to Portland in high school. I've been here for over twenty years now.

Sarah: I'm from Missouri originally, I grew up in the Ozarks until I was ten, and then I've lived in Oregon ever since.


Nativen: Do you think growing up where you did had any effect on your decision to become florists, floral artists ... I don't know what to actually even call you.


Alea: We’re not sure either right now because we do a lot of different things! We do styling, floral arrangements, a tiny bit of event planning, plants and greenery, interior greenscapes, retail...
As for your question, when I was trying to make my way in the world, the botanical world just felt like a place I was really familiar with; I feel more natural with the natural world around.

Nativen: How about you, Sarah?


Sarah: For me it definitely did. I come from a long line of serious plant hoarders.
Both my parents really being into gardening, both like vegetable gardening and flower gardens, huge ones, where we lived in Missouri. We had eighty-five acres and two rivers. When we moved to Oregon, it was the same thing, lots of gardening year-round. We had a flower stand when I was little.


Nativen: Was there moment where you knew you wanted to pursue this as a career?


Alea: For me, it was totally accidental, like a knack in the background. I basically got a flower stand job right out of college just because I was working in a cubicle, I was depressed and would do anything to get out of there.

Sarah: Sammy’s Flowers was just a night job for me when I was going through college. But I kept quitting. I would leave for the summer to go on vacation or go away for school, but every time I came back, there would be another location open, or another spot for me to move up. I thought I was going be a teacher or something.


Nativen: How did you two meet and start working together?


Sarah: We both worked for at Sammy’s for years, but not at the same shop. So we kind of knew each other in passing. And then when the economy took a dive we both were kind of laid-off.

Alea: It just got really, really hard. We couldn't find a job that paid us anywhere near what we had been making. But we knew all the farmers, we knew all the clients, and so we kind of cut out the middleman—our employer—and dealt with everyone directly.

Sarah: We started off really slowly, like working out of our homes and our kitchens. Our first shop was in the lobby of a wellness center.

Alea: Tiny little thing.

Sarah: But it had the best light we've ever had!

Alea: Since then, we've just kind-of jumped up, very opportunistically, with locations. We’ve been very conservative. It's almost like we've got like Depression Era mentality when it comes to running our business because we came out of such a place of scarcity when we first started. As we get busier and busier, we're just kind-of like, "Whoa! This is amazing!" [laughing] It's actually working.


Nativen: What do you guys love most about Portland and do you think that's integral to what you're doing here in any way?


Sarah: I love that you can grow things year-round here in Portland, and I definitely think that is integral to our business. I love that it's so seasonal in our climate, and so, every month we have a whole different palette to work with, and different textures. Spring is really branchy and bloomy, then the tulips come, and then slowly comes peony season. It's always changing.

Alea: I also like how easy it is to get out of the city because I have to do that in order to remain sane. My big treat every year is to go to Eastern Oregon and not see another person for a good period of time. Or the ones I do see are super rural weirdos that, you know, live the free life.


Nativen: Do you have a favorite restaurant in Portland?


Sarah: I think some of our accounts are my favorite. I really like Little Bird and Le Pigeon, if I was going to go somewhere fancy, those would be my picks. I also like Lardos and the Grassa.

Alea: It's harder to get a bad meal in Portland than to get a good meal.


Nativen: Do you have a favorite home goods store or clothing store in Portland?


Sarah: I like consignment shopping. My favorites are in my neighborhood, Button and Give and Take.

Alea: I get a lot of my stuff from people that make the things personally. We can trade if they want plants. There's like a barter thing that goes on. It's awesome.


Nativen: What do you think is the greatest resource to your work in Portland?


Alea: That we're in a growing region.

Sarah: We have a really nice climate here, a microclimate that enables us to grow things year-round. We don't have the deep freeze in the winter.


Nativen: Right. So you have the ability to be really seasonally committed.


Sarah: Yeah, we can do that! Other places are mums year-round or everything's shipped in. We have so many local growers that we can source directly from here, which is unique.

Alea: Right now it feels like a lot of Oregon product is going out to the rest of the country, and it actually creates (ironically) this weird little desert of local product because it's all being drained out.


Nativen: That's wild. It makes a lot of sense though, because, obviously, if you can do local and seasonal, that's the priority.


Alea: The flower industry in Oregon has been local for a really long time, long before it was cool to be local.

Nativen: This is the asking you to pick-your-favorite-child question: is there something that you've done, an arrangement or a project, that you feel was your greatest accomplishment or the thing that brought you the most joy in your work so far?


Alea: There have been a lot of great things that, we've learned so much. There was that vertical garden that we did for Whole Foods. When we can get budget like that behind us to really bring in all of the resources we have, we make some really cool things.

Sarah: I really like that whatever we do, whether it's a planter out in front of a business or a bouquet that goes to an individual, I just think what's really unique about our job is that 99% of time is bringing someone joy and making someone happy, even if it's for something sad. I like being a part of that. And I like that when we leave a place, it looks a hundred times better than when we started there.

Alea: We get to have a positive impact, even if people don't notice right away. I had this one guy that came in for a year every Friday and bought a bouquet. When I was leaving that particular job, he brought his wife in to meet me. And as he was leaving he was like, "you know you saved me marriage."


Nativen: That's really beautiful. What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?


Sarah: I want to travel for work, have work pay for it, and come back with really cool things.

Alea: We both want to do the same thing [laughing]. I'd love to do a buying trip in some of those larger, cool greenhouses in California or something like that.

Nativen: As far as creating work, is there like a song or anything that gets either of your creative juices flowing?


Sarah: I listen to podcasts, usually, if I'm here by myself. "Serial" was really great, but it's over now. So, that's depressing.

Alea: I've been actually exploring. I did the "Reply All" and "Start-up" as well, that was interesting business podcast. I was listening to "The Read" for while, which is like a totally hilarious, like pop-culture, out of New York. "The Read" is basically just a rant, and they're hilarious.


Nativen: Can you think of three words that sum up what your work is about for you?


Alea: I would say, "always changing." That's two.

Sarah: Seasonal. Green.


Nativen: Can you talk a little bit more about the kind of stuff that you do to connect with the local community?


Sarah: Tonight I'm doing some stuff for a local auction. We're donating gift certificates and little planters for an auction in the neighborhood that I live in and the neighborhood where we started. We donate our time a lot.

Alea: Just last night we did a symphony fundraiser. We get paid for product and stuff, but we gave them deep, deep discounts. I'm still driving around with an eight-foot botanical chandelier on the top of my truck, right now!

Sarah: She's had it for like three days.


Nativen: What's the most helpful advice that you've received or what is advice that you'd give to a creative looking to start their own thing?


Sarah: [laughing] Take it, Alea.

Alea: The worst feeling advice was actually the best advice ever, and the first thing someone said to me when I said, "I wanted to start my own business." They said, "Hire a bookkeeper."

Sarah: And we didn't do it!

Alea: I hated that advice so much; I thought it was the worst. And I used to do bookkeeping too, so I was like, "screw that. I can totally do this." No. If you start a small business and you expect to be busy or make a living on it, running your finances and running your business is also a full-time job, so, you have to pick. You have to continually protect yourself on the path of creativity and if you don't outsource some of that like computer time, you’re burning out because you’re spending fourteen hours a day tending to the business.

Nativen: Do you have a hero or someone who has influenced your work greatly?


Sarah: My family influenced my work because I grew up being around plants a lot. Inside my home I have plants that were my grandma's that are probably fifty or sixty years old.

Alea: Their gardens are gorgeous. She has one of the prettiest gardens I've ever seen in anyone's house. She's a plant whisperer. As for me…I think my greatest inspiration comes from when I step back and get back into nature and get back into touch with myself and just kind of tap back into "how-is-this-done-when-no-one's-watching?"


Nativen: What are three objects you can't live without?


Sarah: We've done this one before. I think clippers. Clippers are essential.

Alea: I also have clippers on me 100% of the time. Except for going through security at airports.

Sarah: Our phones are very valuable for our business right now, so unfortunately...

Alea: …iPhone

Sarah: Can we think of a third thing?

Alea: I'd say, you know, water.

Sarah: Water!

Alea: Light and water.

Sarah: Bees are really essential to our work too, but they're not really...

Alea: …the first thing I did think of was my cat! But I didn't really want to say it.

Sarah: Oh god! Please delete that part [laughing].

Alea: [laughing] He's just so cute.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

Edited by: Kristin Knox (This interview has been condensed & edited)

all images copyright of Nativen