Contact Us

We'd love to hear from you!
Use the form on the right to drop us a line.

400 Ocean Ave
Brooklyn, NY, 11226

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

Filtering by Tag: maker

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.  

AliceSaunders 2

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?

AliceSaunders 1

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.

AliceSaunders 3

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. 

AliceSaunders 4

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.

AliceSaunders 5

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.

AliceSaunders 6

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.

AliceSaunders 7

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. 

AliceSaunders 8

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.

AliceSaunders 9

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.

 

AliceSaunders 10

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.

AliceSaunders 11

Interview by: Lily Hetzler

Photography by: Ethan Covey

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)

LaneWalkup_1_Nativen

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.

LaneWalkup_2_Nativen.JPG

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." 

LaneWalkup_3_Nativen

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.

LaneWalkup_5_Nativen

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.

LaneWalkup_8_Nativen

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.

LaneWalkup_9_Nativen

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.

secret garden_aftelierperfumes

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.

vintage bottles_aftelierperfumes

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. 

chefs essence_aftelierperfumes

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

 

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. 

_MG_8691.jpg

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

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

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

Emily Elsen: Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Lily Hetzler

This mouth-watering interview gives a slice of Midwestern life, down-home cooking, and the power of sister collaboration.   We sat down with Emily Elsen, who along with her sister Melissa, founded one of our favorite spots in Brooklyn, Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop. With a window into their creative world, and a peak at their new space, opening just up the road; we can see this bakery has become a favorite meeting spot for fellow Brooklynites. It also draws people from all over New York to get a taste of their fresh and inventive pies… Order up!

Nativen:  You grew up in South Dakota right?

Emily:  Yep, that’s right.

Nativen:  How do you think growing up there influenced your choice to start doing pie making?

Emily:  South Dakota is a Midwestern state, and pie making is very popular in the Midwest.

Growing up in a small town with our grandmother was probably the biggest influence on my pie making. Our mother ran a small town restaurant with her sister that they opened in 1985. We worked in the restaurant and Grandma made all the pies for the restaurant.

Nativen:  That’s great!… When did you realize that you wanted to be a pie maker? Was there a specific event in your life, or something that influenced you?

Emily:  Kind of…I studied sculpture and photography and went to school for the arts. It was there that Iworked in the arts administratively and helped found a nonprofit studio space [The Gowanas Studio Space]. There were a bunch of different things in the art world I did.

Melissa studied finance and business management, and did a bunch of traveling, and we had talked for a long time about starting a business together.

When she was moving back from Australia, she didn’t really have a plan. I had an extra room in my house so she came to New York to live with me. That’s when things really started to gel that we would do pie, in particular.. I found myself making pies again, and getting back to baking. When I moved into a house with a big kitchen I got back to pie baking and cake making, and found myself making a lot of stuff, but mostly a lot of baking. Melissa was also making cakes and things and found herself gravitating back towards food making, too, even though, we had grown up in it, and gone away from it, and wanted to explore different things.

We both felt like we were drawn back to it. I think the moment we realized that pie was it we both got really excited. It’s funny…I would never have envisioned that when I moved to New York at 18 to go to art school that I would end up owning a pie company. That isn’t exactly…

Nativen: …Part of your original plan?

Emily:  Exactly, not at all. Working in food or running a food business was not [a part of the plan] either because we both knew how much work it would be and we knew it was dirty work. I wouldn’t have everthought that running a pie company is what I would end up doing.

So, we were both attracted to pie making and we also felt that there weren’t many bakeries out there, and that made us think, “It’s a good pie.” We just weren’t finding that in New York. So it just all came together and we just felt like, hey this is something we really enjoy doing. Pie making to both of us is really fun and exciting, and gratifying, and something that we could see ourselves continuing to do.

Nativen:  It’s so important when you’re starting a small business to have it be something that you’re passionate about.

Emily:  That you enjoy, exactly.

Nativen:  With pie making, I feel like it’s such a meditative process that when you’re doing it for yourself…

Emily:  It follows through because even when we hire people, we’re not working a line here. We’re doing repetitive tasks over and over. We’re rolling out pie dough. We’re rolling out that. It’s our assembly. Make crusts, complete pie, repeat.”

Absolutely, and that’s one of the things I like the most.

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

Emily:   When I moved here in ‘99, I was applying to art schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I will never forget coming over here for the first time.

Coming over the bridge from the city and seeing Brooklyn — I was immediately struck by the eclectic mix of neighborhoods and the eclectic mix of people. I came from a place that was pretty small, a town of 400 people.

Nativen:  A homogenized town?

Emily:  Very homogenized. Not to dismiss it, because it was a great place to grow up, but I was so starving for diversity and excitement.

To me, Brooklyn felt not as intense and crazy as Manhattan. It felt more approachable, and like a city of neighborhoods that were really interesting. That’s one thing that I love about Brooklyn and doing business here. It’s such a mix of customers and clientele.

[Four & Twenty Blackbirds] has gotten to grow more as we’ve established our business. We are now at the Brooklyn Public Library and we’re serving our communities here, not just the little community that is Gowanus. We get people from all over New York City coming in.

I feel like there are not a ton of bakeries in Brooklyn like there used to be. There are your commercial bakeries and stuff, but what we’re doing — there’s not a lot of it. I feel like we’re hopefully holding down the market here on pie. We’d like to.

Four & Twenty identifies with Brooklyn and the Brooklyn food scene and what Brooklyn has become in the last 15 years…To me, Brooklyn’s very different than it was 15 years ago, and it will be very different15 years from now, as well.

We very much identified with this neighborhood when we opened, because we really wanted to further the early things to open and start a community here. There are lots of artists, musicians and designers working in these buildings.

Those things help define what Four & Twenty is. Do I think that we could open somewhere else? Absolutely. We’d love to open in the West Coast, and work with the ingredients that are there. It would be the same concept. We wouldn’t ship the pie somewhere to sell it. We would make pie in the area…which is what pie making is to me. You make it with ingredients that are around you.

Nativen:  That’s how we like it….

Just a couple of rapid-fire questions:

In Brooklyn, what’s your favorite restaurant?

Emily:  My favorite restaurant in Brooklyn? That’s a tough question. Probably, the one I go to the most is Prime Meats.

Nativen:  Do you have a favorite home goods store in Brooklyn?

Emily:  Yes. I do go to kitchen supply stores a lot, if you count that.

Nativen:  Absolutely. Those are home goods.

[laughs]

Emily:  I really like Whisk in Williamsburg, and A Cook’s Companion over on Atlantic.

Nativen:  Favorite clothing store?

Emily:  I’m inclined to be like Bird, because I know the owner, and it’s a beautiful store.

Nativen:  It is a beautiful store.

Emily:  I feel like that’s a good one to shout out. I’m not a huge, huge shopper. I like the idea of your lineup. I’d probably end up wearing everything from there. [laughs]

Nativen:  No, that’s exciting. That’s what I like to hear.We’re always looking for feedback. It’s one of the things I talk to people a lot about.

We’re focusing a lot on the comfort and the engineering because I want it to function in a way that’s useful to women.  One of the pieces we’re developing right now is an apron that’s specifically built to fit a woman’s body.

Emily:  I like that a lot. The thing is we use standard issue kitchen stuff, but you always have to modify it to make it your own style that fits with what you’re wearing.

Nativen:  [Aprons] are mostly designed for men’s bodies and are long in the torso. It doesn’t really account for bust or anything.

Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space in Brooklyn?

Emily:  Yes, many. I really love the park right behind the Children’s Museum. It’s called Brower Park.

It’s right by my house. It’s just a small little park, but it has basketball courts and a little skate park that was built by a woman I know who lived in the neighborhood. There’s also a nearby park with a little farmer’s market there every other weekend. It’s a good little community park. I love that. Otherwise, I also love the Brooklyn Promenade. The Promenade is awesome.

Nativen:  Those are good spaces. Do you have a hidden gem in Brooklyn?

Emily: A truly hidden gem that I had the opportunity to visit is the basement stacks of the Brooklyn Public Library. During our renovation of the cafe, a gracious librarian gave me a brief glimpse of the thousands of books that are housed beneath the building. An incredible wealth of information on bound paper. 

Nativen: That’s amazing!… What is the greatest resource to your work in Brooklyn or in New York?

Emily:  It’s a couple of things I think — our people, our staff. We couldn’t run our business without our team and people who are devoted to pie making.

Additionally, clientele; New York City has an endless supply of people that want to eat. That’s a pretty good resource when it comes to doing business.

When it comes to food, certain areas are a little more simple, as far as willingness to try things or be adventurous. I feel like we have a lot of freedom [in Brooklyn] to be adventurous. That’s one thing that we wanted to do with the pie shop. If you can’t be creative it’s not fun.

Nativen:  Absolutely. That’s the thing that drives your business forward, for me, creatively.

Emily:  Yeah, exactly. I feel that’s a good thing too.

Nativen:   Do you have a pie that you make that’s your favorite?

Emily:  I have to say that my favorite pie is pie that’s made with in‑season fruits. I actually gain weight in the summer because I eat pie about three times a week. I’m a big fruit fanatic.

(Raspberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie)

(Raspberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie)

…Not as much into our chocolate and custard pies. I like them a lot too, but when there are peaches, cherries, figs, the first season apples, or nectarines and plums, I love that. Any pie that’s made with fresh in‑season fruit, not canned fruit or things like that. You want it to be ripe and good.

Nativen:  Yeah absolutely. I get snobby about the fruit that I use to bake, as well.

What part of the process brings you the most joy?

Emily:  Let’s see… There are a lot of processes that make me happy.

Probably, the biggest part and maybe the most obvious is, coming into the pie shop or the library cafe, and seeing everybody eating our product and just chilling and hanging out, enjoying it, and sharing it.

This is bit of a tear‑jerker, but we were sitting downstairs doing an interview for a new job applicant and there was this little girl standing on a chair, eating pie. It was just so cute.

She was with her parents and they were taking pictures. Things like that. When there are kids with a slice of pie, or anything where the customers are enjoying it and they’re happy.

I’m famous for having long conversations with customers about pie.

(Chocolate Chess Pie)

(Chocolate Chess Pie)

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

Emily:  I’d say balancing life and business, which is not uncommon for most people.

But for small business owners, in particular, it’s 24/7. There isn’t really any kind of full on routine that we’ve been fully able to establish. It’s all over the place, especially when you’re growing. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge for me.

Nativen:  The life/work balance?

Emily:  Yeah, just taking time off for yourself, or finding the balance and cutting work off at some point. I’m getting better with that.

Nativen:  That’s good. It’s an educational process in developing your business.

Emily:  Right, exactly.

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

Emily: Ride in a hot air balloon!

Nativen:  If you weren’t a pie maker, what do you think you would be?

Emily:  I studied art and photography so I’d probably still be working in that area because it’s something creative. I’d have to be doing something hands on. It could be like wood‑working even. I could see myself doing that. Actually, I also love landscaping.

Nativen:  That’s great. It sounds like you’ll have that at your new space. You’ll have some inspiration with that.

What destination would you want to travel to, and how do you think that might inspire or alter your work?

Emily:  There are a lot of places. Asia, actually, I haven’t been to Japan or Southeast Asia.

Nativen:  I haven’t been either and I’ve always wanted to go. There’s so much to learn from a cultural standpoint that’s very different from Western countries.

Emily:  Completely.

Nativen: What’s a song you’ve been listening to at work lately?

Emily: I listen to a lot of old and new hip/hop and rap when I’m working. I recently learned of Fatima and I like her voice a lot, have had her albums on in the kitchen. 

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

Emily: Ambition, creativity, camaraderie.

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

Emily:  Yeah. We definitely try to create a place where people can do work during the week and have meetings and have it be like a community-gathering place. You see most of the spaces in here dedicated to serving as a big community table

Now, running the cafe at the Brooklyn public library. That is very community‑oriented as well but not easy. It’s totally different running an institutional cafe in a library, which is a place of public service. I love being there engaging with what is, to me, the real Brooklyn community.

Nativen:  Right, like a more accurate representation of average Brooklynites.

Emily:  Yeah, I think so. The pie shop might be a little more particular to the neighborhood. But then again, we do get people from all over coming in.

We also donate a lot to public schools. Anything education‑based, typically, we give a lot of pie gift certificates too.

Nativen:  What’s the most helpful advice that you’ve received, or what advice would you give to creatives looking to develop their own work?

Emily:  I feel like the advice I would give is what people have said to me: know that if you’re doing something independently, it’s a lot of work and it’s on you. You don’t just check out at the end of the day when you leave.

You have to stick to your guns, don’t compromise…people will always be distracters of ideas with things they want you to do. But if you really want to do something and you care about it, then, stick to it.

Nativen:  That’s good advice.

Who’s your hero or who’s someone  who has helped influence your work?

Emily:  We have an incredibly supportive mother.

Nativen:  That’s awesome.

Emily:  She quit her job to come help us with the business. After running a restaurant, raising us, and then also, working in health care for 10 years, then, she’s like, “You know what, I want to come help you guys with the business.”

I don’t think in my 20s, I would have been like, “Yeah mom, come live with me here,” but now I feel like I’d be lost without her support and friendship over the years.

Nativen:  That’s huge.

Emily:  Yeah. She’s tough and she is also very patient with two daughters who are crazy business owners, and who often fight and get into personal drama outside of work.

Nativen:  That’s really amazing though.

(Emily Elsen, owner)

(Emily Elsen, owner)

What are five things you can’t live without?

Emily:  Let’s see. Five things I can’t live without…. music, good food, coffee, sunshine, and access to saltwater.

Actually, I could live without the salt water  but I really don’t want to…I like being close to it. I grew up in South Dakota, which is land locked so now I’m really drawn to the ocean.

For more tasty treats, you can visit them here.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

Assistant Editor: Emily Murphy (This interview has been condensed & edited)

all images copywright of Nativen

Ry Scruggs & Nadia Yaron: Nightwood

Lily Hetzler

For this month’s story, we sat down with the awesome duo behind Nightwood, Ry Scruggs and Nadia Yaron.

Inside their studio, they took us on a journey thru what it means to be part of a truly inspiring partnership… From scavenging industrial Brooklyn to Tree House dwelling escapes….

Nativen:  Where are you both from?

Ry:   I was born in California. I grew up in Missouri, in the Midwest, and I lived in Denver. Now, I live here.

Nativen:  Wow… US trotter.

Ry:  Yeah… Very American.

Nadia:  She loves America…. I was born in Brazil, and I grew up on Long Island, and I’ve been in Brooklyn for 15 or 16 years now, a long time now.

Nativen:   How do you think growing up in Missouri influenced your choice to start doing woodworking, Ry?

Ry:  It didn’t. [laughing] It absolutely didn’t…. Nothing. None whatsoever. It was not even a part of my early adulthood. It was totally born out of nowhere.

There are things now that I look back and say, oh yeah. I always had spacial relations… I’m really strong with that kind of stuff.  Logic and problem solving, so, those skills I’ve always had. Nothing about where I grew up had anything to do with it. For me, it felt like it came out of nowhere. I had an epiphany, and then it started.

Nadia:  Did it come out of a desire to furnish interior spaces?

Ry:  Yeah. More than anything else. It came out from a want to decorate.

a collaborative piece of wood and weaving (image taken at  Trunk  in Brooklyn)

a collaborative piece of wood and weaving (image taken at Trunk in Brooklyn)

Nativen:  Do you feel the same way, Nadia?

Nadia:  Well… I always made stuff. My mom was an art teacher so she always encouraged us to be creative and make different things… Because of that, I never took it seriously. [Like] I could do this as a job, have a living doing this.

So…When I went to college I wanted to be intellectual. I went to school for women’s studies. I got a job outside of that working on city council. I hated all of it. I basically escaped and went and lived in a tree house for a month and realized that I needed to work with my hands. That’s when I started taking it more seriously.

Nativen:  That’s a great beginning, though… I guess that answers when you realized you wanted to be [artists].

So…What do you love most about Brooklyn, and do you think it’s an integral part of your work?

Ry:  That’s a good question… I love Brooklyn. I have been to a lot of places in the US, and I can’t find anything that compares to New York in general. I don’t know if it’s now that I’m older, the city is way too overwhelming for me. Brooklyn is the nice, perfect medium between huge, overwhelming city and smaller towns.

It’s got a whole new thing now. I spent all my early 20s here and it was different for me then. It is now, too. It’s developed this whole identity and community that is this artisanal thing. Which is great, and it helped us find our identity within it, because we started doing it right around the time all of that energy was culminating here.

Although, now it’s getting maybe crazy and overdone possibly. I don’t know what it’s going to morph into next.

Nadia:  I feel like when we started, because we were literally finding wood on the streets of our neighborhood in Brooklyn, I think that our pieces really were truly a part of Brooklyn and its history. We were also taking apart old furniture from old brownstones, so I think it really was a piece of history and a piece of Brooklyn.

Ry:  The architecture of Brooklyn is very inspiring to us… Our Brooklyn apartment was one of the first catalysts for us starting to doing this. Just the beauty of the brownstone apartments and the neighborhood feeling. The history of the people and the architecture. Everything here is kind of what, I think, helped shape our aesthetic so that played a big part into it.

Nativen:  That’s great. Brooklyn’s an incredibly rich city. Culturally, and just sort of the dichotomy of industrial space with the reuse of that and beautiful architecture.

Ry:  We have lived in different neighborhoods a lot of different neighborhoods, from the industrial to the very charming and quaint. I think that it’s all played its part. It’s like different categories of art work. It definitely helps.

Nativen:  In Brooklyn, what is your favorite restaurant?

Nadia:  I think it is Isa, in Williamsburg… It is beautiful we love the woodwork and the way it is decorated its spacious and the food.

Nativen:  Do you have a favorite home goods store?

Nadia:  We go to a lot of vintage places, I feel like we kind of scavenge [laughing] everything you know.

Ry:  Yeah, it’s true…We shop at our own store… It’s hard for us. We don’t really shop for home goods that much because we make them… Moon River, we did a lot of shopping there.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite clothing store?

Ry:  Well I pretty much love vintage clothes.

Nadia:  Usually, we go to the flea market… There are these Japanese guys that have some really nice Japanese textiles and old Japanese clothing that we like to get and mend it and patch it back up…. They have really nice stuff.

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

Nadia:  We usually just go to Fort Greene Park a lot in the mornings. We have a dog and it’s off‑leash before nine. He likes to run free like a little wild man.

Ry:  I love Fort Green Park. It’s got hills… It’s not too big. Just right.

Nativen: Is there a hidden gem in Brooklyn that you have?

Ry:  There used to be more, so, I don’t know. We use to go to a guy called Crazy Eddie.

Nadia:  There was also a guy on Carlton that it was just like a junk yard. He was like a hoarder basically. When he first started…

Ry:  He had crazy junk. You had to climb mountains. It was like an episode of “Hoarders.” It was hardcore… When we first started we got some good stuff there and we kind of furnished our apartment with stuff from him.

Nadia:  That was the gem.

Ry: The secret. You would be brave to go there.

…Local hardware stores were actually a really good resource for us because we like to use crazy, weird hardware that you get at a hardware store.  Sometimes they’ll give you old stuff. They think it’s ugly and I think it’s just perfect.

Ry:  We have lived in different neighborhoods a lot of different neighborhoods, from the industrial to the very charming and quaint. I think that it’s all played its part. It’s like different categories of art work. It definitely helps.

Nativen:  In Brooklyn, what is your favorite restaurant?

Nadia:  I think it is Isa, in Williamsburg… It is beautiful we love the woodwork and the way it is decorated its spacious and the food.

Nativen:  Do you have a favorite home goods store?

Nadia:  We go to a lot of vintage places, I feel like we kind of scavenge [laughing] everything you know.

Ry:  Yeah, it’s true…We shop at our own store… It’s hard for us. We don’t really shop for home goods that much because we make them… Moon River, we did a lot of shopping there.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite clothing store?

Ry:  Well I pretty much love vintage clothes.

Nadia:  Usually, we go to the flea market… There are these Japanese guys that have some really nice Japanese textiles and old Japanese clothing that we like to get and mend it and patch it back up…. They have really nice stuff.

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

Nadia:  We usually just go to Fort Greene Park a lot in the mornings. We have a dog and it’s off‑leash before nine. He likes to run free like a little wild man.

Ry:  I love Fort Green Park. It’s got hills… It’s not too big. Just right.

Nativen: Is there a hidden gem in Brooklyn that you have?

Ry:  There used to be more, so, I don’t know. We use to go to a guy called Crazy Eddie.

Nadia:  There was also a guy on Carlton that it was just like a junk yard. He was like a hoarder basically. When he first started…

Ry:  He had crazy junk. You had to climb mountains. It was like an episode of “Hoarders.” It was hardcore… When we first started we got some good stuff there and we kind of furnished our apartment with stuff from him.

Nadia:  That was the gem.

Ry: The secret. You would be brave to go there.

…Local hardware stores were actually a really good resource for us because we like to use crazy, weird hardware that you get at a hardware store.  Sometimes they’ll give you old stuff. They think it’s ugly and I think it’s just perfect.

Ry: I don’t know if I would be a musician. Maybe also just something in pop culture. I love pop culture, TV, movies, celebrities, music, all of that stuff. I think that’s for me…

Nadia:  And astrology.

Ry:  Astrology too, but I don’t think that I would do that for a job. Probably one of those artistic realms of things. Entertainment based.

Nadia:  I’m more of a spiritual person.

Ry:  We know her backup plan.

Nadia:  I would go more into a… I don’t know.

Ry:  She would be a shaman. Don’t be shy.

Nadia:  Kind of. I would be more into spiritual, healing…

Ry:  Or a Buddhist monk.

Nadia:  Or I would go to a monastery, basically. I had a dream last night that we went on vacation and there was a Buddhist monastery next door. There was a monk there that was like, “Come in.” I was like, “OK, great.”

I went in and I just stayed for a week and then I went back to tell everybody that I was going back there and I was going to stay there. Like… I’ll be here, guys.

Nativen:  That’s great. That’s awesome. It’s good to have an out plan. Always in life. What destination do you want to travel to and how do you think that might inspire or alter your work, if it would?

Nadia:  I guess after this long winter, I’ve been craving tropical weather like Brazil. I wouldn’t go to Brazil. I probably would want go somewhere in Asia, like Thailand or India.

I’d love to see the textiles there, too. I love block print fabrics. I’d like to see their woven processes and things like that.

Ry:  I still don’t know where I would go.

Nadia: She likes Scandinavian….

Ry:  I do.

Nadia:  She likes very civil…

Ry:  I would probably go to… northern Europe. Basically, I like the architecture, the old European architecture. That is definitely more inspiring to me. I do enjoy the casual feeling of Island spa retreats and such… So, I would get into driftwood materials and such.  Those things would definitely be even more inspiring to my work.

Nativen:  That’s great, it’s funny how that works out; how you take on individual affinities towards a place even if you have no connection there. Maybe you do, I mean, northern Europe I clearly have a connection to, but it is, you just kind of get sucked in by your soul.

Ry:  It’s true.

Nativen:  Do you have a song that’s currently heavily on rotation?

Ry:  It’s usually a mix of things. What’s the last thing I listened to? One artist? Electrelane, I’ve been really feeling.

I listen to all kinds like cheesy pop music too. I mean, everything. Classic rock. We have a little bit different…She doesn’t include the pop music in her rapporteur.

Nadia:  I take those songs off the playlist

Ry:  I make them and she’s like, “Is this appropriate for me or not?… She’s a much more discriminating editor than I am.

Nadia:  I have been listening to podcasts while I work..I listen to Ram Dass a lot… He was a Harvard professor in the 60’s, for psychology. Then he met Timothy Leary and they started doing acid together. He went to India and became a Buddhist and Hindu. It’s just really interesting his talks and hearing…They are from the 60’s and 70’s so you just feel like you’re transported back in time.

Nativen:  That’s nice go on a journey in your own work space. I love that.

What are [a couple of] words that sum up your work?

Ry:  Well I like to think of it as being very primitive..

Actually, after going to go this design shows this past weekend and seeing everything is so finished and polished and smooth. It hardly feels natural to me.

I would say our work is very organic, as well. That’s very important to us. That’s two.

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

Nadia:  I am going to be doing a community weaving project. I am doing a woven backdrop for PS1 for summer stage. It’s going to be 16 feet by 20 feet. I’m going to get together some people and have some community weaving sessions to make it because it’s going to be very large and time consuming.

Nativen:  That’s fantastic though, that’s great.

Ry:  I more put my head down and try not to…Nadia pays attention to everything that’s going on out there in our realm of work and such. I am not as good at that. In fact, I usually prefer to keep it really in insular. Just because I work better that way.

But I do think about my clients and it’s very much more, rather than being community based, it’s very much service based. The fact that I work well trying to assess and accommodate my client’s needs and their interests and their style and that. I think a lot in terms of that, less so than the community.

I think, probably, it influences me more. Just more one on one.

Nativen:  Well that’s the community in and of itself too, just a smaller scale…

What’s the most helpful advice you’ve received, or what would you offer to creatives looking to develop their own work?

Nadia: I feel like a lot of people that are starting get bogged down on the details of the things that they need to have and the things that they need to do in order to do this.

Ry:  Like, the traditional stuff.

Nadia:  Well I need these giant tools and this giant table saw so that I can make a table. You don’t need all that stuff. Or, I need a giant floor loom so I can weave.

You don’t. I think you just need to do it.

That’s usually our advice. Just start making stuff and see what happens. Don’t get bogged down in all of the other stuff. If you’re starting a business, all that stuff that just feels so overwhelming. Like business plans and all that crap. Just start doing it and see where it takes you.

Ry:  If you’re business is creation based and you’re making something, just start making something.

Nadia:  Just start making it. That’s our advice.

Nativen:  That’s really good advice. Solid advice.

Who is your hero or someone who’s helped maybe influence your work?

Ry:  Nadia. You’re my hero

Nadia:  Oh! Really, that’s so sweet.

Ry:  I know, I am getting choked up but it’s true. I think that for me our business wouldn’t be what it is.

Nadia:  That’s so cute. Thank you.

Ry:  I try to explain that to people. That whatever we have was born because we came together.

Nadia:  We do actually inspire each other and get excited when we talk about stuff together.

Ry:  I think it might be impossible for me to do what we have done without You.

Nativen:  That’s fantastic. That is like the ideal match, right there. Amazing.

Nadia:  Do you feel like Barbara Walters now?

[laughter]

Nativen:  It’s inspiring to hear that and it’s really reassuring too… To know that you can create that together and constantly be refueling that fire.

Life is crazy and the creative journey is so crazy. There are those moments where it’s so great. Then there’s moments where you’re like, “What am I doing?” To have somebody who’s on that journey with you and reinvigorating the fire for you, it’s really powerful. It’s awesome.

Ry:  It’s also really helpful just to have somebody to talk to about all this decisions you have to make.

Nadia:  Exactly. For sure.

Nativen:  Yes, a sounding board, if nothing else, absolutely.

What are the five objects you can’t live without?

Nadia:  I need a loom of some kind. I guess then I need yarn.

Ry:  I need a television or some sort of media device that I can be entertained by.

Nadia:  We aren’t that type.

Ry:  We aren’t that object driven.

Nadia:  I think also because we make stuff too, we usually get rid of stuff. We’re not that attached to that many things. We redecorate our apartment a lot. We usually just don’t get too attached to the stuff we have. I think

Ry:  I think a home is…

Nadia:  A home. Yeah.

Ry:  …is an object I can’t live without. I would not be able to be homeless. So a home.

Nadia:  Something to play music with I guess, too.

Ry:  Yes. Whatever object that would be. Have to have music. I think the home thing is the biggest thing and then whatever is inside of it doesn’t really matter because we’ll just make it, I guess.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copywright of Nativen

 

Maryanne Moodie: Textile Artist

Lily Hetzler

Last week we sat down with Textile Artist, Maryanne Moodie, to discuss the ins and outs of weaving (sorry we couldn’t resist), finding your craft through skip-diving, and the importance of creative community.

Nativen: How did growing up in Melbourne influence your choice to start doing weaving?

Maryanne: Melbourne is super creative… the last two governments ago, the state …put a huge funding into the arts.  They created this enormous cultural center and anyone could get funding for whatever project they wanted to do. People were coming together in groups and they were making big installations and doing performances. People who were creative in many ways were coming up with all these new ideas.

It was amazing, and it still is. …Some of my favorite artists are coming out of Melbourne. It’s an exciting place to be, and it feels like anything is possible.

Nativen: When did you realize that you wanted to be a weaving artist? Was there a specific event in your life that influenced it?

Maryanne: I was looking for a craft, because I wanted to make things for my friends and family. I wanted to give them presents that were meaningful, that I’d made with my hands and not just bought from the shops.

I had all of these super-talented friends who were good at everything. I tried knitting and I was OK at knitting, but there was someone who was better at knitting. There was somebody who was better at crochet and someone who was better at basket weaving …none of them stuck.

I was an art teacher at the time… and at the new school there was no storeroom. The principal came and he got one of those big metal bins. We call them a skip…

He said, “Go get through the storeroom.” There’s a little row of cupboards at the new school, so you have to go through that classroom-sized room of junk, as he called it, and pretty much toss everything, if you can.

It depends on your personality whether you’re a keeper or a chucker, but it nearly killed me, having to throw away boxes of bottle tops that had been in there since the ’50s and big circles of raffia…As long as this school had been there, people had been donating things to the art room.

… I had done a lot of the organization, and it was nice to be able to go in there at the start of a semester and say, “Right, I’m going to figure out what I’m going to teach by using these items.” Rather than, “I want to teach this and this and I’m going to buy all this stuff,” which is expensive and not so great for the environment….it felt creative in that way. We were going through and got towards the back and under a big pile of newspapers, was this loom.

Nativen: That’s so fantastic.

Maryanne: … I’d done a little bit of work on a cardboard loom and I thought, “Maybe this is the thing. Maybe I can make this.” These were the first…I didn’t even have yarn. I had jute and some neon string, so that was the first thing that I made.

…In Australia there’s this idea called “tall poppy syndrome”.  It’s like: don’t get too big for your boots, don’t put yourself out there because somebody’s going to come and chop your head off. You don’t want to say, “I’m making art,” because someone’s going to come and say, “No, you’re not.”

So… I’ll turn that into a zippered pouch, and it’s useful. This is utilitarian. You don’t need to find a space on your wall for this. I could give presents that were useful.  And then I got better and better at it and I was like, “Maybe I can start hanging these on the wall”…”Just quietly”.

I was putting them on Instagram and it was this women’s circle where people were like, “Those are amazing!” and so encouraging. Some people who were weavers were saying, “You should try this thing and you should try this thing.” It was really empowering and exciting.

Nativen: Would you say that it was the introduction through the art school and then encouragement from other weaver women in your circle?

Maryanne: Yep, definitely.

Nativen: Now that you’re in Brooklyn, what do you love most about being in Brooklyn and how is that integral to your work? Or do you think it’s integral to your work?

Maryanne: I think it is. It feels really exciting. It feels like there [are] things happening here, there [are] people who do what I do here. Through Instagram I’ve been in contact with other weavers and we have Weavers-United drinks…Which is great. It’s really cute, and it’s that: making community and reaching out and…we’re not alone. Encouraging each other and helping. Giving advice about things. You have to be a businesswoman. You have to be all of those things now. Trying to be gentle and honest and at the same time getting your name out there and all of that stuff. Which can be tricky sometimes.

Nativen: In Brooklyn, what’s your favorite restaurant, if you had to pick one?

Maryanne: Talde is really nice.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite home goods store?

Maryanne: Etsy. [laughs]

Nativen: Is there one in Brooklyn…?

Maryanne: There is. There’s The Greenhouse. It’s really nice.

Nativen: Favorite park or outdoor space?

Maryanne: Prospect Park… It’s just there!

Nativen: Is there… a hidden gem in Brooklyn for you that maybe a lot of people don’t know about?…

Maryanne: I don’t know if we’ve been here long enough. Our house is really good. [laughs]

Nativen: That’s a good hidden gem…

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

Maryanne: Having those other weavers close by. I’m about to start teaching classes and they’ve both offered to come and assist…. They’ll learn something through the process as well, but yeah…The community.

Nativen:  This question might be like asking you to pick the child that you love the most…but what is your favorite piece that you’ve made thus far?

Maryanne: It was a combination piece that I made in Brunswick, in Melbourne. We had a big loom made up, and I got to be in a beautiful florist’s. We had two stools, and we invited people to come and add to this big piece. I sat there for two weeks and wove. And people would come and sit, and we’d have a talk and a chat… It was creating community, creating a piece, and at the end we gave the piece to one of the people. They had to leave their name and number. We picked one out of the hat and gave the piece to somebody. It was so nice.

Nativen: All that collaboration is awesome.

What part of the process brings you the most joy?

Maryanne: Hanging. It has to be hanging. [laughs]

It used to be warping, and just thinking about what I was going to create, but I think the hanging…and the thinking about the person who it’s going to.  I’m fortunate enough to still have that close contact with my clients that I know where it’s going.

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

Maryanne: …It’s hard. I’ve had a couple graphic designer clients…My husband is a graphic designer, some of my best friends are graphic [laughs] designers, but people who have a really strong, particular vision that they’d like recreated is often tricky.

It’s easier if somebody gives a general vibe about something.  That they like me and like my work enough, that they can let me go, let me run.

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

Maryanne: Wow… I’ve done a lot.

[laughter]

I didn’t get married and have a baby until my mid-30s so I had a lot of time doing whatever…I wanted… I traveled heaps. I’ve taken a lot of risks. I felt like when it was time to settle down, I was ready to settle down…I think the last thing that I hadn’t done that I wanted to do was get married and have a baby.

Nativen: And you did it!

Maryanne: And I did it. [laughs]

Nativen: That’s good. You’re living with no regrets. That’s fantastic!

If you weren’t a weaving artist….What do you think you would be?

Maryanne: I like being organized, and I really like filling out forms…Going in and helping people get organized with their stuff. I also really like talking to people, obviously, so something where I could help people organize their space. I don’t know if that’s a job.

Nativen: It’s totally a job. People do that. That’s great.

What destination do you want to travel to next and how do you think that might inspire or alter your work? Is that something you’re thinking about?

Maryanne: Central America. I haven’t been to Central America.

I’ve been to South America, but I was 19 at the time. Central America will be the next…big waterholes and tropical-y kind of swimming. Swimming is what I’m after next. [laughs].

Nativen: What song is currently heavily on rotation in your work? Do you listen to music when you work?

Maryanne: Yeah. I’ve been listening to mariachi.

[see below post for a sample of her favorites]

We went to the Etsy Talent Show, and there are seriously talented people there. It’s not just like, “Here’s someone juggling badly.” …there [are] seriously talented people, and they had a mariachi band. These two people, a guy and a girl were singing, and there were guitars, and shakers, and I just thought, “I don’t know this music at all,” and it seemed fun and exciting. I’ve been…exploring. There’s some of that.

Nativen: If you could find or choose three words to sum up your work, what would they be?

Maryanne:

  • Textural.
  • Graphic.
  • Color-ific.

[laughter]

Nativen: “Color-ific.” I love that, I think that’s my new favorite word.  I feel like that’s an onomatopoeia…

Maryanne: [laughs]

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

Maryanne: I’m always looking for opportunities to get out there, so teaching classes… I’m making beginner loom kits now, so people who want to learn to weave but can’t get to wherever I am…I always tell the people, “Here’s my email address if you don’t have any…” because I want them to do this. It’s fun. It’s so much fun. It’s satisfying, and it makes you feel good. Then you have something to give to someone.

Nativen: It’s inspiring, just being around it, I have an urge to get on a loom.

Maryanne: Yeah…to do it.

Nativen: Where are you teaching classes?

Maryanne: Do you know The Old Stone House?  The first ones I’m teaching there, and I’ve got a couple in LA with Designlovefest.

Nativen: What’s the most helpful advice you’ve received through your work?

Maryanne: Be honest and forgive others. Everyone’s on their own journey. Don’t judge them. Let that stuff go and just be true to yourself.

Nativen: Who’s your hero, or who’s someone who’s helped influence your work?

Maryanne: Jen [Griffiths]… I think she was one of the big influencers at the start, and she’s such an amazing woman. They’re living in New Zealand now, and it’s her partner who painted these paintings.  

We’ve got a few of Jake’s paintings around and they’re just a super creative couple. She’s an architect, but she does beautiful ceramics. She does crochet. Whatever she lends her hand to is that level… She’s really inspiring. I keep saying to her, “I don’t know what you do, and I haven’t seen any of your architecture work, but you should just let that go…because you need to do more of these. [laughs] Forget about the architecture game.”

Nativen: What are five objects that you can’t live without?

Maryanne:

  • I guess my loom. It’s pretty important.
  • My baby. He would have to come along even though he threw a tantrum this morning. [laughs]… and my husband!
  • … I guess my phone. It’s awful but it’s true.
  • Cast iron pot. I use that every day.
  • My plants.

Nativen: That’s important for a good balanced life, more green in your space.

You can check out more of Maryanne’s work here!

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copyright of Nativen