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

Alea Joy & Sarah Helmstetter: Solabee Flowers

Lily Hetzler

The smell of freshly cut greens and the flurry of moving pots and buckets of water, were my first glimpse into Solabee, and the botanical space of green-thumbed duo Alea and Sarah.  Over a cup of aromatic tea inside their shop in downtown Portland, we discussed childhood flower stands, a youth spent in the Ozarks, and the beauty of the Oregon landscape. Their commitment to sourcing locally, and the bold delicacy of their work, show it's clear these two feel more natural in the natural world.

Nativen: Where are you both from?


Alea: I'm from Oregon. I was born in Eugene and lived in many small towns until I moved to Portland in high school. I've been here for over twenty years now.

Sarah: I'm from Missouri originally, I grew up in the Ozarks until I was ten, and then I've lived in Oregon ever since.


Nativen: Do you think growing up where you did had any effect on your decision to become florists, floral artists ... I don't know what to actually even call you.


Alea: We’re not sure either right now because we do a lot of different things! We do styling, floral arrangements, a tiny bit of event planning, plants and greenery, interior greenscapes, retail...
As for your question, when I was trying to make my way in the world, the botanical world just felt like a place I was really familiar with; I feel more natural with the natural world around.

Nativen: How about you, Sarah?


Sarah: For me it definitely did. I come from a long line of serious plant hoarders.
Both my parents really being into gardening, both like vegetable gardening and flower gardens, huge ones, where we lived in Missouri. We had eighty-five acres and two rivers. When we moved to Oregon, it was the same thing, lots of gardening year-round. We had a flower stand when I was little.


Nativen: Was there moment where you knew you wanted to pursue this as a career?


Alea: For me, it was totally accidental, like a knack in the background. I basically got a flower stand job right out of college just because I was working in a cubicle, I was depressed and would do anything to get out of there.

Sarah: Sammy’s Flowers was just a night job for me when I was going through college. But I kept quitting. I would leave for the summer to go on vacation or go away for school, but every time I came back, there would be another location open, or another spot for me to move up. I thought I was going be a teacher or something.


Nativen: How did you two meet and start working together?


Sarah: We both worked for at Sammy’s for years, but not at the same shop. So we kind of knew each other in passing. And then when the economy took a dive we both were kind of laid-off.

Alea: It just got really, really hard. We couldn't find a job that paid us anywhere near what we had been making. But we knew all the farmers, we knew all the clients, and so we kind of cut out the middleman—our employer—and dealt with everyone directly.

Sarah: We started off really slowly, like working out of our homes and our kitchens. Our first shop was in the lobby of a wellness center.

Alea: Tiny little thing.

Sarah: But it had the best light we've ever had!

Alea: Since then, we've just kind-of jumped up, very opportunistically, with locations. We’ve been very conservative. It's almost like we've got like Depression Era mentality when it comes to running our business because we came out of such a place of scarcity when we first started. As we get busier and busier, we're just kind-of like, "Whoa! This is amazing!" [laughing] It's actually working.


Nativen: What do you guys love most about Portland and do you think that's integral to what you're doing here in any way?


Sarah: I love that you can grow things year-round here in Portland, and I definitely think that is integral to our business. I love that it's so seasonal in our climate, and so, every month we have a whole different palette to work with, and different textures. Spring is really branchy and bloomy, then the tulips come, and then slowly comes peony season. It's always changing.

Alea: I also like how easy it is to get out of the city because I have to do that in order to remain sane. My big treat every year is to go to Eastern Oregon and not see another person for a good period of time. Or the ones I do see are super rural weirdos that, you know, live the free life.


Nativen: Do you have a favorite restaurant in Portland?


Sarah: I think some of our accounts are my favorite. I really like Little Bird and Le Pigeon, if I was going to go somewhere fancy, those would be my picks. I also like Lardos and the Grassa.

Alea: It's harder to get a bad meal in Portland than to get a good meal.


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


Sarah: I like consignment shopping. My favorites are in my neighborhood, Button and Give and Take.

Alea: I get a lot of my stuff from people that make the things personally. We can trade if they want plants. There's like a barter thing that goes on. It's awesome.


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


Alea: That we're in a growing region.

Sarah: We have a really nice climate here, a microclimate that enables us to grow things year-round. We don't have the deep freeze in the winter.


Nativen: Right. So you have the ability to be really seasonally committed.


Sarah: Yeah, we can do that! Other places are mums year-round or everything's shipped in. We have so many local growers that we can source directly from here, which is unique.

Alea: Right now it feels like a lot of Oregon product is going out to the rest of the country, and it actually creates (ironically) this weird little desert of local product because it's all being drained out.


Nativen: That's wild. It makes a lot of sense though, because, obviously, if you can do local and seasonal, that's the priority.


Alea: The flower industry in Oregon has been local for a really long time, long before it was cool to be local.

Nativen: This is the asking you to pick-your-favorite-child question: is there something that you've done, an arrangement or a project, that you feel was your greatest accomplishment or the thing that brought you the most joy in your work so far?


Alea: There have been a lot of great things that, we've learned so much. There was that vertical garden that we did for Whole Foods. When we can get budget like that behind us to really bring in all of the resources we have, we make some really cool things.

Sarah: I really like that whatever we do, whether it's a planter out in front of a business or a bouquet that goes to an individual, I just think what's really unique about our job is that 99% of time is bringing someone joy and making someone happy, even if it's for something sad. I like being a part of that. And I like that when we leave a place, it looks a hundred times better than when we started there.

Alea: We get to have a positive impact, even if people don't notice right away. I had this one guy that came in for a year every Friday and bought a bouquet. When I was leaving that particular job, he brought his wife in to meet me. And as he was leaving he was like, "you know you saved me marriage."


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


Sarah: I want to travel for work, have work pay for it, and come back with really cool things.

Alea: We both want to do the same thing [laughing]. I'd love to do a buying trip in some of those larger, cool greenhouses in California or something like that.

Nativen: As far as creating work, is there like a song or anything that gets either of your creative juices flowing?


Sarah: I listen to podcasts, usually, if I'm here by myself. "Serial" was really great, but it's over now. So, that's depressing.

Alea: I've been actually exploring. I did the "Reply All" and "Start-up" as well, that was interesting business podcast. I was listening to "The Read" for while, which is like a totally hilarious, like pop-culture, out of New York. "The Read" is basically just a rant, and they're hilarious.


Nativen: Can you think of three words that sum up what your work is about for you?


Alea: I would say, "always changing." That's two.

Sarah: Seasonal. Green.


Nativen: Can you talk a little bit more about the kind of stuff that you do to connect with the local community?


Sarah: Tonight I'm doing some stuff for a local auction. We're donating gift certificates and little planters for an auction in the neighborhood that I live in and the neighborhood where we started. We donate our time a lot.

Alea: Just last night we did a symphony fundraiser. We get paid for product and stuff, but we gave them deep, deep discounts. I'm still driving around with an eight-foot botanical chandelier on the top of my truck, right now!

Sarah: She's had it for like three days.


Nativen: What's the most helpful advice that you've received or what is advice that you'd give to a creative looking to start their own thing?


Sarah: [laughing] Take it, Alea.

Alea: The worst feeling advice was actually the best advice ever, and the first thing someone said to me when I said, "I wanted to start my own business." They said, "Hire a bookkeeper."

Sarah: And we didn't do it!

Alea: I hated that advice so much; I thought it was the worst. And I used to do bookkeeping too, so I was like, "screw that. I can totally do this." No. If you start a small business and you expect to be busy or make a living on it, running your finances and running your business is also a full-time job, so, you have to pick. You have to continually protect yourself on the path of creativity and if you don't outsource some of that like computer time, you’re burning out because you’re spending fourteen hours a day tending to the business.

Nativen: Do you have a hero or someone who has influenced your work greatly?


Sarah: My family influenced my work because I grew up being around plants a lot. Inside my home I have plants that were my grandma's that are probably fifty or sixty years old.

Alea: Their gardens are gorgeous. She has one of the prettiest gardens I've ever seen in anyone's house. She's a plant whisperer. As for me…I think my greatest inspiration comes from when I step back and get back into nature and get back into touch with myself and just kind of tap back into "how-is-this-done-when-no-one's-watching?"


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


Sarah: We've done this one before. I think clippers. Clippers are essential.

Alea: I also have clippers on me 100% of the time. Except for going through security at airports.

Sarah: Our phones are very valuable for our business right now, so unfortunately...

Alea: …iPhone

Sarah: Can we think of a third thing?

Alea: I'd say, you know, water.

Sarah: Water!

Alea: Light and water.

Sarah: Bees are really essential to our work too, but they're not really...

Alea: …the first thing I did think of was my cat! But I didn't really want to say it.

Sarah: Oh god! Please delete that part [laughing].

Alea: [laughing] He's just so cute.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

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

all images copyright of Nativen

Teresa Robinson: Tiro Tiro

Lily Hetzler

We recently had the pleasure of taking our Stories series on a journey out west, to the moss-laden Pacific Northwest, and the surprisingly sun-drenched city of Portland.  A bike ride to the northeast corner, brought us to the charming studio of jewelry designer, Teresa Robinson of Tiro Tiro.  Greeted by her adorable 4-legged friend, we entered her beautifully converted space, a dream for any artist or maker; complete with woodburning stove, sky lights, and a nook and corner for every little treasure.  Teresa's work embodies natural and architectural, in a refined elemental form, it was hard to leave the space, without her entire collection in tow.

Nativen:  You're from Seattle originally?

Teresa:  Yeah, kind of all over Washington, actually, I bounced around until I left for college. I moved here straight after, literally packed the dorm room into the Volvo and drove directly out here, with my best friend and I've been here ever since.


Nativen:  That's awesome. Do you think growing up in Washington had anything to do with your choice to start jewelry making?


Teresa:  No [laughing] Both my parents are artists. I grew up with a working artist, as a dad. It was really normal for me to see that you could make a living, going out to your studio, making work and selling it places.
When I was in college, I spent six months abroad in Mexico, and I took a jewelry class there. I really, really loved it! I came back, finished my last year of school as an art major, because we didn't actually have a jewelry program at my school.
When I came out here it was still on my mind so I started messing around with some stuff, and everything sort of snowballed from there. That was 2002‑ish when I got started?

Nativen: I know you just talked about being inspired in Mexico, but was there a specific moment in your creative pursuits through art or design in general, that made you realize this, jewelry design, was what you wanted to pursue?


Teresa:  I was 24 and didn't know what else to do with an art degree, which qualifies me to do actually nothing in the real world. They don't tell you that when you get a very expensive art degree. [laughs]
When I started jewelry stuff, I was teaching art at an after school and summer program, out in the burbs. Had I gone another direction I think I probably would have stuck with that and maybe taken more of the teaching route. It probably has more to do with my upbringing, but I really wanted to make a living from stuff that I made.
I was in a position where I was able to try it out while I was still working part time. Once it started working at all, I was like, "OK, cool, I'm just going to try this." That's what you do when you're 24.
You have no idea what you're getting into. Because I knew nothing about the business end of it, literally zero. It was like, "Oh, OK. Well, I can sell this and then they will give me money and that money will pay the bills." That was the only connection that I was making. It's definitely all been a learning process, but it's worked. [laughs]

Nativen:  Absolutely. I feel like that’s the case for most small businesses, especially for designer/creative people that are pursuing small business and have next to no understanding of what it means to be a business. You just kind of throw yourself into it, because it's something that you're passionate about, especially when you're younger and have the energy. It's easier to be like, "This is what I'm doing and I'll figure it out." Then you, hopefully, have those creative moments at least that remind you why you're doing it. When you're dealing with all of the, "Oh my God, this is what it means to be a business," side of it…. There's no one formula that works for every business.
What do you love most about Portland? Do you think that's integral to your work in any way?


Teresa:  I think it was when I moved here. I came here in 2000 when Portland was still really, really cheap. Having a super low cost of living and I think a pretty high population of other young people who had no idea what they were doing, it makes it a lot easier to do what I was doing. To have financially the freedom to be able to take some time to mess around and be able to live in a house where I was paying 200 bucks a month for the room that I rented.
The city has changed. It's a completely different place than it was even five years ago, but the thing that's carried through that is there is still a really great creative community here. I've made a lot of really incredible friends through the maker and designer community, and it's nice to feel like we're all kind of on the same team [chuckles] .


Nativen:  [sings] We're all in this together... These are just a couple rapid‑fire Portland questions. Do you have a favorite restaurant in Portland?


Teresa:  Oh, I have about 10 [laughs] Biwa is really good, that's my current favorite. There's a lot of really good food here.


Nativen:   Yeah, it seems that way just in the short time I’ve been here. I feel like I’m eating my way through Portland. 
How about a favorite home goods store?


Teresa:  I don't shop very much. Beam & Anchor is really beautiful. They always have a good spread of everything.


Nativen:  Do you have a favorite clothing store here?


Teresa:  Palace, over on Burnside.


Nativen:  Oh, I just went there, actually. It's really great.
How about a favorite park or outdoor space?


Teresa:  Having quick access to the gorge is really amazing. It's 40 minutes away and incredibly beautiful.


Nativen:  Yeah, that's what I keep hearing. I have to do some nature exploration while I'm here...


Teresa:  If you have even an afternoon, just shoot up there. I think I heard somewhere that Oregon, in general, has more waterfalls than any other state. It's kind of magical out there [laughs] .


Nativen:  It seems that way! I feel like just looking at pictures of Oregon, it's like the waterfall capital of the world, basically.
What do you think is the greatest resource to your work here?


Teresa:  I think, again, probably just the community that's built up over the past 12-13 years that I’ve been here.


Nativen:  A creative community is super‑important. Again, it's that sort of reminder of why I'm in this and what motivates me, and how to figure things out.

Teresa:  When I hang out with friends of mine who have real jobs, there will get to be a point in the conversation where people say, "Oh yeah, I'm looking for this new job." "Oh, have you talked to HR?" "What's your hire‑on package?" And I'm like, "Uh huh? Uh huh? …Cool!"
I have no idea, because I've never had a normal job. It's really nice to have those people who you can say, "Who's your caster," or talk about issues with… that's the good part.

Nativen:  The small business support group.


Teresa:  Yeah, totally [laughs] .


Nativen:  It's important, it's very important. Do you have a favorite piece that you've made so far, or maybe something that was your greatest accomplishment?


Teresa:  That is hard to say, because my business has been through three different incarnations over 13 years. I can't really think of a favorite piece… But I think switching over, the revamp that I did a year‑and‑a‑half ago to, Tiro Tiro and switching the direction of my work, and really allowing myself the room to evolve creatively a little bit more, that is my favorite thing that's happened recently.


Nativen:  That's cool. It's interesting with small business too, the way that your business evolves and has to shift functionally, but also personally, creatively as you grow and change, and your aesthetics change.


Teresa:  Yeah, because when I started the work, I started before Etsy was a thing, at the beginning of the putting a bird on it. I did that. But stylistically, the work that I was doing was very, very kind of rigid. I was known for this one very specific thing, like, "Oh, that's the girl who makes the little glass squares with the silver cutouts over it."
It didn't give me a lot of room to expand at all. It's nice to be in a new place, and after a really, really long time of making that work, I could hardly even look at it anymore. It was just spending years doing production on the exact same thing. So it's nice to be in a place where I shifted focus and really a lot of that was about being able to go wherever I want to with it.
It's nice because I feel like as I have grown up and matured, I don't feel like I need to worry about appealing to a specific customer, or trend or anything, I feel like my customer has grown up with me, which is nice.


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

Teresa:  I just like making stuff, sometimes that's designing. Sometimes I hate designing, because that can feel like there is a lot of pressure to come up with the next great thing that everybody's going to like and is going to pay your bills for the next year. Sometimes it's twisting ropes and doing production for a day.

Nativen:  Zen-ing out in your creative mode.


Teresa:  Totally. Yeah, it really varies a lot. But yeah, mostly just hanging out out here.


Nativen:  It's good that you enjoy all steps of the process, even if it's an alternating love/hate, because, like you said, having never had a full time job, you don't really know anything else. But to know that you love all of those elements, it's a good sign that you're doing the right things.


Teresa:  I hope so.
[laughter]


Nativen:  Is there a part for you that's maybe the greatest struggle or you think that stands out as, this is the thing that makes it really hard for me, or my business?


Teresa:  Marketing, absolutely. I went in to this, like, "Cool, I can just hide in the studio all the time and I don't have to talk to anybody." It's really hard for me to be like, "Hey, I made this, isn't it fantastic?" I don't want to bother people. I'm like, "I don't want to impose, but I made this thing. Do you want to buy it?"
That's really hard for me and it's a lot of work. I feel like that's a full time job in itself. It's the thing that always gets shoved to the back burner. If I can keep up with Instagram, I'm like, "OK, I'm doing great."


Nativen:  Yeah, there's a reason that that's a job, in most companies.
What destination do you want to travel to and do you think that might inspire or alter your work in any way?


Teresa:  Oh, where do I want to go? Lots of places. I want to go to Iceland. I would like to go to Southeast Asia. I would like to go back to Mexico. I'll always go back to Mexico.


Nativen:  It's beautiful there.


Teresa:  Those are probably the top three…. Oh, Germany, I would like to learn German.


Nativen:  Do you have German heritage or anything, or are you just attracted to Germany?


Teresa:  I don't know, I've just never been. It seems like a fun idea.


Nativen: I'd love to explore Germany a little more too. But that's not one I hear often, so that's cool. 
I don't know if you listen to music while you're working, but do you have a song or anything on heavy rotation these days?


Teresa:  There's this Chromatics cover of "I'm On Fire" that has been on for the last couple days. I listen to a lot of podcasts, too.


Nativen:   I love The Chromatics, so you're preaching to the choir.
What's the most helpful advice you've received or what's some advice that you'd give to creatives who are looking to pursue their own craft?

Teresa:  Stop doing what everybody else is doing.
[laughter]
I think the most important thing, and the thing that I really try to do with my own work, is make work that's different than what other people are making. Just because you can operate a jewelry torch and make that band of wire ring with the one arch in it that is in 75 different Etsy shops, doesn't necessarily mean that you should.
But I think really thinking about finding your own voice, and what that is. I think experimentation and imitation, they're all part of a learning process. But really, really focusing on finding your own voice, pushing yourself to find new solutions to things, and new fresh takes on stuff that's already out there, because we are all a part of the same zeitgeist, and trends are going to influence all of us. I think that really trying your best to do something new is the most important thing you can do.


Nativen:  Absolutely. It's the thing that creatively pushes us all forward, from what we get inspired by, or what we take things from that aren't natural environment elements. That's really good advice. 
Do you have a hero, or someone who has helped influence your work in a big way?


Teresa:   There are a few different people like artist‑wise, but as cheesy as it sounds it's probably my parents! [laughs] They've totally supported everything that I've done. They've been really great examples, and really great role models for building the life that you want to live and making it work. When I was four, they decided they wanted to move to the country, so they moved us all up to Orcas Island.
My dad set up his studio there, and started working. That's how he supported us for my entire childhood. They're definitely my biggest influence.


Nativen:  That's great. That's inspiring. That's really good to have that kind of support network in your family. 
What are three objects you can't live without?


Teresa:  A really good coffee cup.
My stupid phone, which is horrible. I'm a little too attached to it these days. [laughs] 
My bed. I really like my bed. [laughs]
Nativen: I can definitely relate to that.

Check out more of Teresa's work here.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copywright of Nativen

Farrah Sit: Light + Ladder

Lily Hetzler

A dreamy Oasis from the hustle of cold New York city days, Farrah Sit’s studio is outfitted with an array of beautiful planters, lighting fixtures, and the coolest breezy hammock chair we wanted to nest in for a long Winter’s nap. We sat and chatted with the industrial designer about her fascination with neuroscience, math and the creative journey that lead to finding her craft. Plus, we can’t wait to check out her hidden gem…. Read on!

Nativen:  Do you think growing up in upstate New York influenced your choice to start doing design at all?


Farrah:  If anything, it wasn't a supportive background for that because I grew up in a small town. I was creative and into science, math, and music. I play the violin ‑‑ I was always drawing since I was little ‑‑ I didn't know how to merge the two.
Even the teachers and guidance counselors had no idea how you can merge art. Being creative with math and science. I had to find my own way and did Summer classes at FIT to look into fashion and see if I wanted to do that, or a Summer class at the University of Miami to study architecture.
This was all during high school, to see if I wanted to go into architecture and I was like, "Oh my god." Fashion is just too whimsical. It's not…not academic enough, and then architecture was like, everyone was miserable...
I had to just jump and guess, because I didn't have another Summer to guess.
Then I was like, "Maybe industrial design (ID), sounds like somewhere in between."


Nativen:  It was like a process of elimination basically.


Farrah:  Yeah.


Nativen:   Was there a specific AHA moment that you had in your search, that made you realize, "Oh yeah. This is the right thing. This is what I want to be doing."?


Farrah:  Not until I got into ID second year, because the first year is all foundation. I guess you’re just scared and questioning everything all the time. I remember my freshman year I had such a hard drawing teacher... We we’re all just thrown into whatever.
He made me cry every Monday night. I was bawling every night… "I shouldn't be here." That's what I thought. "I should be an art conservationist, and go into the science." No. I think you’re just trying to feel it out all the way through.

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


Farrah:  Yeah. There's so much creativity here. Everyone's full of energy and passionate; about their own music, their own art, their own...whatever. Being around that energy is really inspiring. You do find a lot of people willing to help each other.

Nativen:  There seems like a really strong sense of community here. When you're in a space like this, where you have a shared space, and you're able to bounce ideas off with people and share resources and things like that, it’s great!
These are just a couple of rapid-fire questions, but in Brooklyn, what's your favorite restaurant?


Farrah:  I guess it still is, Alameda.
It's good. It was designed by the Home Brothers. They’ve got really good drinks, and like, advanced pub food.


Nativen:  You need that in life sometimes. 
Do you have a favorite Home Goods Store in Brooklyn?


Farrah: Homecoming, where I got this coffee. [laughs] Do you know Homecoming? They have a plant shop in the back and a coffee shop in the front. It's right here on Franklin between Milton and Greenpoint. They actually carry a lot of ceramic artists from all around Brooklyn.
What I love about it is that Vanessa, who owns it and curates the ceramic section, she describes the work, the ceramic, as art, like local art. That's how she conceived buying planters and different things, which is unlike other plant stores that carry planters or whatever.
Vanessa is out there trying to get people to understand this is art. These home goods pieces are art. To appreciate it, and that it's made by someone around you.

Nativen:  Another form of community and supporting artists. That's fantastic. Do you have a favorite clothing store in Brooklyn?


Farrah:  I buy all my clothes from Oak. I’m like 90% Oak.
I think the richer, older version of me would buy a lot of stuff from Beautiful Dreamers, but I'm not rich enough yet.
[laughter]


Nativen: That's the next level? Farrah 2.0. will shop there. [laughter]
Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space in Brooklyn?


Farrah:  I've been lucky enough to always have a roof deck where I have a crazy veggie garden in the Summers. I like the privacy of that, growing your own thing, and hanging out there, where no one’s watching you. I feel like there are a lot of people watching in parks.


Nativen:  Yeah, but now you get to watch everyone else without being watched in return.
Is there a hidden gem in Brooklyn that you have?


Farrah:  Locally, it would be Troost as a cafe. Then… We stumbled upon a Korean hot pot place called Sik Gaek, S‑I‑K G‑A‑E‑K. Totally randomly stumbled upon it, it's crazy, and you feel like you're in a foreign country.


Nativen:  Oh, that's awesome. That's actually the great thing about Brooklyn because it's so expansive, and there's so many different neighborhoods. There are lots of little restaurants and cafe's and things like that, that you can go to that you feel totally transported. You're in a completely different place. 
What do you think is the greatest resource to your work in Brooklyn?


Farrah:  The people, the wonderful people for sure.

Nativen:  That's awesome. [laughs] This is like the asking you to pick your favorite child question, but do you have a piece or a product or something that you've made thus far, that is either your favorite, or maybe it was your greatest accomplishment?


Farrah:  It might be the "Flatware," because I made that fully myself. I started it in the Haystack. Do you know Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine?


Nativen:  Oh no, I don't.


Farrah:  It's a two-week retreat. You take a class, and they have sessions in the summer. Then all you do is your art and eat wonderful organic food. It's on an island off of Maine, so you're right there in the water.
Anyway, I didn't enjoy the scenery as much as other people do, because I was so passionate about staying in the studio 24‑7. As much as people don't get the scenery when they're at home, I don't get the chance to work on one thing 24‑7 uninterrupted...
So, for me that's such a crazy gem of an environment. And you're surrounded with creative people. So yeah, it would be the forged flatware that...you just hammer it out of a solid piece of silver.


Nativen:  What a cool process. And that's such a gift to be able to have that time to just go in the zone and focus on it.
What part of the process of designing and developing brings you the most joy?


Farrah:  Oh, jeez. I have no idea. I don't want to say seeing it in the end. I think the fine finishing stuff. If it's metal to finally file and sand the forms, or in ceramics the fine finishing, where you're sanding out the lines and creating things, like getting it to a fine level. But not making the form, not the beginning stages, but almost towards the end.

 

Nativen:  Yeah, I would imagine that step would be really rewarding, because you see the real potential of the thing that you're creating.
What part of your process do you think is the greatest struggle?


Farrah:  The beginning, where you're coming up with ideas and working through the voices in your head that are like, "This is not good enough. This is bad. What are you doing?" Like that little person on your shoulder.
[laughter]


Nativen:  Exactly, saying, "This isn't going to work."
[laughter]


Farrah:  Yeah. I think that's most difficult. Or just finding what is right and believing in it.


Nativen:  Getting to the place where you're actually ready to then pursue your design. I think that's the case for a lot of designers. That's the hardest part, because it's a leap of faith, a lot of the time. You just have to make a decision and move forward to produce a product. So sometimes there are those moments of "We're going to give it a go and see how it all comes together."


Farrah:  I think that's maybe why I like the forged flatware the best, because the concept was really quick but the form and everything comes to you only during the process. It only starts really coming together then. Instead of intellectually deciding upon something, the material shows itself, the form comes up through your hands.


Nativen:  Right.. It reveals itself to you.


Farrah:  Yeah.

Nativen:  What an elemental process of design, to go in and be like, "All right, I have an idea but how is this material going to present itself to me?"


Farrah:  Yeah, and some people have used that always in their art, like ‑‑ I'm totally generalizing ‑‑ painters or potters who can just be like, "Let's see what this form is." But to me, those mediums, like painting, drawing, clay, it's too physically easy for your hand to go and then there's a mark.
For me, I need it to be hyper‑difficult and slow. Every blow of the hammer was only a hundredth‑millimeter on the way to the form forming. Your decision‑making can be way slower, rather than like painting, you're just like, "OK."


Nativen:  Yeah, it sounds like your process is more calculated, and engineered, and that's the design for you. Correct me if I'm wrong here. I'm just fascinated because I love people's process and their concept to design. Because for a lot of people, like you're saying, who work with pottery or paint or things like that, there's more of an, I guess, maybe organic approach of "This is how the material works and we're just going to see what comes out of that."


Farrah:  Yeah, that's true.

 

Nativen:  And you're a little more methodical in your approach of "How can I make these materials, knowing what I know about them organically and knowing what I want to create, how can I make these materials create the thing that I need and want it to be"?


Farrah:  Right. That's really cool that you said that, because it is also not just any generic sign, but the use ‑‑ make useful objects. That's a level maybe that I don't see myself. Yeah, I don't see myself as an artist. I'm just creating to make something visual.
A part of me is...I don't know. And maybe this is a self‑conscious thing. It has to be validated on another level, rather than just visual like I said somehow. Yeah, like work and fit in our society somehow [laughs] . I don't know.


Nativen:  It's amazing to see how people's creativity manifests and I think that's cool that your creativity has this worker bee aspect of "I want it to be beautiful, but also be functional, and serve a purpose." That's awesome. 
What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?


Farrah:  Oh. I've always wanted to try glassblowing. But then I pulled away from that, just because I was around my friend who was making the lights for me, the glass lights, and realizing how hot it is. He looked at me after half a day. He's like, "You're allergic to heat" [laughs] because I was blotching out all over.
So he's like, "No, you could do this. You just need to wear protective gear." 
That's something I would love to try though.


Nativen:  If you weren't a designer, what do you think you'd be?


Farrah:   I have no idea… I know at the points that I questioned it. 
In high school I was going to go study at a college of neuroscience. It was a toss‑up, because I got accepted to a school to do that, and then I also received it, so I was really going to go down there, but I don't know what I would do with it.
Then, at the end of college I really got into HCI, human computer interface, which was new then, but now it's all over the place. All kind of interactive art, and things like that, getting into computers and programming. So, I think if I was a little younger I would've went there, if resources would've been there.


Nativen:  It's a good sign that you're doing the right thing that you had such a long pause about what direction you want to go. If it's not something that comes to you, it's probably a really strong sign that you're on the right track.


Farrah:  [laughs] That's true.

Nativen:  What destination do you want to travel to next, and do you think that would inspire or alter your work in any way?


Farrah:  I would love to go to Australia or New Zealand. That would be rad, and experience all the wildlife and all the flora. That would be really cool.


Nativen:  Yeah, especially Australia, is so expansive, and there's so much different kind of wildlife and nature than there is here. That'd be amazing.
It seems like you listen to music when you work. Is there a song or anything like that that you have on heavy rotation right now?


Farrah:   There's a song, I forget what it's called. It's from Andrew Bird's song, it's off "Desperation Breeds." but that's a good one to get me in the zone. What else? We definitely listen to Beyonce in here… "Love on Top" is a good one to just like…


Nativen:  …Pump it up?


Farrah:  [laughs] Yeah, like let's do this, let's work.


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


Farrah:  Simple, neutral... I want to say geometric, but it's form‑driven. 
I try to do things that are kind of timeless, and I'm all about celebrating the material that it is.

Nativen:   I love breaking that down, hearing what people's work means to them, how it expresses. 
What's the most helpful advice you've received?


Farrah:  The last boss I had, she said to me... Something like, "Don’t ever accept failure, you just have to keep going. If you don't make it an option, then it won't be an option." She said it way more eloquently, but it was something to that fact, if you just don't accept that as even a possibility...And of course, it's a possibility for all of us. Not just all of us, everything's a possibility. If you don't accept it… That’s where your mindset has to be. You just keep going. Even if you fail, you just keep going.


Nativen:  That's a great way of looking at it, because I know in the context of developing anything, types of failures are inevitable. And it's amazing, because you learn from them, but if you're coaching your brain in this way of: failure as an end to your means, is never an option, then there's always a push‑through, which is so important.
It also takes a lot of weight away from the idea of failure; which is so cool, because it's not the end, it just means I'm working through to something else.


Farrah:  Yeah, I then took it onto my own life and felt that I don't have failure anymore in my life.
Failure's not even a concept in my life, because everything's a learning process. Everything's like, this thing did this thing, which could be seen as failure, but that's actually the catalyst to this change. So, you're constantly turning this energy into a catalyst for change.


Nativen:  A positive outcome. That's a great way of looking at it, that's very...freeing...
[laughter]
Do you have a hero, or maybe someone who's helped influence your work greatly?


Farrah: My grandma, she’s amazing! She was so creative and resourceful. She was a source of love and light, and compassion. She was also super‑creative.
She would even go to Filene's in the Mall, or whatever, where there was a 70 percent off rack and she would buy ‑‑ she was this little old lady ‑‑ she would buy a really large size pair of pants; a size 14 pair of pants that's marked down to seven bucks or something. She would take it home and cut it all up and make a two‑piece suit.
She was so little. I mean, anyone could buy bolts of fabric, but [laughs] she was able to take something so much cheaper but higher quality because it's already a nice pant material or whatever, and was mathematical enough to break it down into...


Nativen:  And totally transform it, yeah.


Farrah:  Yeah, a two‑piece suit. It was crazy.


Nativen:  Amazing. What a cool concept. 
What are three objects you can't live without?


Farrah:  Three objects. What does that mean? Like, if you're on a desert island kind of thing?


Nativen:  Yeah, maybe.


Farrah:  [sighs] I don't know. I don't want it to sound corny, like...You know those dating apps? [laughs] Like, my pen and my moleskin!
[laughter]
But outside of my pen and my sketchbook… Articles of clothing with pockets.


Nativen:  Ooh, that's good.


Farrah:  With really accessible pockets. Jean pockets don't count. Like, huge...Here's my iPhone, wallet, and then some.


Nativen:  That's a really good answer. I like that! [laughs]


Farrah:  I think that’s it. Forget the moleskin pen, that's dating level.
[laughs]


Nativen:  That's the superficial at the bottom of, some way to be able to express my ideas. But basically, it all boils down to clothing with big pockets.


Farrah:  Yeah, because I literally don't leave the house without some article of clothing with big pockets. 
[laughter]

See more of Farrah's work here.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copywright of Nativen

Signe Yberg: Ceramics

Lily Hetzler

The importance of community, open space, and the connection to earthly landscapes are just a few of the highlights from our chat with Ceramicist, Signe Yberg.  Her work evokes a sense of modern history, coupled with the colors and textures of a warm skyline.  On a sunny morning, in the light-filled industrial, Clay Space; we sat down to chat about inspiration, good eats, and the power of pushing through your limits.... Read on!

Nativen:  Where are you from, originally?


Signe Yberg:  Long Island. I grew up on Long Island, and moved to New York City in 1990 to go to NYU to study Art History. I had thought that I wanted to be a photographer when I was in high school. I was that girl who takes all of the photography electives.


My teacher had to invent more because I had taken all of them, and I still had another year before I would graduate. I had a dark room in my basement, and it was my favorite place. Every night, I was in it way past my bedtime.


I wanted to move to the city as soon as possible, and wanted to live Downtown. I applied to NYU. It was pretty much the only school I applied to. 
I've always really loved having projects making things, but I didn't actually get into ceramics until five years ago. I have been a fashion stylist/wardrobe stylist for 15 years. 


I missed being creative, just for the sake of creativity, I missed an outlet. I really wanted to do something with my hands. I had taken jewelry classes years ago and really liked that, but there was something not as satisfying about it because I couldn't do the whole thing myself as quickly.
There needed to be another person involved, or equipment I didn't have, or whatever. Anyway, I've always loved ceramics. I love objects. I grew up surrounded by ceramics in my home and also going to museums.


I live in Williamsburg. I was walking down Grand Street one day and I passed Choplet. Nadeige, the owner, was on the sidewalk and she was dragging out a sign that said "Ceramics Classes," and I thought, "Oh, that's what I'll do."

ceramics2.JPG

Nativen:  It's like literally being hit over the head with the sign.


Signe:  Exactly. It was so funny because I was just thinking, "Oh, I want to do something creative," and there's Nadeige pulling this sign out.


I said, "Oh, you teach classes?" She said, "Yes, I do. The session is about to start," so I signed up. That was five years ago.


I reconnected with my friend, Jennifer Fiore. We grew up together. We've known each other since we were 11 years old. She had seen my pictures of my ceramics class, and she said, "Oh, I miss having a studio, I miss the creative process." I said, "Why don't you join?" So she did, and that was really great to reconnect with her.


Then, we met Nina Lalli in our Monday night class. The three of us had Monday nights… [They] were sacred. That was our ceramics night. After being in class together for a year, we thought, "Why don't we do our own thing and start a company?" We called it "Mondays."


The dream was to live off of it. [laughter] Little did we know. Anyway, we found Clay Space which is where we are right now in Greenpoint. I absolutely love it here. It's a communal studio. I'm surrounded by incredibly talented people. We're always inspiring each other. I really like being in a communal studio. I learn something from every single person in here. Even if I don't know it at the time,  I'm a little bit shy about my technique because I don't really feel I have one.  I'm more of a do‑my‑own‑thing kind of person. I didn't really start throwing until I was here because I have 24‑hour access. I had the privacy to make mistakes and not feel embarrassed about it. When I joined the studio, I would come in late at night and make a mess, make mistakes, make things that were structurally wack.
[laughter]


I just learned really quickly just from doing it, from watching YouTube videos, and really just from having my hands in the clay. Now, I'm pretty much exclusively on the wheel. I love it so much. It's one of those things...however I'm feeling inside comes out in the clay on the wheel. It's really there.

Nativen:  It's a manifestor of your experience.


Signe:  Yeah. I have to focus. I have to be present. If I'm stressed out and I'm rushing through something or I'm not patient, the clay is not centered.


Nativen:  It's interesting that you say that, too, because I was thinking about that when you were talking about exploring jewelry design versus pottery. Feeling you get more of the creative process through pottery.


There are very few people who actually do their entire creative process start to finish by themselves. Clay is such a simple way of doing of that. It's one of those things that you start out with just a lump of nothing, of earth. It's amazing.

Signe:  Exactly. I don't make my own glazes and that is my goal for 2015, is to start mixing my own glazes and starting to come up with my own colors. Color is really important to me, and also the finish of the glaze. I haven't made that leap yet.


Nativen:  So… Brooklyn, it's an awesome place. We know that we both live here. What do you love most about living in Brooklyn? How do you think that's integral to the work that you're doing?


Signe:  What I love most about Brooklyn is more space per person, more personal space per person.
[laughter]
I need more open space, literally, and also figuratively, creatively. I love Brooklyn because it's just a few notches down from Manhattan, as far as intensity. I love being surrounded by people who also value that.


I grew up on Long Island, and I need to see water. In the summer, I ride my bike to Fort Tilden several times a week. I need to have my feet on the sand. I need to feel the salt water. I need to see the waves. I'm just very much connected to New York State beaches.


Living in Brooklyn means I'm that much closer to the beach. Not as many tall buildings and skyline...


Nativen:  Actual skyline and not building skylines.


Do you have a favorite restaurant in Brooklyn?


Signe:  Across the street, there's a place called Ashbox. I wouldn't say it's my favorite restaurant because it's more of a snack place for me to go to. I love their seaweed avocado wraps and their rice balls.


There's a new restaurant downstairs called Glasserie.


Nativen:  Glasserie is amazing. Do you have a favorite home good store in Brooklyn?


Signe:  Joinery.... I want everything in that store.  Their aesthetic is really beautiful and special. They're also very supportive of me.


Nativen:  How about a favorite clothing store?


Signe:  I wear a lot of vintage and a lot of men's workwear. I really like Stella Dallas. It's a vintage store, and I get all of my overalls and coveralls at Zoe's Work Wear across the street. It's a little shop, neighborhoody.

Nativen:  Favorite park or outdoor space?


Signe:  Prospect Park without a question or hesitation, and especially Brooklyn Botanic Garden (the greenhouse).  Also, Ft. Tilden, in Queens.


Nativen:  Is there a hidden gem in Brooklyn that's of value to you or that maybe other people don't really know about it?


Signe:  Clay Space. This place definitely. Also, there’s a place called De Hot Pot. D‑E Hot Pot. I have one word for you, Doubles. I like the tamarind one.


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


Signe:  Oh, creative people around me without a doubt.


Nativen:  Is there a piece that you've made thus far that's your favorite piece or maybe it was the most prolific piece or something like that for you?


Signe:  Yeah. I really like this one.

Nativen:  It's beautiful… It has a skyline kind of feel to it.


Signe:  Exactly. I like very simple forms obviously. I think probably most ceramicists do. [laughs] This one is really special to me because the way the crawl glaze cracked. It crackles differently each time. This one, to me, crackled perfectly, so it looks like a dried riverbed.


I'm inspired by landscapes, so I think they're the two running themes in my work... I like bright color but then I like kind of landscapy neutrals earthy colors, anything from cream to brown and all the shades in there.


If I'm not doing the kind of bright, colorful, very Scandinavian midcentury things, then I like just things that look like they came out of the earth.


Nativen:  Like an artifact almost, in a way?


Signe:  Or that remind me of a place where I want to be. This is kind of a desert to me.


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


Signe:  That's a hard question. I think that the most joy comes from being on the wheel after I've thrown the clay down, I've centered it, I've opened it up, I've done a basic shape. That's kind of like the first... The set of hurdles, the foundation.  If I like that basic shape and then I can manipulate it more to be fuller in one area, have a little narrow neck, that part of it, that kind of like sweet spot of I've laid the foundation and then I can really get in there and have fun with it.


Nativen:  Take it to the next level. [laughs]


Signe:  Yeah. I like the making. Also, opening the kiln after a glaze firing. If it works out, it's magic. Sometimes I have a hard time sleeping the night before I'm going to unload it. My heart is pounding when I'm coming to the studio and I crack that kiln open, and it's the way Christmas morning was when I was a kid.


Nativen:  That's great. [laughs] That's a good analogy.


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


Signe:  Rather than struggle, I want to say challenging… All of the above. Everything that brings me the joy is also challenging. Getting bigger and taller, wider pieces, difficult forms, really pushing myself. It's challenging. Also getting stuck doing the same thing over and over again is challenging, but in a different way.

Nativen:  What a beautiful balance though that you look at it that way, because it gives you the opportunity in any step to be able to change your perspective knowing that you find both joy and challenge in each part of the process.


Signe:  Absolutely. I love it. It challenges me constantly. Essentially I'm a hack.


Nativen:  [laughs]


Signe:  I took classes, and my teacher was great, but I didn't really pay attention, so that's on me, but I don't even know if I'd want to know how to throw a perfect form, because if they were perfect you couldn't see my hand in it, and I like to see my hand in it. I like the slight variations.


Nativen:  It's an organic process for sure. What's one thing you've always wanted to do, but haven't done yet?


Signe:  There are so many things. I have never been to Asia, which I know is like a huge statement. Asia there's a lot of places, but I want to go to Japan. I want to go to India. I've never been to Africa. I would say more travel. I like feeling small in an environment.


I went to Iceland for my birthday a couple of years ago. I went camping for two weeks with a friend, and we camped every night. It completely changed my life. Everyone says, "Oh, it's beautiful. It's the most beautiful place on Earth. It's magical." It is, but it's so much more beautiful and magical than you can even imagine. When I came back from the trip, people said to me, "Oh, well, what places do you recommend?" I keep saying to them, "Just go, you can't go wrong." You literally cannot go wrong.

Every step of the way...I've never seen green that color. I've never seen moss like that. I've never seen sunsets like that. I've never seen steam coming out of the Earth like that. I've never seen, just even the color of the Earth, it's incredible.


The rocks, the rocks are fantastic there, because they are younger, and they haven't been I guess compacted.


Nativen:   If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?


Signe:  Japan. [laughs]


Nativen:   Lots of inspiration for ceramics in Japan, too, for sure.


I don't know if you listen to music a lot when you work, but is there a song, or anything that you like to have on?


Signe:  I can’t listen to anything I want to dance to.  If I listen to some music I move my body too much, but I can listen to things that are more repetitive like Philip Glass… Actually, an ex‑boyfriend got me into listening to Ayahuasca chants. They are medicine chants. I like listening to that, because I find it really calming, and it's repetitive, and it's healing.


Because they are very special, I don't overplay them. I do however overplay other things... we found a box of old cassettes in our studio and at least one entire kiln load of my work was "brought to you" by Roxy Music Greatest Hits.


Jazz, I can listen to Jazz…'50s and '60s Jazz. It also reminds me of my father.

He was a huge music fan, and especially a huge Jazz fan, so I find it really comforting and soothing to listen to Jazz. Music was our connection. Our whole life.


Nativen:  What a fantastic thing to be able to carry with you as a memory. That's really nice, because it's so simple.


Signe:  Simple and I can take it anywhere.


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


Signe:  Color, Earth... Some of my studio mates when they see my work, they say that I like things that go Up, because it's maybe uplifting.

Nativen:  What's the most helpful advice you've received, or what's the advice that you would give to someone who's looking to start their own creative business or endeavor?


Signe:  A friend when I was first starting to throw, and I was frustrated constantly, she said to me that I don't know if you can print, but I'm going to say it anyway. She said, "You've got make that clay your b*tch."


She said, "Make that clay your b*tch." It's controlling you right now, and you want to control the clay.
Once she said that it changed everything for me, because you don't know how far you can push it until you do.


You need to learn the limitations. You need to figure out how far is too far, so next time you stop just short of that, so you can get the piece taller, and thinner, and lighter, and more spherical. Whatever the thing you want, you just have to push it. If you are not going to push it, it's going to push you.

Nativen:  That's a good metaphor for any number of situations in life.


Signe:  Exactly. Confidence.


Nativen:  Yes. Do you have a hero, or someone who maybe has helped influence your work?


Signe:  My dadis my hero for sure, always will be. Ever since I was born, he thought everything I did was cool. He always indulged my questions, was patient with me. He always believed in me, and he never...I'm not afraid to try anything, because my parents gave me the freedom to try things, and they were very supportive.


My mother also is, she's an interior designer and she and my father exposed my brother and me to arts and crafts when we were toddlers. The first museum shows that made a huge impression on "little" me in the 70s were Calder and Picasso. I definitely get my sense of color, pattern, and texture from my mom. One of our "cheap thrills" is looking at ceramics at thrift stores... it's like a treasure hunt...


As far as creatively, Janine, the owner of my studio, she is so supportive. All of the artists who are in here, I'm inspired by all of them.  Then, as far as out there in the world, she's no longer alive, but Lucie Rie. Her work is beautiful.


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


Signe:  Coconut oil.


Nativen:  That's a good one. [laughs]


Signe:  I put it on everything, and I cook with it. I put it on my hair...on my skin. It's magical. 
Water, but I don't mean like drinking water although that's obvious.  I could never be land locked. I need to be around water.


I won't even say clay. I'm tempted to say clay, because it's what I do, it's what we are talking about, and I can't imagine not working with it, but if I ever stopped working with it, there would be something else I worked with. Right now it's clay.


Nativen:  I think it's interesting to hear you say that, because even though you obviously clearly have a connection with clay. It's good to know for yourself, within yourself, that even if you found that you were never able to work with clay again. You have the type of personality that could...


Signe:  It would be something else.


Nativen:  ...find another undertaking, exactly.


Signe:  I don't know. I've lost one of the most important people to me, my father, so I can live without any object honestly. As long as I have my health, and people who love me and whom I love, and coconut oil and some water.
[laughter]
I think I'm good.

Check out more of Signe's work here.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copywright of Nativen

Tamara Mayne: Brooklyn Candle Studio

Lily Hetzler

Brooklyn continues to be an ever-inspiring source of Maker energy.  On a crisp morning, in the burgeoning Industry City area of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, we visited the space of Tamara Mayne's, Brooklyn Candle Studio.  In her light-filled space, we chatted about the importance of community, the inspiration of long dewy hikes, and the source of her candle concepts.

Nativen:   First off, where are you from?

Tamara:  I'm from Virginia. I was born in California, in San Diego, and then I grew up in Northern Virginia, right outside of DC. I went to college at the University of Virginia. I was in Virginia for most of my life, and then I moved up here to New York.

Nativen:  Do you think growing up in Virginia influenced your choice to start making candles?

Tamara:  I think that it wasn't really a choice. It was an organic process.

Tamara: I didn't make any candles when I was younger. I was always artistic and I think that was the whole impetus for this.

I got a kit from Michael's. I started making them as gifts... I have a really big family in California, and it's really hard to have to buy gifts for everyone. Candles are a very universal thing, and people always appreciate it.

Nativen:  It feels personal, too, because there's love that goes into it. There's a very specific smell. Then when you burn it, it reminds you of that person.

Tamara:  It has a very heirloom type quality.

So, I got a kit, and it was like total mayhem. At the time, I was in my studio apartment in the lower east side. It was tiny. I didn't know where to get jars for a decent price. I hadn't learned about this whole buying wholesale thing.

I went to Trader Joe's. I bought 24 tomato sauces in jars and poured them out in zip lock bags and soaked them in my tub to take the labels off. It was just a disaster.
[laughter]

From there… I got really into it.

I'm a very obsessive person. If I get into something, I get into it. Once I got the hang of it and once I perfected the whole process, I was like, "I'm just going to keep going." 
I was experimenting with scents and wax temperature and everything, and trying to get the candles right.

Tamara: At the time, I was working as a graphic designer or director in fashion. That was my whole shtick. I was designing labels just for fun for the candles.

Then I posted a shop on Etsy, just to test it out. From there, it was like this snowball effect. Etsy featured me on email. All this stuff started happening. People started discovering me. A lot of stores were asking about wholesale from me. I was like, "I'm making 12 candles total."

I was just learning as I went. After a while, I was like, "I can make a living out of this." I got this 1,100 candle order from this subscription box service a year ago in February. It was like, "You know what, I'm just going to quit my job and see where this goes." It's been a year.
I'm doing it full‑time. I've been doing it full‑time since August.

Nativen:  That's very exciting. Congratulations. It's a great way to grow.

Tamara:  It's awesome. [laughs] Thank you.

Nativen:  You've lived in New York for a while. What do you love most about Brooklyn? How do you think that's integral to the work that you're doing here?

Tamara:  I just love the creative energy and, I guess, the hunt for authenticity in Brooklyn. Everyone, I think, wants whatever they purchase or whatever they eat to be real and local. It's almost laughable. People make fun of it all the time, the whole artisanal scene, but I think there is something to it. You want something that has a story and something that has a process.

Around this area right now, there's a really great entrepreneurial energy. Just people starting things and going on their own.

Nativen:  The artisans movement, the locavore movement that's happening in Brooklyn, I think people laugh about it, because it seems like one of those fleeting trend things; but it really does feel like a movement. It feels like a reaction to the way that branding has developed over the last 20 years. People actually want something that means something.

Tamara:  There are just so many disposable products out there, just too much stuff. I think about it and I'm like, "I'm kind of part of this,” but I try it as much as possible to use stuff that will be reused, like the mason jars, that people use as drinking glasses. The wax is sustainable. I try as much as possible to not create a negative impact in the environment.

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

Tamara:  If I could eat somewhere every day I’d say, Good Fork, which is in Red Hook. It's what Steve, my husband, and I really love about Brooklyn. It's this mix of cultures and they’ve created something totally new out of it. The atmosphere is really great. I love Red Hook, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Nativen:  It's like one of the last neighborhoody frontiers in Brooklyn just because it's not accessible to public transportation in the same way, I think people there still get to feel more like, "We're a good old fashioned community.

Tamara:  It's not going to stay that way for long? [laughs]

Nativen:  Definitely not. Do you have a favorite home goods store in Brooklyn?

Tamara:   On Smith Street, there's this store called ‘By Brooklyn.’ It's right on Smith and Degraw. There’s always awesome stuff, and it’s all made in Brooklyn.

Nativen: Do you have a favorite clothing store here?

Tamara: I would say Beacon's Closet in Williamsburg.

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

Tamara:  I would say my favorite park in New York and Brooklyn is Prospect Park. It's a lot more naturey, I feel like, than Central Park.

Nativen:  Definitely. It feels like a refuge from the city. Do you have a hidden gem in Brooklyn?

Tamara:  Yes. There's this place. It's a couple of blocks away from our house. It's called Black Mountain Wine House. I love it. It's so cozy.

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

Tamara:  It's just the general inspiration. I feel like seeing stuff that other people do, meeting other people, talking to other people, it's all combined. It's inspiring and the impetus for the packaging for the scents, for the whole business. It's just the air. [laughs]

Nativen:  Yeah, an inspiring...

Tamara:   Brooklyn Air.

[laughter]

Nativen: That's definitely one of the blessings about being in Brooklyn. It's just being surrounded by all of that and using it as a fuel to keep growing.

Tamara:  It's fun to get out there. If I need to clear my head and get inspired, I'll just walk down, browse in the shops and just walk around the neighborhood.
I'll come back and feel completely energized and inspired. Full of ideas. It just attracts that type of thing

Nativen:  It's contagious here.
Do you have a favorite candle that you've made so far?

Tamara: I would say I really like this guy. 
Fern and Moss is a mix of this oak moss and spruce and a few other things…

Nativen:  It's really fresh. It has a sweetness to it, but it’s not cloying. It just gives that fresh edge in a really warm and lovely way.

Tamara:  The label is a vintage engraving of ferns. I use a lot of botanical vintage engravings that I source from archives. This one was actually sourced for something for my husband and I's wedding, which was in August.

The scent is inspired by this hike that we did in Northern California. We were on a road trip with my brother‑in‑law and his wife. It was this beautiful hike: rainy and dewy, but Fern Valley… I think like Jurassic Park or something was filmed there, or something was filmed there. There are ferns everywhere. There was this beautiful waterfall. It was just an awesome place, so fresh and beautiful. 

Montana Forest is probably my other favorite just because my husband and I got married in Montana. It's funny, because these are inspired by places that aren't Brooklyn, but at the same time, I feel like it's like this mix of things.

Nativen:  It's bringing your world to you. It's so beautiful that each of your candles has a correlation and a story that relates to your life, and that's what makes it so personal. You can tell, when you smell a really beautiful candle, it's coming from a place of love.

Tamara:  Yeah… It's not like we came up with this in a ward room with droppers, testing stuff out. [laughs]

Nativen:  Smell is one of those really beautiful scense‑memory correlations that to be able to do that with a candle and have it for you. It's like you're archiving your history through the scent, which is so beautiful.

Tamara:  It's very cool.

Nativen:  It's a great way to catalog the story. What part of the process brings you the most joy?

Tamara:  It's hard to say. I would probably say the entire process is very meditative for me. When I was working as a designer, I was in front of the computer all day. It was creative but at the same time we're like, eyes are straining and you're sedentary. I would say I really love the mixing and pouring process.

To me, that's where everything culminates. Everything from wicking to pouring to mixing to cutting the wick to labeling, it's all a production process. I don't really think of it as so. Seeing the wax pour out, it's very peaceful. You play music and I take off my shoes and I'm just sashaying around.
It's pretty awesome. Also, I really love designing new products, coming up with new concepts for packaging and lines.

I still need to be doing that stuff, creating things, coming up with stuff.

Nativen:  It sounds like you've met a good business match for yourself. You've got a little bit of the Zen, and still so much of the creativity. You are conveying a really beautiful story, and so you get to do that for yourself now through your design and stuff, too, which is great.
What part of the process do you think is the greatest struggle for you?

Tamara:  It's working on customer service. Number one. Because I'm so sensitive, and when people don't like a scent...It happens sometimes, because people order them online, and they don't always love stuff.

I take it to heart all the time, but you’ve just got to let go. That part's very, very hard for me, and I'm still learning.

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

Tamara:  Travel the world. [laughter] There are a lot of places that I want to travel to. But my husband and I are going to Greece and Turkey this year. We're taking our honeymoon.

Nativen:  That's exciting.

Tamara:  Yes, so that's really big. I want to go to Asia. I want to go to India. I want to go all over the place. That's the one thing about...what was a big impetus for starting this business working for myself is being able to travel.

Nativen:  If you weren't making candles, what do you think you'd be doing?

Tamara:  Probably art direction, photography, styling, a lot of what I am doing for this company. But I would be doing that, probably, or starting another new, different business. 
I would always be an entrepreneur, no matter what. If I wasn’t doing candles, it would be something else.

Nativen:  Yes. I think once you get the bug, it's hard to go back.

I don't know if you listen to music when you work, but do you have a song that's on heavy rotation at the moment?

Tamara:  Yeah. I listen to Haim right now.

Nativen:  What are three words that you would use to sum up your work?

Tamara:  Nostalgia, Craftsmanship, Aroma

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

Tamara:  I've donated a few gift boxes to different charity events. I haven't been able to do a lot just because I’m so small right now, but I do that from time to time.I also participated in the Red Hook Maker's Market a few months ago, and that was a cool thing for the Red Hook community.

Nativen:  It's great to be participating with other artists, and building awareness within your community and getting people excited about that.

What's the most helpful advice you've received, or what advice would you offer to creative's that are looking to start their own thing?

Tamara:  I got some pretty good advice, actually. I would say this is probably a compendium of advice. But when I quit my job, I was reading "The Icarus Deception" by Seth Godin. It was just about how the Internet has taught a lot of young creatives to leverage, and take advantage of the marketplace and go global, and not have to be sitting at a desk all day, and not having to be at the mercy of a corporation.
It allows us all to be a lot more entrepreneurial, because we have this huge advantage of being able to reach people globally, and being able to be equals to big companies. Because we have all the resources, especially as designers.

I would say, all designers or creatives have the power to do this. There are tons of resources. You just have to be resourceful and just keep at it.

Nativen:  Do you have a hero, or someone who's helped influence your work really largely?

Tamara:  I would say my hero now is my husband. Because he's been so helpful, and so supportive, and just really helped me get through these rough patches. It's been really great!

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

Tamara:  [laughs] Let's see. I don't want to say my phone, but I’ve become a little bit more addicted to my iPhone.

I would say my DSLR camera. I love it so much. I bought it refurbished online. I always have that with me when I'm travelling.

My sketch book or my file-o-fax, which also doubles as my sketchbook and it's embarrassing.
It’s like the old school file boxes falling apart. If I don't write in it, it's not going to happen. I tried to use my iPhone for a while to do all my planner type stuff. I just didn't do any of it.

Kind bars. [laughs] I always have Kind bars.

And my candle [laughter] I actually carry a travel one of these little guys, it gives me cuddle times.

Nativen:  It's good. It's carrying your story through...

Tamara:  Just in case. [laughs]

Nativen:  Emergency fragrance situation.

Check out Tamara's candles here.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

This interview has been condensed & edited

all images copywright of Nativen

Sara Bigelow: The Meat Hook

Lily Hetzler

It was a chilly morning last week, the sun was shining and the smell of raw meat was thick in the air, as Sara came strolling up to the front of her butcher shop, The Meat Hook.  As we sat and chatted about the development of her journey through the meat world, I was completely inspired by her passion to challenge herself, and her commitment to quality… Not to mention, she so artfully handles a cut of meat: a graceful swoop of her blade, shows utter respect for her craft....

Plus her meat shop music jam might surprise you, check it out below.

Nativen:  You’re from LA, right? Do you think that growing up in Los Angeles in any way affected your decision to start being a butcher?

Sara:  I don’t know. That’s a good question. After I had moved out here, I was interested in this and I started working in this field. I was super‑interested in whether there was anything like that in Los Angeles.

Obviously in every large city there are communities that have butcher shops.

Growing up, my dad would get meat from Costco. He would come home with these enormous pork loins that were really gross, in retrospect.

Nativen:  [laughs]

Sara:  I think everywhere you grow up you eat things that are weird and regional. I grew up eating shark because it was an easy, cheap thing to get at the grocery store in San Diego. I think I stumbled on this in New York because it was happening here.

Nativen:  Was there a specific event that influenced that decision in your life to become a butcher?

Sara:  Yeah. I feel like this is a really boring story, but I was working in an office where I was in PR and pitching to food people the whole time. I was constantly reaching out to people who were working and writing about food. They were crafting a story about something liquor, and talking about how it was made. A couple times I got to go to Ireland or Scotland to see where things were being made and get a little behind the scenes of that.

If you’re making whiskey, you want something that is consistent but you can also learn a little bit more about the science of it and think about how the different weather factors will affect the way your stuff is aging.

The same thing is true with meat. If you’re breaking down beef every day, it can get really boring, but if what you’re looking at is a larger picture, you can think about: How was this aged? How was this grown? How old was it? How are these muscles different and why? You can go down the different rabbit holes of that food science, and that’s super interesting.

Nativen:   That’s how you make huge growths, by people who are super‑committed to one beautiful thing and building and developing that. Actually, I have a lot of admiration for it, because it’s not who I am as a person.

Sara:  It’s hard.

Nativen:  It is. It takes a really specific level of commitment. You were working in PR, before, right?

Sara:  Yeah. I was interested in food. I think still there are so many options available to you if you don’t have a food background…You can either come up through dish‑washing when you’re 15 years old. Start in kitchens at a pizza place or whatever, and continue to work and line cook and stuff out through high school or college. Or you can come to it from culinary school.

Short of that, you really have to force your way in. That’s what I did because I didn’t have any kitchen background. The people who do have kitchen background don’t really respect those who don’t so you have to prove yourself on a different level and show your merits elsewhere.

I came to an internship, basically, that I petitioned for, and I met one of the owners here when he was out having a beer. I asked his girlfriend, now wife, first if she would introduce me, because I didn’t want to seem like a creep.

It was the smart thing to do, because she was like, “Yeah, of course, here you go, blah blah blah…She wants to intern,” and I did. He was drunk and forgot that I was even showing up and, when I did show up, he was like, “Oh, oh yeah, sure. OK, fine.” It was a really easy introduction and I really liked it.

Actually, before that, my boyfriend at the time bought me charcuterie classes. I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it and, looking back now, thinking that I would ever be scared of touching raw meat or concerned that I would freak out or whatever. It’s so weird to me now, to think that.

Nativen:  Because it’s such a part of your everyday life.

Sara: It’s everyday, and also the disdain that you acquire after doing that everyday for people who don’t get it. There are still definitely things that gross me out about this job, but touching raw meat is not one of them anymore.

Nativen:  That’s an important thing to overcome, if you’re going to be a butcher. [laughs] Step one, be OK with touching raw meat. Everything else from there, just lessons.

Sara:  Yeah, it just falls into place.

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

Sara:  Good question. I’ve only ever lived in Park Slope and Bed‑Stuy and Williamsburg. I haven’t really seen the breadth and depth of Brooklyn as a resident, but I have tried to visit a lot of different places here and I love it, it’s great.

I think, when I moved here, it was getting to that point where it was saturated, like the cool thing to do. People in my circle weren’t moving to New York and moving to Manhattan because it was so expensive. It was a very easy option for me to say, “Brooklyn, of course” and I haven’t really looked back. I’ve never lived in the city. I always wanted to live in the city, a little bit, just because it seems like a fun experience. It sounds like a trip, honestly. To walk out your door and be there. That’s just crazy to me. But the neighborhood‑iness of this area is great. Williamsburg is a tourist destination, but it’s also in pockets, very much like an, old, residential neighborhood. Meeting people who have lived here for 20, 30 years are very interesting individuals.

I feel like it’s something that I grew up with. I definitely grew up in a suburb where people had lived for generations, but their stories weren’t as interesting to me. Because it’s like, “Oh, you lived in Culver City for 40 years, and now your son lives here too. That’s nice.” The community here [in Brooklyn], I think, is a lot different.

Nativen:  Sociologically, that’s really fascinating, because I guess I haven’t really thought about it exactly like that. I do think about the perspective of the residents, because it’s one of those things that you think about in the context of gentrification.

Some people really welcome gentrification from the standpoint of, “Oh, this means that beautiful and interesting things are coming to my neighborhood, or my property value that I own is going up, which is great,” or things like that.

It’s almost like being the eyes of someone who went from the Industrial Revolution to computers, or something like that. To live in a neighborhood where it was maybe impoverished or just super middle America, quiet. I mean middle America, in the sense of average income level kind of person or community, and then have it go to something like what the West Village is now, what Williamsburg is even becoming.

Sara:  Totally. It’s also very difficult to take any stance on that as somebody who works here, for example. I don’t want to say we’re part of the problem, but we’re certainly not the solution. We’re selling very expensive stuff, and I think our price points…We’re very conscious of what they are and why they are what they are.

We’re selling meat that not everyone can afford, and we know that. I think everyone’s not totally comfortable with that maybe. We’re not selling foie gras, We’re selling grass‑fed beef. The reason it’s expensive is because the way it’s raised is very expensive. The farmers have to charge a certain amount to make any kind of profit. Even then, the profit margins for farmers are so small.

Nativen:  I think it is really important to be part of that conversation too. I would love to be able to, in developing my product, charge it for nothing, something that everyone can afford, but you have to make sure that the people who are involved in it are getting compensated properly and things are being handled properly. I want to be supportive of that, and I’m sure you do too.

Sara:  It’s weird to stand on one side of the fence and say, “Gentrification’s bad, and shame on [X business] for moving into this neighborhood. Or this rib eye costs $40?” It feels really weird to say this grocery store that we’re a part of is a place that some people shop daily, some people shop weekly. Some people come here when they’re like, ” I’m flush with cash and I want to get something nice. I want to buy an expensive carrot and these fancy sausages, or whatever.” We know that. While we do want to be profitable, we don’t want to rip anybody off. We always try to strike a balance.

Nativen:  Just a couple of rapid‑fire questions. In Brooklyn, what’s your favorite restaurant?

Sara:  Oh, good question. Damn. I don’t want to say anything dumb to make myself sound cool. I’m just trying to think… Can we come back to that?

Nativen: Sure. Do you have a favorite home goods store?

Sara:  I love ABC Carpet, mostly because I like to go and play the “how much do you think this costs?” game, because you’re never right. It’s always three times as much as you think it’s going to be. It’s a beautiful space. I love the way it is put together. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased anything there but I love that it exists.

Nativen:  It’s like a New York institution that also creates a window into a whole world. ABC does it so well because it’s an entire building…

Sara:  Oh, it’s huge. It’s crazy.

Nativen: Favorite park or outdoor space?

Sara:  I love Prospect Park. Lame answer, but…I used to live a block away from there and I felt very lucky to live so close. It’s just great and sprawling.

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

Sara:  I don’t think I have my finger on the pulse of anything that’s really special…There is a casino out in the Rockaway area, near JFK, that has a race track and it’s a big, weird, bizarre casino ‑‑ Resort World. But they have dim sum and I sometimes come there for dim sum.

Nativen:  That’s a really good hidden gem outing. What do you think in Brooklyn is the greatest resource to your work?

Sara: I would say we have space here that you don’t in Manhattan. We can afford, as a business, to have more space to do more but we’re also easily accessible from Manhattan. People will come, get what they need and go back to where they live. We also have people who come in from Long Island to shop here, which is really nice.

As a small business it’s also very important that everyone likes each other and gets along, feels good around each other and is supportive of one another. That’s really big for us.

Nativen:  Do you have a favorite type of meat to cut or butcher?

Sara:  Yeah. I would say pigs are the easiest. Lambs are the most fun to teach people, because they’re like beef and pork but on a much smaller scale and you have all the same parts.

I think beef is the most fun just because it’s so big and it’s more complicated. You always feel cleaner doing it, I guess, for whatever reason. Lamb, you end up smelling like lamb. Pigs, it gets pig juice all over your hands. But beef, for some reason when you have beef blood and fat on your hands and on your apron, it doesn’t feel dirty. It feels accomplished, which is weird.

Nativen:  That’s great. No, that’s an awesome sensation. I think it’s a good sign that you’re in the right field.

Sara:  Yeah, completely.

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

Sara:  I think actually talking to customers. I love our customers. I love being able to introduce people to stuff and banter with them. Also, that social aspect is big for me. I really love being able to see the same people week after week or day after day.

I really like the tough customers who people avoid, because they’re demanding or they’re crazy or they ask a lot of questions or they’re rude. The ones are always my favorite.

I love the moment where the person who’s annoying or rude or brusque comes across to everybody as a little unapproachable, where you just find the right spot to push them and then you’re friends. It’s really fun.

There’s a guy who comes in, I think he’s German, and he is an art teacher. He comes in and he only wants like six slices of ham, or he only wants the bacon as long as it’s not fatty, which is anomalous because bacon is fatty. It comes from the belly. He rarely gets what he wants.

But he comes in and he’s like, “Oh, gosh. You don’t have this thing,” and he’s very sassy about it. I just started sassing him back, and he takes it so well. Now, we’re buds. Every time he comes in, he waits for me to wait on him because we get along. It’s great. It’s super fun and I think that’s the most satisfying part of my day is getting our customers what they want and talking to the people who enjoy coming here.

Nativen:  Food is so personal, but to be able to connect with somebody on that I think is really beautiful. What part of the process do you think is the biggest struggle for you?

Sara:  Just lifting things everyday ‑‑ day in, day out, for years. Eventually, you’re just exhausted. I think that was the most fun part originally for me, it was like, oh I get to be a badass and throw things on my shoulder. It definitely makes you stronger and it’s not difficult, but it’s still…

Nativen:  Grueling and hard on your body. What’s one thing that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet?

Sara:  Go to Africa. I have never been. I love traveling. I don’t get to travel enough. I got to go to Western Europe, like France England, and Spain, which was awesome.

But I haven’t been anywhere recently that has really challenged me or freaked me out, or anywhere that would give me any kind of culture shock. I think that that’s really important, and I haven’t done that in a very long time. I would like to do that.

Nativen:  That’s awesome. If you weren’t a butcher, what do you think you would be?

Sara:  A student, probably. [laughs] I would probably be in grad school, is my guess. Other than that, I don’t really know. I like structure. I like having clear hierarchies and clear protocols for things and all of that.

Nativen: I think that’s really valuable for your business and for you as an individual. That’s really cool. Clearly, you guys listen to music while you work, but is there a song in particular that you’re really into right now that you listen to a lot?

Sara:  This is super embarrassing. Everyone here is listening to Taylor Swift. Everybody. It’s so embarrassing. One of the owners is super, super into Taylor Swift. We actually all hung out the other night and sat around debating whether or not one song was really bad or really good. It was pathetic. We’re all like 29 to 34.

Nativen:  Taylor Swift fans.

Sara:   Oh, god. It’s embarrassing. What else? The cool thing about that, though, is that everyone has a pretty diverse range of musical taste. We listen to weird 1960s underground folk music, bookended by Taylor Swift and Rihanna… I think when you’re working in a small space under fluorescent lighting doing manual labor, you need pop music. The other day someone put on “Sea Change” by Beck and…

Nativen:  And it gets sad really quick even though it’s beautiful music.

Sara:  Yeah, it was great. I love Beck too, but you can’t really get pumped to break down a beef shoulder to that.

Nativen:  I like that. That’s a good quote…. What are three words that sum up your work?

Sara:  Fun. Bloody. I don’t know… Raw.

Nativen:  That’s good. I like it. Is there something that you do with your work to specifically connect with your community?

Sara:  I always say yes to everything, so if someone asks me to come meet them to talk about either the shop or whatever, I say “Yes.” The Slow Food Alliance asked me a couple of years ago to go and break down a lamb for them and talk about our process with a chef from someplace in the West Village. I was like “Yes, absolutely.”

I don’t think any of us who do these kinds of things are really making any money on them, but it’s fun. I think it’s really important for the business name to get out there, for sure. But also, you get to meet really interesting people and you get to do really interesting stuff and you get to see the way that other people see the butcher shop.

I think all of us try to say yes to as much as we can, because we want to be a part of a larger food conversation. We want to be a part of the whole spectrum of meat production, whether that’s at a farm or a slaughterhouse. Brent and I went down to Virginia to a particular ham maker, because I hadn’t seen a country ham producer before. I was really excited about that, because that’s one thing that I’m just in love with and excited about.

Being able to talk to them about their production schedule and how they do it and what the message is for them, as far as their product and their place in the food world, was all super interesting.

I guess to be a part of the New York food community. We want to be a butcher shop that doesn’t have any ego, hopefully. I think it’s five years ago, when this place opened, it was like, “Ooh, rock‑star butchers. They’re so cool.” It was cool to be above it all, because you do this awesome artisanal craft that no one else does.

Now, there a ton of butcher shops that are doing the exact same thing, which is awesome. But it also means that you can’t really be standoffish. You have to embrace your part in the food world and what other people are doing.

Nativen:  Absolutely, it’s great to be supportive about it and use that as an asset rather than a feeling of threat.

Sara:  We try to work with restaurants on a very, very limited basis that are in the neighborhood. We don’t do delivery. We don’t technically do wholesale, but we do work with restaurants that we like, that we support and that we think are doing cool stuff where we can. We have Yuji Ramen. Are you familiar with this guy?

Nativen:  I haven’t been there.

Sara:  He opened a ramen place, it close. He is just a really awesome guy and he opened a Chinese spot called Okonomi, which is on Lorimer Street near the sandwich shop that we opened in March.

Nativen:  To have a rapport with someone.

Sara:  Yeah, exactly, and feel like we can talk to customers about him and about his stuff is and what he’s doing. I think it’s fun for people who live around here too, to say like, ” I go to this place and I can get my awesome sausages, but then I can go to this place and they’re using responsibly‑sourced bones for their ramen broth. I feel good about that.”

Nativen:  What’s the most helpful advice you’ve received or what advice would you offer to creatives that are looking to develop their own thing?

Sara:  Let’s see. I would say that having somebody, whether it’s your friends or the person you’re dating or whoever, being really supportive of whatever you’re doing. Not crucial by any means. You can do it on your own, absolutely. But I think having the people around you who love and support you is so helpful.

Here I’m working with a team of 10 people who are all doing the same kind of thing. We’re all working together towards the same goal of producing the stuff everyday.

But if you’re doing something on your own, if you are starting a clothing line or if you are writing a book or whatever, I think it’s really helpful to have a network of people outside of your experience of what you’re doing every single day who are…Maybe they don’t understand what you’re doing. Maybe they have no idea what your day is like. But they’re really excited for you to succeed and pull for you.

Nativen:  You’ve got to have a support network… That’s a valuable piece of advice. Do you have a hero in this line of work?

Sara:  Kari Underly, I think, would be. She’s awesome and her book is great. She is a part of the meat industry in a way that’s under the radar. I think the whole, “You’re a lady, you’re a butcher, you’re a lady butcher?” That thing is old, it’s tired. No one should care. I think most people don’t at this point. I think it is still difficult to be a woman and be in any business, in any line of work. Whether you’re a teacher or a nurse or whatever it is. Even if you’re in a role that’s traditionally female, it’s still hard.

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

Sara:  Chapstick and good knives, obviously. I feel like that’s an easy one: right now, my phone, it sucks.

Nativen:  It’s a mobile tool.

Sara:  You have to have a laptop in your hand. You have to have a computer at your disposal. It is a frustrating reality. Yesterday I had half an hour to sit down at a computer and bang something out for this event last night, and that was the only time I actually got to sit and work at a desk. Otherwise, you’re standing in a corner on your phone.

So for sure my phone and I really can’t live without my good water bottle or cheese…

...I’m also going to say, for restaurants, Okonomi’s really stellar. Really, really good. I’m not saying that because we work with them. I’m saying that because they have a really weird range. They have a small Japanese set‑menu breakfast in the morning and then at night they have ramen. Their ramen is, they have some really weird stuff. They have one with Camembert and salmon on ramen, which sounds gnarly, and it was amazing.

Nativen:  Because Camembert can do some really beautiful things.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

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

all images copywright 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

Moriah Cowles: Orchard Steel

Lily Hetzler

This month we put the oh-so talented Blacksmith and Knifemaker Moriah Cowles, of Orchard Steel in the hot seat (we really do love our puns).

Her adventures Woofing thru Mexico, hand forging on a charcoal stove, and finding inspiration in the daily life at her family orchard in Vermont; fills us with a desire to cultivate the simple life…  Read on!

…and check out the tune that keeps her forge burning: below this interview

Nativen:  First off, where are you from?

Moriah:  I’m from Vermont, originally…. From just south of Burlington in a little town called Shelburne.

Nativen:  How did growing up in Vermont influence your choice, do you think, to start doing knife making?

Moriah:  That’s a good question… I grew up around a lot of artists and woodworkers. I think growing up on a farm… doing wood-working and metal working, just helping my dad out in the shop and stuff.

I don’t know if it came naturally to me, but it was just something that I learned while growing up on an apple orchard.

…I’ve always had an interest in making things. I’ve also always just loved to do art, and make stuff with my hands. I can’t really help myself.

Nativen:   When did you realize that you wanted to be a knife-maker?

Moriah:  I went to school in Colorado. I was an Art Studio minor, and I went out there one summer and took a blacksmithing class.  It was the perfect marriage of art and function. I was making stuff that I could use and that felt really good.

When I was in this class, it was called “Blacksmithing and the Art of Utility,” I was able to make beautiful things that had really beautiful feminine shapes to them, and curves …in this really hands‑on organic way of beating on steel, and using fire.

It was very elemental. I got to make stuff that I could bring home and use… It was [a] really satisfying feeling.

Then, I hauled my college boyfriend back with me to Vermont and we worked on the family farm for three years, on the orchard, and also grew food.

On the side, I was teaching myself how to blacksmith… and eventually bought a forge, and borrowed our farrier’s anvil. The guy who does our horseshoes lent me one of his anvils, which is still the one I use.

I was making all these projects, and every time… I was like, “I feel like I’m reinventing the wheel.” I kinda want to specialize in something… And then… I took [a] blacksmithing class, in North Carolina, we made knives out of railroad spikes, which isn’t the best steel, but… they’re pretty and fun to mess around with. That was really exciting!…

I went to make another one, and I was Googling it, and found out that you need a certain type of steel… You need to use this process called heat-treating, which I didn’t know anything about… and all of a sudden the light went off.

It was like, “This is my specialization”

Then, that winter I took a bicycle trip through Mexico with that boyfriend, starting in New Mexico and went down through to Michoacán.

The whole way I had this dream… I was going to, somewhere along our trip, meet this old man who made knives that I was going to learn from.

So, I kept asking people along the way if they knew knife makers, and nobody did.

We got to this place where we decided we were going to stay awhile… we were working on farms in exchange for a place to stay, and food to eat.

We were… on this farm, and I asked the guy that we were working with, just cause I was asking everyone…and he was like, “Actually, yeah, there’s this really well‑known, amazing knife-maker, who lives right down the street, and he sells his wife’s sourdough bread on Tuesday’s at the farmer’s market. You should go meet him.”

That Tuesday I went down, all nervous, and went up to him, and said, “Oh my god, I hear you make knives. I really want to learn how to make knives.” My boyfriend at the time was with me, and he was like, “Yeah, she made this knife for me!..” I was like, ” Guuulgh shut up!”… [laughs]

He was like, “Ohhh, you think you know how to make knives?… All right, fine. Come by tomorrow at one, we’ll talk. You can come and see my shop.”

I went that next day, and he was like, “…Make a knife and show me what you know.”

I was trying to make a knife, but I didn’t know his setup… it was all outdoor, no electricity, charcoal forge and he was leaning over my shoulder, telling me what I was doing wrong.

“You’re holding the hammer wrong, and you’re doing this wrong, and why would you think to do that, and what about this?”

I was there from one in the afternoon until nine at night, and I finally finished and had heat-treated the knife, and I had almost cried in the middle of it. It was a hot day. I was outside all day, just scorched, and by a forge!

…[but] I stuck through it, and he looked at me and was like, “OK, you proved you’re interested.  Come back tomorrow.”

I went back the next day, and he was a total sweetheart, and [I] had lunch with his family every day and I went back for six weeks. I apprenticed with him.

Nativen:  Amazing.

Moriah:  …Then, when I came back… I started looking into it and… there’s a society called the American Bladesmith Society, that I’m now a part of.  I took a class with them, up in Maine and then I just started making knives… I wanted to do something totally different. I wanted to learn about film and knives.

[So] I went out to New Mexico to work for a friend [on] his first feature‑length narrative. …Working with him and just a small seven‑person crew…All of the crew was from Brooklyn.

While I was working with him, I got an email from a friend of mine…who said… “Hey, I just wanted to reach out to you…I’m living in Brooklyn right now.. and there’s this guy who used to work in my shop who makes knives. I hear you’re making knives. It’s really weird that I know two people that do this. I figured I’d connect you. It was sort of my job to connect you guys… I doubt you’d ever want to live in New York City, but if you did, he’s looking for help. Here’s his information.”

And I read it, and I was around all these Brooklyn guys and they’re like, “Move to Brooklyn!” Two of them were like, “One of our roommates is moving out in September. You could totally move in with us.”

Nativen:  So fortuitous.

Moriah:  ..So, I emailed Joel [Bukiewicz], who was her friend, of Cut Brooklyn, and on my way back from working on the film, swung through New York and met him…We talked for two hours and nerded out on knives.

He was like, “All right, if you want to, you can start in two weeks.”

I went back to Vermont, tied up loose ends, threw some clothes in apple boxes, and put them in the back of my pickup truck and moved to Brooklyn.

That was three and a half years ago. That’s how I got here, through him. It was very serendipitous.

…[The] building that I moved into with those guys, two months after I moved in… burned down.. I got the settlement two years later, right when I was thinking of starting my own business…

The settlement check started my business.

Nativen:  Amazing. That’s super fortuitous!

Moriah:  Yeah. Maybe I’m just one of those people that’s like, “This is totally a sign!” [laughs]

Nativen:  No, but the world works in mysterious ways, and when you have good energy flowing, that energy finds you. It’s awesome… The knife gods are smiling on you. I feel like it’s a good story.

Nativen: My next question is: What do you love most about Brooklyn? You talked about this a little bit, but how is it integral to your work?

Moriah:  I really love what’s going on in Brooklyn right now… I’ve sort of come here at this amazing time where there’s tons of people that are going back to making things by hand and kind of getting into that artisanal anything. … Brooklyn has a name for itself now.

Nativen:  Being a craft city?

Moriah:  Yeah. It’s so inspiring. I’ll even look across here and think, “Who are these people? What are they making?” People right over there… I’ve thought about writing a sign like, “Who are you? Can I come over for a beer?”

Nativen:  [laughs]

Moriah:  That’s great. I love that about Brooklyn. It’s also sort of this epicenter for press. So, It’s a great place to start a business …It’s cool to be a part of this community in that way. It’s good for business in that sense, but it’s also good for your heart to be a part of a community.

Nativen:  Yeah.

In Brooklyn, what’s your favorite restaurant?

Moriah:  I don’t know. My favorite is cooking food with my roommates. [laughs]

Nativen:  That’s great. That can be your restaurant [at] home.

Do you have a favorite home goods store?

Moriah:  Brooklyn Kitchen is a cool home goods store.

Nativen:  Do you have a favorite clothing store?

Moriah:  What’s the thrift store that has the creepy baby face?

Nativen:  Beacon’s Closet.

Moriah:  [laughter]…I like that place.

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

Moriah:  Prospect Park.

Nativen:  Obviously.

 [laughter]

Nativen:  Do you have a hidden gem in Brooklyn that you…?

Moriah:  I’m not going to tell you that…. no I’m kidding. [laughs] …One sweet place to go and have a beer after work… is the little dock space behind Ikea… They’ve created a cool little park spot down there that can be really nice.

Nativen:  That’s a good hidden gem.

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

Moriah:  Joel. [Cut Brooklyn]

Nativen:  That’s awesome…. What do you think is your favorite piece that you’ve made so far, if you have a favorite piece that you’ve made so far?

Moriah:  Well knife-wise… I’m really loving the steak knives that I’m making. I think that they’re really sexy, the shape of them and everything.

I don’t know why sexy comes up every time I think of the most beautiful knives, but they have this sex appeal to them… The really big 11inch chef knives I love. There’s something about the weight of them… They’re heavy, they mean business, but they still have a grace and lightness about them

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

Moriah:  I love forging them… That’s what got me into it in the first place, but I also really love when I’m doing the final buffing of the knife and the grain of the wood comes out… you see the character… It’s like the soul of the knife.

There’s a saying that when you heat-treat and when you quench the steel, that’s when you give the knife its soul. It’s a really meditative and powerful part of the process, because you have to really be paying attention. It makes or breaks the knife, literally, actually.

Nativen:  That’s awesome. That’s a cool thing to experience in your hands.

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

Moriah:  Well… The heat-treating process is the greatest struggle… I don’t always know if I did it right… There’s a few ways that I can tell, by the color of the steel after it comes out… I would test the edge, and if it got dull quickly that meant that it didn’t work.

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

Moriah: Go mountain biking.

Nativen:  If you weren’t a knife maker, what would you be?

Moriah:  That’s the million dollar question. I don’t know. Can I say I don’t know? That’s a great question.

Nativen:  Yeah. You can say you don’t know. In fact, I think that’s a really good sign that you’re in the right place.

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

Moriah:   I want to go to Normandy, and I want to go to Scotland to visit distilleries.

My father has a distillery in the apple orchard. We make apple brandy, so I’ve been tasting different bottles of calvados… I think it will be fun to meet different distillers in Normandy, which is the region where they make calvados… apple brandy.

I would love to take a bike trip through Scotland.

I’ve watched my father as a business owner do something that he totally loves but has taken a really long time to support more than itself… watching him try to figure out this work‑life balance. And I’ve watched my mom force him to take vacations and go do something that is totally unrelated to work.

Those are the times when he comes up with the most creative solutions to problems that he’s been dealing with… Sometimes it is just a matter of getting away, dropping work, and dropping back into yourself in a way that you can only do sometimes when you get away from work, and get inspired and excited about life outside of your work, and then you can go back with this new perspective.

Nativen:  Absolutely, and France has beautiful knife makers, too I bought a gorgeous knife from this man in Southern France. He hand‑forges them and shapes them, and everything, there.

Moriah:  …We’re everywhere. [laughs]

Nativen:  Yeah. It’s true. It’s awesome. I’m glad about it.

Do you listen to music when you work?

Moriah:  I do. More recently, I usually listen to Pod casts.

Nativen:  Do you have a song or an artist that you kind of have on regular rotation right now?

Moriah:  I’ve been listening a lot to “Lake Street Dive.” Have you ever heard of them?… [laughs] There is a song called “The Neighbor’s Song” which is a song about living in Brooklyn, and it’s like, “I can hear my neighbors making love upstairs.”

[laughter]

Nativen: What are [a couple of] words that sum up your work?  I feel like sexy has to be one.

[laughter]

Moriah:  Sexy can be one!

Functional ‑‑ it’s kind of boring, but that’s true.

Nativen:  No… Absolutely.  

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

Moriah:  I would say… It’s important to recognize when you need help from other people and not be shy about asking for it.

Nativen:  Yeah, that’s great.

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

Moriah:  [laughs] This is going to sound cheesy, but I feel like my dad. I’ve mentioned him before… He doesn’t make knives obviously, but I talk to him frequently and… every time… no matter what he’s doing, he’s like, “God, I love my life.” [laughs]

He’ll be walking around the apple orchard and he’s sooo beside himself, feeling lucky for what he’s doing. It’s what’s been able to make his business work, because people want to support that, and it shows in the land, in the apples, in brandy, in everything.

[A] piece of advice he gave me, which has been really helpful… Sometimes you just have bad days. At the end of a day if you’re exhausted, you’re trying to finish something, he has always said, “Never underestimate the power of a clean shop and a fresh start in the morning.”

Sometimes I’ll put what I’m doing down, and I’ll clean my shop, and go home. Sometimes if I don’t do that, that’s when I cut myself or break something. It’s a simple piece of advice.

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

Moriah:   My fiddle.

I want to say a hammer and anvil as one. Can that be a one object?

Nativen:  Sure.

Moriah:  [laughs] My bicycle, coffee maker. [laughs]

Nativen:  Oh, that’s a good one. Coffee maker ‑‑ I like that.

You can check out more of Moriah’s work here.

Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler

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