Recently, as I performed a standard scroll through social media, I stopped on a striking photograph of my friend Consuelo adorned in magical jewelry. I knew we had to get it in the store. Well it turns out, the designer is a pretty magical lady herself. Marika Emerson belongs to the posse of beautiful, talented women who work at Eden Boutique and her own line of "talismanic", metal-smithed jewelry is garnering some well-deserved attention. I'm proud to say we now stock Ay Marieke's Ojo and cuff designs at Backtalk. Marika shares some of her journey with us for our second installment of Designer's Talk Back:
Q: You recently launched Ay Marieke, your first independent endeavor into design, but you work at Eden with a host of other talented women and have been in the Portland design world for a while. What inspired you line's launch?
A: The line has been around since 2010, when I
decided that I would need a name as an umbrella for the metalwork and
jewelry designs I was making. I wanted something eponymous, but I also
wanted to avoid being boring. My first name, Marika, comes from a Jacques Brel song called "Marieke"
with the lyric, "Ay Marieke, Marieke."
This collection is the first formal offering I've put together – before Spring 2013 I would make one piece at a time, motivated solely by my own whim. A few of the pieces in the Spring collection are ones I have been making for awhile but the majority of it is new. I have this magical unicorn of a friend named Baxter who is an inspirational lightning rod for me. While he was visiting last autumn, we sat on my balcony during a rainstorm drawing together. I started getting all of these ideas – lots of ocular and mystical themes emerged in my sketches. Within a week I had 45 pieces sketched out, which led to months of prototyping and tweaking; I pretty much spent the whole winter finessing those designs.
As for my day job – working at Eden is the best! My boss, Cindy is a kind-hearted, talented and inspiring lady and I absolutely adore all of the other girls at the shop. I do a lot of the marketing / social media / photo stuff for Eden and working on that has sort of forced me to be more of a grown up business lady about my jewelry line. I have a clearer attitude about the importance of marketing myself and doing certain things (having seasonal collections, producing look books, advertising, soliciting wholesale accounts, participating in holiday markets and sales) that allow and encourage this business to grow.Q: Can you tell us the story of your line? I recognize a motif of mythological figures. There also seem to be references to ancient Egypt. Where do you draw your inspiration from and how does that translate in to jewelry design?
A: The jewelry that feels most magic for me usually has a talismanic aspect, whether from an implied value by the wearer, the significance of who it came from or something else. I have so much respect for the power that jewelry can have and I always want to make things that are precious to the wearer. I try to use the finest materials I can (silver and semi-precious gemstones) but in lieu of gold I use brass, and to make it feel finer, I spend a lot of time with the metal, hammering and finishing it so it's special. A friend of mine lost a brass cuff which I'd made her in a deep river in South America. She actually dove to the bottom of the river to rescue the bracelet because as she said, she felt like she couldn't go on without it. I love that!
I'm a deeply nostalgic lady. At a museum I'll always end up getting mushy in front of some classical landscape painting while everyone else hangs out in the modern art section. I love poring over Edwardian, Georgian, Byzantine, Etruscan jewelry designs, and while I never want to be a reproduction-based jewelry maker, there is such inspiration to be found in work from the past. It is mysterious, you don't always know about the craftsman who made it, but we have a larger collective record of jewelry going back thousands of years because unlike clothing or other man-made objects, it really lasts. And I love the idea of something lasting, being passed down and loved like that.Q: Can you also tell us about your personal story or journey? What led you to design and to Portland and what has kept you here?
A: I've always been a crafty, tactile-oriented person, plus I'm a textbook Taurus, so I love beautiful things and objects. It was probably inevitable that I started making jewelry in high school – super basic, bead store tutorial kind of things. I kept at it through college, and while my skills grew, it was still mostly assembly-work. In 2008, a friend encouraged me to apply for a metal-smithing and design apprenticeship with a local jewelry studio. One of the best decisions I've made, by far! I worked at that studio for two years, gained a whole slew of skills and built up a collection of tools and supplies. Most of all, learning metalwork gave me the very strong sense that I could do this and successfully earn a living.
When I was 16, I visited Portland for a writing workshop and the city, the landscape, even the rain enchanted me – pretty much the waves of feelings lots of people feel when they visit the Northwest for the first time. When I moved here five years later it felt very much the same. My boyfriend relocated a year before I did so there was definitely a motivation to be near him, but I also saw Portland as a city that would support me as an artist, where I could meet similarly minded people. And it has been, and I have!
Q: What are you top 5 Portland favorite pastimes?
A: In my heart, I'm an east side gal, but right now we live on the west side and I feel so lucky to be a fifteen minute walk to the Rose Garden and Washington Park. It's my personal retreat when I feel overwhelmed: rain or shine, go get a coffee and take a short walk up into a forest. I'm a pretty big homebody otherwise, leaving the house to eat dinner counts as a treat for me! I love the Living Room's Monday and Tuesday $5 movie tickets. I also love the Valrhona chocolate croissants at Ken's – if you go early in the morning sometimes you get a warm one with melty chocolate in the middle – it's the best. With summer (sort of) being here, I'm trying to go be in nature as much as possible, be it a day trip to Sauvie Island or camping on the coast!
Q: What comes next? Any sneak peeks at future plans for Ay Marieke?
A: I'm currently sketching out ideas for Fall. I think the next collection is going to go in a really opulent direction. Dark, moody colors and lots of antiqued silver and the like. In the long-long term, I'd love to get into fine jewelry. Right now I'm working at getting my jewelry into awesome shops like Backtalk and on the bodies of my buddies, ha. A number of my gal pals have gotten Ojo rings and one of my friends said she felt like they were the official girl gang piece of jewelry!
Backtalk will be celebrating the summer solstice on June 23rd when the moon shines full in Capricorn. Tarot readings with Psychic Siamese Terror, exclusive apothecary items, tea tasting, hair braiding and debut summer designs from Alexa Stark? OH MY! Join us from 6-10 PM this Sunday.
When we first encountered Karen Mabon's line of vibrant, silk scarves we fell in love. Each scarf presents one of Mabon's hand-drawn designs, applied to high-quality silk through digital and screen printing.
When the scarves arrived, we fell a little more in love. They are incredibly soft, delicate and bright.
The UK-based designer graduated from Royal Arts College in 2011 and launched Red Brick soon after. The line weaves classic narratives with whimsical images and it is all executed in the most exceptional quality.
Come explore a variety of sizes, stories and colors in store...
Welcome to our first installment of "Designers Talk Back", a new Q & A blog series we've created to reveal our wonderful designers to Backtalk followers. Perhaps you've seen their wonderful creations in our store but what makes these pieces particularly magical are the inspiring humans behind them.
So meet Telle! I first met Telle and Rex Lefler last
summer at an evening trunk show they participated in at Sword + Fern
where we ate summer fruit, drank rose and talked about epic, desert
camping trips. Telle and Rex re-located to Portland in 2010 to launch their
line ISWAS+WILLBE and plan to return to their East Coast community this summer. They will be dearly missed. Luckily, Telle took a moment shared some Portland gems with us.
BACKTALK: What is your favorite place to spend time outdoors in the Portland?
TELLE LEFLER: I love exploring Forest Park, any time of the year! There is something so magical about the woods there, and its unique to have such an expansive park so close by, a respite away from the constructs of the city. Nature is my muse-- I go there to feel revitalized.
B: I know that you focus on design and Rex does the hand-cutting for your line. Can you tell us more about your respective roles and the collaborative design process you two share?
TL: Rex represents the futuristic/scifi elements of our design, while I am nostalgic and inspired by dusty old things; he specializes in shapes and I am attuned to playing with color palettes. We balance one another in a way that brings a nowness to our creations. Since starting our jewelry line in 2011, nearly all of our designs have been collaborative, and now we are at a point in the process where we both desire to focus more on the "collective" concept of our venture, with each of us pursuing individual projects under the IW+WB umbrella. We will branch out and get lost in our own little creative worlds, then come back together and be like, "Bam! Check this out!" Collaborating on everything, there is less of the element of surprise since we were both hammering out the same ideas every step of the way. We're excited!
You mention on your website that you've worked in various art mediums
since childhood. What other creative projects do you pursue and how do
you think they intersect with the jewelry you create?
TL: We are collectors and curators, both of things found in nature and of old beautiful pieces. Our collecting definitely flavors our jewelry designs; we have an old Turkish kilim in our studio that has been a muse for Rex and his geometric designs. We are both very inspired by natural history and science. For as long as I can remember, I've collected stones, and they act as place-markers in my life. Our rock collection has become so massive, and I've got plans to start working some of our worldly finds into upcoming collections.
You worked at a bead shop in college. What were you studying and what
work did you do before fully committing to your jewelry line?
TL: I got my BA in Interdisciplinary studies with a self-designed major, which means essentially I made up my own class schedule. It was fun, a total learning process, and I only had a vague sense of direction. My concentrations were in theatrical costuming, apparel design, and entrepreneurship. At the time, I was very into the idea of being a costume designer, or owning a shop with my own line of apparel. After doing some freelance work in both film and fashion, I came to the conclusion that design and construction were something I enjoyed immensely for myself, and that adding the element of working for others was ultimately not satisfying to me. Working at the bead store, I had instant feedback on all of my jewelry designs and had a really positive reception. I started selling jewelry on Etsy in 2006 and nursed it on the side for years before finally deciding to plunge fully into it.
B: So you and Rex have lived in Portland for a few years now. What do you like (or dislike) about it? And how does the Northwest landscape inform your line?
TL: Portland ranks up there with some of my favorite cities on the planet. There is just so much that this place *gets*-- the general consciousness of things. It's one of those places I love coming back to after a long trip, it just feels like home, like these are my people. People care here; its obvious that there is passion in the community, and its what has shaped the city to be such a fascinating place. One strike that Portland gets: the lack of thunderstorms! I miss that magical electricity that builds in the air before a massive storm.
My dad recently asked me to sum up my time here in Portland in one sentence. What I came up with was this: "Everything grows here."
There is something undeniably fertile about Portland, and the Pacific Northwest in general. I never thought moving to a bigger city would put me back in touch with the naturegirl in me, but that's exactly what has happened. It's so hard not to be influenced by all the natural beauty of the PNW when it is quite literally in your face--no seriously, in the spring/summer, you've really got to duck around some of the trees and flowers when walking through certain neighborhoods!
B: Ok and finally, what are your top 5 ultimate favorite, local spots? (shops, restaurants, coffee roasters, events, etc.)
1. Favorite coffee shop: Fresh Pot on Mississippi, I always get their Chai latte, its spicy and not too sweet!
2. Favorite Music Venue: Mississippi Studios; always an intimate crowd and tasty food at Bar Bar next door is a major plus
3. Best Cocktail: The tequila gimlet from Circa 33. They make it with creme de violette, which gives it a lovely glowing purple hue
4. Favorite guilt-free dinner: the Thai Burger Bowl from Dick's Kitchen with the protein of the week; so refreshing and satisfying
5. Favorite place to kill time on a rainy weekend: The downtown library. Those staircases are INSANE! The first time I went there, they were doing a free opera show on the highest floor, just out in the open. It was so beautiful to experience something so "fancy" in such a casual way.
B: What does the near future hold for IS WAS + WILL BE?
TL: This summer, our journey is taking us back to Asheville, NC to rejoin the community we left two years ago when we came out to Portland. We are excited for this homecoming--our experiences on the West coast have helped shape us and given fresh insights. As mentioned before, we will both be pursuing some new projects, so keep an eye out for those developments! In addition, living in PDX and getting to know so many awesome shop-owners has inspired Rex to follow his own passion of curating a space; he is looking into opening a shop in Asheville with an emphasis on quality handmade, sharp design, and the outdoors. As for myself, I have been searching for a way to balance my creative and my humanitarian sides, and I am exploring the option of going back to school to get a masters in mental health counseling. Our jewelry and our making will always be a part of us no matter where we are; we design for the journey, which is what it's all about!
We had a brief, wondrous week of sunshine in Portland and, if nothing more, it got us excited for the days of rays to come in the near future. Here are some summer essentials from the shop:
We are quite proud of our primary eye wear line FETCH, a Portland-based organization that donates all proceeds to the Pixie Project. Backtalk also just stocked its shelves with our first swimwear line and expanded our Daily Sanfranciscan jewelry collection. Basically, we've got you covered (well at least in the places it counts). So look good, feel good, soak it in!
Shades: 85, Swimsuit: 120, Hoops: 48.
The other day, an exquisite, soft-spoken woman named Gargi walked in to Backtalk. She approached me with a loom-woven bag from her recently launched line Thread & Loom. The piece was intricately embroidered, fitted with industrious leather handles and lined in brightly colored jute. I immediately recognized the quality and thoughtful design invested in her pieces. The label however read "Made in India".
"Unfortunately" I told her, "we don't often carry lines that are constructed outside of the U.S. unless they have a story or are made by the designer."
Gargi graciously replied, "They do have a story. I actually traveled to India and was involved in the production which is performed by Indian craftswomen."
"they are paid fair wages for their artistry and all of the line's proceeds go to education for girls in Mumbai's red light district."
Apparently, I had spoken too soon. Gargi's story reads:
" Thread&Loom was born when Gargi stepped away from her decade long career in corporate fashion first in New York and then Los Angeles for a recharging and inspiring journey of six months. Volunteering as a designer for Awamaki, an NGO based in the Peruvian city of Ollantaytambo, she was able to take lessons from the indigenous weavers in their two thousand year old art. A five week stop through the western coast of Portugal and south-west of Spain and she was back in India, left to be inspired by the dusty bright camel fairs of the Rajasthan desert.
It was here that a collaboration with hand-loom weavers, needlework artists and leather craftsmen resulted in the socially driven brand of Thread & Loom. We like to play with unexpected ways of using traditional crafts and techniques."
Thus, Thread & Loom is a very new line with a very big heart. Luckily, the beautiful story of craftswomanship, empowerment and love is literally woven in to each piece. Backtalk is now a proud stockist of the Flea Carry-all and Festival Cross Body designs.
Gargi's line represents so many of the qualities Backtalk strives for in our shop's designs: ethics, quality, craftswomanship, and a powerful story.
Did I mention that these are also ideal spring and summer bags? Roomy and comfortable these travel well via bike ride, marketplace or beach.
We are pleased to welcome Gargi and her designs to our space. <3
This little lilly stopped in for our Courtshop Denim Event. I loved her rings and contrasting neutrals. Turns out she currently interns for Backtalk-stocked designer Ann-ya while pursuing a photography degree at Portland's Art Institute. With that asymmetrical hair swoop? I knew she had to be in design. Apart from her Ace Hotel tote, she sports all vintage. Right on.
This Saturday Backtalk is throwing a party for some of our new designer additions. While the event buzz has largely centered around Courtshop Denim (and the butt behind it ahem Megan Gex), we want to tell you a little about the 2 cosmically awesome jewelry lines we just launched, both of which are exclusive to our shop in Portland.
I first encountered WENVRSLEEP draped around the neck of Portland's resident cyan-haired, vintage queen Anja Verdugo. The proprietess of Clever Nettle and Ann-Ya designer, Mrs. Verdugo has an impeccable eye for picking, down to the accessories she chooses to wear each day.
Anja sported a delicate crescent moon design
and after I gushed about it a few moments too long, she put me in touch
with WENVRSLEEP designer Sarah Beaver, who is not only an incredibly
kind soul but is also creating one of the most exquisite, inspiring
lines I have ever encountered as a shop curator.
Hand-painted silk lingerie, bird of paradise enamel hair clips, dark gemstone cast in geometric structures: these pieces appeal to our primitive, wild journey for natural beauty.
Backtalk discovered Sarah B. in the beginning stages of production for
her 2 year anniversary line and had the opportunity to meet her when
she dropped off her finalized tassel designs which feature brass and
generous, polished gemstone pyramids.
Backtalk newcomer Cursive design is also inspired by natural environments.
Designer Sarah Fox grew up largely in the outdoors of North Dakota, and
after receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture and color theory, she combined her natural and formal educations in Cursive Design, a line of jewelry that explores "the juxtaposition between intriguing materials and unique moments found in nature."
F. now works out of her Chicago design studio and produces highly
architectural pieces crafted with natural materials like recycled
leather, wood, glass and gemstone.
Cursive design has garnered a noticeable following for its expertly
handcrafted, precisely-executed designs and Sarah F.'s designs look
beautiful situated in our space. Guaranteed, the will look even better situated on your neck and wrists.
Perhaps you came to our unveiling last Saturday or perhaps you've noticed our absence from Alberta St. Either way its official: we've moved to Mississippi Ave. and we are so happy to be here.
So far we have discovered a community of wonderful neighboring businesses (stay tuned for Backtalk's Portland favorites guide) and lots of encouraging enthusiasm from Mississippi customers. After weeks of building the new space, we were excited to share it with you, and after only a few days in business, 3962 Mississippi Ave. already feels like home.
And did we mention our recent addition of designer Alexa Stark to the Backtalk team? Yes, Katie and I are pleased to welcome this Portland-based by way of New York garment magician in to our space. You can now find her sharp designs and charming smile as permanent Backtalk fixtures.
If you missed our opening festivities please come visit the new digs. You can also browse these lovely photos of the new space, courtesy of Lavenda Memory (whose portrait series is currently showing at our space) and Cory Betts.
Backtalk sends big love to everyone who has been involved in our developments. See you soon.
Jocelyn is a near, dear friend of Backtalk by way of Oakland. She recently took a week-long jaunt to Portland with pal Kate and the two took a moment to stop by the shop before journeying back down the West Coast.
Both of these ladies are completely outfitted in vintage, from knit caps to their trusty leather boots and demonstrate how to layer prints, Kate in brights and Jocelyn in neutrals. Miss you Jocelyn!
Winter layers can be tricky. Avoid the Michelin Man look and take a tip from cute Colleen: structured denim and slouchy knits help a girl stay warm AND look good. Faded black denim and stack-heeled JC boots denote an inner badass while freckles and a fresh smile keep it light. Well done, Colleen.
Our Valentine's trunk show is this Sunday from 12-6 and it will be one heck of a sultry, good time.