Indie Designers

indie designers : oru ss17

February 10, 2017

I’m pretty psyched to be sharing the new spring / summer line from Portland-based jewelry line Oru. Designer Agnieszka Zoltowski began making jewelry while in middle school using brightly colored Japanese seed beads, which turned out to be a staple in her designs as the years passed. A few seasons ago, she began casting those beads in metal which resulted in a unique texture that has allowed her to build truly intriguing shapes with a minimal twist. Oru’s latest collection, Praxis, has taken that method and is running with it to great results –



Praxis is coming soon, in the meantime shop all Oru designs online

and follow @love_oru on Instagram for updates.

rad ladies : ashley hardy

December 29, 2016


Portland boasts a great many talented women ceramacists and it almost feels wrong to highlight just one of them, but since I am, I’m glad it’s Ashley Hardy. With model good-looks, a pinch of rock n’ roll attitude, and a kind, open heart, Ashley is truly a Rad Lady.

I chanced upon her ceramic work a year or more ago and have watched it evolve from simple (though beautiful) minimalist shapes and colors to more experimental, and dare I say sexy, work. Case in point, Ashley’s latest experiments in organically shaped vessels glazed in dark, shiny chrome.

A former make-up artist, Ashley’s ceramics hobby morphed into her full-time passion while she worked on her education. Now on the cusp of graduating with a license to teach secondary art, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more from Ashley in the near future – and I can’t wait.


VGS: What was your path to becoming a ceramic artist / designer? If you hadn’t gone down that road, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

A: I am not sure I had a direct path to becoming a ceramic artist. My previous background was as a hair and makeup designer for theatre/film. I would have to sculpt prosthetics and make molds, use paints, highlights and shadows to create characters. I suppose ceramics always felt very comfortable to me. I had been accustomed to working with my hands, not afraid of getting dirty. Ceramics was something that I had as a hobby and blossomed into something more.

Currently I am venturing down two roads as I am working on my masters in education. I will be graduating this upcoming spring, with my teaching license in secondary art education. I am beyond excited to begin my teaching journey with art. I chose two paths, having my ceramics business and teaching high school art.

VGS: How has your style evolved since your beginnings? How did you come by your current style?

A: My style has evolved to play on shapes and silhouettes. I used to make more simple, delicate shapes. I feel like now I am trying to push the boundaries of “what is a vase” or “what is a mug”. I want my pieces now, to act as functional conversation starters. I think currently my work is a product of experimentation as well as inspiration I have extracted from what I enjoy about architecture.


VGS: What has been your biggest challenge in your work so far? How did you overcome it?

A: The time management piece! Typically each of my ceramic vessels goes through a 10-step process (sometimes more), so I definitely can get lost on how long pieces take. Some pieces are more intricate and I have tried to remind myself that I always take longer than I believe. I am trying to be more organized and work in a way that makes sense aka being efficiently productive. It is really a challenge.

VGS: Tell us about your typical day …

A: Oh man! My days are never the same! Since I am working on my masters degree as well as trying to run my ceramic business I try to have flexibility in my day. I have most days planned, you know, the goals you have to accomplish, and then have backup B and C lists just in case. I have a lot going on, as most folks do, but I am trying to balance my professional and person life daily.

VGS: How do you stay motivated?

A: I am a perfectionist in regards to my artistic work. I stay motivated by having the mindset of constantly trying to improve. I enjoying try to figure out what works, what doesn’t, troubleshooting ideas. Ceramics is probably the only thing that I have ever enjoyed testing with! Also, thinking about future projects and predicting ceramic trends keeps me on my toes and continuing to move forward. On to the next!


VGS: What are your biggest inspirations currently?

A: I am very inspired by architecture. Currently, I have been collecting inspiration from ceilings in buildings. Especially taking notice of high open industrial ceilings. There are so many shapes and shadows that occur from the beams, pipes, and metal. I am also into textures that have formed from thick layers of paint on the sides of building and alleyways- that has really peaked my interested in using textural glazes on some of my pieces.


VGS: What are your feelings about Portland’s creative / maker scene? What, if anything, could make it better?

A: The maker scene in Portland is really exciting! I think it really brings out a sense of community and allows for artists to be embraced as well as letting an artist’s work have exposure. It is a really special thing to be able to create and do what you feel passionate about. The maker scene is allowing this to be possible.

VGS: What are you doing to prepare yourself for fall + winter? [Ed Note: Interview was conducted in September]

A: Well, I am already in holiday mode. Literally. The holiday started about a month or so ago for me, so I have been making pieces and preparing orders! I am trying to take my own advice and stay organized. I am also thinking about some new pieces I would like to introduce this winter! So stay tuned…






Big thanks to Ashley for inviting me to her studio and for being so lovely! Check out Ashley’s website here and follow her on Instagram to see her newest works and occasional animated videos of her work in action – trust me, they’re worth it!

indie designers : fieldwell home

October 2, 2016


Portland-based Fieldwell Home is a burgeoning home goods atelier focusing on textiles, namely quilts and cushions. Aiming to bring heirloom quality into the modern age, Mary and Steven Wise, the husband and wife duo behind Fieldwell use high quality natural materials that will age over time as opposed to degrade while focusing on modern designs in neutral palettes to keep designs fresh throughout the seasons – and years.

Utilizing Mary’s background in textile design and appreciation for traditional practices, Fieldwell hopes to cut through the disposable clutter that bogs down many homes by inspiring thoughtful purchases that will last for generations. I have to say I’m on board with that line of thinking.

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Shop Fieldwell Home online and follow @fieldwellhome on Instagram to keep up on new items and events like their recent pop-up at Tea Bar Division and a natural dye workshop at Field Trip.


indie designers : little arrow

August 30, 2016

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Eugene, Oregon based illustrator and designer Brianna Bulski’s brand, Little Arrow, has been producing super fun stationary and lapel pins for a while now but really started amping things up recently with the release of vintage-style rhinestone pins, cloisonné jewelry, and now, t-shirts. In fact, three spanking new t-shirt designs hit the Little Arrow shop earlier this week and just as expected their cutesy cool vibes make them must-haves –

Little_Arrow (5 of 10)Little_Arrow (7 of 10)Little_Arrow (6 of 10)Cry Baby tee by Little Arrow 

Little_Arrow (1 of 10)Little_Arrow (3 of 10)Little_Arrow (4 of 10)Iridescent foil Yes tee by Little Arrow

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I love ’em all but that Always Hungry tee with it’s neon pink hot dog and mustard lettering especially hits home for this always hungry gal. Shop Little Arrow tees here, all other Little Arrow items here and follow @littlearrowshop on Instagram to keep up on Little Arrow’s frequent new item releases, cause it’s always something good!

rad ladies : shelly sazdanoff

August 2, 2016

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It’s official: fiber arts are all the rage right now. I don’t know about you but I can’t get enough, especially when it comes to weaving. Having tried it myself I know just how hard it is to create anything tight and uniform which makes me respect (rad) ladies like Shelly Sazdanoff all the more.

There are lots of weavers out there right now but for my money Shelly’s work stands out in it’s perfection of technique and designs that meet at the intersection of minimal and maximal. While I’m often heard declaring ‘More, please!’ when it comes to color, print and pattern, what drew me to Shelly’s work more than anything is how she can make me love a simple square design made entirely of silver linen. It just speaks of time, knowledge, skill and an impeccable taste level. On the other end of the spectrum, Shelly also makes designs like this one which incorporates multiple colors (all perfect), geometric shapes and rakish side fringe – yes please to all of that.

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I recently visited Shelly at her sweet in-house studio where I was immediately charmed by her and her adorable family. I also noticed the locally made pottery from Mimi Ceramics lining her shelves as well as the locally designed and produced romper she was sporting from General Public; Shelly is all too happy to support other lady makers which is just one of the many reasons she’s a Rad Lady.

Read on for Shelly’s story …

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VGS: What was your path to becoming a fiber artist? If you hadn’t gone down that road, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

S: I’ve always had my hand in something creative since I can remember. I was a musician in a touring band for a few years, opened a boutique, helped run a magazine. I feel like I have tried a lot in my life and can see all of those pieces and experiences leading up to where I am now. My career path before this one was the magazine. I had my hand in almost every part of it. I was super committed but after two years straight pretty much working seven days a week I got burnt out and stepped down from that position. I took a sort of creative sabbatical and in that time we moved to Portland. After a few months of living here I felt that creative restlessness and knew I needed to do something. I had been following a few fiber artists on Instagram and thought I would give it a go. So I ordered a loom and read a few tutorials. With the first piece, everything clicked and I have been weaving almost everyday since. It’s hard to imagine doing anything else. Before finding fiber art, I toyed with the idea of becoming a florist. I love the thought of floral arranging being temporary art and bringing joy to someone whether the occasion was a sad or happy one.

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VGS: Tell me about your typical day …

S: I’m a mother of two young children so my day starts early around 6:00 – 6:30am. Breakfast for them first then coffee for my husband and I. My husband leaves for work at 7:30 and then it’s just the kids and I for the day. If we have nothing planned, I usually work for a few hours in the morning while the kids play and then a few hours during their nap time in the afternoon. My studio is in our home so I feel lucky to be able to both be a mother and also pursue my passion.

VGS: How has your art evolved since your beginnings? How did you come by your current style?

S: In the beginning it was all about the finished product and how quickly I could churn a piece out (which at the time was probably every two days and makes me laugh now because two days is probably 4-5 inches of work these days). I tried every style I could. As my skill slowly evolved, I started paying attention to the process. Learning what I liked and disliked about each piece as I finished and actually listening to that and using it to move forward. I eventually found the medium linen and fell in love with its stiff texture and how it looked woven. Due to its thin nature it caused my work to take longer with each piece. I really learned to love the process as much as the final product. I also learned things about myself as I listened to that process. Like my love for negative space, clean lines and use of texture and shape. Paying attention to these things has allowed me to hone in on my voice.

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VGS: What are your thoughts about collaboration? Any advice?

S: It’s kind of a joke in the fiber art community that it’s such an introvert art. We spend hours alone working to create something. So with that said, collaborations don’t come up often but when they do, and it feels right, I am all about it. I recently made two small woven pieces to be sewn onto garments as pockets by Canadian designer Tony Chestnut. It was great in the way that it stretched me and got me thinking about weaving in a new and different light than what I am used to. As far as advice goes, I’m probably not saying anything groundbreaking but keeping an open mind and try not being too attached to your own ideas. Allowing the other’s voice to be heard and finding that balance will only help the collaboration process.

VGS: What are your biggest inspirations currently?

S: In my latest works, I’ve scaled down my color palette and am trying not to be so distracted by choosing from a rainbow of hues which in turn will hopefully allow me to go deeper in my work. I have been really drawing inspiration from some of my favorite contemporary artists who use similar palettes and have such distinct voices: Anselm Kiefer, Cy Twombly, and Antoni Tapies.

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VGS: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far and how did you overcome it?

S: I would say social media has been the biggest challenge for me. Tools like Instagram are so incredibly helpful and provide such amazing ways to find a community of artists and run a business. But there can always be a downside to those. For one they provide instant access to a viewers reception of your work and make way for petty comparison. Like, “This piece didn’t get as many ‘likes’ as my last one.” Or losing a handful of followers after posting new work. It can really mess with your head when you are vulnerable and still trying to find yourself as an artist. Also there is the copying or straight up photo theft that occurs. Both of which have happened to me and are super frustrating but wound up being the catalyst to push myself and say what only I can say with my art so I suppose there is always silver lining.

VGS:  How do you stay motivated?

S: I feel like I have been lucky where motivation hasn’t been an issue for me. Because my pieces take on average 1-2 weeks to finish, my hands can’t keep up with my sketchbook. I also have a lot of time to brainstorm new ideas while I’m weaving and sometimes whatever I am doing in a current piece can trigger a new one.

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VGS: Why Portland? What is the best part of living here in terms of your art? 

S: Oh Portland! I could give so many reasons – the city, the mountains, the rain, the food, the coast. Everything is at our fingertips. And as far as my art goes, I couldn’t ask for a better city. The creative community here is so supportive. From my experience, everyone encourages and looks out for each other which just fosters a healthy community and not a competitive one.

VGS: If you could go back and give younger you advice, what would it be?

S: Oh man, I would say to not look at doors closing or shifts in life as failures or time lost or energy wasted but to see that everything you do shapes you and builds character. Some things you will lose but most of the time, experiences, jobs, etc. – whether good or bad – will mold you and make you a more well-rounded person.

VGS: What’s your favorite patio in town?

S: Doug Fir Lounge.

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Many thanks to Shelly and her cute kiddos for letting me invade their darling house (during snack time, no less!) and for being an all-around sweetie!

Shop Shelly Sazdanoff here and follow @shellysazdanoff on Instagram to peep her latest works and her amazing sense of style.

around portland : sundaze collective

August 1, 2016

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Conceived and organized by impeccable curator and spot-on tastemaker Sarah Radcliffe of Yo! Vintage, the Sundaze Collective has been Portland’s premier fashion + lifestyle pop-up since it’s early spring debut. Hosted at the Cleaners at the Ace Hotel, the first Sunday of each month sees a rotating line-up of Portland’s best and most exciting designers, makers, and retailers gathered together to offer an indie one-stop shopping experience.

This month’s line-up includes apparel from designers Alexa Stark + Reif Haus + Lauren Winter, jewelry from Barrow + Polaris, ceramics from Mimi Ceramics + Little Garage Shop, goods from Yo! Vintage + Oko, apothecary from Topaz, plus many other rad vendors. Whether you’re looking to check out some amazing local talent, shop until you drop, or both, Sundaze is the place to be this Sunday.

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Join Sundaze this Sunday, 8/7 at the Cleaners at the Ace Hotel from 11AM to 6PM.

Follow @sundazecollective on Instagram for info, previews of goods and future pop-ups.

For more happenings around Portland, check out our handy events calendar.

indie designers : reif haus aw16

July 28, 2016

Friends and longtime readers may already know that my journey to discovering both locally and ethically made fashion all started with Portland-based apparel line Reif Haus. (In fact, Reif Haus designer Lindsey Reif was my very first Rad Lady as seen here (sorry, Lindsey!) and thankfully, as my photography skills improved, here too.)

With beginnings as a line of reworked garments sold in NE Alberta boutique Frock, Reif Haus has has stood the test of time, coming into it’s own as a bonafide apparel line that now includes lounge and swim wear. Once available only in Portland, Reif Haus can now be found in fashion capitals like LA, New York, Tokyo and online at uber indie boutique Garmentory. With that in mind, I’m delighted to share the latest from Reif Haus with you today —

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Lindsey cites the Japanese art of wabi-sabi as well as the imperfections and beauty of nature as her inspiration for this collection of versatile separates. Focused on layering, texture, and a neutral palette of navy, black, sienna and white, materials such as denim and waxed canvas have been used to impart both comfort and practicality which are both key as the mercury begins to dip. I love it all.


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Reif Haus AW16 is in select stores now and will be available via the Reif Haus web shop starting in mid August. Follow @reifhaus on Instagram to keep up on their latest news, sales, events, and more.

look book + giveaway! : lumafina jewelry

July 26, 2016

Getting her start in jewelry design + production in 2008, Lumfina designer Hilary Alexander lives what she calls a handmade life. Based in SE Portland, Hilary continues to create stunning jewelry made in her home studio using brass, sterling silver, linen cord, and semi-precious stones including herkimer diamonds, lapis lazuli, moonstone, and turquoise to name a few. Her designs suit a range of styles but all have an element of primitive design that makes for jewelry that is as timeless as it is edgy. I’m especially feeling her most recent line which has just been released for AW16 …

Lumafina_AW16 (1 of 12) Lumafina_AW16 (12 of 12) Lumafina_AW16 (11 of 12) Lumafina_AW16 (10 of 12) Lumafina_AW16 (9 of 12)Lumafina_AW16 (2 of 12) Lumafina_AW16 (8 of 12) Lumafina_AW16 (7 of 12) Lumafina_AW16 (6 of 12) Lumafina_AW16 (4 of 12) Lumafina_AW16 (3 of 12)Photos courtesy of Lumafina





To celebrate Lumafina’s newest collection, Hilary and I have teamed up to offer one lucky reader a pair of Linu Suma studs in their choice of size and stone! (Pictured above: large with labradorite)

To enter, simply visit the Lumafina web shop and leave a comment below letting us know which design is your favorite. For a bonus entry opportunity head to the VGS Instagram @votregrandesoeur and look for the giveaway post for details.

A winner will be randomly chosen and notified on Sunday, 7/31. Best of luck!!

indie designers : hello happy plants

July 9, 2016

Plants, am I right? I always knew I had a green thumb (I’m a taurus after all), it just took me years and years to find it. The secret to shedding my black thumb turned out to be – wait for it! – paying attention to them. Crazy! My issue, you see, was that after a while I just stopped seeing my plants. Even when they dried up to nothing, I let them sit there for months before they would suddenly come into focus one day. Ooops.

Well no more. The year before last I resolved to take good care of my plants babies and each one I keep alive and healthy for six months or more means I get to reward myself with some new babies. I had a little misstep with a tropical variety recently – I didn’t know it was tropical so I let it go two weeks without a drop of water and by the time I replanted and watered it, it was too late. I’m not really counting that one against myself because I was looking at it every day, and honestly, it looked fine. Lesson learned: look up your plant baby’s species and care tips right away!

Another trick I’ve utilized is fun planters, like this vintage dude here. Just try and ignore that awesomeness. Air plants though. Try as I might, they either shrivel up and die from too little water or else they rot and fall apart from too much water. I’ve gone through at least ten of them in the last year and it didn’t matter if I ignored them or soaked them, they all flew the coop to plant heaven. Since then I’ve gotten myself a mister and boy, did that thing make feel like I leveled up in my plant care abilities. (Million dollar idea: a game like Pokemon, but with plants. Right?? I’d be playing it day and night!) I’m getting ready to take another stab at tillandsias and am hoping that a little spritz every day or two might be the secret. But also, what about these amaze-balls planters?? No way I’m forgetting about my babies when they live in these awesome handmade concrete vessels from Hello Happy Plants


I keep my air plants in my kitchen so many of these designs would fit right in, though why not put them all over, everywhere? Made from gypsum concrete, Hello Happy Plants founder Kelsey creates each mold herself, hand pours the concrete and hand paints each. Personally, I love the pop-art-meets-outsider-art aesthetic and bright colors, plus each order includes an air plant (some even come with multiple plants).

Check out Hello Happy Plants here and follow @hellohappyplants on Instagram.




Oh and btw, if you’re interested I’m posting some informal plant talks on the VGS Tumblr.

beauty beat : age of earth collective

July 5, 2016

Portland-based Age of Earth Collective may appear to be a relative newcomer to Portland’s fragrance + apothecary scene but that’s due to a recent re-branding. Formerly known as Bohemian Beauty Co., founder and maker Roxanne Capparelli knows a thing or two about mixing dreamy scents. While Bohemian Beauty Co. focused more on skincare, Age of Earth Collective has shifted the focus to scent.

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Intrigued by the switch, I reached out to Roxanne to learn more. After inviting me to check out her studio, I fell in love with Age of Earth and it’s process. Letting the tarot guide her each day, Roxanne hand pours each batch of product. To me that speaks volumes about her skill and attention to detail, both of which shine through in her perfumes, incense cones, and room sprays. I spent what felt like forever taking deep whiff after whiff of everything, finally deciding on a few products to test out. In the end I made some excellent choices, though truthfully anything I might have picked would have been an excellent choice.

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Piquing my curosity most were the incense cones. Admittedly, I’ve never been much of an “incense person”. While the idea of incense greatly appeals to the Taurus in me, my experience in incense shopping has always been disappointing at best. No matter what a label might say, you know ‘Angel Dreams’ or ‘Apple’, I’d find myself quickly overpowered by the same musky smell that I associate with drum circles. No thanks. Resigned to believing incense was only for those with an affinity for nag champa and patchouli, I was beyond delighted when I lit a cone of Age of Earth’s Thoreau for the above photo. It’s notes of pine, vetiver and rosewood create a divine aroma that’s uplifting and not at all overpowering. It was the first time I burned incense and didn’t have to open a window and leave the room after a few minutes. In fact, I wanted to light another as soon as it burned down. Not to say the smell had disappeared, I just loved it that much and didn’t want it to fade away, well, ever.

Then I burned Ignatius. So smitten with Thoreau I was, I neglected to try it’s mate until many weeks later. Before sitting down to watch ‘The Witch’ recently I was drawing the blinds and lighting candles when it occurred to me that Ignatius’ notes of frankincense, holy basil and vetiver would really set the tone. It did. Reminiscent of church incense, without being too literal, it mirrored the forest scenery and religious hysteria perfectly. Ok, maybe not the hysteria part (ok, not at all) but you know what I mean. It now enjoys the same amount of burn time as Thoreau.

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After the initial incense burning, I tried out Ritual. A unisex perfume, I chose Ritual for it’s palo santo, rosewood, sage and vetiver notes. Again, I’ve never been much of a “perfume person” for the same reason of bad experiences with overpowering and downright cloying scents. Thankfully, that’s something niche perfumers have been working on fixing and Age of Earth Collective is definitely up there with the best of them. There may not be as many notes involved here as in other brands but I love that simplicity and feel that Roxanne’s holistic approach makes some serious magic happen in these bottles. I prefer a woodsy scent and this one fit the bill with warmth and depth.

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Last to try (but not least) was Aurora, one of Age of Earth’s room + linen sprays. In my mind, there’s nothing fancier or more luxurious than a really good quality room + linen spray. Curating your environment with scent just screams ‘YOU’VE MADE IT’, am I right? I am. I know that because spritzing the bathroom before I get ready for bed each night has turned my most put-off chore into a lovely experience. My other favorite new ritual is to smudge my bedroom with white sage and follow with two spritz’s of Aurora. Golden rose, white tea, ginger and saffron – with Roxanne’s treatment they combine to make heaven in a bottle.




Age of Earth Collective is offering a limited time discount code to VGS readers. Use code VOTREGRANDE at checkout for 20% off all items.

Follow Age of Earth on Instagram and Like them on Facebook for news about upcoming pop-ups, sales, re-stocks, new items and more.

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