It’s a pretty awesome feeling to be on a road trip with someone you’ve known since the day you were born and realize that after 10 hours of driving you haven’t even thought about putting on music or one of the podcasts you had bookmarked, because the whole time you were engrossed in conversation. That’s what happened on Delilah’s and my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest. I’ve known Delilah (my aunt, friend and business partner here at Dear Handmade Life) for nearly 40 years. Neither of us remember the day we met, because when I was born she was six months old. But we both have loads of memories from when were kids. Neither of us grew up with siblings and since we are so close in age, our relationship always felt more like we were sisters than aunt and niece.
Over the years our relationship has ebbed and flowed and evolved into something truly amazing. That’s not to say it hasn’t been without its struggles, but instead of those struggles dividing us, we’ve learned how to use them to make our relationship stronger. In the past few years we’ve started taking business trips to conferences together. Heading out of town for a conference is a great way for us to network and build our business skills but also offers us some much-needed in-person bonding time. Some people say that if you really want to get know someone, travel with them. I agree. When you’re away from the comforts of home and navigating through unfamiliar places your insecurities and not-so-pretty qualities are sure to surface. On top of this Delilah and I are really alike in some ways (strong and sometimes stubborn) and super different in others (when I travel I have endless bags and Delilah can get by with very little).
This could totally be a recipe for disaster on the road but somehow it isn’t. That’s not to say that it’s all rainbows and unicorns when we’re on a trip but the more we travel together the better we get at it. Our last trip to the Pacific Northwest was one of our best yet. We planned the trip around the Schoolhouse Craft Conference in Seattle. Aside from the conference we wanted to spend a little time with some of our Pacific Northwest friends/Craftcation Conference presenters.
Our first stop after a grueling and stormy 13-hour drive was at Kari Chapin’s house in Portland, Oregon. By the way, at hour 11 we were going a little stir crazy in the car and finally turned on the radio and listened to a few podcast episodes like Tiffany Han’s Raise Your Hand and Say Yes, Abby Glassenberg’s While She Naps, Grace Bonney’s After the Jump, Elise Blaha’s Elise Gets Crafty and Dave Conrey’s Fresh Rag. You can check out some more of our favorite podcasts here.
We met Kari a few years ago when she presented at Craftcation for the first time. Since then she’s become an integral part of our lives both as a business advisor and friend. She’s one of those special kinds of people who is so rad that if you’re in elevator with her, you almost hope you get stuck just so you can hang out with her some more. We were in Portland with Kari for less than 48 hours, which was definitely not enough time to soak in the awesomeness of the city or of Kari.
When we arrived at Kari’s we were not just exhausted and hungry but ready for a cocktail. We stopped at a Rite Aid hoping to pick up some fixings for drinks but were disappointed to find out that Portland’s liquor laws only allow special liquor stores to sell alcohol, which closed while we were still fighting our way into the city though a bitter storm. I must have looked pretty ragged after the long drive because when I asked a man I passed as I was leaving the store if he knew where I could buy alcohol he started reaching for his wallet assuming I was a homeless person about to ask him for money!
We arrived at Kari’s house and I nearly forgot all about being tired and hungry as Kari took us on a tour of her adorable house complete with lovely impromptu curations of books, original artwork and postcards and memorabilia. Our homes are such personal and precious places where we reveal and relish in our truest selves surrounded by the things and people we love and I felt honored that Kari shared hers with us.
After the tour, our physical needs returned and Kari and her husband saved the day by taking us to the Horse Brass Irish Pub, which was walking distance from their house. Fish and chips, a margarita and great conversation to the rescue! After that we headed back to Kari’s house and stayed up way too late talking on her porch about life, business, creativity and celebrity gossip (the latter of which is one of Delilah’s favorite topics for late-night chats).
BETSY + IYA
We started our first and only full day in Portland with a visit to besty + iya. betsy + iya is a small boutique featuring a well-curated collection of jewelry, home goods, clothing and prints from local makers as well as the brick and mortar shop’s own line of betsy + iya jewelry. Delilah and I went crazy over their awesome geometric window display. We were lucky enough to get to a tour of their workshop and see their staff handcrafting pieces for their line of jewelry. I can’t count how many times someone has shown me a ring or earrings and I’ve said, “Yeah, it’s nice but I’m just not really a jewelry person.” betsy + iya changed that and not only did I leave the store with two new necklaces, I put them both on immediately and have worn them everyday since! I couldn’t take my eyes off of their line of bridge inspired bracelets that closed the gap between representational and abstract while tapping into my heartstrings as a flood of memories from the cities where the bridges were overwhelmed me.
Our intention to have breakfast had turned into lunch at this point and Kari took us to Besaws which was only a block or so away from betsy + iya. When I walked into Besaws I immediately felt at ease, which makes sense since the place has been around and cultivating that comfortable neighborhood eating/drinking/meeting place feeling for 100 years. Besaws boasts seasonal, local yummy food and is a must stop if you’re in the area. Delilah suggests the soup of the day and the Grains, Greens and Beans but if you’re a meat eater, George Besaw’s Ham and Swiss was simple and perfect.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since the infamous (at least among my crowd of creatives) Buy Olympia started. I first found out about them while drooling over all the awesomeness on every page of my Bust Magazine and since that day they’ve been a trusted source for those of us that seek out emerging cool stuff. They were all about buying local before ‘buy local’ became a commonplace thing. Their shop is chock full of books and goods from local makers like prints by Nikki McClure and the Victory Garden of Tomorrow, shirts by Sarah Utter and so many awesome books that I couldn’t resist buying four of them including two by Craftcation presenters: Eleanor Whitney’s Grow and Lisa Congdon’s Art Inc. The gallery upstairs offered a quiet refuge to look at art and spend a little more time indoors before heading back out into the rain that started suddenly on an otherwise completely sunny day. Bonus: There’s a window in the gallery that looks down into the Buy Olympia warehouse.
Walking into Queen Bee was kind of a bittersweet experience for me at first. I started my purse line just a few years after Rebecca Pearcy from Queen Bee and for a while I saw our businesses as evolving in a parallel way. During that time I dreamed of having a space like her brick and mortar shop. Being in there brought back the emotions associated with my decision to close my own brick and mortar shop and eventually let my line go to focus on Dear Handmade Life. I constantly remind myself that every experience I have is grist for the mill and coming to the realization that I have to let go of one of my businesses or aspects of one of them is essential to growth, although it can be a bit painful. It took a minute but once I rehashed and validated the decisions that led me to where I am now I was able to focus on Rebecca’s amazing space and business. I took my time walking around the front part of her shop which houses a retail boutique featuring her lines and goods from other local makers. I was also lucky enough to meet Rebecca who was sweet and down-to-earth. I loved seeing how her line evolved over the years but how she was able to seamlessly carry her branding over into her Chickpea Baby and Rebecca Pearcy textiles lines. In back of the retail space there’s a workshop where they print textiles for products and she even rents out office and workshop space to local businesses! Queen Bee is such a perfect example of a business that was able to expand and grow while holding onto their roots and branding, plus she’s an awesome designer and super nice woman.
Crafty Wonderland, Portland’s Art and Craft Extravaganza was started by Portland Super Crafty members Torie Nguyen and Cathy Pitters in 2006 and they’ve remained one of the best craft fairs in the country! Sadly, I’ve never been in Portland during their show season but when I saw their retail shop I knew I had to schedule an Oregon trip that coincided with their fair. I could have spent hours perusing the books, art, clothing, home goods, jewelry and accessories that filled every inch of their brick and mortar space. I was so excited to see Craftcation 2014 attendee/volunteer Shana Hampton’s embroidered artwork on the wall that I couldn’t resist buying a piece to hang in my new art/office studio that I’m building in backyard (details on that coming soon). Delilah and I both loved their light up marquee sign.
With all the love terrariums have been getting the past few years in the DIY world I should have expected a shop in Portland that catered to indoor gardens and has on-the-spot terrarium workshops but I had couldn’t have imagined how lovely it would be when I walked into Artemisia. Every shelf, table and corner presented an exquisite display of plants and home goods that made me swoon. The gardens out back were a bonus that inspired me to kick up my dedication to creating beauty in my backyard.
Stay tuned for our best of Portland, Oregon Part Two which is coming next week.