So, I am definitely going to sound like I am bragging here, but the place where I live is very special. Not only does Nevada County have all the delights of the country (fresh air, a beautiful river, peace and quiet, big ol' trees, etc. etc.), but we have one of the most vibrant artistic communities of any small town in California. There are musicians-- not only the world famous folk musicians, like Joanna Newsom, Alela Diane, and Mariee Sioux, but tons of local bands that absolutely rock the roof off-- poets (Gary Snyder, anyone?); authors; dancers; filmmakers; painters; and JEWELRY DESIGNERS! Etsy is famous for its jewelry, and I have to say that, even amongst stiff competition, local lady Leora from Gather Jewelry stands head and shoulders above the rest. What did I tell you? We have something good going on up here. (And no, the Chamber of Commerce does NOT sponsor my blog.)
Leora was kind enough to do an interview with me, and I just KNOW you are going to flip over her. Get ready.
Astral Boutique: So, I have to ask the most basic question first: how did you first get interested in jewelry design?
Leora: Several years ago when Coco Rosie played a show at the magic theater, one of the sisters (can't remember which one) was wearing one feather earring. At the time I thought it was just so damn cool I had to bite it. So the next day I got some feathers, made an awfully sloppy single feather earring and wore it for like 3 years straight. Anyway, that's how it all started. Over the years, it's progressed into what is now Gather Jewelry.
Astral Boutique: Your pieces are so unique, and so artfully conceived! Could you tell me a little about your inspiration process?
Leora: Uuuuh, I really wish that I could but I don't feel like I have a real process. I really just gather (pun intended) whatever interesting specimens and supplies that I can, and later on sit down and figure out how to make them wearable. I do feel the most excited and inspired by things that come from the natural world. I've been becoming more and more interested in Sacred Geometry lately. That sh*t is so amazing!
Astral Boutique: What are some of your top selling styles? Is anything particularly "in" right now?
Leora: Definitely the Triangle Beadwork + Webbed Chains Necklace (triangles are big in the fashion world at the moment). I've also done really well with my small sterling silver and crystal post earrings. I think people are into the fact that my stones are naturally formed, and therefore one of a kind, not cut and polished to look like all the rest. Plus, rough stones are quite "in" right now.
Astral Boutique: What is some of the "can't live without" jewelry in your personal collection?
Leora: My All for the Mountain (my favorite jewelry designers) rock snake pinky ring, some rings that my mom saved for me from when she was in high school and a heavy rotation of Gather necklaces, which I usually layer. Sometimes I'm really feeling the heavily jeweled gypsy thing, but other times I end up wearing no jewelry other than small stud earrings (usually Gather sterling silver + herkimer diamond posts). Oh, and I also never take off my rough 24k gold stud earrings. The gold came from the sacred Yuba River, my favorite place on earth.
Astral Boutique: What is feeding your soul these days?
Leora: My new 1975 Honda CB4004 motorcycle! So stoked, I can't wait to start riding it down to the riv! I'm also really excited about my garden this year! I often day-dream about owning a little shop/boutique here in Grass Valley or Nevada City...it could happen! What do you think Sasha, I could handle the accessories and you could do the clothes ;) I do wish I could travel more.
Astral Boutique: Okay, what's a song/album that you play around the house when you need a shot of inspiration and creative energy?
Leora: Beach house, Mazzy Star, Alela Diane, Karen Dalton, Black Angels, Spindrift, Townes Van Zandt, Entrance Band, Grizzly Bear, Strangers Family Band, Spacemen 3, Sleepy Sun, Jenny Lewis, Ruby Suns, Devo, David Bowie never gets old and I'm still exploring Joanna Newsom's Have One on Me...f*cking genius. Those are the first ones that come to mind.
Check out Gather Jewelry on Etsy right here, and be sure to read Leora's wonderful blog! Happy Gathering!
Sometimes a fellow Etsy seller just "resonates" with you in a deep way. I felt that I was kin to The Witchery Vintage from the very start! The shop name, of course, is after my own heart. The clothes are wonderful and unique, and the photographs, shot on location in beautiful Ontario, Canada, add so much dimension to every piece. The effusive, magically-minded Sandra from The Witchery indulged me with a little interview here. I hope you enjoy discovering her shop!
Sasha: So, I have to ask the most basic question first: how did you first get interested in vintage clothing?
Sandra: My love of vintage clothing began with my Grandmother, Rose. She was a Flapper as a teen and was always a true Queen of Vintage. I remember sitting at her dressing table and playing with all her jewelry and playing dress up with some of her 1920s dresses. Those dresses and sadly, my grandmother have passed on but what remains is my continued admiration for women who were well dressed and went about it in a unique way. Vintage clothing inspires me to be whomever I wish. Never looking the same, never lost in a crowd! I guess vintage clothing allows me to express who I really am and lets my quirky, eccentric personality shine through.
Sasha: What is the origin of the store name?
Sandra: The Witchery Vintage acquired its name from the mystery and aura of the witch. Feared by some, loved by many, the witch has come to represent all that is strong and independent and sexy about a woman. I chose my store photo from a vintage pinup of a sexy red haired witch. This, I feel, is what a witch represents in a fun, feminine way. But on a more serious note, I also like to view the word W.I.T.C.H. as an acronym for Woman In Total Control of Herself. When women dress for themselves in what they love, no longer do they feel the need to meet societal expectations or follow trends. Be yourself and love your shape and the clothes will follow. Overall I wish to see the Divine Feminine shine through in all women. This is what The Witchery Vintage hopes customers will see in its fine quality vintage clothing and accessories.
Sasha: Tell me a little more about this beautiful place where you live! It looks so dreamy in all of your photos. Did you grow up there?
Sandra: I grew up in the industrial city of Hamilton, Ontario but always loved the more simpler life of a rural town. As the winds of change blew favourably for me, I moved to Simcoe, Ontario which is a small rural town in Southwestern Ontario, about 2 hours west of Toronto. Close to the beaches of Lake Erie and the native Carolinian woods, I love showcasing Simcoe and the rural beauty of Norfolk County which is known, by the way, as the Forest Capital of Canada. My house and neighbourhood are often used to showcase my clothes. I live in a 1920s style Arts and Crafts style house covered in ivy and bounded by flowers. I guess I’m really living the vintage dream!
Sasha: I love how you have your beautiful daughters modeling your clothes! Are they into vintage clothing too?
Sandra: The Witchery Vintage wouldn’t be as successful as it has become if it weren’t for my beautiful daughters, Lindsay and Megan. With both being over 5”9, they are perfect for modeling vintage clothing. I try to match the clothing to their personalities and looks. Lindsay is my creative daughter. At 14, she is an accomplished musician, published author and a straight A student. She is currently working on developing her song writing skills and guitar playing. Megan, my youngest, exudes the girl next door look and at 5’10, stunningly beautiful. She loves sports, animals, children and making money, hence she is the Witchery Vintage’s money manager! Her eye for vintage clothing and wise business advice helps me when we go thrifting. Both girls have a unique sense of style and love to incorporate vintage into their daily looks.
Sasha: What are some favorite vintage pieces in your own closet?
Sandra: Most of my favourite vintage pieces have been acquired through the great stores on Etsy. I mostly go for the mod looks of the 60s and 70s. I am also very partial to hats and have a huge collection that is often featured as props in my listings.
Sasha: What is feeding your soul these days?
Sandra: I’m really having a ball with The Witchery Vintage. From selling on Etsy to doing nostalgia and antique shows, I love meeting new people and showcasing my finds. As spring is here, I am passionate about gardening and decorating my house with rummage sale finds. What is closest to my heart now is learning more about following the path of the Goddess and meeting like minded people.
Sasha: Okay, what "vintage" song is your favorite "dress up and dance around the house" tune?
Sandra: I love music, especially jazz, new age but my most favourite vintage song is by the Zombies, “She’s Not There”.
To say that I am picky about skincare products is a major understatement. I came into this life with super-sensitive skin, and creams and lotions with impure ingredients and fillers straight up make me break out in a rash. (I remember the first time I tried my mom's Oil of Olay, thinking it was something fancy, and watched, horrified, as tiny red dots instantly appeared all over my face!) Since I am at that point where I am "turning 30 again", and I live in the super-dry Sierra foothills (think lizard and rattlesnake country), I am especially aware of the need to nourish and moisturize my skin on a daily basis.
Some of you may know that I studied Herbalism for about five years after college, with some of the best teachers in California. While I know how to make lotions, creams, as well as teas and tinctures, I also am fully aware of what an art it is to get these things right. Art takes time, and my 'free time" has been tied up in my musical projects for the past few years, so I had to search high and low for someone that was making truly amazing skincare products that would meet my criteria.
Luckily, I found Lilith's Apothecary, and from the very first product that I ordered, I have been a devoted fan. The Apothecarist herself, Sarah, was kind enough to do this interview with me. I know that all of you will appreciate her work, and her insights, as well as her amazing line of beauty and healthcare products!
Sasha: To start with, would you tell my readers a little about yourself?
Sarah: I live in a working class neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA with my husband and three year old daughter. With a background in medical anthropology, I now work full time at Temple University in the Dept of Public Health. That said, when I was finishing up my master's degree in med anth, I finally 'discovered' herbal medicine for the first time and it was the one true eureka! moment of my life. I had found my true calling and heart's passion. Since that time, all roads lead to furthering my knowledge and experience with herbalism, though because of the costs of my higher education, I am also dependent my full time job. Not least because I married another social scientist, an archaeologist!
Sasha: What led you to get interested in herbalism/natural herbal health and beauty products?
Sarah: I started studying herbal medicine when I was in graduate school for medical anthropology in Montreal, Qc. At a school called Natural health consultants, I was introduced to basic herbal medicine and also discovered a community of people who were scientists, biologists, botanists, environmentalists and, like me, shared a passion in the living world that surrounds them. Finally, my path lay before me. I have continued my herbal study with Mt Airy Herbal Studies, and now with master herbalists Michael and Leslie Tierra of the East West School of Herbology. The Lilith's Apothecary business is an extension of that practice. Skin care is important to nearly everyone, and issues with the usually reflect imbalances within. In working with people who have difficult skin conditions, I have been able to marry my knowledge of herbs with that of natural skin care.
Sasha: You are always introducing new and wonderful items to your store; how do you come up with the ideas for new products? Could you tell me about your inspiration process?
Sarah: I am always striving to create new and better products, to refine my offerings, and to create new formulations to better serve the great diversity of skin types out there. I am not a trained aesthetician, but I work closely with an aesthetician who specializes in acne treatment, and we are not developing a new line of products that will address the difficult issues associated with acne in the most natural way possible.
That said, the single reason I am not more successful (in terms of profit margins) is that I DO offer such a great diversity of products, not least because I love everything I create. I consider these products to be of top quality and have a hard time denying my customers anything they need :-) I love coming up with new formulas, improving well-loved products, and trying out new ideas. there are so many more things I would love to do, but I also work full time by day, so the late nights I keep only afford so much flexibility.
Sasha: Are there any herbal/natural remedies that you ALWAYS make sure are with you in your car/purse/when traveling? (In other words, what could you not live without?)
Sarah: I could not live without the All-Purpose Healing Salve. I have salves stashed absolutely everywhere. This salve is indispensable from everything from cuts/scrapes to rashes, burns, and inflammation.
Sasha: You are living "The Dream"- being both a mamma and having a successful home business. I have no doubt this keeps your days totally packed! Do you have any mother-specific advice for my readers with little ones who are dreaming of starting their own Etsy stores?
Sarah: Well, in a way, I'm not living the dream. I dream of having my own successful home business that I would be able to work on during the daylight hours instead of into the wee small hours of the night, most nights getting six hours of sleep or less, but I can say that I do feel very fortunate to A) have discovered my true life's passion, and B) this love of what I am doing in my "spare time" is really what invigorates my life. I don't think I would ever be able to stop, though I'd need a serious angel investor to do it right! I think that the main thing is that people need to look at their own lives and see what is possible *within that context*. I am not saying that people shouldn't go for their dream or make goals, but for a long time I felt so frustrated that I am not able to make Lilith's Apothecary a full time business in my current financial state. Once I made peace with that, I became much more satisfied with my life.
Sasha: Are you and your family doing anything special, health-wise (aka diet, herbs, lifestyle stuff) to help with the transition between winter and spring?
Sarah: I always eat locally and in season (as much as possible) , and I do think that is very important in how our bodies acclimate to changing seasons. Thus the change in seasons can be very exciting in terms of much desired new foods -- spring greens, asparagus, spring peas -- how exciting! After the starchy root vegetables of winter, these new shoots and greens are such a welcome new addition. I live in the city with no actual "earth" in which to plant but my back pavement is covered in big pots and my spring garden is underway!
As for herbs, there are many herbs to help us with every part of the year, and with the stressors and side-effects of our intense modern lifestyles. I love making herbal tinctures and formulas, teas, and decoctions to help me and my family every step of the way. Immune boosting syrups, relaxing tea blends, and adaptogenic tinctures all top the list.
Sasha: What is feeding your soul right now?
Sarah: Spring Gardening is intensely soothing to me, and enjoyable. I also practice ikebana which provides an important "time out" in my life -- some of the only time that is meditative and NOT work related. I love blogging, though I find that difficult to fit into my tightly-packed schedule, and of course, time with my daughter is the highlight of my week. I don't work at all on weekends, except for the odd craft fair, so I can enjoy family time, particularly because I don't have the pleasure -- or privilege -- of being a stay-at-home mom. Every moment of my time with her is precious to me!
Sarah does a beautiful, educational blog that you are going to want to follow! And, of course, you can check out her shop here.
Every once in a while I discover an Etsy shop that is truly unique. Big Brother Vintage stands in a class of its own: it is the only Etsy store that I am aware of that caters specifically to men, and it does so with heaps of amazing Californian style! Browsing this beautiful shop makes me actually want to be a guy so I can rock these clothes myself. It is so rare, as a girl, to get gender-envy when shopping online!
Big Brother is run by Kahlil and Bianca, who live in the magical, mythical world of Topanga Canyon. Kahlil (who also models for the store) was kind enough to answer my (many...burning...) questions!
Astral Boutique : This is the only vintage shop on Etsy that I know of that caters exclusively to MEN! What inspired you to bring vintage to this specific audience?
Kahlil : The lack of men's vintage clothing online is what pushed me to start my store. You can find alot at physical stores around the globe, but there are men around the world who don't have access to vintage in their area, and i felt someone had to take responsibility to bring it to them in the only way they could find such clothing without driving miles and miles to the nearest city...online.
AB : Topanga Canyon has been called home by artists and musicians for decades. Can you tell us how you came to live there, and what life is like in the Canyon today?
Kahlil : As a child my mother used to bring me to these festivals that would take place in the canyon, and i loved looking out the window and seeing these homes that to me looked like tree houses. It was only natural for me to choose this place to call home, unfortunately i can only call it home for a few more months, but the good news is im only moving 10 minutes away. Topanga Canyon is one of those few places in America where the idea of brotherhood and sisterhood still lives and breaths, a rare place in the world where the energy of the earth is so strong it has created a magnet of creativity.
AB : One of the things I love most about your shop are the unabashedly poetic titles for your pieces, aka "As the dawn creeps up the sky ...the hunter caught sight of a doe in his desire for conquest", and "A great dandy, tinware, one hundred and second hussars, a figure of a mustache, and a comrade who never failed to murmur with jealous envy..." Some of them sound familiar, some seem like dreams... could you talk about your process in coming up with the names?
Kahlil : I got tired of the same old listing titles and decided to do something more interesting and creative. I try to write something that has some relation to the item, but most of the time its just a collection of random words that come to mind, not necessarily meaning to be poetic or to even make sense, and if im feeling lazy i will just write some lyrics of songs im listening to.
AB : Do you shop on Etsy yourself ? Have you found anything awesome lately? Is there anything you are keeping an eye out for right now?
Kahlil : At the moment im looking for hats, all kinds of hats. furry hats, feathered hats, ethnic hats, all kinds of hats, the most recent item i purchased off Etsy was a rabbit fur russian hat that i absolutely love, and i cant seem to take it off.
AB : Okay, this is the total teen mag question: could you tell us a few of your musical loves that our readers should check out?
Kahlil : Ooooh, this could be a whole interview in itself.....but i would check out anything in the field of psychedelic world music, new and old. My alarm clock is set so it plays Ravi Shankar when i wake up so if you haven't heard his music i would highly recommend it, and I have been on an Ennio Morricone craze at the moment, as well as being in a deep interest with 70s horror movie soundtracks.......Oh, and last but not least, a band that is a combination of everything i like in music....The Entrance Band, there's nothing about them i do not like....
A big thanks again to Kahlil for doing this interview! You can check out Big Brother Vintage here- happy shopping!