betsy & iya's Unu Collection

On my elusive "someday" list is an idea I had a few years ago to take a boutique road trip.

A boutique road trip would be just like a regular road trip, except that it would be structured around various shops and boutiques. I'd stop by several in any given city, then move on to the next. Maybe a West Coast boutique road trip would include Mohawk General Store, Otherwild, YES, Seven Sisters, and Portland's betsy & iya (amongst many, many others). 

This trip is sadly not on the horizon, but I still like to imagine picking a piece from each store as a souvenir of my crazy fun trip. From betsy & iya, I'd have to choose a piece from their recently launched Unu Collection – which features minimalist, geometric, everyday jewelry that both blends in quietly and demands attention through its lovely, simple design. 

Nice, rgiht? Shop the full collection here, and check out their (very symmetric, very cool!) Instagram feed here.

Behind The Scenes With The Pursuits of Happiness

You've probably seen April Brimer's work around. This Portland-based photographer-turned-ceramicist has a way of churning out pieces that are completely memorable and completely covetable, and lots of folks are taking note – Urban Outfitters included.

I'm a huge fan of April, her aesthetic, and her ceramics line The Pursuits of Happiness – everything from the color palettes to the way she curates her Instagram feed feels beautiful, purposeful, and completely on-brand. In other words, this gal has got it. 

In honor of the relaunch of her online shop, April tells me about her transition from photography to ceramics, one of her favorite movies (which is one of mine, too!), and why she's excited about kindness:

Hey April! Tell me about your background, both in photography and with ceramics. How did you make the transition from photographer to ceramic artist?

I became obsessed with photography in high school and could think of no suitable occupation besides being a photographer. I went to college for commercial photography, worked hard at it, and spent the following years shooting whatever fashion and product photography work I could find in Seattle.

At the end of 2013 I was coming off of about three years straight of incessantly shooting and retouching. I was tired of the computer, digital files, beauty standards, and interpreting other people’s visions. At that point I didn’t feel the same creative drive to create imagery that I had always had before.

I became curious about ceramics after seeing really interesting work being displayed at the Totokaelo store in Seattle. The work was really inspiring and approachable and I wanted to try it out myself. I literally just went to the closest art supply store and bought a bag of clay and a tool kit. I started making things in my apartment and posting photos on Instagram. Clay was really satisfying to work with and the enthusiasm I got from friends motivated me to keep going. Two years later I’m still learning as I go, but I work on getting better everyday. I can see myself doing more photography in the future, but I’m giving it a rest for now.


What has it been like moving from one creative line of work to another?

Ceramics offered me a very different outlet where I could just boil everything down to form and color. Now I can turn my creative energy into a tactile object that can be held and used. It's extremely satisfying. 

Have you found any similarities in your photography work and your ceramic work? Any parts of the process that feel familiar?

The concepting and planning is similar for each. I spend a lot of time daydreaming and sketching out little ideas. The highs and lows of creating are similar, too. It's a bummer when something doesn’t turn out as well as you hoped, and a total rush when it does.

The colors and designs used in your pieces feel unique and unlike just about anything else out there. Do you have a main source of inspiration? 

I’ve been mentally collecting little bits of inspiration my entire life. The weird, the kitschy, and the mysterious has always caught my attention. It could be the scalloped molding on an out-of-place building, topiaries, or a kitschy seashell sculpture in a souvenir shop. My ceramic pieces aren’t literal translations of my influences, but I want them to evoke the same kind of happiness and wonder I get when I’m inspired. 


You already have some big collaborations under your belt (Urban Outfitters, for one), but if you could collaborate with any person or brand who would it be?

The ladies at Sight Unseen have a dynamite vision and it would be a dream to collaborate with them somehow.

What's the one thing you want people to walk away knowing about your work?

The price point of my ceramics is higher than a lot of brands and I think that can be confusing to some people if they don’t understand the process behind things. My designs require very slow methods of building and the quantities I produce are extremely limited. So what I’d like people to understand is that every one of my pieces is unique and limited edition, and is priced accordingly. 

And just for fun:


What’s one book everyone should read? One movie?

I recently loved reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and I loved Beginners (by Mike Mills) for making me feel all the feelings.


If you weren’t living in the Pacific N.W. (Seattle, now Portland) where would you live?

I like the idea of living anywhere for a year just for the experience of it. I’ve had a fantasy of living in Miami ever since I did some photography work out there. Its about as different as you can get within the continental US. 


Anyone out there who you think is killing it right now?

There’s so many excellent creatives and makers producing beautiful work. What I’m really stoked on are the people that are practicing kindness with everyone around them. People promoting sustainable lifestyles and speaking up for human rights, animal welfare, and conservation. I’m as obsessed with creativity and style as the next person, but I also strongly feel we need to look at the bigger picture outside ourselves more often.

Thank you, April!


Shop The Pursuits of Happiness here and follow April here

Images via Pavel Cherny

Becoming Minimalist: How To Simplify The Way You Dress

Recently I conquered the needlessly daunting task of backing up photos from my phone to an external hard drive. Moving files from one device to another really shouldn't be that big of a deal, but for whatever reason it just is and therefore I tend to avoid it.

As the shockingly large number of photos started showing up my computer screen – hundreds (thousands?) from the past two years that I had been afraid to take off my phone for fear of losing them – I noticed how much my style had changed in that period alone. Like with most things, we never really realize how much they've changed until one day they're just different. Suddenly, you see a photo and have that woah moment about how much has happened while you were living and not looking. It's startling, humbling, sometimes scary.

When it comes to style, this shock of change is bound to happen – our personal style warps and molds with trends, locations, preferences, and the rest. In flipping through those photos, I noticed how much I had begun to simplify the way I dress over the past few years – colored tights disappeared, as did "fun" belts and basically anything with embroidery, excess, or superfluous details. Thanks to my process of minimalizing that came with our move to the States, paired with life in my late 20s, I'd finally (finally) began to figure out my taste. 

My personal style blueprint, if you will, had finally shown up at my doorstep. That relative constant that would serve as the starting point for the trends and fleeting preferences that would no doubt come and go. I know now that my personal style is solids over prints with the exception of stripes, and fit and comfort over all else. I like odd bits here and there, and my taste for late 60s/early 70s New York shows up time and time again. 

For those of you who are still looking to find your elusive personal style, there are a few things that guided me on my path to simplification and holy style salvation. These thoughts and tips, listed below, helped me simplify the way I dress and find my now-and-hopefully-forever style:

Think about what you reach for in the mornings

You know that piece of career advice, where people tell you to think about what you would do if you weren't being paid and then do that for a living? ("Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.") While that may or may not be the best advice, I have thoughts both ways, I do think this mindset is a good one to use while searching for your personal style. Think about what you love and feel good in, and what you reach for when you go to your closet in the mornings. Jeans and a button down? T-shirt dress? The style and fit of the outfit you automatically reach for in the mornings should be your focus. Use this 'go to' outfit as a foundation for that personal style blueprint and chances are you'll be happy with the result.


Embrace comfort

Not talking fleece and yoga pants, though I do wear my Dear Kate's far more than I should. When it comes to clothing, you should wear what fits and what makes you feel comfortable. You shouldn't have to tug on your shirt every three minutes, wear shoes that require half a box of Band Aids, or pants that don't allow you to eat. It makes no sense and ridding your wardrobe of these items will make you a heck of a lot happier. You want clothing that doesn't need an explanation – I can only wear these shoes if... or I just have to use a safety pin on this shirt. It's unnecessary and unneeded. No picking, no pulling, no questions.

Accept trends, cautiously

I love a good trend. They're fun and should be embraced, with caution. Rather than buying a new wardrobe of trendy items every season, focus on one color or shape and buy a piece or two in that direction. That's all you really need anyway, and buying fewer items means that you're more likely to keep and wear them later. 


Buy what you want to buy

This can be a hard one to put in practice, because it often means purchasing items that are slightly out of budget. But hear me out. I often equate fashion to food, and this is perhaps the best example of why I make the connection between the two. Think about how you feel when you have a sugar craving – if you want something sweet, you should have the sweet thing that you want rather than eating 20 other things in hopes of fulfilling your craving. And if you see an item of clothing that you really want, you should think long and hard about it, look at the financial repercussions and then, if possible, buy it. You'll most likely feel glad you bought the item you wanted rather than the 20 Urban Outfitters knockoff filler items you don't really love and didn't want in the first place.


That's what I've done and so far, it's worked wonders. I'm happier, my wardrobe is smaller, and I love every single thing that I buy. Do you have a shopping strategy, an all-important "uniform", or anything you wear on a day-to-day basis? I'd love to hear!

Brookes Boswell Fall Winter 15

Are you a hat person?

I absolutely love them and while they have had a bit of a resurgence these last few years, I still wish they were more commonly worn today. You know, like back in the day when leaving the house meant wearing a hat. Sort of like this, or this.

Designers like Brookes Boswell are working to bring that back, and I sure am thankful for it. You already know Brookes from her summer collection (which was everywhere this year), and her Fall 2015 collection does not disappoint. I've already snagged the Boro and am looking forward to wearing it through the rest of the warmer months, as well as into fall and winter.

So: Are you a hat person and, if so, which piece from the new Brookes Boswell collection is your favorite?

Outfits 02

Now this – this is a top I thought about buying for months, making it the perfect example of slow shopping and an argument for intentional, well thought-out purchases. 

And man, I'm glad I got this one. It feels like a tank, has the structure of a shell and a modern fit which makes it the perfect summer top and what I've been wearing almost nonstop. My favorite outfit of the moment is this top paired with my tried and true maroon skirt that I thrifted in Greenpoint years ago – 

top from bon george / thrifted skirt / bangle from academy / slides from need supply co. 

Someware's Lace-Up Sandals

Sometimes it's the small, everyday things that make all the difference.

Case in point: sandals. 

I'm a hot weather gal to the core, so I'm happy as a clam to be back in the South's humid-as-can-be late July weather. Admittedly, part of my love for hot weather is wardrobe-related. Summer clothes and shoes are my absolute favorite, so I'm taking every opportunity to do the sundress and sandal thing during the remaining summer months. (Sorry, London. No offence whatsoever, but my love for sandals and slides has me very happy with some warmer, dryer weather.)

Needless to say, with my recently revived sandal obsession I was thrilled to discover these new lace-up sandals from SOMEWARE. You may remember that I'm a big fan of SOMEWARE – the L.A.-based e-boutique that celebrates "culture through objects". (The copywriter in me so wishes she had come up with that phrase.) Stocking handmade pieces from artisans around the globe, SOMEWARE is not only a beautiful destination for thoughtful, inspired online shopping, but also a place to capture the stories behind the pieces – which owner Giselle does beautifully in the Journal

The lace-up sandals are all handmade by artisans in La Guajira, Colombia. The upper portion of the sandals are hand crocheted, and the quality shows – these shoes are outstanding in their simplicity, and they're currently sitting atop my wishlist. (Though actually, this might count as a slow shopping purchase that just needs to happen. We'll see.)

Take a look for yourself:

Someware's Lace-Up Sandals | Second Floor Flat

All four sandal styles are available for purchase and pre-order here. Enjoy!