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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Emily Baker of Sword + Fern: The Full Q&A

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 9:55 AM

In this week's paper I have an interview with Sword + Fern's Emily Baker, but because of the space constraints of newspapering, it had to undergo quite a few nips 'n' tucks for print. That's why there's the internet. Here's our Q&A in full:

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MERCURY: Over the past two years, how has Sword + Fern evolved? Which changes have been surprises, and which were calculated?
EMILY BAKER: I'm really happy about the shop's natural progression. I haven't made many calculated decisions about the shop at all, apart from curation and the intention I put into the design and feel of the space. I feel like Sword+Fern has turned into a magical little entity that leads me around. The designers and artists I have approached about sharing their work in Sword+Fern have been incredibly open, and the support I have received from Portland has been amazing. It's a super nurturing place that allows us to thrive and show our work. It rules. Still, it hasn't been easy, and I've made a ton of sacrifices in my life to work on the store, and that's been difficult, but it's worth it. I love that people want to come visit this little world i have created.

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How has having a brick & mortar affected your jewelry making/business?
I think the opportunities that have come my way have a lot to do with Sword+Fern as a public space. I really can't believe how cool the response has been to my work/interior design/curation from people coming through the door. Whether people come to my studio to find the jewelry or just stumble upon it, I want to make it a kind of weird unexpected experience when they take the time to visit.

The location itself is a very special thing. I love being in the 811 building. It's a tiny portal to another dimension and I love my building mates, especially now that May (of Nationale) and Holly and Laura (of Haunt) have moved in, and that the crazy construction is close to being finished. 811 E. Burnside feels like a special destination. Everyone here works their asses off. It's an awesome thing to be a part of.

Still, the public nature of the space can be challenging. It can be difficult to stay focused when people are visiting and shopping, and there are so many time consuming details involved in maintaining the store as an entity. My jewelry itself probably takes up the least amount of my time. I probably need to stop being stubborn and just hire someone to work here. But I don't know if it would be the same place energetically if I did that. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I hope it presents itself soon so I can spend part of this winter traveling in Mexico with my girlfriend.

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A little bird told me you are planning to open a second location in LA. What is the timeline on this, and why LA?
Absolutely. It's pretty simple. I love owning and working on my shop, so why not open another one? Plus, I love L.A. I get really great reactions from my L.A. customers. They give me a lot of the confidence to do it.
Three years ago I almost moved to L.A. but chose Portland instead, so I feel like it would be fun to have a shop in the city that I could visit and take care of when I'm cold in Portland. I love the idea of a little piece of the Pacific Northwest in sunny L.A., and I definitely have it in the five year plan. I hope it works out.

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Outside of L.A. talks, what are your next goals for Sword + Fern? Anything you want to add/provide in terms of goods, services, art, landscaping, architecture?
Short term, I am getting excited for holiday, I plan to offer some great new designers in the shop. Also I have been working on creating an apothecary in the shop, with teas, my lip balm, tinctures, and more from local harvests and herbalists—something I've wanted for a long time. I am searching, so let it be known, if you or anybody you know makes amazing sustainably harvested/organic tinctures, flower essences, incense, or natural perfumes locally, give me a call! As far as goods for the rest of the shop, I want to stick with more of the same: vintage, ceramics, paper—I wish I could stumble on a giant hill of obscure textiles, that's a dream. I am working on it, and changing up designers as I explore and find new work.

I have two installation shows planned for the end of the year, including a study of insects by (ex-Explode into Colors' drummer) entomologist Lisa Schonberg. I'd love to be more diligent in the curation of visual art, but I will have to see what comes my way and stay open to possibilities. It has to feel good energetically. I have a new collection coming soon and a photo shoot planned with Sarah Meadows. I told her I designed some of the collection with her photography in mind,which I am very excited about. Besides all of that, just trying to keep moving forward, slowly, with everything all the time.

... I don't want to make any promises. Everything has unfolded pretty nicely just going with the flow. I am always sort of surprised myself how the place has turned out.

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Don't miss the second anniversary celebration of Sword+Fern this Friday (tomorrow) starting at 5 pm at 811 E Burnside.

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