GOPI SHAH CERAMICS

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: KATE PARRISH of LIFE ON PINE

A ceramic artist and advocate for the environment, Gopi Shah's ceramics are a vibrant study in color and craft. After stumbling on Gopi's Instagram feed, I swiftly fell for her carved hanging planters and "open hands." I love that Gopi uses her platform to not only support organizations such as the National Resources Defense Council and Planned Parenthood but also to invite us into deeper, delicious engagement with our surroundings. Through playful handmade wares, Gopi inspires us to reimagine our everyday. (That, and I break into a smile every time I catch sight of her "tittie tumblers" painted with a simple sketch of bare breasts—there's something so divine to me about a beautiful work of art that doesn't take itself too seriously!) 

I recently connected with Gopi to talk about cultivating creative community, building a business, and finding her flow. I hope you'll discover through Gopi's story the same fiery motivation I did to embrace my art with passion and with playfulness. Because life is short and sweet and ours to infuse with joy. 

KW: Your work is infused with a playful spirit and attention to craft. How do the ceramics you make reflect who you are?

GS: My pottery is obviously influenced by my surroundings. If you take a look at my home furnishings, there is a lot of folk art and decor from my travels or from friends who are artists. I am not much of a minimalist type that has neutrals everywhere, and that's reflected in my ceramic line— the tipis have a ton of color, the planters have texture and carvings, and the dolls have their own personalities. I bounce around a lot between ideas, techniques, and styles and have been told my ceramic line is not cohesive; however, I don't think that's a negative. I like exploring and learning, and each piece that I create has something new I learned and wanted to express in it. 

KW: You've lived everywhere from Austin to the Bay Area to Long Beach! How does place shape your work?

GS: Yes! I have moved a lot and wouldn't suggest moving a ceramic studio as many times as I have. Each place has shaped me as a person, which then influences my work. Austin was a great place to start my business—it was a supportive environment, easy to network with local shops and other artists, and was affordable. I learned a lot from my mentor there and was able to learn to do pottery in a non-academic setting. San Francisco helped grow my business—I got to work with some amazing shops in the Bay Area that really bolstered my name and my work professionally. And now I'm excited to be in Long Beach which feels as small and community-driven as Austin, but is also connected to an incredible art and small business scene. In each city, my line has grown and developed and I have learned more as a business person—which items sell better than others, what products may do well, how to expand professionally, etc. 

Pottery has taught me a lot about slowing down and enjoying life, being patient, and reflection. 

KW: What experiences brought you to your work as a ceramic artist?

GS: I learned pottery in high school under an incredibly kind and knowledgeable teacher. In college, I was able to take classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and then continued that education at Santa Monica College while working full time. Pottery has taught me a lot about slowing down and enjoying life, being patient, and reflection. It has also afforded me an opportunity to connect in a different way with my community and fellow women-owned businesses. 

KW: What kind of energy do you want your functional art to bring to its new owner?

GS: Ceramics is a meditative process—you end up falling into a rhythm while creating a piece and forget about everything around you, including time. I hope that this calming energy is what is transferred when someone uses one of my pieces and feels the ridges from my fingers that created each piece. 

I hope that this calming energy is what is transferred when someone uses one of my pieces and feels the ridges from my fingers that created each piece. 

KW: Can you share with us the creative process behind your hanging planters?

GS: Something I love about the hanging planters is they are constantly involving and no two are alike. I throw each on the wheel, paint the outside with a liquid white clay, and hand carve the designs onto each. The planters are also a great way for me to experiment with another medium— leather and rivets. 

I love the orange, black, and white fine line details of Acoma pottery. Though I am inept at this kind of pottery, I appreciate the geometry and accuracy of this work. The hanging planters are my way of expressing the colors and geometry found in this type of pottery. I started with experimentation in design but have found somewhat of an equation to go by for each planter—a top thin band, a middle thick ban, and some bottom rings that generally are sun-shaped. Carving these planters takes a lot of time and a steady hand, but I love that they are unique.

KW: At Loam, our work is centered on sharing strategies for "embodying hope." This means finding ways to bring our vision for a better world into practice through our everyday actions. What do you do to cultivate hope in your heart, home, and community?
GS: A better world to me would be one where citizens are safe, have access to basic rights including dignity, housing, food and water, and healthcare, and where there is a sense of pride for their community. I have been on the giving and receiving ends of hope and have appreciated every moment of building my own community through pottery. Moving around the US and getting to meet various types of people has broadened my sense of self, perspective and thankfulness for others. 

Community is very important to me, and I love getting to know my neighbors and small business owners in my community. I used to work at non-profits, and it's been tough not being on the front lines anymore. However, through collaborations, working with other small business owners, and donating pieces to causes I care about, I have found ways to work with my community and try to make it a better place for everyone. 

DOMINIQUE DRAKEFORD

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGE: ADITI MAYER

I first learned about Dominique Drakeford through my friend Liv Lapierre of Zero Waste Habesha whose Representation Matters initiative illuminates women of color making waves in the sustainability sphere. As an advocate, sustainability stylist, and the founder of Melanin & Sustainable Style (MelaninASS)—a platform that celebrates communities of color in eco ethical style and beauty—Dominique is a passionate advocate for intersectional activism. I'm inspired by Dominique's intersectional and incisive embrace and exploration of sustainability. She doesn't shy away from harsh realities nor does she apologize for taking joy in beauty. The spaces she creates are truly energized, alive, and engaged

In this powerful interview, the trailblazing Dominique shares a sliver of her story. Tune in for her thoughts on tokenism, challenging mainstream narratives, and supporting sustainable style. 

 

KW: As an environmental educator, stylist, and community advocate, you work in many different spheres to inspire ecological, cultural, and social change. What experiences shaped your multifaceted work as an activist?

DD: My experiences here in Brooklyn as well as my experiences growing up in Oakland have unequivocally shaped my perception of being a women of color and how that relates to inclusivity in sustainability, social change and activism. 


My experiences in Oakland were very much rooted in youth engagement and development. From being a soccer coach, swim coach, backpacking ambassador for underprivileged youth and a Pathway to College mentor for young black and Latino kids in the Bay Area—seeing kids as the progressive future has created a special place in my heart for needing to uplift and bring out the best in communities of color. Although I grew up more privileged than the average black girl, I connected with the youth [that I was working with]...Everyday I saw the struggle but paid most attention to their beauty and the potential they had to excel.


I received a BA in Environmental Management and immediately went to Grad School at NYU for Sustainable Entrepreneurship + Fashion. Once I moved to NY, I got more heavily into environmental justice through fashion. Outside of going to a Catholic high school, it was my first time really being immersed in white spaces. My experiences in NY slapped me in the face with the harsh realities of tokenism, lack of representation, white privilege, racism, singular notions of feminism—it was a clear reflection of the real world.


Some of these experiences included:
•    Getting told that my resume and cover letter sounded like an “angry black woman” to my face during an interview
•    Being the only black face in audiences and not seeing representation on stage for years in the sustainability space (with occasional sprinkles here and there)
•    Not seeing black magazines cover sustainability
•    Witnessing every single type of cultural appropriation imaginable: in person, on social media, and on media platforms
•    Micro aggressions all throughout grad school (and virtually everywhere) 
•    Getting asked to work on a project so that the platform can have “diversity”
•    Trying to touch my hair with and without permission

And that was just the start...


After spending a Summer in Ghana, Africa, I started piecing so many things together regarding the struggles of being black in America and where we needed to be sustainability-wise to thrive. We need a spiritual, emotional, and physical awakening. 

So my activism to empower communities of color in sustainability spaces has been largely shaped by my personal experiences. As I began to travel and speak to designers, artists, foodies, health gurus, and yogis, [I started to see] that everyone was singing the same tune, just not at all in harmony. 

 

The images that I create and promote as a tastemaker and content provider have power. I can affect racial disparities for the greater good of humans globally and build community.

 

I realized that I needed to create a platform that spoke not only to the conscious community but to communities who were unaware to really create a progressive movement.  And then it was easy to tap back to my youth engagement as a motivation for the work I’m doing as [youth] need to see people like me and know that there are folks fighting for their wellbeing in different capacities and that models of all shades exist. There are so many limiting narratives that need to be refreshed and I’m elated to do it! The images that I create and promote as a tastemaker and content provider have power. I can affect racial disparities for the greater good of humans globally and build community.

KW: Your blog, Melanin and Sustainable Style, is a rich exploration of people of color working in the realm of sustainable fashion, beauty, and living. How do you curate the content for this space?


DD: My content is derived from connections made through my lived experiences, researching brands within my realm of focus, getting recommendations, and staying in tune with what’s happening in pop culture. Although right now my platform is heavily interview based, I am looking to include more articles based on global news brining light to issues and accomplishments that aren’t highlighted in mainstream media.


KW: In so many ways, your work is about changing mainstream narratives on what sustainability looks like in practice. How can each one of us contribute to a fresh cultural narrative that welcomes, celebrates, and shares diverse stories?

DD: I’m going to give you the shortest version possible to tackle this question as there are many layers as I see it. 

In my first iteration of my blog tagline I had the following:
WAKE UP people of color - Sustainability is foundational to our Core Values, and it is inherent to our culture. 

WAKE UP Mainstream White America - High fashion “borrows” most of its inspiration from 1) nature 2) urban street culture and 3) traditional cultures of color. 

Although I no longer have this exact verbiage currently on my blog, I stand by this wholeheartedly.  

 

We commodify various illusions of America’s definition of success instead of getting back to our roots of holistic living and connectedness to self, family and the natural world.

 

Let me explain: Experiences in your life, such as the ones that I shared earlier, tell you to WAKE THE FUCK UP and figure out a new game plan that will help provide a platform that compliments your passion and speaks to your truth. So when I say, WAKE UP PEOPLE OF COLOR, [what I mean is that] most people of color realize that systems were put in place for the failure of their cultural digest and to stifle progression. Despite being cognizant of these manifestations that lead to the struggle, many POC fall victim to it by not understanding or knowing how to self heal, uplift community and live sustainably as a means to creating a stronger people. There are countless challenges preventing us from getting past the hurt and pain. Additionally, we commodify various illusions of America’s definition of success instead of getting back to our roots of holistic living and connectedness to self, family and the natural world. So for people of color, independently and collectively, we have to work on internal modifications to relearn how to celebrate ourselves, respect ourselves and uplift one another so that we can put more positivity into the atmosphere and share our AMAZING diverse stories. We have to mitigate things like drug abuse, crime, heart disease and distasteful competition despite the fact that it’s a direct result of racism in America. We have to wake up!

And when I say, WAKE UP WHITE AMERICA [what I mean is that] those that are white and actually want to change in America have a LOT to learn. Those outside of the diaspora need to do their research. Understand first what systematic racism is and how America, corporations, your family members and even you have contributed to it (remember that you play a very political role when you’re silent). Understand and I mean really understand the structures of oppression and race relations in America. Everything as extreme as Nazi hate groups to micro aggressions in the corporate work place. You have to understand that white supremacy doesn’t just look like the people in Charlottesville…it can very well look like the average white man or woman walking down the street.


This will be an untapped tunnel of exploration for MOST non-people of color in America. [It's important] that in tandem with this research of better understanding racism and privilege [that you also seek to] understand the significant and even monumental contributions that people of color play in creating America that were intentionally exempt from your grade school texts books. Take a reputable black history class, watch documentaries, read autobiographies and race related books, and learn about inventors of color, abolitionists outside of Malcolm and Martin, pioneers in film/fashion/science/television that never got credit—all of the greats that never received creative or economic payment or notoriety. And don’t be fooled by the white savior mentality or the brands that have token women of color and definitely not those that feel the need to fetishize black bodies. 

 

Have a voice for black women, Muslim women. Explain why ”All Lives Matter” is offensive and verbalize your support for Black Lives Matter—and don’t just talk about it, be about it. 


Then share this information with others who continue to devalue and disrespect people of color. Those especially who call themselves feminists without giving mention to intersectionality. Have a voice for black women, Muslim women. Explain why ”All Lives Matter” is offensive and verbalize your support for Black Lives Matter—and don’t just talk about it, be about it. 

 

Know and understand that you can’t really be part of the sustainability movement unless you’re fighting for the civil rights for all women, unless you’re pushing for inclusivity, unless you’re dismantling environmental racism, unless you’re working to bring representation and intersectionality to sustainable movements. 


Know and understand that you can’t really be part of the sustainability movement unless you’re fighting for the civil rights for all women, unless you’re pushing for inclusivity, unless you’re dismantling environmental racism, unless you’re working to bring representation and intersectionality to sustainable movements. 

I know very few white Americans who can grasp these concepts and have a genuine dialog with me about them. A genuine fresh cultural narrative can take place once authentic context is put into place. Because then, you will really appreciate our culture and the pride we have. You’ll better understand our contributions and the strength it took to persevere despite all racist agendas— it’s a cultural resilience. Sustainability is very much intertwined with civil rights, and once this notion is understood, a greater appreciation for the beauty of our melanin will arise. Then collectively we can continue to share perspective and fight injustice. Takes rebuilding! 

 

INSPIRATION

In this curated list, Dominique shares a few of the people and projects who are energizing the intersectional environment movement. 

@nikishabrunson - An all around dope public figure with amazing positive energy

@iam_samata - a person/ IG feed that constantly inspires me and is very supportive of my work

Lauren Ash  (@hellolaurenash) creates holistic and wellness spaces for WOC

CRW Magazine - focused on the beauty of WOC hair

Aditi (@aditimaer) - Photographer & Fashion Activism Blogger

Priscilla Amado - creating urban garden/farm in Brooklyn so that the community can be self sustaining

Voz- A clothing brand philosophy I greatly admire

Cindy Luquin (@greenvanillabean) - Latina representation for green beauty & living

@zerowastehabesha Representation Matters Series

SPELLBOUND HERBALS

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: BRITTANY DUCHAM

Brittany Ducham of Spellbound Herbals is a passionate community herbalist whose work powerfully interweaves the personal and political. Her potions, teas, and homemade zines are antidotes to our mainstream culture of disconnection and colonization. Herewith, the rad Brittany shares with Loam what experiences fuel her work as an herbalist, the contradictions she's encountering as she seeks to nourish her passion project, and her recipe for embodying hope in her everyday. Her interview has been deeply inspiring to me (choosing just a couple of pull quotes wasn't easy when I wanted to italicize everything!) and I know you'll find in her sage words the wisdom to deepen your own connection to self & soil. Dig in, loamy loves!

What drew you to work as a herbalist?
I grew up in punk/diy communities in Florida, and in my early twenties became introduced to anarchist values. A rejection of hateful institutions, reverence for the earth as a living being, a need for critical thought and questioning, a desire for self-reliance, interconnectedness, accessibility, agency, a reclamation of our food + healing systems, decolonization, inclusiveness, direct action, intersectional feminism, reciprocity—all of these concepts shaped who I am and continue to inform my work. I am motivated by gaining tools to build a better world. Everyday I continue to learn and it is an honor to count the plants as teachers. I am drawn to the work of an herbalist because it ignites hope inside me. Herbalism remedies so much of what I find problematic in our time. My practice with herbs has become a point of intersection for all my passions. 

Plants are the real teachers. They encourage us to slow down, to be flexible, to blossom, to root, to grow at our own pace, to thrive when the odds are against us.


All my life I have wanted to be of service to those I hold dear. I used to think that meant giving people advice whenever they opened up. I was such a problem solver (still am, but now I channel that into design work and medicine formulation) but I’ve learned over time that people want to be heard and seen, not fixed. I love talking to people about their joys and struggles. I love creating space for people to share, I love facilitating conversations. I work to encourage people to embrace who they are, to heal, to have boundaries and ask for what they need and fight for a more vibrant world for all of us. I find that my work with plants, my work as an herbalist, often facilities these conversations, or at least provides the tools needed to navigate the complexities we face. Plants are the real teachers. They encourage us to slow down, to be flexible, to blossom, to root, to grow at our own pace, to thrive when the odds are against us. I’m drawn to this wisdom, and wish to share it. 

What experiences feed your soul and fuel your herbal practice?
Connection. Connection with plants + the land through wandering, harvesting + medicine making, with the moon and stars, with people, with self-defined beauty, with myself through solitude, movement, reflection and tarot. Cooking meals with friends, a ritual bath, engaging in deep conversations, the resiliency of the human heart, sitting in a meadow of pedicularis, a garden grown by a loved one, laughing at the absurdity of existence, listening to a podcast, hills of sagebrush at sunrise, writing to express a feeling. Lately, all these acts feed + fuel me. 
One of my favorite movies is Before Sunrise and I love the scene where Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are talking and her character says something like, “if there’s any kind of god, it doesn’t exist somewhere out there or inside us, it exists in the little space in between two people trying to connect. If there’s any type of magic in this world, it’s in the attempt to understand someone sharing something.” I’ve always loved that. I don’t spend much time contemplating the divine, or god, but I do think an awful lot about connection, belonging and everyday magic. I feel so strongly that connection feeds us, it is a deep yearning and motivator in us all. There is so much overwhelm and isolation, and I think to connect to yourself, to your surroundings, to story is a curative. I try to pay attention to what makes me feel connected, less overwhelmed and less alone. These experiences, rituals, little spaces of in between, are the magic that feed me. 

How do you want to nurture Spellbound Herbals in the coming year?
Spellbound, like my life, is in flux while I uproot, pulled to new landscapes by plant teachings and dear friends. I left Denver in March and have been surrendering to uncertainty since. In this time of in-between, I nurture Spellbound by staying open to what can be. I am dreaming up new potions and not allowing my fears or comparisons to create the dominate narrative for how I show up in the world. I’m doing work to clarify my vision and listening without judgment to what surfaces. I nurture this project by making medicines with the intention to know the plants, to know the land. I play and experiment. I nurture this project with curiosity, with subversive optimism, with a determination to decolonize, and an understanding that I’m going to be vulnerable, make mistakes and keep showing up. 

I nurture [Spellbound] with curiosity, with subversive optimism, with a determination to decolonize, and an understanding that I’m going to be vulnerable, make mistakes and keep showing up. 


I tend to not worry much about making a profit with Spellbound, as I have always relied on another source of income. Very recently, I began shifting how I relate to money, trying to separate it from capitalism, or at least come to terms with it, and am hoping to make more of a living from this passion project / side hustle. I struggle with profiting off of herbs, so healing how I think about money, and moving forward with integrity, is some seriously important work that I am nurturing right now. 


Spellbound has always been a very small, intimate project that is informed by the plants around me, the topics that I want to write about + share and the need that I experience in my communities. But it’s also been informed by my complicated feelings surrounding money, ownership, consumerism, business and success. Mainly, that if I succeed and make a living, a profit off of this work, that I am part of the problem or benefiting from a system I do not agree with. It’s interesting to dissect. I think a lot of folks struggle with these inner dilemmas. How do you thrive in a system you wish to destroy? 


In the coming year, I know I need to nurture a sustainable approach for this work. I believe in my skills, my time and the value of what I do. I want to reach more people. I see nurturing Spellbound Herbals as a vital activity and a life-long conversation between myself, plants and people.  

How do you embody hope in your everyday life?
I recently reread Hope In The Dark by Rebecca Solnit and I appreciate how she describes hope, “Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal... To hope is to give yourself to the future - and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” 
“It is an axe you break down doors with”— this line creates a visceral giddiness in me. All the Aries in my chart does a dance. Aries, as a fire sign, are about action and in particular - we’re the ram after all - have this determination to break down barriers. We head butt our way through adversity. We’re this youthful sign, the first in the zodiac, and we carry this fresh optimism, this innovation and courage to charge ahead. We want change, and we’re willing to act. In this way, I embody hope by sparking conversation that are difficult to have, by questioning our indoctrination. By stepping into myself and being seen as emotional and sensitive, by being tender, intuitive and vulnerable. 

I nurture my relationships as best I can, knowing that the future I want to build would be nothing without those I care for.


In June I took an abortion doula course through Colorado Doula Project. I want to continue to take a stand for reproductive justice and be their for folks when they may not have much support or access. I know this work will take shape when I move to Georgia, and I imagine that the need for this work will become more important in years to come. I try to support small farms when I buy herbs, I wildcraft ethically and with reverence for the plant and ecosystem it calls home. I nurture my relationships as best I can, knowing that the future I want to build would be nothing without those I care for. I feed myself nourishing foods, and try to be gentle with myself during times of stress when all I want to eat is chocolate. I have autoimmunity so to feed myself well and stay on top of my herbal practice is giving myself to the future. 

THE NORTHERN MARKET

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: LINDSEY ZINNO

Made by hand in her Cincinnati studio, Lindsey Zinno's multifunctional fiber art is a minimalist study in infusing everyday objects—market totes, baskets, trivets, and bowls—with a sense of peace and purpose. I first was drawn to The Northern Market for its succulent simplicity. Her woven work reminded me of woodcut prints and tree rings. So I was especially excited to learn that her products—many made from a single piece of rope—are locally sourced, naturally dyed, and crafted from scrap materials. It's always so inspiring to me to meet with makers who are taking stuff that's already in circulation and transforming it into functional works of art.

I recently connected with Lindsey to talk shop. Tune in for an energizing conversation on sustainable consumption and heart-filled craft (and check out her upcoming episode for PBS on contemporary sewing and rope craft!)

What inspired you to create The Northern Market? How do you integrate sustainable practices into your work?
I have always been driven toward making, and I always knew that I wanted a career that is creative, different, and ever-changing. I began The Northern Market when I was in high school. After gifting many of my baskets [to friends and family] I realized that it was time to start gearing my work toward building a business. I study Environmental Sciences at the University of Cincinnati and I use my studies [to shape] my business everyday. The rope that I use is actually sourced from my state of Ohio (purchasing locally is very important to me). The cotton rope is spun using leftover fiber from cotton fabric production and I have my labels made from organic cotton in Massachusetts. Nothing ever goes to waste in my studio. I reuse, recycle, and repurpose everything that I can. I also enjoy working with natural dyes such as Hibiscus or Turmeric. 


Many of the gorgeous goods from The Northern Market are made to order and some are crafted with natural dyes. What's your creative process like when you're dreaming up a piece?
You will always find my sketchbook, notepad, and graphite pencils in my bag. I find inspiration everywhere. I find many of my ideas just being at home where I like to wonder: What's a new purpose for a vessel? How can I make it different? I'm also very centered around continuity, as almost all of my pieces are made with one continuous piece of rope. There are instances where I cut the rope to add a new dyed rope color, but everything is made in a continuous form. That is something that requires a lot more creativity, trying to dream up a design, but also making it continuous. I don’t make or design for a certain target market, but rather, for myself, and what I would like to see in my line. 


How do you envision growing The Northern Market in the coming year? 
Because I am about to enter my final year of school, I will be transitioning into what my vision for The Northern Market will be when I graduate. I believe that I will open a store one day, soon. I have so many ideas, so many designs that are not just centered around rope, but around recycled fibers too. I will be expanding my circle a bit, looking for more help around my studio, and expanding my studio space as well. 


At Loam, we celebrate the importance of embodying hope. This means grounding our dream for a better world in concrete actions. How do you embody hope in your every day?
I am very conscious about buying sustainably. I believe that a sustainable purchase is not just one that is created with eco-friendly materials, but also something that will last. The Northern Market creates sustainable and functional art with great longevity. My focus is to provide hope to consumers so they can trust handmade work and know that they do not need to buy mass-produced, environmentally unfriendly pieces. Every purchase, every dollar spent in an unsustainable way is [giving] more support to [environmentally unsound] companies and therefore more support to a tragic future. In my everyday, I am quite conscious of my spending decisions so I support local, handmade businesses. 

GHOST MOUNTAIN

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: SIMONE LITTLEDALE

It's very difficult to make a living as an artist but if we can change paradigms around that and encourage more people to pursue art in a definitive way, I think we are going to come out with a far more beautiful and far more caring society.

SIMONE LITTLEDALE

I first discovered Ghost Mountain Co. during my Artist-In-Residence at the magical Woodland Keep. Surveying Demetria's kitchen shelves, I stumbled across a charcoal grey bowl mapped by Arcana symbols. The beautiful design spoke to something deep in me. It was a reminder to take care of the tools I use to nourish myself and to see the magic in the mundane.

Inspired by Ghost Mountain's functional ceramics that evoke a deep appreciation for the wilderness, I reached out to artist Simone Littledale to talk nature, art, and adventuring. Tune in for an energizing conversation that I hope will give you permission to fearlessly make with the same kind of curiosity and creativity that Simone brings to her craft. 

KATE WEINER: What inspired you to pursue ceramics?

SIMONE LITTLEDALE: I've done ceramics since I was a kid at the local community center. I always liked it but never pursued it extensively. I graduated university, went traveling, came back home, and couldn't find work. To occupy my time and keep myself from getting too bummed out, I started making pottery—my Mom teaches the little kid classes—and it just exploded from there. I started going every day.

KW: What's your creative process like?

SL: I'm a big nerd and am interested in many different things. I'll catch wind of something and think oh that's fascinating and want to read everything I can about it. Most of the collections [for Ghost Mountain] stem from that curiosity. Arcana came from a longstanding interest in witchcraft, alchemy, and the history surrounding the occult, especially the scientific component. Alchemy [for example] is a predecessor to the study of chemistry. Before anybody really knew what it was about in terms of molecular exchange, people used symbols as a shorthand.

I got really obsessed for a bit with knowing where all the plants in B.C. came from and understanding their scientific names. I'd go to the library and sit and draw botanical illustrations—and then I'd adapt those drawings to simpler forms that can be easily carved and painted onto pottery.

In terms of trial and error, I like to explore painting with cobalt carbonate—which has been used on pottery for many centuries—and carving [shapes into the ceramics] using a method called sgraffito.

KW: What experiences shape your work?

SL: I live in a pretty stunning environment on the West Coast of British Columbia. I'm as far West as you can go in Canada so I'm close to old growth forests, unbelievable cliffs, and open oceans—but it's also a semi-Mediterranean climate that gives life to incredible biodiversity.

I'm also inspired by the Amazon Rainforest. I've gone down twice to work with indigenous communities on art and cultural preservation. I'm hoping to go down again in the next year or so and run another project. That's a place where the understanding of things that are not explainable is far different from ours. Things will just happen and people will consider it routine even though as an outsider it's unbelievable. Going there you really have to suspend your disbelief and not take everything from our urban standpoint. That's why I'm so inspired by the different perspectives of my friends who live there—their way of going about life, of perceiving time. 

KW: What brought you to the Amazon?

SL: Our good family friend Diego Samper of Fundación Calanoa has been going to the Amazon for several decades. He spent eight of those years navigating through communities by canoe. He invited me down three years ago to work with his niece and teach photography classes. 

KW: At Loam, we talk a lot about the importance of living our values. How do you embody hope in your everyday life?

SL: By trying to provide as much support as I can for other artists—mentorship if they need it, guidance if they want it. I'm trying to do my small part to encourage the proliferation of art in small cities. It's very difficult to make a living as an artist but if we can change paradigms around that and encourage more people to pursue art in a definitive way, I think we are going to come out with a far more beautiful and far more caring society. Let yourself consider yourself an artist.  

MAKE WILDE

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: COURTESY of MAKE WILDE

I first discovered Make Wilde thru ModerNation, an online shop that celebrates upcycled clothing and sustainably made goods. A quick scroll thru Make Wilde's Instagram feed and I was entranced—not only by their commitment to using recycled metals and reclaimed gems but also by their organic jewelry that beautifully evokes the wild wonder of our natural world.

I've met many people who are quick to write off sustainable fashion as superficial. Considering that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry on the planet, however, I think that illuminating those businesses that are challenging the status quo is pretty damn important. Make Wilde is about transforming the delicious act of adornment into an exercise in environmental responsibility. It's about noticing the kind of beauty that we can build when we look to the materials we already have in circulation as a source of inspiration. And it's about sharing natural talismans that give us a place to ground our permaculture philosophies.

I connected with co-founder Chloe Byrne—who crafts each Make Wilde piece by hand in collaboration with Andrew Sapienza—to talk about reimagining "garbage" and building a sustainable business. Dig in for your daily dose of inspiration.

How do you practice permaculture in your everyday life?

We live in New York City, so it's a bit difficult to practice permaculture in full; however, through as many routes as possible, I've found ways to incorporate permaculture into our life here. As a philosophy, we are always looking for ways to work with nature as well as take into consideration all of the ways something might be used and reused. One thing that we constantly practice is to buy only what we need; this is an ongoing effort, as needs change day-to-day, but to do this, we try to plan ahead, do our research, and only buy from businesses that practice in permaculture, sustainability, and environmental responsibility. We also like to repurpose things that would otherwise end up as "garbage" or "recycling." 

Make Wilde repurposes materials and draws inspiration from the natural world to craft unique pieces. What's your creative process like and what resources do you turn to infuse your work with its wild spirit?

Our creative process is often started by the materials we use. Our first set of raw gemstones were part of a reclaiming process where I went to collect old Earth Science Education Materials. These are often grids with USA-native stones glued onto them. I take them apart and reuse the gems in our pieces! So, as to your question, we start with a material and then we design around it. 

What experiences brought you to create Make Wilde?

Many. Mostly, my interest in sustainable business practices came from food quality-related research. As I became more and more interested in supporting high-quality, small business organics, I internalized all of the things that made something the "best" it seemingly could be! I started to translate these qualities into other areas of life...I think that the farther out from your body that a product gets, the farther away the effect is in your mind. So, food is the obvious first consideration, then body products, then clothing, and finally, household items and electronics. I eventually made my way up the ladder! So when I wanted to make a jewelry company, I thought it logical that I practice my version of best practices to see how it would go!

What does it mean to be a sustainable business?

This is totally dependent on the industry in which the business fits. But in general I would say that [in a sustainable business] their raw materials and final product are produced locally, and under high quality work conditions. They have people working for them that are empathetic, hard-working, balanced, and properly compensated. Their product is based on quality, not quantity. They are honest and transparent in their offerings. They are adding positive, necessary products or services to people's lives. And most importantly, they have made every possible consideration as to how their materials and product are impacting the environment because we rely on the environment to survive. 

THE LIFE IN AN OYSTER

WORDS: NATE BERNITZ

IMAGE: JESSY KORTANGIAN

I remember the unexpectedness most. After spending almost every summer of my childhood exploring the rocky coastline of Maine and Nova Scotia, I thought I understood my relationship to the ocean. It was a place of immense beauty, mysterious creatures of all shapes and sizes, undiscovered frontiers, and in desperate need of protection.

But years later, as I discovered the muddy shores of the Puget Sound in between classes, I stumbled on something. It was an oyster, but not like any I had ever seen. It was the length of my forearm, covered in a quilt of Christmas colored seaweeds and crawling life, it seemed strangely alone. This oyster didn’t seem to need protection from the likes of me or anyone else. It seemed like it had survived countless tribulations and had been there longer than anything. I needed to know its story.

It turned out that throughout the small, narrow inlet where this old oyster lived were oyster farms. These are marine farms, otherwise known as aquaculture. These oysters were cultivated from their free-swimming larval stage to about a year old, when they were harvested and brought to oyster bars, restaurants, and groceries throughout the world. At first, I was skeptical.

But when I spent time on some of these farms, I discovered beaches full of abundance. More like ranches than farms, the growing equipment and oysters seemed to attract unimaginable life and biodiversity. Eel like gunnels and hermit crabs hunkered down during the twice-daily low tides that exposed the mudflats. Enormous moon snails and sunflower stars lurked around sweet spots especially dense with shellfish, ready to feed with reckless abandon when the frigid estuary dutifully flooded the beach again.

As much life as was visible at low tide, lying dormant to avoid detection from curious seagulls flying overhead, what was most incredible was what these farms looked like underwater. A friend of mine found out by deploying underwater cameras, and we watched in amazement as flounder, seals, sea ducks, and even octopus came in droves to enjoy the buffet provided by the farm. It was a sight to see.

These commercial farms are home to hundreds of thousands of oysters and clams, each filtering dozens of nutrient rich gallons of water every day. 

Whatever was in that water was in the oysters and clams too, and the farmers understood that better than anyone. Rain brought what’s known as nonpoint source pollution from throughout the watershed into the rivers that fed the Sound. From abandoned pet waste at local parks to over applied fertilizers and pesticides in people’s yards, the rain skimmed it all into streams, storm drains, and rivers that eventually made their way to these oyster farms.

It wasn’t environmentalists on the front lines of this challenge, lobbying for legislation and passing out pet waste bags. No, instead it was the oyster farmers - after all, their livelihoods were at stake.

Oysters could only be harvested from clean water. When water quality declined, the farms were closed and workers were sent home without pay. But when the water coming down the rivers was clean and the storm drains were dry, the water quality bounced back in just days. After all, the tides flushed water from the inlets to the Sound and into the Pacific twice a day. The oysters were usually safe to eat just days after that.

On the same beach I found that lone oyster, I worked with some college classmates to get necessary approvals and support to start an oyster farm. We realized there was no better way to galvanize support for keeping our water clean and beach protected than to involve the student body and the community. When we broke ground, curious students wandered down to the beach - many for the first time. As students from across the country and the world pulled on hip waders and rubber gloves and trudged through the campus’ temperate rainforest and down to the beach, they discovered what I discovered: oysters are life.

After months and months of farming those tidelands, both during warm summer days and frigid winter nights, we completed the farm to table cycle that has captured the hearts and souls of people all over the world for generations. We carefully and joyfully gathered as many oysters as we wanted, and we slurped the best oysters any of us had ever tasted. They were ours, and they were perfect.

To this day, I don’t know where that lone oyster came from, but I know where it took me. Years later, the school’s oyster farm is still there too. I don’t know the students tending to it now, but I do know how important they are. People protect what they care about, and care about what brings them joy and enlivens their senses. Even now, the first oyster I tasted from our garden keeps my fire lit. 

As it turns out, those oysters don’t need our protection. But the water they live in does. So when you slurp your next oyster, thank the coalition of water protectors and oyster farmers who made it possible. And by all means - farm on.

The school referenced in this article is The Evergreen State College, and the oyster farm is called The Evergreen Shellfish Garden.

BUILDING A WASTE-FREE FUTURE

WORDS & IMAGE: LINDSEY MCCOY

I’m a girl on a mission to have less plastic in my life and to make it easy for others to do the same. Why? Since it lasts forever, I worry about future generations choking on all the plastic that we are thoughtlessly discarding. I’ve already seen it happening on the islands of The Bahamas where I used to live. 

The Bahamas are as beautiful as you imagine. Turquoise water, sandy beaches, palm trees swaying in the breeze. We lived for ten years on a small island, a few miles from the main island, which means it was a boat ride to the grocery or hardware store. Life there meant finding creative solutions to problems. You couldn’t run to the store when you needed a new something, or even if you needed a new part to fix something. There was a lot of reusing and repurposing. 

In these islands the difficult logistics of transportation means there is no “away” to throw your trash. There’s really no place for it to go. So the consequences of our disposable lifestyle are much more apparent than they are in the U.S. Litter, wind and waves place our discarded shopping bags, water bottles and flip flops on the side of the roads, in the waterways, and across beaches. A visit to “Junk Beach” on a nearby island shows the reality that every piece of plastic ever made still exists. The evidence of plastic’s persistence is everywhere. 

My work in The Bahamas doing environmental education meant I was more aware of the plastic problems we have created than most. The fact that there could soon be more plastic than fish in the ocean weighed heavily on my mind. I started taking action: carrying a reusable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, skipping the straw at restaurants and bars. I looked for other ways to use less plastic. But one room in my house remained resistant to my efforts: the bathroom. 

I am not known for my craft skills. Collapsed birthday pinatas for my son, failed halloween costumes and ragged scarves with large holes were the results of my attempts. Based on my checkered history, homemade bath products were not going to be my solution. Plus, getting supplies on a small island would necessitate trips abroad or filling the suitcases of visiting friends. I searched for other options, but I couldn’t find any that worked for me and my hair. 

As we contemplated a move back to the States to give our son some of the experiences I treasured from my childhood, baseball and soccer leagues, gymnastics and pottery classes, without having to coach them or create them, I realized that I might be able to solve my own problem. Even better, I might be able to help other people use less plastic in their lives. 

I recruited my sister, Alison Webster, who has a design background, and a lovely sense of style, to help me create a Netflix of shampoo. You order the bottle and when you’re finished you send it back to be reused. That was the basic idea at the time. Happily, she said yes. Then the real work began.

From the initial idea it took almost two years to figure out how to make the concept a reality. There were quite a few hurdles. First, we had to check with the FDA to make sure there were no legal issues. It was a long confusing email and phone call chain, but they finally assured us there was no reason not to go ahead, although I think they doubted our sanity for trying it. Then we had to find the right container and a shampoo manufacturer. The first few natural product options resulted in straw-like hair that no one would want, no matter how good it was for the environment. We persevered and found a great product, but then we had to convince them to refill our bottles once we had cleaned and sanitized them. It took some explaining, and an in person meeting, but we knew we’d found the right partner when they said they’d be willing to give it a try. 

The other challenge was making it easy for others to eliminate some plastic from their life. We want Plaine Products to be a easy, simple option for purchasing quality, natural products that don’t add to the plastic problem. So here’s how it works: you order your preferred products in our aluminum bottles. When your bottles are low you order a refill, or you can subscribe and we’ll send the bottles automatically. When the refills come you’ll switch the pumps over and send back the empty bottles in the refill box, Plaine Products covers the cost. Then we clean the bottles, refill them and reuse them. 

As far as we know we’re the only company that are taking responsibility for our packaging in quite this way. And we are very proud that are products are have a biodegradable formula, are cruelty free, and have organic, vegan ingredients. We hope that shampoo, conditioner and body wash are just the start of a packaging revolution and that these small choices, when taken together, can have a big impact.