OUR CITY BOASTS an impressive league of metalsmiths and jewelers creating pieces that just so happen to be my personal kryptonite in this life. There are a number of companies I follow very closely because, like apparel, jewelry design is seasonal and changes with trends. For many apparel designers, following the shifting tide of jewelry styles gives us a crucial leg up when we use accessories to communicate the full vision of our aesthetic. Similarly, jewelry designers often watch the apparel industry for the same reason.
Two years ago, when jewelry company Dea Dia moved its headquarters to Portland, I remember thinking we'd gained another ring leader in the Portland jewelry scene through designer/metalsmith Jessica Lawson. Unsurprisingly, Dea Dia has raised the bar this summer with extraordinary lookbooks and an imminent brick-and-mortar where customers can shop Lawson's newest designs and a curated selection of goods from other designers. Her store (also named Dea Dia) will open in late June at 4525 N Albina, just north of the Mississippi shopping district.
I asked Lawson to tell us a little bit about her company and her plans for the boutique.
MERCURY: How did you get started as a jewelry manufacturer?
JESSICA LAWSON: I started my line back in 2011 as a means of creative expression. I was living in Brooklyn at the time, and struggling to find meaningful work—but I graduated college at the peak of the recession with a journalism degree, and decent jobs were scarce. That meant holding a lot of odd jobs... like a camera operator for a news station, a manager of a hair salon, and receptionist at a movie distribution company. Work was always drudgery for me.
I took on a weekend job selling jewelry for another designer at an artists' market in Williamsburg. It turned out I really liked selling jewelry and the "market life." So I decided to buy a few basic jewelry supplies like pliers, chain, findings, and crystals, and went about teaching myself how to make jewelry just for fun. I'd wear the stuff I made and always got a lot of comments and interest about the pieces, so I started an Etsy shop which was slow going—but proved there was a demand for my jewelry. I was thrilled to finally be able to turn my love of art and design into a means of expression, and people actually responded to it! The first market I ever participated in, I practically sold out and had so much fun. I was hooked. A year later I had a great run of holiday shows. I was able to take the money I made and put it into my first trade show in Las Vegas, which gave way to my wholesale business, which started three years ago. I've been working for myself full-time ever since.
What are your inspirations for your current collection?
My newest collection is called Sun Machine, which is inspired by the life-giving force of the sun, and its relationship to the Earth. Everything is round, spherical, or an arc—which are organic shapes, but there's a lot of structure to them as well and ties into the "machine" aspect of the title. The collection got its name from a David Bowie song, "Memory of a Free Festival," off Space Oddity. I was a huge fan and greatly affected by his passing. I've been revisiting his entire catalog ever since, and was listening to that song when the chorus struck me: "The sun machine is coming down and we're going to have a party." I just loved that sentiment, so I named the collection as a little homage to one of my favorite artists.
How does this current collection stand apart from past collections?
My past collections have been really organic and natural, with hand-carved wax castings, or raw crystals and stones. Imperfect in a fun way, showing the hand of the artist and the beauty of raw stones. This collection seems really focused and clean in comparison. The lines are more precise and deliberate—it's very modern, but still fun. It also all retails for under $100, so it's really accessible.