MUSICEYES & EDGE

Local Designers: A Talk With Demimonde

MUSICEYES & EDGE
Local Designers: A Talk With Demimonde
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Jewelry designer Rachael Donaldson hardly ever creates the same piece twice.Unless you've commissioned her for a set of multiples, Donaldson has no plans to replicate her lovingly crafted jewelry. She'd rather let each earring and necklace stand on their own, like mini sculptures.Donaldson's jewelry features a striking collection of geometric Native American motifs. She works on each one-of-a-kind piece in the itty-bitty but cozy backspace of her boutique Demimonde, off Northeast Broadway. She's made the shop her own, with thrifted furniture finds and hanging lights, and carries wares from other Portland designers such as Better Late Than Never and Stone & Honey, as well as recently picking up a line from Betsy+Iya.Today, her jewelry business is thriving. She spared some time out of her busy schedule to share her design secret sauce with EYES + EDGE:EYES + EDGE: We love your geometric jewelry designs; they have such a strong aesthetic. What inspires you to make them?Rachael Donaldson: It's two-fold. I started out the way a lot of people do, like wire-wrapping, and I just got tired of it really fast. I wanted something more architectural that I could play with pattern and structure. My jewelry line does not have a new jewelry line that comes out every fall or spring, like a lot of designers do, and I envy them for doing that, but I can't work that way.I make everything myself. And only now and possibly have a little help with some production, like little tassels and little parts. So that has been an experiment because it's really hard to get people to do things the way you really want them to be done. My line, most of it is one-of-a-kind, which is crazy. I am starting to make duplicates, like I made three of that earring yesterday.The designs come from partly, just, architectural patterns, like Native American, I'm from the Southwest, so I love pottery design, and pattern and textiles, the stuff that's very, very hip right now. I'm always inspired by that. The stones... I also love using gemstones. Part of it is this technical thing too, figuring out how to put stuff together.E+E: How do you come up with ideas for the shape?Donaldson: I… don't know. (laughs)E+E: It just… organically forms?Donaldson: I don't have a good answer for that. Sometimes it's defined by how these materials can be put together, like the cut of the stone. I just started doing cut brass… But I'm still trying to keep it looking, like, mine. I don't always know where the shapes come from… It's [become] art deco in the last year. Sometimes I'll do little sketches, but they're usually on scrap paper.I also start with elements that I've been repeating and constantly changing them. While I'm working, I think I should try this, or I should try this... It's kind of why I don't do a line. I could never settle on like six or eight pieces, and say this is my line for the year and make those all over again. I'd go crazy.But I also go crazy making new stuff every day (laughs), so I don't know, I won't ever have an established piece that's made 100 times. That's probably never going to happen. But never say never.E+E: It's really cool that your customers know they're getting a very unique piece.Donaldson: Demand has made me make duplicates lately...E+E: That's a good thing!Donaldson: Yeah, that's a good thing. I think the most I've ever made of something is like three or four. So it's not very many.E+E: When was the moment that you realized your business could actually work, instead of always hustling?Donaldson: Oh, I'm hustling. My jewelry business was getting to a level where I felt like, if I did something out of a studio-shop, that I would be fine, and hopefully the shop would take care of itself and do pretty well.So I looked for a location that wasn't super busy. I didn't want to go downtown, and maybe someday I will. But I wanted to find a location that was manageable, to be a designer and a shopkeeper. And this location has been very easy for that.So most of the pieces in here are thrifted finds, because I do mostly vintage, obviously. But I really wanted to incorporate a lot of my passions, like vintage clothing, vintage jewelry, vintage chotchskies... It's been really fun. I'm carrying other local jewelry designers, and I'd love to carry more, but the store's just really tiny.I really wanted to do something where I'm carrying other people's work and supporting them.E+E: Portland's creative arts scene is transitioning from being a hobby to being more professional. It's great to see more boutiques opening up.Donaldson: It's crazy. It's like when I worked in the food industry. All these chefs were pushing the bar higher and higher and higher, on every level. Quality, and new recipes and drink quality.I feel like I see that with other designers, when they put out new designs and new look books, and I'm constantly blown away. This month is kicking me in the pants, because Stone & Honey and Seaworthy is putting out fall/winter lines. When they put them out, I'm like, I have to try harder!E+E: When is your look book coming out?Donaldson: Hopefully soon... I really wanted to capture summer sunlight, the end of summer, especially in Portland, when you don't get very much of it. And I wanted it to be outdoors, I wanted it to be earthy, sort of natural... I'm excited for it.Written by: Dominique Fong