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En Route: betsy & iya

betsyandiyathestyleline4

Photos by Nicholas Peter Wilson for The Style Line

betsy & iya 

Visit:  2403 NW Thurman St, Portland, OR 97210

Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Shop betsy & iya – Photos by Nicholas Peter Wilson for The Style Line

“Portland has become a hub of the maker movement,”

Betsy Cross of the celebrated jewelry brand betsy & iya expressed in our interview, “I think this city sort of pioneered what you’re seeing all over the country– a move towards localism, towards connecting to the things we buy, towards a new kind of beauty.” The city’s beauty is something that’s hard to describe in a few sentences – it’s enigmatic, lively, though not without its (fun and zany) quirks. Our recent trip to Portland reaffirmed this, but also proved how fortunate we’ve been to be able to cultivate relationships with some of the city’s most innovative and creative minds. Enter Betsy Cross and her growing business betsy & iya. We had the pleasure of meeting Betsy at our 3 year anniversary event (stay tuned for more on that later this week!) and her exuberance, style, and genuine warmth resonated with us deeply.

As we’ve gotten to know Portland’s buzzing maker scene, we found ourselves brimming with questions when it came to Betsy’s personal and professional story, her thoughts on jewelry as it relates to personal style, and how she hopes to see her customer evolve. So we met with Betsy at her celebrated brick and mortar store to chat further about these ideas, and to find out more on what makes the betsy & iya shopping experience truly special. As the burgeoning shop-owner put it below, “I love such a close connection to incredible customers. I love when people come back for more. I love the stories they tell us. I love looking back and seeing how far we’ve come.” What’s not to love about that? Read on for our full conversation with Betsy below which features vibrant photos from our visit taken by Nicholas Wilson for The Style Line.

Hey y’all! I am Betsy Cross.

Originally from Virginia, I’ve lived on the West Coast for 13 years now and I guess you could say I plan on staying! I am currently addicted to making our new-ish house a sanctuary. Music is the foundation of everything for me. It doesn’t matter how engaged I am in a conversation (and boy, do I love a good conversation), close friends know that the right song makes me drift. I’ve never felt as free as I do when I’m dancing. I’m a super klutz and a goof. I love the color, vibrancy and cultures of Mexico and Peru (and Greece). My husband/partner and I have an invented language that we only speak to each other and our dogs. Consistent laughter and play is so important to me. I love a warm ocean and a snowy cabin. Friends and family, story and connection are what matter most to me.

Based on our stories so far we’ve noticed Portland’s affinity for fostering the design community, but more specifically, the jewelry design community. Why do you think that is and based on your experience why do you think Portland is a good place to pursue making/curating/selling jewelry?

It’s funny, we often ask ourselves and wonder, “How in the H is it possible that so many designers are able to thrive in this community?” or at shows we’ve wondered how we could even be noticed with the amount of jewelry to choose from. But here’s the thing: jewelry is easy. It fits… everyone. It transcends time and seasons. People buy it to represent meaningful moments in life. People buy it to spice up an otherwise boring outfit. Side note: I think all of my outfits would be boring without my jewelry. My clothes are a canvas for the stories I tell through my jewelry. It offers a way to express oneself individually–to stand out from the rest. That is all to say, I think there is room for all the jewelry.
For me, specifically, Portland worked because I could afford to throw myself at this career with nothing else backing me up. No money, no experience, no vision really. I just had drive and a cheap studio and a fear that if I didn’t pursue something different, something rooted in creativity and exploration, that I would dissolve into a version of myself that I didn’t like so much. Portland has become a hub of the maker movement. I think this city sort of pioneered what you’re seeing all over the country–a move towards localism, towards connecting to the things we buy, towards a new kind of beauty. So I think this place breeds small designers, we flock here, we are inspired here by our surroundings and each other, and we feel supported by our community. I think we all want to see each other succeed.

“My clothes are a canvas for the stories I tell through my jewelry.”

[CLICK EACH THUMBNAIL IN THESE GALLERIES TO EXPAND IMAGE]

Has working in this medium inspired you to explore other forms of design? What is something you’re looking to do more of creatively this season? 

Oh, yes! I’m always inspired to try new things–er… to a FAULT! I sometimes think I dabble too much, but I’m trying to embrace it. My notebooks are full of ideas and sketches that we may or may not one day pursue. Our bread and butter comes from the regular betsy & iya collections, the more affordable fashion-based work. My current obsession is custom work and the fancier stuff. It’s making me stretch my skills and knowledge greatly; but I love a good challenge. I’d like to put more focus on fine jewelry and see where that takes me. I’ve had home stuff and practical/beautiful jewelry storage on the mind for several years now. In my personal life, I have a persistent dream knocking at my door to practice music again, just get downstairs and play. I used to be in an all-girl band. We weren’t all that good, but man, did we have some good times.

What is your favorite aspect of running a small shop and are there any ideas/topics in particular that you find yourself discussing with other Portland small business owners?

I love driving to work with my husband and dogs everyday. I love small victories that we can celebrate with our staff. I love problem solving and seeing people get to the bottom of something– I love seeing our employees set goals and exceed them. I love a well attended event. I love such a close connection to incredible customers. I love when people come back for more. I love the stories they tell us. I love looking back and seeing how far we’ve come.

What is one question that you wish people asked you more often? 

What is your favorite Prince song?

At this point who is the betsy & iya woman and how do you hope to see her evolve as the store becomes more deeply rooted in Portland culture? 

She is and always has been whoever she wants to be. While we always strive to be a place that offers incredible design, unexpected items people have never seen before, and gorgeous things people can fall in love with, my main goal has always been to create a shop, a jewelry collection, and atmosphere where people feel genuinely welcome. I hope you come to our shop or see our work in someone else’s shop or meet us online and feel warmth, openness, creativity, and connection. And that you find something(s) you love and put your own stories to them.

How would you advise the next generation of makers, creative/fashion professionals or people in general to leave in an imprint in the world just by doing what they love?

Be unwavering in pursuit of your vision. Beyond believing in your ability to succeed, believe in your work and let it guide you. Listen to your work, listen to your gut. Don’t be afraid to drastically change course.  If you’re not falling, you’re holding something back. Be free. Fall down and get back up.

The Style Line was built on the premise of discovery, exploration, and transit. With this in mind, what is “the style line” in your wardrobe?

The style line in my wardrobe sits right alongside what most inspires my work and our brand. It is the unexpected, the contrasts that most interest me. It’s the power line as a bench for a group of birds, it’s the innards of a beautiful building in a hidden corner, it’s my reflection in a perfectly still swimminghole just before I dive in, it’s a defunct factory with the most magical sunset as its backdrop, it’s a huge uninhibited laugh just after a good cry, it’s the St. Johns bridge towering over Forest Park, it’s all the rain and the rain and the rain and then the sun, it’s all the people–the incredible people–and the fact that anything is possible.

“But here’s the thing: jewelry is easy. It fits… everyone. It transcends time and seasons.”