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En Route: Dea Dia

Dea Dia

VISIT: 4523 N Albina Ave, Portland, OR 97217

STORY BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – SHOP Dea Dia – PHOTOS BY NICHOLAS PETER WILSON FOR THE STYLE LINE

Portland-based design shop Dea Dia is quite literally rooted in new beginnings.

What started as a side project for Jessica Lawson, Dea Dia founder, and self-taught artist, organically developed into a tiny but mighty business that has manifested into what is now the brand’s gorgeous storefront.

From the in-house line of jewelry to wall-hangings and hair pieces, Jessica’s growing collection runs the gamut and provides a dynamic array of accessories for women everywhere. Not to mention, we also love Dea Dia’s premise for championing a sense of sartorial courage by encouraging those in the community to try new things (in both life and style). As Jessica mentioned in our interview below, “Pronounced Day-uh Dee-uh, Dea Dia was a little known Roman goddess of fertility and growth. I’ve always interpreted that as ‘New Beginnings’ and the concept that you are starting something new and exciting and your possibilities are endless and waiting to be formed. That said, I think that there is an element of bravery in starting new.”

Coupling this with Jessica’s thoughtful curation of locally-made and women-owned brands, and the shop’s distinct interior design aesthetic, the space itself is truly a feast for the eyes. Earlier this month we had the opportunity to explore Dea Dia and sit down with Jessica firsthand, who kindly spoke more to the inception of the brand, her ever-evolving design process, and thoughts on small business ownership. Without giving too much away, discover our full conversation with Jessica below and enjoy beautiful images from our time together captured exclusively by Nicholas Peter Wilson for The Style Line.

I am Jessica Lawson, mother

to two-year-old Astrid Alexa and wife to Matthew Caron. We just got married in a beautiful Saguaro covered mountain top in Tucson earlier this year and have been together for seven years now! We moved to Portland three and a half years ago from Brooklyn after living there for eight years. Matthew and I both went to school in New York, him for film and me for journalism. I am from the Midwest originally, Columbia, Missouri a college town of 100,000. As a kid, I always fantasized about living in a big city, so as soon as I was 18 and out of high school I moved to Chicago. I’ve moved around a bit over the years, slowly sampling America’s best cities.

I absolutely live for travel and being in nature. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short drive to the apple orchard or a week in the desert, being in a new setting rejuvenates and balances me out. Thankfully, my work enables me to travel often. Music has also always been a huge part of my life. My mom took me to see my favorite bands when I was in elementary school (Boyz II Men and The Cranberries, so ’90s) so I was exposed very early. I love seeing live music whether it’s arena rock or an underground DIY show. Music inspires and energizes. I love hikes when I can sneak them in, and spending quiet evenings indoors with the family.

Getting older, you find it’s harder to make friends. The friendships that I have formed in recent years have been based on honesty, trust, mutual respect, and the ability to talk shop endlessly. Most of the friends that I have made over the last five years have been other makers and biz owners. It’s so wonderful to have a community to help you feel supported so that you can share your journeys with each other, give and receive advice and not feel alone on this path. Most makers and small business owners can talk endlessly about the intricacies of their business and sometimes your partner or friend who works a regular job may not understand or get sick of hearing about it all the time, it can be isolating. That’s where these lady maker friends come in, an invaluable resource for sharing and support.

Family has become an increasingly more important aspect of my life. As an only child and someone in a blended family, I was always kind of on my own plane. My family was spread out over the country and I didn’t see them much. Thankfully, since I started my own business, I have been able to travel and spend a lot more time with my mom’s side of the family and it’s been really great building a deeper connection and having a feeling of being rooted.

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

Do you want to go on a hike? I love hiking and since having a baby and opening my store, I hardly make time for it anymore. I live in such a beautiful corner of the world, I want to explore it by foot!

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Talk to us about the inception of Dea Dia. Why does the name “Dea Dia” embody the spirit of your business and who is the Dea Dia woman?

Dea Dia was started as a little side hobby, I taught myself how to use basic jewelry tools and supplies and started making things at first for me to wear then later for others. I consider myself really lucky that my early work resonated with people and I was able to build upon small successes and start a little business that has supported me over the last five years. I came across the name “Dea Dia” a couple years earlier and used it as the name for a bedroom recording project I did in my mid-twenties. When I started the jewelry line, I took it because I loved the way it sounds and what the name means.
Pronounced Day-uh Dee-uh, Dea Dia was a little known Roman goddess of fertility and growth. I’ve always interpreted that as “New Beginnings” and the concept that you are starting something new and exciting and your possibilities are endless and waiting to be formed. That said, I think that there is an element of bravery in starting new. I think that the Dea Dia woman is strong, bold, mystical and timeless. She values the natural world and has a reverence for the unknown. My jewelry is not dainty, so the wearer needs to have a little bit of edge to rock it.

“Dea Dia was a little known Roman goddess of fertility and growth. I’ve always interpreted that as ‘New Beginnings’ and the concept that you are starting something new and exciting and your possibilities are endless…”

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From jewelry to hair accessories to wall hangings we love the specific lifestyle-led curation behind Dea Dia’s product assortment. Why do you think these three particular areas are of interest to the Portland shopper and her lifestyle?

The wall hangings and hair accessories just felt like natural outcroppings from my jewelry line. My wall hangings are basically celestial inspired jewelry for your wall complete with metal, crystals, and chain. They really brighten a space up and add interesting texture with minimal effort and that’s important because it’s dark and cloudy almost half the year here. The hairpins I make are effortless and cool once you get the hang of them. Every long haired lady should have one in her purse for the times when you want to put your hair up, it adds a level of style that your scrunchie can’t!
In addition to the house line of jewelry and wall hangings that are made in the back of the store, I carry beautiful goods that are made by small makers and woman-owned, except for one. I love curating ceramics, aromatics, and apothecary and finding textiles to bring in; pieces that make excellent gifts or give life to a home.

Walk us through the shop itself. What do you hope people engage with the most when entering the space first? How do you think the shop embodies the spirit of Dea Dia? 

The shop is just lovely. I had so much fun designing and building it out. It is filled with tons of plants and lots of rustic and reclaimed wood, ceramic and brass lights, there’s wall hangings and rugs and textiles, sparkly stones and jewelry. The result is just a warm and inviting space that’s filled with good vibes. As a shop owner, I would say I want everyone to engage with the entire shop. All the nooks and crannies. I would say the first thing that almost everybody does upon entering take a right and go towards the big jewelry wall display. It’s a beautiful wood circular mirror surrounded by large wood pegs that necklaces are draped upon. And underneath that, there is a live edge maple table that I made which is filled with earrings and bracelets and more necklaces. It faces a big picture window so it gets great light. It’s definitely our most photogenic corner. I have two more mirrored installations in the shop and they really help the small space feel bigger. People try to walk into the dressing room mirror because they think it’s another room. I’m really obsessed with the sliding door that I designed and had built to separate the shop from the studio. It’s planks of alder wood alternated with large mirrors, the result is a reflection of the store that’s fragmented. It was inspired by an art installation in Joshua Tree called Lucid Stead in which the artist Phillip K Smith outfitted a homestead cabin with alternating mirrors that reflect the environment back and makes the cabin almost disappear, the result was stunning and I had never seen anything like that in an interior space so I made that happen.

How would you advise the next generation of business owners, creatives and makers to leave an imprint in the world simply by doing what they love?

My best advice is just to say don’t be afraid to take risks. Owning a small business is a huge gamble, sometimes you win and sometimes you fall. But if you live in fear of screwing up and you play it safe all the time, you never know what you may be missing out on. It could be a great success, it could be wisdom gained, it could be a failure. You have to be strong in your self-belief that even if you do take a risk and it doesn’t work out, you don’t let that scar you. Take it as a challenge to be better or to reinvent yourself and your business, an invitation to get more creative in your methods of thinking and doing. Don’t let your successes and failures define you as a person.

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role is Dea Dia playing in this movement?

The world can be a sad place right now with toxic politics, war, global warming and too much to name. But there’s so much beauty to be found as well when we look into the natural world, at sparkly new humans, talented people that share their gifts of music, art, design, science, healing. The creatives and innovators of the world need to band together to help make the world a more beautiful, tolerant and sustainable place. I believe it’s an honor and a duty for people to share their gifts with the world.

I’m so happy to be a part of the growing entrepreneurial movement of people that care for being ethical, transparent and sincere in their business practices. I don’t think I’m going to save the world or anything but if I can help a woman feel more confident or create an object that provides joy, then that’s pretty cool.