It’s a shame that everybody in America assumes that if you’re talking about class you are Marxist. It’s a shame that in these United States populism became a dirty word — shades of racism, authoritarianism, and Pat Buchanan. I wrote an essay a while back trying to unpack the ways that class dynamics entrench and deepen divides around race and gender.
It was based on my own personal, lived experience. And oh yeah, there was a song that went with it.
The personal is political. That’s an ethos underlying hip hop and also feminism. I remember the day I took my friend for a walk in Forest Park. I don’t know if he’d ever been out that way before, even though he grew up in Portland. We were recording video for a crowdfunding campaign we had planned. Don’t know whatever happened to that footage. It’s probably lost until the end of time.
I don’t know what your street name is by now. You went through at least three in the time that I knew you.
Are you looking for ways to support a pregnant friend, spouse, or loved one during the coronavirus crisis? These nine resources from PDX Local can help you to be the friend, partner, spouse, or parent your loved one needs during this emotionally challenging — and potentially isolating — time in her life.
How to Support Your Expectant Loved One
Pregnancy isn’t easy in the midst of a pandemic, but there are things you can do to take some of the weight off your pregnant loved one’s shoulders.
First, take the time to understand what your pregnant loved one is going through. Many pregnant and postpartum women are feeling stressed, anxious, and socially isolated as they attempt to protect themselves and their babies from the coronavirus.
Provide your pregnant friend with the support she needs during the pandemic with these five tips from Thrive Global.
Plan a distanced baby shower for your mother-to-be. Several safe alternatives to in-person parties include drive-by baby showers, virtual events, and tailgate showers.
Gift Ideas for Pregnant Mothers
These resources will help you to give your expectant or postpartum loved one everything she needs to navigate pregnancy and motherhood.
Explore the 50 best gifts for pregnant and postpartum mothers, including memory books, holiday ornaments, and handprint photo frames.
Give mom-to-be the gift of a meal subscription box. Several options include Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Martha and Marley Spoon.
Check out the PDX Local Wellness Gift Guide for more than 50 potential gift ideas that can be purchased now or in time for the holidays.
Tips to Save on Pregnancy Gifts
You don’t need to spend a fortune on pregnancy gifts to support an expectant loved one during the pandemic. These three resources can help you save on your purchases and make a few DIY gifts for your pregnant loved one.
Use deal websites to find savings on purchases from clothing retailers like Old Navy. You can find Old Navy cash back offers, promo codes, and coupons — helping you to save on maternity apparel for your pregnant loved one.
Make a DIY gift for your pregnant loved one. DIYS.com offers 20 do-it-yourself gift ideas for expectant mothers, including a two-seam maternity dress, pregnancy journal, brunch basket, and herbal foot soak.
While preparing for the arrival of a new baby is rarely simple, the pandemic has made pregnancy and childbirth even more difficult for many expectant and new mothers around the world. However, your support can make a world of difference as your loved one prepares for the birth of her new baby, and learns to navigate pregnancy in the midst of a pandemic.
Emily Graham is the creator of Mighty Moms. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.
Who is Molly Muriel? What inspired you to choose that name?
The name Molly Muriel was inspired by my dog. That was her name, and she was my biggest inspiration when I started this company. She was just a pup back in 2002, and sadly left this Earth last year, at almost 16 years of age. So she had a very long and happy life. Her legacy lives on with this business, and she is still a great inspiration.
I read your story on the website. Can you tell us more about the journey from a candle making class to your own line of vegan soaps, balms, and cosmetics?
After spending a good year trying every kind of candle I could find info on, I wanted to branch out. I’m not sure why soap was my goal, but I quickly dove in and tried my first batch. Back then there wasn’t so much information online like we can find now, so I was reading books on fixed oils, fragrances, colorants, and pretty much tried them all. I truly feel that not being able to access so many recipes and info gave me a huge advantage of completely understanding the process of formulation and saponification from the ground up. Through many mistakes and troubleshooting came the beginnings of the product line that exists today.
What does being vegan mean to you? Do you personally practice a vegan lifestyle?
I’m not one to love labels, i.e. vegan, vegetarian, etc. I live my life more from a conscientious standpoint. I’m a clean eater, avoiding processed and chemical derived foods. As for environment, I try to avoid plastic when possible, and use as many recycled goods as possible. Veganism is such an individual thing and can mean different things to many people. Being a lover of animals, I do what I can to respect them in all of my life choices, including the food I eat, the clothes I choose to wear, and the goods I purchase.
What goes into your testing and product development process?
My process begins with research and development. I do a lot of investigation on ingredients I want to implement. I read about their nourishing attributes, as well as potential allergens or irritants. I also dive deep into sourcing to make sure that the ingredient that reaches me is the best quality. As for testing, my friends and family are usually my best test subjects. They give me honest feedback about scent, function, reactions, or anything else that may pertain. I’m so thankful to be surrounded by great people who will take the time to try some of my creations.
What are some of the challenges of marketing, manufacturing, and distributing an independent, plant-based brand in a crowded global marketplace?
Marketing is a huge part of business, it has the largest impact on getting my brand out there. It also happens to be my least favorite part of running a small business. But I’ve found that it’s very necessary to have a great marketing strategy or you won’t get the information about your products to the people that are looking for it. I’ve done everything from trade shows and cold calling to emailing and visiting potential stores in person to try to connect. It’s a lot of work, but can also be very rewarding. Manufacturing can be challenging as well, as I’ve gotten to points where I’ve had to purchase ingredients in larger quantities and make bigger batches, there’s always a learning curve with each step forward. I still go through that now, 16 years in! As for distribution, I’ve realized that my industry, natural beauty/body care, has been on the rise and will just keep going, so I don’t try to compete with large companies. I have a vey different product that will appeal to those folks that seek natural and healthy lifestyles. I do what I can and figure that beyond that the products will speak for themselves, and so far they have.
What are some gifts you would recommend for vegans? (These can be from your store, but they don’t have to be.)
Of course I would suggest anything from my product line. However, one of our lines stands out for vegans. It can be very difficult to find vegan lip balm, most is made with bees wax. We use candelilla wax and floral wax instead, which is so very nourishing to chronically chapped lips. My favorite is the lavender mint. Outside of my product line, I really love Queen Bee products using vinyl instead of leather. They also have a 25% discount buy-back program that rocks! Also, a gift certificate to Blossoming Lotus or Sweetpea Baking Company would be excellent, two of my favorites! Yum!!
What is the most popular item / product among your customers?
Our bar soaps have always been great sellers, specifically the Volcanic Bliss bar. I can’t seem to keep that one in stock. During the winter months we sell a lot of candles, the Spice It Up being a big hit, it has cinnamon and clove essential oils and is warm and spicy during those winter months.
This isn’t a question but I have to say that as someone with perennially chapped lips, your lip balm is truly the best thing I have ever tried. Better than all the national brands. Thank you.
Founder Branda Tiffany
Well, thank you! I find the same thing to be true. I had chronically chapped lips for years and did research to formulate this product for myself. The mimosa floral wax I use helps not only to heal tissue, but is a great protectant against the elements. I’m sure that’s why it has been so great for me 🙂 I’m so glad that you’re experiencing the same thing!!
You’ve been in business since 2002. Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would say, put your focus on feeding your soul before your bank account, and this can be a very sustainable venture for you in the long run. Of course we have to be practical, but true happiness comes from choosing to do something that we love and the money will follow. Don’t give up, just keep your eyes and ears open, and listen to others’ advice, whether you take it or not. One of the worst things we can do is to be stubborn and let our ego get in our way. If we move that aside we can be very successful in all the ways that matter.
The PDX Local Wellness Gift Guide celebrates independent, local, and woman-owned businesses while making it really, really easy to beat traffic and do your shopping online. But what exactly qualifies as a “wellness gift?”
That’s a tricky concept. Maybe you’re thinking it’s anything that doesn’t involve mindless consumption, booze, strippers, or chocolate. Except… we have beer yoga. And pole dancing workout classes. And chocolate, like that made locally right here in Portland by Moonstruck, has been shown to reduce heart disease and promote emotional well-being.
For me, wellness means taking care of yourself—and giving others the tools and resources to do the same. I put this list together by asking friends, allies, and colleagues on social media, as well as going with a few old favorites and items from my personal “wish list.” I hope it inspires you to think past the obvious and create wonderful experiences and memories for the year to come.
Here’s to a healthy and productive 2020. Have fun! Shop local.
Stand and Deliver
Maybe someone on your list works from home, but their office is a cubbyhole in the corner of the kitchen? Support their goals and dreams with a healthy, ergonomic home office.
Swopper Air Motion Chair With Wheels – by Aeris. There are plenty of adjustable ergonomic chairs out there that can be configured to work with standing desks. I’ll be honest. The Swopper is here because it looks the coolest.
Anker Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Mouse I have one of these, and in all honesty it is probably the reason I am still able to type and write today. For those who struggle with repetitive stress injuries (and for those who wish to prevent them!) this inexpensive and elegant wireless mouse is a game changer.
Olander Earthworks makes quirky desktop zen gardens that many therapists and wellness advocates use as a fun anxiety relief tool. So many ways to customize. Portland, Oregon Local Business.
Seriously. Who doesn’t need a little Lululemon and prAna in their life? But did you know that we have fabulous, fashionable brands of active wear being produced right here in Portland? Check out SXY Athletics. This local, woman-owned line of fitness clothing will keep you motivated to go to the gym. Check out their #BlackFriday Sale. SXY Athletics is aPortland, Oregon Local Business.
Go “Ruck Yourself.” Seriously! Rucking (walking with a weighted backpack) is one of the easiest and safest ways to lose weight over time. If you don’t have a sturdy backpack, you can pick up the weighted kind at goruck.com. For the 80% to 90% who have our own (or our kid’s) Jansport sitting in a closet somewhere, adding weight to a day pack is a great way to try out rucking. I recommend custom rucking weightsover hand weights because they are less likely to shift and potentially damage the pack.
Comfort and Joy
You know how we always say “practice self care?” Well, sometimes that’s easier to do when somebody else helps out with the little things. The people on your list will know they are cared for with these thoughtful and practical gift ideas.
Full Belly Fare – Do you have a loved one who’s had a new baby, surgery, or other stressor? Although you may not be able to deliver a meal yourself, Full Belly Fare is the perfect gift solution for family and friends who want to provide meaningful support to someone experiencing a life transition or challenge! Personal chef Lyla prepares hand-crafted meals, including vegan gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, soy free, and paleo meal options. Use discount code PDXLocal15for $15 off all first orders (new customers). Portland, Oregon Local Business
Cassarole – Handmade and vintage items. Only shop features tinctures, body butter, and this extraordinary geode soap. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Seagrape bath + body is a queer owned natural brand with a focus on artisan crafted goods for self-care. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Mama Tea-a Inspirational hand-blended organic herbal teas. Portland, Oregon Local Business.
Cherryriver.net. CBD products for Bath, Beauty, and Wellness. They offer gift sets, along with a line of topicals, a sports line, bath bombs, and have just released a high potency tincture. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Back to Broth. Organic, local, pasture-raised medicinal bone broth. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Briar Patch Herbs. Culinary and medicinal herbs. Receive compassionate guidance from an experienced Herbalist. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Gather Around Nutrition. Johanna is a private therapeutic chef with a Master’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition who does in-home meal prep, custom meal plans and in-home cooking classes. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Molly Muriel. The best lip balm I have ever found. Even better, it’s vegan! Read our interview with founder and apothecary Branda Tiffany here. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Optimistic Soap. Optimistic Soap makes unique, handcrafted soap with all-natural ingredients! 20% of all profits are donated to charity. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Whole Tree CBD. Hand-crafted hemp CBD products that aid in healing of the mind and body. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Yo Soy Candles Handcrafted eco-conscious candles. Each beautiful scent is paired with its very own “I AM” statement to inspire a positive mindset + empower transformation by practicing the self loving ritual of I AM. Portland, Oregon Local Business
So many people will tell you that they don’t need more “stuff” in their life. So what is the perfect gift? Consider health and wellness services from a local practitioner. From massage to coaching to astrology, a gift certificate gives someone the opportunity to explore a path that they might never have discovered otherwise.
Anna DeSalvo. “I offer productivity coaching for working moms juggling it all.” Sound like anyone you know? Portland, Oregon Local Business
Avani Massage. Head and neck pain specialist, online gift certificates available for multiple locations. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Beaverton Neurofeedback. Brain training for better sleep, memory, attention and more. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Beginning Within – Massage therapy, pelvic floor therapy, newborn therapy. Offering hypnobirthing classes and childbirth consultations, and a range of gift certificates Portland, Oregon Local Business
Love Your Skin Day Spa. Lacey offers organic facials, massage, organic airbrush tans, facial waxing, Microderm, LED and oxygen treatments. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Marchick Counseling. If you’re a GenXer like me, eldercare is already on your mind, and probably on the minds of other family members as well. Daniella is a licensed therapist and consultant who makes it a little less scary to address this daunting topic. She specializes in caregiving and aging concerns, and offers give gift certificates to interested individuals who want to consult about caregiving. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Meet at the Spa. Chelsea has massage therapy gift certificates available. Contact her for the most up-to-date-information. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Pathfinder Wellness Clinic Black Friday offers through Monday 12/2. They have holiday gift certificates available for these packages and for gift packages of any size. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Pink Moon PDX. Facials, lashes & waxing & dermalogica products. Portland, Oregon Local Business
PDX Local Coaching. Yes, I offer gift certificates! My coaching practice focuses on entrepreneurial coaching and wellness coaching for individual with depressive and bipolar disorders. Contact me to find out more. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Portland Cuddle Shop. Connection and Cuddle Therapy. Gift a Connection Session to someone this winter. Hold or be held, think out loud, take a nap, play a game, color, cry, laugh, reminisce. Relax in a judgement free zone with you-centered attention. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Beatriz Reyna. Inner child work/shadow work/journeys into your inner world.
From Beatriz: “YOU WILL BE SEEN. YOU WILL BE HEARD. YOU WILL BE UNDERSTOOD. YOU WILL BE FELT INTO AND EXPERIENCE ATTUNEMENT. YOU WILL EXPERIENCE THE LOVE AND PRESENCE YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED.YOU WILL HAVE MAJOR SHIFTS.”
SkinSense Spa. Debbie offers holistic facials using Naturopathica and ISUN skin care lines that is organic, vegan and gluten free and wildcraft. Holistic facials for tweens, teens and adults specifically with acne, also pregnant mamas and clients recovering from skin cancer. She also offers Intraceuticals Oxygen facials to target aging and preventing fine lines and wrinkles and Cryoskin treatments to slim and tone for facials. Black Friday Special: use promo code BF20%
Sofia Angelina Photography. Sofia offers healing portrait sessions, in which she combines energy healing and portrait photography for folks who are looking to celebrate themselves and embrace their bodies with empathy. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Whole Being Massage. We have massage gift certificates and also sell some very nice aromatherapy oils and self-care tools that make great gifts! We can do couples/friend massages, prenatal, new mama massages, and more We are in inner SE PDX. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Therapia Wellness Clinic. Massage, chiropractic and acupuncture gift certificates available. Portland, Oregon Local Business
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health or fitness advice. Exercise at your own risk. Consult your doctor or another health professional if you are unsure whether a product or form of exercise is safe for you to use. All opinions expressed are those solely of the PDX Local blog, and do not represent its sponsors, affiliates, or guest contributors. No paid advertising or paid endorsements have been provided for the products featured above. The reviewer makes no claims regarding the efficacy, workmanship, utility, or safety of any of the products listed above. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Use and purchase at your own risk.
Me, standing under the bridge in my neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. The bridge is the site of weddings, festivals, film shoots, and deaths.
How to Save a Million Lives
It starts with being visible.
November 2, 2019
In anyone’s memory, certain dates stand out forever.
I remember standing in my aunt and uncle’s sunny family room in San Mateo, California on April 18, 2018. That was when the customer service rep on the phone told me I did not qualify for life insurance. This was a problem. In fact, it was a huge problem. It meant I would not be able to obtain what is called “Key Man” Insurance, which shields professional investors in case of the accidental or untimely death of the CEO or other essential team members. Key Man Insurance is a must for any startup seeking serious investor funding (seed round or VC). Unknowingly, I had raised funds from friends and family for a venture that could not succeed with me at the helm.
I checked it out. I got a second quote. It didn’t matter that I was healthy and had managed the condition successfully for 19 years.
This wasn’t a case of bias, or stigma. It was a numbers game. The diagnosis is bipolar disorder. The reason I couldn’t get life insurance was that my diagnosis carries a 15 – 20% lifetime fatality rate. That means that as many as one in five people with bipolar disorder may die by suicide. (National Institute of Mental Health, as cited by DBSA.)
If present trends continue, over 855,000 of the 5.7 million individuals living today with bipolar disorder in the U.S will die by suicide. That’s almost a million people.
We are living in the middle of an epidemic. And one ever seems to notice.
Our company’s investor woes seemed pretty trivial in comparison.
Which brings me to the other date. Just over a year ago.
October 17, 2018
On that single day, in my home city of Portland, Oregon, we lost three people to suicide. One of the deaths happened a few hundred feet from my apartment, when a woman jumped off the St. John’s Bridge. I found out when I heard the sirens and saw the flashing red lights. I took some roses out of a vase, went outside, walked down the hill, and put the roses by the police line.
For me, that death brought home the reality of the suicide epidemic in America. I don’t know whether any of the three people who died had a diagnosis, but given the high risk factor and the fact that 1 in 23 Americans are bipolar, it is likely. Suicide fatality rates are actually higher for people with bipolar disorder than for those with unipolar depression(NCBI). Because suicide is a social epidemic, the death of one individual can result in the deaths of other individuals, who may not even share the same diagnosis. There a lot of reasons why this post has been hard for me to write. One of them is that this year, in the time since I started writing this blog post, about three weeks ago, I learned of two other likely suicides in my home communities: one here in Oregon and one in Massachusetts. The taboo around speaking about suicide is strong, just like the taboo against discussing bipolar disorder. I went to a walk this month by the American Society for Suicide Prevention. It’s a worthy event, and it does a lot of good for survivors. But nowhere — nowhere — was bipolar disorder mentioned as a cause or a killer. Talking about America’s suicide epidemic without talking about bipolar is like trying to talk about heart disease and never mentioning high blood pressure.
Last fall it felt like the bodies were literally dropping from overhead. Those deaths, in particular the one so close to home, jolted me out of complacency. I kept thinking to myself, “If fifteen percent of bipolar people are dying by suicide, why don’t we hear about it? Why aren’t we doing more to stop it?”
I had been marked as a plague victim and I didn’t even know it.
I found a replacement CEO for my startup. After stepping down, my plan had been to take a course or two in data science and rejoin the corporate world. Instead, I found myself on an entirely different path. I earned a certification in Life Coaching, another as a Peer Support Specialist, and completed the excellent QPR suicide prevention training which is offered for free to lay people in the Portland area. The goal: work part time coaching bipolar and entrepreneurial clients from around the world. Spend the rest of my time learning a new coding language and building something cool.
The crazy thing is, one year later it actually seems to have worked.
The people I have coached confound my expectations. They are C-level executives, computer programmers, bankers, and accountants. Leave every expectation you have surrounding bipolar people and their temperament or personality type at the door. Just know, above all, we are here. And there are a lot of us. The recovery rate for bipolar disorder is 80%. (Health Central) Mostly you can’t tell us apart from anybody else. Because when the medication works well for us, like most other Americans, we’d much rather concentrate on our lives and families and hobbies than on getting riled up with anything that resembles activism.
Coaching is intense. I have had more than one occasion where the client burst into tears during the first session. Unlike therapy, the emphasis is on achieving short term goals. Most of my service offerings are designed to last 3-6 sessions, although some clients stay on much longer. I think my favorite sessions are the outdoor fitness sessions, where we do the coaching during an hourlong walk or hike. I never agree to work with a client unless they are also seeing a licensed doctor or clinician. Confidentiality is key. In the event of a situation where someone’s safety is at risk or where someone expresses suicidal thoughts, I will of course contact emergency services, as well as other members of a client’s care team.
Whatever assorted coaching gurus may promise, my type of coaching won’t make you rich. That’s not why I do it. I just know that it’s important for bipolar people to be visible.
This is where the saving lives come in. It’s about much more than the coaching, although I believe that’s important and meaningful work. It’s about being visible, and letting people know that bipolar gets better. Coming out is risky, and it has a cost. You may not get asked on that second date. As a programmer the last thing you want is your supervisor wondering what medications you were taking when you pushed that last commit! But I’ve come to believe that the cost of silence is greater. Silence equals death. Stigma equals death.
Here’s how we can save one million lives over the next generation:
1.) Make stigma against bipolar people unacceptable. End the jokes. Stop using bipolar as shorthand for a personality disorder. Educate yourselves. This shouldn’t be my job, as the person with the disability, but I need to take responsibility first and foremost for my own actions. I am not “out” in every professional or social social situation, but I try to live my life in a way that I can communicate to others, who may be more closeted, that there is hope.
2.) Improve quality and access to mental health care. Bipolar people face special challenges. We encounter more stigma than people with depression or anxiety disorders, and if we are misdiagnosed, the consequences can be serious. But all mental health conditions deserve treatment on a par with physical health. The quality of generic medications has taken an alarming dive. I have experienced these issues myself, and heard alarming reports from others. Legal or regulatory action must be taken to ensure that vulnerable populations do not suffer.
3.) Work for a cure. Amazingly, for a disease that affects millions of Americans and people the world over, we still do not understand the causes of bipolar disorder. It receives only a fraction of the federal funding for diseases with a similar mortality rate. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry shows off its latest advances: a pill with a tracking device to make sure the patient complies and takes their medication. We are solving for the wrong goal here.
You may have noticed that the beginning of this piece promised to tell you how to save one million lives. And you may have noticed that based on the figures above, we’re still 145,000 lives short. There’s a reason for that. The reason is that bipolar people, when we are well and healthy, save lives.
The reason is that bipolar people are our best and our brightest. We are leaders. We are artists. We are entrepreneurs and innovators. We are mystics. We are heroes. We feel deeply, and we act on the courage of our convictions. From Winston Churchill to Kanye West, the names of famous bipolar people read like a roll call. Bipolar people who are able to live out their lives to their fullest potential will design lifesaving vaccines, help mitigate climate change, and create songs and stories that sustain and offer hope for an imperiled planet. We give back every day. We are mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, teachers and mentors, some of the best and most loyal friends you will ever find. We are generous. We go the extra mile. Maybe we are still trying to prove we are “good enough.” Maybe deep down we know that we different, and also blessed. There is a reason we are in this genome.
We have so much to give, and we are irreplaceable.
Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, I have scaled back my coaching practice. I have a limited number of phone and video entrepreneurial and coaching slots available. Full professional resume and credentials available on request.
UPDATE: Queen Bee Creations closed its Portland retail location in 2020. You can still shop for Rebecca Pearcy’s newest designs on her website, at rebeccapearcy.com.
Interview with Queen Bee Creations founder Rebecca Pearcy
Can you describe the first bag that you made? How old were you?
Rebecca Pearcy outside her store.
I’m not sure what the first bag was that I made, but I do have a few sweet hand-sewn or crafted items that my mom saved from when I was tiny. My favorite is a little fabric elephant that is just so beautiful in that handmade by a child way that is inimitable. I was probably 3 or 4 when I made it? I have loved making things with my hands for as long as I can remember and my mom really fostered that in me. She is a fine artist and did all kinds of crafts with me growing up. Things really took off when I learned how to sew on a machine and I started sewing my own clothing, both from store-bought patterns and improvising my own designs. While I like to make and sew all kinds of things, sewing clothing is my favorite, so I didn’t start making the bags that led to Queen Bee until I was in my early 20’s. I used funky materials like fake fur, shiny vinyl, upholstery velvets, and vintage / upcycled materials. One of my first bag designs was a mini backpack out of shiny vinyl with a Wonder Woman comic image laminated and sewn onto the front with clear vinyl.
Who is the typical Queen Bee customer? Is there one?
I think a lot of our customers are similar to me – they are in my age range (I’m 45) and are pretty practical, so they want something that is functional, that is good quality, that will last, and expresses their sense of style or individuality. And they are excited to support a woman-owned business that they can feel connected to and good about.
Have you ever gotten pushback for using faux materials like vinyl instead of leather? Or do you find that consumers embrace the trend?
No, not really. Occasionally someone will scoff at the non-leather material but leather & faux-leather are entirely different beasts (so to speak). People choose them for different reasons. We are known for working with vinyl, which we did for many years, but a number of years ago we stopped making our bags with vinyl and switched to using PVC free faux-leathers. We also work with a lot of waxed canvas and some leather for handles and straps (along with non-leather options). Leather is an amazing material, in terms of it’s qualities and durability. Faux-leather is waterproof, a lot more affordable, and comes in lots of colors. It suits the rainy PNW active and non-fussy lifestyle well.
What inspired you to expand into screen printing?
In 1997, after I finished college in Washington, I went out to Philadelphia to do an apprenticeship at The Fabric Workshop. It totally changed my life – I felt like I had found something I really really loved. At the heart of my love of making is my love of fabrics. And at my apprenticeship I learned how to design patterns in repeat, make silkscreens of my designs, and print them in repeat on a 25 yard long table. It was so fun and satisfying to create my own fabric. Because of the space and equipment set up needed to do this type of printing, it took me a few years to get to the point where I could print my own fabric. That’s when I launched the Rebecca Pearcy Textiles line. Currently we have a 23’ long print table in our studio where we print all of our fabric. It’s still my favorite part of what we do and I’m working on expanding it even more to include apparel and more housewares.
Screen Printing in the Studio
How many people do you employ in Portland?
I have eight wonderful employees! They are an awesome team that include 2 production sewists, 2 production workers (cutting, prepping, finishing), 2 retail folks, an operations manager, and a bookkeeper. This small but mighty team does it all. We do all the designing, sewing, printing, production, shipping, website management, retail store buying and selling, marketing, managing the workflow, and management of the business itself.
The Studio from Above
Describe the role that Portland has had on your business and brand. Do you believe the city is still a viable home for small and emerging businesses?
Portland has been a great place to run a handmade, creative, small business. People here “get it” — many choose to live here because there’s so much going on in the creative / making realm and are stoked to support the businesses that make Portland, Portland. From attending college at Evergreen, to living and starting Queen Bee in Olympia, WA, to relocating to Portland in 2002, I have always thrived on the hotbed of creativity in the Pacific Northwest. But the way the city is changing and developing rapidly could pose a threat to businesses like mine being able to continue thriving. So that is cause for concern. Part of what made Portland so relatively easy was affordability, for space, for homes. If I was just opening my business right now and looking for space to operate out of, I’d be hard pressed. I hope that the city can preserve and value it’s artisans that bring people from all over the world so we can keep trucking on and keep making Portland a truly special place that offers diversity, variety, and beauty that you can’t find just anywhere.
Do you have a favorite handbag?
My current fave products of ours that I use the most are:
The Ramona Tote
The Becca Backpack
The Hip Holster
What designers and artists have influenced your work?
I’m a huge fan of Marimekko, for their amazing and colorful print designs, as well as Vera Neumann. And I love lots of Japanese fashion, design, and textiles. I admire Frietag for their business model of making one-of-a-kind bags from up cycled truck tarps – they were an early leader in this. I adore Bonnie Cashin bag designs from the 60’s / 70’s.