As warmer weather approaches, checking out local artisans takes center stage. We explore artisans from Olympia, their craftsmanship and how design has the power to lift an impoverished community via local trade.
Our first spotlight belongs to Gina Vitale Syrja of Fair Portia. Her pieces are modern heirlooms meant to reveal individual expression through adornment. She uses fine materials such as sterling silver mesh, organza, fine wire and Swarovski crystals to create abstract forms inspired by nature. The pieces look delicate and supple but are designed to be sturdy and durable enough to be passed on to future generations.
Next, we move the spotlight to shine on local artist Jenny Macc. Jenny has been knitting every day for over 20 years and specializes in knitted accessories and other items such as jersey skirts, shrugs and tops. She has also been creating and selling patterns for other artists who share her passion to knit. “I strive to make the pattern so people can really get a quality project, and the feedback on my patterns is that they’ve turned out really well.”
Jenny’s design process involves constantly looking for new ideas in high fashion and then finding a way to bridge the gap from haute couture to ready to wear. “I want things to be really practical and easy to wear. I am careful that the materials I use are durable so that the individual can wear them every day. I use really high quality materials like alpaca, bamboo, cashmere, and wool. The fun comes in pulling out the fabrics or the yarns, matching colors, each day is something new. And then it’s the finishing details that make the item stand out.”
Last, but by no means least, we turn our sights to fair-trade advocate Beth Provo. Ms. Provo may call Olympia her home, but much of the impact of her work is a world away in Mumbai, India. Although Beth was a social justice activist focusing on Africa, the setting of the 2004 World Social Forum in Southeast Asia enveloped her in the exotic and ancient culture of India. After meeting representatives from the Mumbai Women’s Cooperative at the Forum, Beth formulated the goal of creating fair trade clothes that are well-crafted and beautiful, while also helping to improve the lives of poor women in Mumbai. “I wanted to wear fair trade clothing and I heard a lot of people complaining about not finding fair trade clothes that fit well and looked elegant.” So she partnered with the co-op and started the company Marigold Fair Trade.
We are amazed by the abundance of talent in Olympia, and believe that the Olympia artisian community has much to be discovered. Local designers create fashions that are chic and make amazing gifts for others or yourself.