Meet the artist behind our newest collaboration line BOET, Emily Bixler. BOET is an integration of sculpture and accessory hand-crafter in Portland, Oregon. It is a collection of textures that test the collaboration of fiber and metal. The line explores drape and composition; balancing hand-crocheted fiber with vintage brass chains to create large, geometric shapes that feel at once familiar and fresh. Scroll down to read our interview with BOET's founder, Emily Bixler.
How did you start your line of jewelry?
I used to work at beach shops when I was 16, and that was my first job. So I’ve always been into making jewelry ever since I was a little girl. I went to college for sculpture and after school, I just ended up really wishing I could go to more school but I couldn’t afford it. So I just started working and did internships under a knitwear designer and jeweler for a while, taking different jobs as they come. In the beginning of 2011, things just started just melding together when the jeweler who I was working for was going out of business. So I either had to find a new job or figure out what to do next. For the Boet line, I wanted to be an artist who can make money off from my art as everybody wants to but it’s really hard, you know? So the jewelry was really good way to use my art background -- because it can be really accessible, people pay a little more and spend a little more time building up their accessory collection more than a sculpture collection.
Who/what is your greatest influence or inspiration?
A lot of it is just the challenge of figuring out how things work. It’s very much like math almost. I just really geek out on if you have this piece of chain and a shape, how is this going to age and how is this going to move on the body? It is kind of performative so I find myself interested in art that is made for the body and for performative art. Even tribal masks and performative customs from another culture. It is an interesting way to see how we all choose to adorn ourselves and how we move and the things that we put on.
And adding to the previous question - In your website bio you were talking about Boet being inspired by a youth of sailing and hot air ballooning - what does that exactly mean?
I went sailing with my parents quite often when I was young in Sacramento, CA. A few years ago I went sailing with them again and realized some of my jewelry’s shapes are very similar to when two sails are up with the mast. I was unconsciously bringing out my memories with them into my own work. When I was two years old, we moved to Nevada and my parents started a hot air balloon business there. It was totally wacky and the business didn’t last too long so our family jokes about it, ‘We had a hot air balloon business that never got off the ground!’. So at that time, I really got into hot air balloons and so for my thesis in college, I made hot air balloons. And that’s when I started getting into these airships. There are also a lot of architectural elements to my work, which I think is nice. I definitely have more female customers, but it also appeals to men who come to shop for their wives, but then it really speaks to the men themselves as well. I worked with Skylab Architecture on a quite a few collaboration projects and when architects come into my shop, they say my jewelry is very similar to the language they speak in their world.
What’s your process for creating your pieces?
I come up with a little bit of an idea for a certain shape. Then I just draw them over and over again until certain shapes intrigue me to explore a little bit more. It has always been "draw first and make next" for me ever since college. Creating is always a repetitive process until I figure out how things drape over time and where fibers will pull. It is really important to know where you need to support them.
What is a typical day like for you?
Lately, I just work all the time. Walk my dog in the morning, come here to my studio/shop and spend a lot of time here making things. It's nice that being here helps me get into a different part of my brain. Lately, my work has involved a lot of wood and sculpture so I’ve been doing a lot of things with them in the back (Emily’s studio/shop has a shop in the front and working space in the back).
How does living in Portland help you evolve as an artist?
I moved to Portland about 17 years ago for college, which is insane. Portland definitely kept me wanting to pursue my living here because there is a huge understanding for making and a community of people who really want to support each other. I’ve heard that in other places, such as New York, that no matter what happens, there is always competition. But in Portland, people are so generous. I used to live in Sacramento and moved to Southern Oregon when I was 10 so Portland was always nice because it’s fairly close to my family.
What are your top 3 favorite spots in Portland?
I love driving up to Sauvie Island. It is like a mental recheck for me during that whole loop on the way there. Food wise...my husband is a cook so we love dining out because usually, he is sick of cooking. We love to go to Navarre. And whenever I have time, I love going to the coast to see the ocean. Plus, my husband is a surfer so whenever we have a chance we try to go to the coast. He tried to get me into it but it’s a little bit too cold out here to be surfing. I love swimming but I would rather be in a river.
If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing right now?
Sometimes I feel like it would be really nice to have a regular job (laughs). Ideally, in the future, when I don’t have to rely on the jewelry so much, I would love to do a residency in building bigger sculpture projects -- that would be pretty awesome. And traveling!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I really do hope that I’m doing bigger sculpture shows. I had a show last year and I got a grant at the end of October to help me push a little more on my sculpture projects. A lot of feedback that I get from people is that I need to get bigger with my art. Also for the Boet line, I’m hoping to have more one-of-a-kind and bigger jewelry pieces. I want to explore more to see what I can do with my pieces of jewelry.
Books found in Emily's studio:
From right to left, Maske by Phyllis Galembo, Dusk by Axel Hoedt, and Rebecca Horn.