Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind?
The name ORU comes from the Japanese word for ‘to weave.’ The beads used in my work are made in Japan, and I weave them together by hand using traditional bead-weaving techniques. It feels appropriate to tie the name of my business back to source of this very specific material, and I was excited to find such a meaningful and impactful name.
Have you always been passionate about design?
Always – especially with regard to color. As a kid, it started with meticulous attention to how I would decorate my room or dress myself, and eventually it developed into an interest in form and technique, which I explored through painting, drawing, and crafting throughout my teens. Embracing my academic side in college only showed me how much I needed art and design in my life, which was eventually the catalyst for me to study metal smithing.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
I went to my first bead shop when I was 8, and I have been exploring jewelry every since. My choice (if you can call it that) to pursue this craft comes from a love for – bordering on obsession with – all things tiny, as well as for color and the idea of jewelry itself. I love the symbolism of jewelry, and how much it can express without words.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
The combination of existing techniques, and the development of new techniques, are what really sets ORU designs apart. Combining traditional beadwork with metal smithing creates an interesting and unusual contrast. In the most recent collection, the woven beads are cast into metal form – and that feels completely new and different. In fact, one of the most frequent (and prized) compliments we receive is that ORU jewelry is truly original.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
The day my first shop placed its first order – it felt like such a triumph and testament to the value of the design and company, and all the hours of work put into it.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Portland is a city surrounded by trees. This connection to nature is essential to my spiritual well-being and directly influences the quality of my work. Portland is also full of people who really want to support the locally-made, US-made, and handmade movements. As a result, we have more independent shops per capita than any other city – which makes it possible for Portland to be filled to the brim with artists, designers, and creative entrepreneurs. It’s totally incredible, and I’m really grateful to be here. Recently, there have been a lot of changes in the physical and socio-economic landscape of Portland, and I hope that through all this change, this city will continue to be a haven for artists and makers.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
Prior to founding ORU I worked in sales and customer service, which is the backbone of any company. I ran a raw-vegan food business for five years, building my understanding of general business practices and management. I also worked for an imported jewelry company as a Production Coordinator, through which I developed my knowledge of production, bookkeeping, and customer management. I draw on all of these skills in my current endeavor at ORU.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
It was something I always wanted to do, and have always done on some level since I was a little girl. I was that kid on the Harbor Steps in Seattle selling hemp bracelets, or selling crystal jewelry to local shops as a teenager. When my sister and I were asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, my sister would answer that she wanted to be a mom and have five kids. From the time I was 8 years old, my answer was consistently: “I want to have my own shop.” I didn’t make the mental leap that I could do this as a career until well after I had completed undergrad studies in unrelated fields, and it has taken some time to gather up the experience and additional skills to be where I am today. It also took a stroke of luck, which at the time didn’t feel like luck. I was laid off from my day job toward the end of the recession because business had been steadily declining. I was forced into a position of sink or swim – so I went for it and simply devoted myself to this company.
What are some inspirations for your work?
ORU is inspired by minimalism, function, and a dose of whimsy. Objects that are simple and beautiful, with elegant clean lines and a hint of playfulness or edge, are what inspire me, and what I strive to create. I love looking at traditional techniques or forms and adapting them into wearable pieces. Street art and graffiti, along with worn industrial buildings and other relics, also provide a broader sense of inspiration, reminding me that everything is temporary and that beauty can be found anywhere. Finally, the materials themselves also inspire me. The broad variety of bead colors, or just a simple piece of square wire, can bring a hundred ideas into my mind. It’s the sorting, organizing, and final manifestation of those ideas that’s the challenge!
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Generally speaking, the best thing I’ve ever learned is the importance of cultivating self-knowledge and honoring that by listening to my intuition.