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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Apse Adorn: Western graduates pursue ethical adornment and artistry at local shop

By Zoe Deal

On a sunny Friday in July, customers flow into Apse Adorn at steady intervals, running their hands through racks of ethically-made clothing and wandering between displays of handmade jewelry and featured art. With light neutral colors, low counters and an open floor plan, the airy space reveals a type of true intimacy. A workspace in back is visible from each corner of the storefront, making it easy for visitors to see the people behind the products.

Hayley Shea Boyd, 27, and husband Jarod Owen Faw, 28, are the creatives behind Apse Adorn, a company whose products and mission are intrinsically tied to human connection. Their storefront is just one of a slew of downtown businesses that reflect Bellingham’s changing demographic of young entrepreneurs.

For Hayley and Jarod, jewelry-making is a way they pursue their passion of impactful artistry. The couple believes what one wears and makes is a direct extension of how a person functions and perceives the world.

Apse Adorn is working in opposition to traditional marketing of adornment. Hayley explained that through advertisements and popular culture, humans are told their circumstances will be improved or they will be loved more.

Apse Adorn co-founders Hayley and Jarod pose in their storefront. // Photo by Zoe Deal

Apse challenges this standard by selling jewelry with symbolic meaning and creative purpose.

“You are going to wear this because you’re worth it and you know you deserve it,” Hayley said. “There’s so much freedom for you.”

Though the co-owners exude a calm, grounded presence as they sit in their bright Pinterest-esque studio and storefront in downtown Bellingham, they say their journey was never certain. As they near Apse’s third anniversary, the couple is particularly sentimental about the process by which a beautiful mess of ideas became a blossoming company.

“It wasn’t ever that we wanted to start a business,” Hayley said. “It just kind of formed from this passion for art and social justice and our belief that creativity can really solve a lot of problems. It was just a natural progression.”

As true life partners, it is clear that in all elements of their business, Hayley and Jarod share each hat – if not equally, then in a way that seems to satisfy their respective skills and passions.

Hayley holds a serene confidence as she sits in the Apse workspace in a white tee, holey black jeans and Vans. She leads production and spends much of her time creating jewelry and curating the space.

Jarod notes that Hayley is nearly but not quite a free spirit. With a soft, compelling gaze and blonde-brown hair tied up effortlessly with a patterned square scarf, Hayley certainly looks the part. Her quiet voice is simultaneously strong and gentle, her smile both charming and unassuming.

“She has an incredible creative vision for the brand,” Jarod said. “She has an amazing way of reading up on what’s happening in creative culture and being able to do her part to add to it.”

Thin and well-dressed, with brown hair and welcoming brown eyes, Jarod is Apse’s in-house craftsman, bookkeeper and self-proclaimed “dad.”

While Jarod deems Hayley to be the visionary, he is largely her partner in making her visions a reality.

“He’s a caretaker, in a way. He just wants to make sure all the boxes are checked and set everyone else around him up for success,” Hayley said.

The pair are joined by their pup, Bo, and current assistant Jocelyn Cremer, a Western creative writing graduate.

Apse Adorn gives 10 percent of each purchase to non-profit organizations that fight to preserve and promote healthy intimacy. // Photo by Zoe Deal

Humble Beginnings

The story of Apse Adorn begins with a dragonfly and a jellyfish.

So said Hayley as she listed the natural signs through which she was encouraged to pursue a dream. In a period marked by uncertainty after graduating from Western and getting hitched, she was encouraged by these signs.

It was 2015. The newlyweds and recent Western fine arts grads were working: Hayley at a La Conner jewelry store and Jarod as a cabinet maker.

They wanted a change of pace.

Jarod was itching for a job that would allow him to wear “normal” clothing, and Hayley was realizing her brainchild couldn’t be done solo.

As art publications and journals became less inspiring and more predictable, the couple said they began to consider how to use their voice to encourage new forms of creativity. While arriving at the idea of a jewelry company felt right for Hayley due to her experience making jewelry and her passion for ethical adornment, the process of building up the courage to pursue it took time – and two symbolic, miraculous creatures.

The dragonfly came sometime between summer and fall of 2015, in an transitional stage for Hayley.

As the story goes, Hayley found the large, black, completely dead dragonfly outside her workplace and carried it carefully inside, where a coworker placed it her own finger. “What a pretty ring,” Hayley remembers her saying. But when the coworker turned her hand, the insect miraculously resurrected and latched on.

Hayley’s green-blue eyes bounce playfully as she reenacts the scene of the insect coming back to life.

“She just starts flipping out like AHH AH AHH,” Hayley said, growing animated as she mimicked her coworker’s movements. “It was just this weird thing where it all the sudden came back to life, and it like flew for a minute and then someone caught it again, and it was dead.”

Hayley explained dragonflies symbolize the exposure of truth. She ties the story of this dragonfly to her lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression – and her skepticism of the existence of love.

“The biggest lie that I was believing was that love wasn’t real, and I believed that very strongly at points in my life and for me to really be witnessing love – I was not fully thinking that it was going to last,” Hayley said. “I feel like that dragonfly was like ‘no. this is done’ like ‘you’re done believing in this lie,’ and you’re going to be shown it in a very wild way.”

While she had dealt with depression and anxiety in the past, Hayley said in the period after getting married and before Apse Adorn, she was struggling with anxiety more than ever before.

“For the dragonfly to have been gone and then to come back just like the anxiety was coming back in my life and for it to be gone for good – that was very much a sign for me,” she said.

Then came the jellyfish, which appeared in a La Conner canal miles from open water and remained in place for over eight hours. Hayley observed the jellyfish from a window two floors up, marveling at its size (over 1 foot in diameter) and the circumstances that led the jellyfish to such an unlikely place.

“It was like a jellyfish that you shouldn’t even see if you’re not in the zoo. It was red and purple and had tentacles,” Hayley explained.

She did research to attempt to figure out how this jellyfish was able to get to the canal, which was used to provide water to La Conner farmlands.

“It’s impossible for a jellyfish, much less any other creature, to get so far inland. It would’ve had to have gone down so many things and taken so many turns. And then it was just like, stuck,” she said.

Hayley said jellyfish are a symbol to trust the process, which was a massive encouragement to her.

“If you were to look at our business at the beginning, and be like ‘how is this going to get anywhere?’ The jellyfish would just be like ‘trust the process.’ To think what we looked like one year ago: completely different, and the year before that: completely different,” Hayley said. “I would’ve never guessed it.”

Jarod jumped at the idea of being her business partner. Though Hayley was still tentative about embarking on the creation of a jewelry business, Jarod’s excitement and support kicked the project into gear.

“Yeah, I got pretty excited. I was like ‘Let’s do this,’” Jarod said.

Hayley recalled an evening in the fall of 2015 that Jarod came downstairs at 10 p.m. dressed to the nines in a tie, tucked-in shirt and nice shoes. Hayley was in her pajamas watching television.

“He was like ‘It’s time for a meeting. We’re having a meeting,’” Hayley said, “I was like ‘okay I guess this is happening.’”

Jarod chimed in, “That was our most productive meeting ever.”

Within a month of Jarod joining the project, Apse Adorn launched an Etsy page. In another month, the couple simultaneously quit their jobs.

What Hayley and Jarod lacked in income, they say they made up for in dedication. In the beginning, their brand and Etsy photos were dependent on “janky” lighting and helpful friends.

“That’s just how we’ve gotten here: being resourceful. We started with nothing,” Hayley said. “Your material things shouldn’t limit what you can make and what you can do.”

Apse Adorn gives 10 percent of each purchase to non-profit organizations that fight to preserve and promote healthy intimacy. // Photo by Zoe Deal

Brick-and-Mortar

After working out of a studio downtown on Holly and Bay Streets, they made their way two blocks east to a larger space on Commercial Street in November 2017.

Pursuing brick-and-mortar wasn’t a calculated approach for Hayley and Jarod. Jarod said they opened a shop because they wanted to do so and needed a studio to work out of regardless.

“We figured that if online sales could cover the cost, it’s just a few extra bucks here and there,” Jarod said. “But it’s kind of become its own thing, and now this month we’re doing better in-store than we are online, so it’s kind of nuts.”

The northwest natives said they chose to remain in Bellingham because they didn’t feel particularly called anywhere else. While some of their friends left for career purposes, the couple believe they already had it made in Bellingham  and chose to stay for the community.

“I’m such a believer in building and offering something to a place that’s thirsty for it,” Hayley said. “I know that wherever we go, we will have our own voice, but I think that Bellingham is a community of so many creatively thirsty people. Why not offer that directly for them?”

Jarod said having the storefront is taking business owners off a mysterious pedestal. When people come in to find that Apse is a three-person team, and that Jarod and Hayley design and curate the store’s offerings, Jarod explained that visitors become excited to connect with the humanity of it all. The makers are always present, something common among many downtown businesses.

Hayley appreciates the storefront for the ways it rivals online offerings and exemplifies their mission. Clothing and art from other creatives whose goals align with Apse are sold in the shop on a rotating basis.

“It makes sense with our brand and philosophy just in building community and unity and creative power,” she said. “So much gets lost in translation online, and that’s one of my frustrations with online business.

“There’s so much heart behind why were doing this and everything we stand for, and work for and create.”

Apse Adorn sells the goods of other local artists on a rotating basis. // Photo by Zoe Deal

Mission of Social Justice

Apse Adorn has had a clear mission since its beginnings, though that mission has gotten more specific as they’ve found the words to articulate what they’re feeling, Hayley said.

With a firm foundation on social justice, Apse donates 10 percent of each sale to one of three nonprofit organizations.

“We wanted to pick three so that we could give the customer an option and showcase that you have power in your purchases,” Hayley said.

It has taken time to settle on the current organizations: A21 Campaign, Fight the New Drug and  Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County (DVSAS).

The Remain studs. Each Apse Adorn piece has a story behind it. // Photo Courtesy of Apse Adorn

Each of the organizations align with Jarod and Hayley’s passion for preserving and promoting healthy intimacy.  The global A21 Campaign works to end the sex trade industry and support survivors. Fight the New Drug is a national organization which looks to publicize the harmful effects of pornography on the brain, heart and world. DVSAS offers support to Whatcom residents experiencing domestic violence and sexual abuse through counseling, legal services and safe housing. 

Partnerships with Fight the New Drug and DVSAS have resulted in collaborations.

For DVSAS, Hayley designed a set of four pendants based on the story of  the symbiotic relationship between the yucca moth and the yucca flower.

Jarod and Hayley explained that the story connects to the DVSAS mission of advocacy and Apse’s passion for healthy intimacy.

“It’s this completely amazing self sacrificing intimate relationship. I really felt like it was an illustration of healthy masculine/feminine relationships but also very much a sisterhood/ brotherhood thing too,” Hayley said.

“Each person has something to give, and hopefully they’d be open to receiving something too,” Jarod added.

Hayley worked with Jessica Heck, of DVSAS, on the collaboration. Heck said the partnership shows how Apse Adorn is empowering survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in their own way.

“You never know what someone is going through and so having lots of different ways to make a connection is very powerful,” Heck said. Because we, at DVSAS, are not jewelry-makers, Apse Adorn is able to engage the community  in a way that we never could.”

For more information on Apse Adorn, their mission or to shop their ethical goods you can visit their website at apseadorn.com. Though, if you’re in Bellingham and interested in meeting three down-to-earth, inspirational

1 COMMENT

  1. Is this satire? This has reached peak Bellingham Hipster nonsense! Well written though. You know how to write talking up this stuff as a way of life. Nauseating but unputdownable.

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