Interview by Ryan Fish — Photographs by Nicholas Peter Wilson
Heidi Lieberman is the wildly talented and inspired individual behind Honeyfox jewelry. To the clicking camera shutter of her studio mates Tashina and Jessica, shooting a lookbook, Nick and I chatted with Heidi to find out why she began making jewelry and what sustains her as an individual and as an artist.
Ryan Fish: How did you end up in Portland?
Heidi Lieberman: I was born and raised in Roseburg, Oregon. I love this state and most of my family is here. It just feels like home, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that I ended up in Portland. I started making jewelry about six years ago while I was living back with my parents in Roseburg because of a mystery illness that was keeping me pretty much in bed and unable to do most things. Needless to say, I was extremely bored and very freaked out because doctors just didn’t know what was wrong with me. But I needed something to occupy my time and keep my brain busy. I’ve always loved jewelry so I started there. The first pieces I made were agate rings and I still continue to make them today. As more time went on, I was able to move back to Portland.Then I taught myself to bead. I had always loved and appreciated beadwork but I could never afford it so I started making pieces for myself. As I got better I started selling those pieces too and then it just went on and on and I’m where I am today. Luckily, now I know what the mystery illness is and I am stronger than I’ve been in a while. I’m still unable to work a normal full-time job and I have a lot of physical limits but that is where jewelry has been a life saver. I can work at my own pace whenever I feel like it. Yes, I probably push it sometimes, but I truly love the freedom it has given me.
RF: Where do you get your inspiration for new pieces?
HL: I’m obsessed with vintage Navajo jewelry and rock ‘n’ roll. I like to think it is a combination of those things and nature. I find my surroundings very inspiring. Oregon is just so gorgeous, even when it’s grey and pouring!
RF: Who are your studio mates, and how do you all work together?
We are all friends, so the atmosphere is great! Sometimes I’ll walk into my studio at noon and there will be music blasting, vintage clothes everywhere, half-naked girls cracking beers and I know they must be doing a photo shoot and it makes me happy. Then there are other times when it is very quiet and we all have our heads down just working away. It’s a good balance for sure.
We haven’t all worked on one project together yet but there are many constant collaborations between the ladies. Amanda is always shooting photos and doing lookbooks which is truly helpful and amazing. I think Tori and I are going to do some beading and embroidery collaborations soon. Lala and I are in the middle of making a one-of-a-kind leather bag with with metal cutouts and beaded fringe; our good friend Ginger McCabe of New Church Moto will do the leather work. Lala and I are also about to start CobraFox. She is magical and so is her work! It will be a complete mix of her metalwork with my beading.
RF: When you send jewelry to customers in faraway places, what do you imagine they’re like?
HL: I’m always so curious about what kind of a woman they are. Nowadays with Instagram, I can usually see what they are like, but it’s hard to generalize because I’ve had young girls and old women buy my pieces, and even some old men too. Actually, one of my favorite pieces I’ve made is a beaded silver cuff that my Dad wears every day. I think if you wear Honeyfox, you probably like nature, vintage things and simplicity.
RF: What was your most memorable trip in the last 5 years?
HL: My most memorable trip in the last 5 years was an all-female dirt biking camp trip last summer called the Dirt n Dip. There were around 35 of us and we didn’t stop laughing for 48 hours. It was incredible. I had never done anything like that with just women and it made it really special. It’s not that I have anything against guys, but to go on a trip where there are no men to help you build a fire or help you to unload your motorcycle from the trailer is a pretty empowering thing. And after the last 7 years of my life dealing with illness and such, that empowerment and independence were exhilarating. It is also very inspiring to be in the woods with my friends. It might seem weird that an experience like that would inspire jewelry making, but everything in life is connected.
Visit Heidi’s shop here.
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