Behind the Scenes at Betsy & Iya: Office, Studio, and Retail Shop Tour!

I kind of feel like a broken record, but I’ll say it again… I love husband and wife teams! And when I heard Betsy’s story, I jumped at the chance to share it with you. Let me give you the run-down…

Filled with hand-engraved brass, dripping chains, and mixed metals, jewelry shop, betsy and iya, exploded on the scene just three short years ago. Betsy, along with her helper Lupe, creates every piece for her shop by hand in the most adorable studio/ office/ retail space I have ever seen (which I am sharing today). She built her business completely from scratch and is now proudly in more than 75 shops across the country. Now remember I mentioned that betsy and iya is a husband and wife team? Yep! Let me get to that… Because Betsy’s business is doing so well, her husband Will was recently able to quit his deskjob to work with her full time behind the scenes.

Is that incredible, or what? I am so thrilled for Betsy’s success and I thought you might be interested in how she’s done it. So, I sat down and asked her (and her hubby Will) questions about their success, snagged some tips for you on getting started and keeping the train moving, and a whole lot more. Let’s get to it…

1. In three sentences or less, how would you describe your jewelry line? “betsy and iya” is a Victorian Breakdancer, where dainty elegance meets bold grit. Focusing on asymmetry, betsy & iya jewelry inspires confidence, packs attitude, and winks at strangers. Big statement pieces, mixed vintage metals, repurposed hardware, hand-formed findings and pop colors push boundaries and exude sex appeal.

2. Your shop and studio space is to die for. I can’t wait to stop in next time I am in Portland. So, where exactly is it located? Our shop, studio, and office are squeezed into a 289 square foot box under the I-405 freeway in Portland.  Were neighbored by warehouses, salons, a Montessori school, food carts, painters, a dog hotel, the Willamette River, and a huge indoor kids playground.

3. Having a dedicated space outside of your home to work is fantastic. What have you found to be the best time of day (or night) to get work done? I work all the time, and Im best under pressure.  Im at my most productive when I have a deadline looming.  But Ive found that I can trick myself into getting in the work groove by setting up mini challenges.  “Can I cut, hammer, and file 20 pair of earwires in 5 minutes?”  “Can I sketch out three new designs before the coffee is done brewing?”  I figure out a lot in the shower.  Its my moment of stillness everyday.

“Ive found that I can trick myself into getting in the work groove by setting up mini challenges.”

4. How long have you been pursuing work as an artist and shop owner? I started betsy & iya in March 2008, but I feel like Ive been preparing for this my whole life.  Ive always seen the tiny details, heard the buried melodies, loved patterns and chaos.  Im an obsessive perfectionist.  I have an MFA in Physical and Ensemble-based Theatre.  Im incredibly competitive, but completely silent about it.  Im teaching myself bass.  I love dancing.  All of this has made me the designer I am.

5. Being in more than 75 stores nationwide is a huge accomplishment. And certainly something that most every artist dreams about. But we all define success differently, so I am curious to know… What has been your most exciting / noteworthy event or happening recently that you interpret as a success? There are so many things I see as successes, from my husband quitting his job to come onboard full-time with betsy & iya, to getting emails from customers about how beautiful they feel wearing my designs, to discovering a new design in the shower.  I see success in so many things and I think this is probably the single most important reason Ive been able to stick it out through the tough times. Success doesnt come in a lump sum.  Its in every sale, every time I unlock my studio in the morning, every moment of inspiration.  Its a million tiny victories and its important to see them all, appreciate them all.

“Success doesnt come in a lump sum.  Its in every sale, every time I unlock my studio..”

6. So true! I love how you define success. Before I let you go, I have one last question for you, and it’s kind of a big one. What advice can you share with other artists and makers who may be just starting out, or are struggling to be seen? My biggest lesson is to just do it.  Jump.  That thing youre thinking about doing””whether its a new design, or quitting your day job, or making that first wholesale pitch””its worth doing.  Especially if it terrifies you.  You will succeed and you will fail, but not all at once, and you will learn from all of it.  This is a lesson I continuously remind myself of: push through the anxiety, self-doubt, the “what ifs.”  Its the only way to grow.

“You will succeed and you will fail, but not all at once, and you will learn from all of it.”



Great advice! Thanks so much for the tour and interview!

Please be sure to visit Betsy and Iya online, and if you’re in the Portland area, stop by their shop and pick something up! I know next time I am in town, I’ll definitely be popping in. Location and store hours can be found right here.

13 comments | Click here to reply

what a FANTASTIC interview. i love her definition of success.

lizzie

Great interview! I love her definition of her product…she absolutely knows her target market…and her advice for people starting out is great…I know that I should just do it, but it’s nice to get that little reminder once in a while! 🙂

Meg

Super interview! Great looking shop and fantastic designs! LOVE IT!

gail

Yay for Betsy! I am gaga for her work and yet had no idea there was a store I could browse right here in Portland. Time to add to my collection of Betsy & Iya goodies.

Lara @ Bella Puzzles

oh my gosh, what a cute shop! makes me wish for one like that.

angie

so glad to hear all the love for betsy and will! i was so excited to share this one with everyone. and i am sure you can imagine why. such a great space and a sweet couple.
-brittni

papernstitch

I LOVE Betsy and Iya! I lived in Portland for a while and it was definitely on of my role models!

Great interview, Brittni!

Cheers!
Marie

Marie

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Really great interview. What a nice blog post to wake up to this morning! 🙂 I love what she says about success, I find that really encouraging.

Ruth

That’s awesome Marie. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

And I also loved what Betsy had to say about success Ruth. She is a smart lady and sweet too. Loved the thoughtful answers she put together for this interview.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Love hearing about all your success! I just found your jewelry for the first time through papernstitch and look forward to making my first purchase. Truly an inspiration for what we do. Thanks for the heartfelt tour!

Megan Lopp

What a wonderful little space! I like what she said about success… definitely something to think about!

hearttypat

What a great and inspiring interview! I have a pair of their earrings I picked up in Victoria last year and now I can tell everyone who compliments me on them all about their little studio and shop! Fun!

kate
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