From activists and athletes, business women to elected leaders, Oregon has long been a fiercely independent state for women. In 1987, the state adopted a new motto, “She flies with her own wings” to reflect this pioneering spirit, at the urging of then Oregon Secretary of State Barbara Roberts. Oregonians celebrate this by supporting women-owned businesses and women makers in every corner of the state. For National Women’s History Month in March, we’ve rounded up several of these entrepreneurial rock stars — making innovative jewelry, herbal remedies, bronze sculptures, old-style wines and more to bring more joy to the world through their inspired work. Here’s how to meet them and see their artful expressions throughout Oregon.
Healing herbs in Eastern Oregon
Jody Berry is obsessed by the rugged natural landscape that surrounds her in Enterprise, a tiny community in northeastern Oregon. She founded Wild Carrot Herbals in 2000 and brought it to Enterprise in 2012. An women-majority team make nourishing plant-based elixirs, salves, lotions and other wellness products with as many local ingredients they can grow or source — everything from elderberry and lavender to nettles, prickly pear and green tea. Their Wildflower Prairie Body Oil, for instance, is meant to evoke the natural setting of the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve, nearby. Berry’s focus is on all things natural — and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “A wild carrot is considered a noxious weed but to me something about it is a symbol of abundance and beauty,” Berry says. “As a talisman, it speaks to what we’re trying to put out there in the world. Something seems very feminine about that — sharing in that abundance.” Wild Carrot gives a portion of their profits to local plant and land conservation groups including the Wallowa Land Trust, Oregon Wild, Wallowa Resources and The Nature Conservancy. Find their products at retail stores nationwide or visit their space in Enterprise.
Bronze art in the Gorge
It’s not every day you get to see what may be the world’s largest bronze eagle — larger than a small fighter jet, with a 60-foot wingspan. It’s a piece of commissioned artwork Heather Soderberg-Greene worked to sculpt and cast entirely by hand, without the aid of technology — a rarity in her industry. As one of the first women to own a bronze foundry, already a less-common form of art, Soderberg-Greene’s love of hand-craftsmanship appealed to the philanthropist couple who commissioned the piece. “It’s very much a male-dominated field,” Soderberg-Greene says. “To be chosen for this project is a huge deal.” Visitors can see her in action by calling ahead to book a private tour of Soderberg Gallery & Studio in Cascade Locks, where she is inspired daily by the wildlife she sees near the Columbia River and along regional trails. “When everything gets so crazy, it’s great to get away and just take a walk,” she says. Look for some of her locally commissioned works including the Todd Kirnan statue in downtown Gresham, named for a man with autism who was nicknamed “Mr. Gresham” for his presence in the community.
Wine in the Willamette Valley
Remy Drabkin grew up riding on tractors in the vineyards of McMinnville, picking grapes and tasting juice coming out of the press along with other winemakers’ children in the Willamette Valley, including several of Oregon’s wine pioneers. “It felt like a family, with just a tremendous amount of fun to it, especially around time of harvest,” she says. Today Drabkin is owner of Remy Wines, a top producer of non-traditional grape varieties and one of a growing number of women winemakers in Oregon. She holds several other identifiers as well: “I’m a gay woman, Jewish woman and elected official,” she notes, now serving on the McMinnville City Council as Council President, Ward 3, and on the Oregon Wine Board. She discusses her challenges as a minority winemaker in the 2018 documentary, “Red, White and Black.” Visit Remy Wines’ farmhouse tasting room in Dayton any time of year (book appointments online) or for special virtual new release tastings.
Indigenous crafts in Southern Oregon
Laura Quintero Anton moved to Southern Oregon from Guadalajara, Mexico two and a half years ago, and has been making art ever since. The trained physical therapist lives with her husband in Talent — a bustling, artsy community just north of Ashland, where he grew up. The city is home to a large Latinx population, with migrant workers who tend the abundant fruit orchards and grape vineyards that thrive in the Rogue Valley climate. Quintero Anton makes clay and beaded jewelry inspired by her indigenous roots at Uka Timate Artesanía, which translates to “creative woman.” Quintero Anton is a board member of the nonprofit Talent Maker City, a maker space and downtown hub for local creatives of all ages. (Talent Maker City is currently closed due to COVID restrictions but you can still sign up for online workshops.) Here, she teaches crafts and holds workshops in both English and Spanish on topics such as how to create an “ofrenda” to mark the Day of the Dead, a major Latino holiday. More than just making the art, it’s about sharing her culture and teaching young people many of the same skills she learned from her mother and grandmother when she was younger, such as embroidery. “I want to introduce some artistic roots from my country to the people here, especially for the Latinx and Chicana communities,” she says.
Jewelry with coastal vibes
Ashley Mersereau wants women to feel beautiful when they wear her jewelry. But more importantly, she says, “I hope they make the wearer feel happy, bold and maybe a little bit braver.” From her Roots & Wings studio on the Oregon North Coast, in Nehalem, Mersereau is inspired by the blues and greens of the ocean and forest, as well as shapes of the landscape. You see these natural motifs —such as waves, ferns and stacked rocks — in her earring and necklace designs. She works with semiprecious stones such as citrine and green aventurine, as well as bronze, copper and silver-filled metals. “Jewelry is such an ancient form of adornment,” she says, “and I like the idea of these pieces being little talismans for whatever you wish to bring into your day with you.” Find Mersereau’s jewelry online and at retail shops on the Coast including Found in Cannon Beach, The Nehalem Beehive and Lodestar Goods in Astoria.
Mixed media art in Bend
You may have seen Katie Daisy’s cheery artwork in a gift shop, on a calendar or journal design, or from one of her biggest fans, Oprah Winfrey, who featured her work on a segment of her Super Soul Sunday a while back. This Bend-based artist has been making and selling her colorful Instagrammable art under the name The Wheatfield for the past decade, and is still coming up with new plans and designs, including a colorful embroidered patch and a line of wearable goods. “I hope my art can bring a bit of joy and wonder to women’s lives,” she says. “There is still so much beauty that surrounds us. I invite my customers to take a moment to pause for a moment and soak up the daily enchantments all around.” As her name and art suggests, Daisy’s inspirations come from the wildflower fields, rivers and mountains of the high desert. “I was overwhelmed by beauty when some friends and I stumbled upon hills of lupines at Three Fingered Jack,” she says. Find Daisy’s work, including her New York Times-bestselling 2016 book, “How to be a Wildflower,” at The Workhouse, a new artist’s collective in Bend, as well as Ju-bee-lee & Abode boutique in Bend and online, where she offers the option of local pickup if you’re in the area.
Makeup for all women
Paula Hayes had always had trouble finding the right type of makeup for her darker complexion. So in 2009, the Portland-based chemist put her lab skills to work and launched a business, Hue Noir Cosmetics, creating products such as lipsticks, foundation and blush especially formulated for African-American skin. “One of the things I love the most about being a cosmetic chemist is the beautiful dance between color, science and technology,” says Hayes, who works with an all women-of-color team in their office and production facility in Beaverton. “If you think about it, makeup is a sensory experience that requires equal parts creativity and science — and in my opinion, you really can’t have one without the other.” With a decade of success under her belt, Hayes is constantly working to grow the business, launching new product lines and limited-edition colors and palettes, which serves a diverse spectrum of users. Their True Hues Flawless Finish Foundation, for instance, is available in 25 true-to-skin-color shades. Find their products at the Hue Noir Beauty Bar in Beaverton and at retail stores nationwide.