I love it when Bay Area Babes make their way down to LA to set up shop! Most recently, dreamy Oakland Esqueleto store by jeweler Lauren Wolf just opened an outpost in Silverlake. Now Sasha Darling of the BellJar Shop from the Mission, San Francisco has landed in Los Feliz.
BellJar carries beautiful wearables and home goods by designers such as Demietria Chappo, Laurel Hill, BKB Ceramics, Young in the Mountain including loads of LA folks such as Rob Doran, Dream Collective, Corey Lynn Calter, Kristen Elspeth, HighLow Jewelry, A Question of Eagles, Mt. Washington Pottery, Naked Eye Beauty, La Tierra Sagrada, Knotwork LA and so much more.
Sasha and I ran (scootered, danced and schooled) in the same circles in San Francisco, but it wasn't until recently with both of us in LA that I got to really know this sweet lady. Along with some great peeks of the shop, she shared family photos and a bit of life up to this point:
What do you look for when deciding what goes into your shop? Do you choose differently for SF than LA?
Well its hard. Just because I love something doesn’t always mean it will sell. LA style is much different than SF. I tend to be more drawn to more simple, cotton and shapeless kinds of dresses and tops right now, but in SF there doesn’t seem to be a huge demand for this trend. I try to stay true to my vision while still really thinking about what my customer will enjoy and connect to. But style is constantly evolving so how I buy evolves with it. I’m happy to say the things I really love seem to be doing well in the LA location. So, I'm excited to bring brands that I may not have been able to sell in SF to the new location.
I’m also excited to be doing vintage in both LA and SF now! Anyone that knows me, knows I’m a vintage girl at heart and have been since I was a kid. It’s been so much fun adding this element back into the store.
Home and jewelry is much easier and way more fun for me. These items are not seasonal and I can invest in things that are a bit more risky and outside of the box. Plus home décor is my first love. Here I can carry all handmade, all small runs, very special pieces. I love that!
(photos of BellJar LA taken by Andrew Piccone)
You've mentioned growing up in a commune in Northern California. Could you tell me about that a bit?
I was born on a collective called Nord Ranch in the Sierra Mountains. My family were and are to this day true blue liberal nature loving hippies. My Dad was a father Yode type: tall and strong with a big long beard and tons of charisma. Growing up with hippies was complicated. There were a lot of great lessons there, but it was a different time of experimentation and expansion. It wasn’t necessarily a great place to be as a kid.
Did you rebel from that when you were growing up? And if so, how have you embraced those roots as an adult?
I definitely rebelled against my parents…I was a punk rock kid. I was angry, I was dark…but the older I get, the more I embrace all the positive things I learned as a kid. The hippies had it right: they started this movement. It's up to us to perfect it and continue on with the true message. That is the message of love – self love, love for the earth and all the creatures that inhabit it. A connection to the divine. This was my takeaway and I’m absolutely blessed to have been exposed to it my whole life.
But I’m really happy to live in a time where there is a collective movement towards these values that doesn’t include the experimentation of the 60’s... at least not as such a large focus.
(above : photos of Sasha and her family in the Nord Ranch Commune)
You and I both went to the same art school in San Francisco – and for a while you did design work, yes?
I went for fine art and illustration; and was doing design work for years. I was an art director at Levi's in the early 2000’s. I also did work for the SF opera, the Ballet and the Symphony. My best work was for them (such great clients) and I had the opportunity to design some beautiful amazing poster art for them. Such a blessing.
I still paint in my own time. I need to have a show. Its weird, I’m very personal about my own art. I don’t put it out there too much… but when I think abut being an old lady, I see myself living in the country with a bunch of pitbulls and painting all day in a big red barn.
How did the original San Francisco BellJar Shop start?
I was working on corporate retail, I was married, I had a nice house a nice car, and I was drowning in misery. It just wasn’t me. I thought that stability and a “normal” life would make me happy and secure but it just went against everything that was important inside of me. I didn’t know it at the time but I was having a spiritual bottom. My husband and I split and it was really difficult for me, I felt quite lost and heartbroken…but I knew it was an opportunity to really make some huge life changes. A week after he left, I quite my job and started planning BellJar. It was half self preservation (I needed to stay busy) and half a cosmic intervention forcing me into a new path.
I always wanted to have a space, that was beautiful and filled with all the things I loved. I can’t imagine anything else I was better suited to do. I’m a collector. I always have been. I grew up going to the Marin flea market with my mom. Our house was always filled with treasures. When I was a kid my mom moved us to Marin so she could work at an art glass collective called Swallowtail Studios. It was a big barn outside of Petaluma and there were glass blowers, potters, stained glass makers and etched glassers. It was in my blood and in my soul to do BellJar. I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point.
And what drew you to Los Angeles?
I came to LA to just get away. Its been such a great experience for me. I’ve been here 4 years and have had the space to do some much-needed self-work and healing. LA will always be, to me, the place where I found my heart and reconnected to my soul. Sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone to grow. I do still go to SF a lot, but for now LA is my home.
I know you love to just take off an go off on solo trips. Where do you go?
Well anywhere. But I tend to go back to the sierras a lot... and Marin. I guess because they are the two places I feel most connected to. I go back and get grounded. I miss the forest so much being down here in LA, so I’m always looking for places that remind me of home. Idyllwild and Ojai have been two of my go to’s for quick recharge. And of course the desert. My Grandma lives in the mojave. I’m lucky to have family in such cool places.
And where would you absolutely love to go that you haven't gone to yet?
Greece. I have always said, once I go to Greece I can die a happy woman. Greece has been calling me since I was a kid.
(above : Marin and the Sasha in the desert)
You've had some pretty rad BellJar Babes pass through your shop! Could you tell me about some and what they've contributed to the shop?
All I want to do is be surrounded by rad babes. I’ve had some amazing ladies either work at BellJar or have shows and or their product on my shelves. (we've also featured some of the shows on The Radder) The super Talented Kylea Borges worked as my visual merchandiser for years and she has had quiet a few shows as well. Kylea is always a he influence on me. She is such a trendsetter with such a great visual eye and she also just a really strong lady that I look up to.
Hannah Stouffer, April Rose, Thea Shea, Claire Hummel, Amy Joe Dias, Aleksandra Zee, Martina Thornhill, Emily Katz, Heidi Anderson, Alexis Mackenzie are just a few of the amazing women who have in one way or another been involved in or stocked at BellJar.
Being drawn into the women’s arts and crafts movement has been very healing for me. It’s made me stronger and more self-reliant. Although my parents are hippies they were also people that grew up in the 40’s and 50’s. I had some complicated ideas about what it meant to be an independent woman and what role men played in my life. Being surrounded by so many kick-ass ladies really has brought me into my own and helped me stand on my own two feet in a way that I never knew was possible: Kylea taught me how to use a hand drill!! Claire has taught me so much about being fierce and hardworking, but still soft and girly! April has brought Rainbows into my life, Thea is my Sierra sister, Hannah is so hard working a prolific. Emily is such a frew spirit, Aleksandra is like a little sister… I mean there is just so much I can say about all these ladies. My store and my life wouldn’t be what it is without them. We are all following our own path and do not allow society confine us by social norms. I’m so thankful to be involved with all of them.
(clockwise, starting with top left : Hannah Stouffer, April Rose Emily Katz, Claire Hummel – amongst their rad creations)
Between running the SF shop, the new LA shop, the webshop and painting (phew!), what do you do to balance and recharge? I'd love for you to share your modalities (tapping, meditation, etc.) and how you tune in with your spiritual side.
Man such a good question and so essential. I’ve been working so hard in the last month, that I have not been doing enough self-care and I need to get tapped back in. But when I’m being kind to myself, when I’m taking care of my soul – I do a bunch of things. Mediation is the most important part of my routine. I try to do 20 minutes of silent meditation every morning. I also do prayer... a ton of prayer. I love to just get connected into the universe and put my intentions out there – and I find it key to not ask for too much personal stuff. Mostly, I ask for willingness to stay connected and I pray for other people.. .or I pray to be relieved from self-obsession. It gives me so much relief when I do these two things consistently.
And yes Tapping. Tapping has been really important to my evolution. I tend to be a pessimist when left to my own devices. Tapping really helps me stay grounded in the positive and it helps with things like self esteem and stress management. After sharing tapping with some women at the last spirit weavers, I started recording videos to share with other women. I’m no expert but I really love this technique and want to share it with other women. It also keeps me motivated in my practice so it’s win win.
You can watch a few of Sasha's tapping videos here.
(above : scenes from Spiritweavers Gathering 2015 ; Sasha leading a new moon meditation hosted by Stefani Padilla of La Tierra Sagrada at Kenny Osehan and Elena Stonaker's Silverlake home)
Back to BellJar : tell me about the art shows and happenings you've had in SF and what kind of similar events do you plan for LA?
I've had so many great artist hang in BellJar SF!! Kevin Taylor, John Casey, April Rose, Hannah Stouffer, Jessica Niello, Michael McConnell, Lisa Congdon, Jason Vivona, Kimi Buzzeli just to name a few! I definitely plan to have shows in LA, too.
Starting October 6th, I will be having weekly Tuesday night meditations at the shop. This will be open to all women and then the last Tuesday of the month, men will be welcome as well. I may also do some tapping and will definitely be hosting trunk shows, pop-ups and art openings.
See also the previous post for information for the opening celebration with the ceremony and blessing led by Erin Riviera Merriman of Active Culture Family.
Thank you Sasha! May much happiness, love and prosperity pass through the doors of BellJar LA! xo