Dan McGarigle (interview from a few weeks ago) recommended a few choice people to me. Bronwen was one of them and I can absolutely understand why. After a couple of emails back and forth, we made arrangements to meet at her studio. We hit it off immediately and had a great chat while two of her assistants prepared for an upcoming trade show. Bronwen makes beautiful jewelry, which I highly recommend you take a look at. She's also a delightfully warm person. So, keep an eye out for her. And be sure to say hi when you do find her.
Who are you?
I am Bronwen Lodato. I am a free-spirited woman. And a mother. And a spouse. And networker of amazing women friends. And a small business owner. And a creative person that is lucky enough to be making a livelihood out of what's fueling me creatively right now. I'm a Bend girl. I'm an outdoor girl. I do a lot of outdoor things - it's a big part of who I am and who I have always been. That feels like a really true part of my personality and spirit.
Where do you come from?
I was born in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but I grew up in Washington State. Just north, like six hours north, in Wenatchee, Washington. High desert, due north, in a little agricultural valley on the Columbia River. I grew up on a cherry orchard. My dad and mom had met another couple when my dad was in the Air Force - another Air Force couple - and the four of them just fell in love. Which is so rare, for all the chemistry of the four to be equally connected. And they were like We want to go homestead somewhere. Where are we going? So they went to Washington State and they bought two adjoining cherry orchards. The Parlette's ran their orchard and we ran our little orchard. There was a shared dirt airstrip - because my dad and the other gentleman were both pilots. I grew up with limited financial resources but crazy family connection and love and friend love and amazing experiences.
What brought you to Bend?
Right after college, I started working for an outdoor school called Outward Bound and the base camp is here. It was Pacific Crest Outward Bound School at the time. Now it's Northwest Outward Bound because they kind of joined several Northwest schools. And I was interviewed and hired over the phone by a gentleman who is now my husband. I didn't know that at the time (smiling). That was 20 years ago. I came and worked for Outward Bound for several years, doing courses in the Three Sisters and on the Deschutes. It was less of a living in Bend kind of experience and more of a being really familiar with the natural and wild and scenic landscape and rivers and mountains here. We would do long courses - like 30 days, multi-element, half the time on the river, half the time climbing and mountaineering. We'd come into Bend for sushi when we were off course, but really I was at the base camp. Mike (my husband) and I were really good friends for those first two years and by the end of the second summer, we started dating, and decided to spend the off season in Bend. So, we got a little apartment here and I, you know, waitressed in a restaurant and worked as an ambassador at the mountain and just scrapped it together. I started doing a lot of yoga and doing a teacher training and that kind of thing. And got a living in Bend experience. We lived in this teeny little apartment. So then we left in 2000 and just came back a little over five years ago. Through this whole time we've been doing other things - living in Colorado and most recently in Berkeley. We never really saw living in Berkeley long term. We knew that we wanted to have a child and we knew we were not going to buy a house. It was so expensive. It was too busy. We just didn't see it. Through the years we would come back to Bend like every three or four years. Like, Do we want to go back there? We still had friends here that bought houses and had kids and started their whole lives here. Every time we'd leave we be like, Oh, we're not quite there yet. It's not quite ready yet. And then we had our daughter in Berkeley and after like one year we were like, We're out. Where we gonna go? Bozeman? Boulder? Bend? And it was just kind of obvious. My family's in the Northwest. His family is in the Northwest for half the year. It always felt like home. There's no other place that feels homey enough that we would pick up and move. And I felt like I could take my business - we're wholesale mostly - anywhere. I felt like I was going to be able to have the resources that I would need to get to kind of seamlessly - I had a lot of anxiety about it - slide in. I held so much anxiety about the move. I'll miss the farmer's market and the magnolias that bloom in February. How will I ever find an assistant as great as the assistant I have here? All of those stressors are the things I never should have spent half a second worrying about. From the moment that we got here it was just like, Oh yeah. Oh, definitely, yeah! Friends, everything was just right. It's just right that I'm here.
What does community mean to you?
Everything. Pretty much. Really. For reals (laughs). It means that I am here, operating independently in my own space and conducting my life and my thoughts and my feelings and my work and I am completely buoyed and supported by this greater thing that is so very apparent and real to me here. It means that I have several other families that really know my child and love her and will care for her (and do) and will ask me to participate in things that are important to them. It's not even a question. It's just a feeling of wanting to stay plugged into this source, which is, essentially, a group of people choosing to be together and have a shared life. It's what I was missing in California. I grew up with it. I grew up with community, like really strong community. That was always really important to my parents and they created that for us. It's a familiar feeling, so when I haven't had it at times in my life, it's just a very obvious space. It's an empty space. I have it more than I've dreamed. It's so awesome. I would never choose to leave this community right now. Never say never, but... it's huge. If people say, What do you love most about Bend? that's what I'll say - Community. You start getting a shared history with people. Human connections are sort of boundless and they're all up to you - how deep you want to go with human connections and friendships and relationship? I love that people here are not afraid to connect.
What do you most look forward to here in Bend?
Summer (laughs). No, I have to say, I am a four season person, but I love three seasons more than one. That is to say, I love winter and I love it to last three. months. hardcore. Let's ski, let's do all the winter stuff! And now let's get spring! But I love to see the change because it feels cyclical to me and I like that. That's an important rhythm in my life. I grew up with four seasons, so I think it kind of comes back to that. It's the fall now, this the time when, naturally, you're just going a little bit more inward and you're kind of tucking in around yourself a little bit. I guess just how the four seasons, environmentally, kind of affect the interior, emotionally. I love the feeling of change. In life and in my heart. I really like change. That part is really great. You know, there are so many things that I do here outside that are just easy. Hopping on your mountain bike - it's an after work kind of thing. With friends or by yourself or with your partner or with your kid. I do like raising a kid here. It does come back to community. It feels nurturing. Bend is a place that supports you in your path. What are you doing? That's cool. Let's make that happen. And I have to say, not on a daily basis, but at least every other day, I catch myself feeling full and authentic gratitude for how pretty it is here. I still really feel that all the time. I'm not manufacturing this feeling of thankfulness (laughs), I actually really feel this! Whether I'm mountain biking or skate skiing or just taking a walk or if I'm watering the flowers on my porch. To not lose sight of that and not not notice those things. I am person who really holds dear and values beauty - aesthetic and natural beauty. It's important to me. It's my work. Having beauty around me is important. It's here. I totally resonate with the landscape here.
What do you wish for the future?
Well, it is crazy, and I'm not one of the people that's grumpy about how quickly Bend is growing. Although, I have my grumpy moments. Really what I see and what I feel and what I like to participate in creating is I just want to retain the spirit of a small Bend - smallish, medium size. I totally like a medium size town. There's enough people to support you in your endeavors and your business - and they do - and yet it's small enough that community really feels possible and easy. I guess right now, one of my great hopes, however I'm participating in it, is that the planning for the changes of this town are taking into account, of course, my core values which I feel I share with the majority of the people that live here. To also be really open and say, You know, there are so many possibilities here. There's possibilities with change and growth and there's power in that and kind of collectively deciding which way to drive that. But I see staying here. I see my daughter graduating from high school and beyond. I see my life here. I don't know if I'm going to become a little old woman here or anything. I'm a super wide open person. But I sense and I feel that my work is strong and organically flourishing, creatively and financially - meaning all those things in a business sense. I see that continuing, for sure. I see my connections here continuing to broaden and deepen, which they are exponentially. It takes a little while to kind of hone in on who your people are. Everybody here is so kind and there are so many quality, great people here. Honestly, we have so many people coming into the studio... I've met so many of my friends because they're my customers. I'm like, Oh my god, yet again, another amazing lady! But you have to choose. If you're going to deepen this relationship, it's time. Opening and sharing and being willing to invest. That feels super abundant and time-constricted sometimes. (Laughs) What a great problem to have! I feel like there are so many quality people here that are so interesting that it's okay to have broad relationships with people and then kind of hone in on who's the little core that you're going to put right around you and invest deeply in those. You know, it's like concentric circles of friendships. I do see Bend continuing to support my happiness here. I'm really happy here. Super happy.
People are so kind here. That's a thing that people say. I moved from California. Practically everyone I knew moved from somewhere. Most people have moved here from somewhere. I've had friends visit in the past two years that give all these examples of people being seriously, genuinely nice. It's so true. You notice when people are outwardly friendly. I'm Sicilian and (laughs) people are not outwardly friendly. It's a different thing. It makes you feel proud about your town. Seriously, people are really nice here.