SPRING IN BLOOM | S/S '21

This past year we've reflected a lot about the importance of community and connection starting with immense gratitude for the intimate network of artisan makers who hand-make our pieces. Umber & Ochre was born out of a 'it takes a village' mindset and our growing community in Northern California holds meaningful significance.

Spring is in the air and we escaped the confines of our homes for the day with the first chapter of our new Spring/Summer '21 collection. Our small group headed to a ranch nestled in the rolling hills of Pacifica, just north of San Francisco to make the most of the sunshine and lush serene surroundings.

We were fortunate to have textile artist Llane Alexis and cultural producer, Lisa Ellsworth with us to capture the welcoming essence of the new season. We spoke with them about their kismet connection, their paths to finding inspiration and wellness and discovering what is bringing them joy.
Tell me a bit about yourself. 
Llane: I am a queer Afro Caribbean artist with no preferred pronouns; born and raised in Havana, Cuba and living and loving in San Francisco for about 20 years now. My practice involves remnants of natural textiles and other discarded materials that I put together to create functional pieces of art.

What is the story of your friendship?

Llane: I met Lisa on a plane. We sat next to one another and soon after exchanging some words we discovered that we were heading to the exact same destination – a wedding in upstate New York. The wedding of my then brother-in-law and his beautiful talented wife Julia who Lisa is also friends with. I live for these types of coincidences. Years later our friendship developed organically and since then Lisa has been there to give me advice and to write about my work. I consider her as part of my large bastion of friends and muses I call Family.
Lisa: Llane and I met on an outbound flight from SFO to JFK. He disarmed me on the tarmac. We found ourselves chatting and laughing and soon discovered that we were heading to New York to attend the same wedding. Fast forward and we're still chatting and laughing. 

What does a typical day look like for you?
Llane: Instead of coffee, my morning ritual starts off with a headstand. Currently all I do is work on my projects so lots of sorting, braiding, stitching and sculpting fabrics.

How do you stay creatively inspired?
Llane: Inspiration is something I find on literally EVERYTHING in my surrounding environment from nature, music, art made by women and my instincts.

What do you enjoy doing most when not working?
Llane: I’m always working. Even when my hands are idle my mind and eyes are always wondering and plotting.
Lisa: I love working, but getting outside and into nature does it for me.

How do you approach wellness/self-care?
Llane: I’m vegan. I try to rest my body when it tells me to stop. Love showering with fruits. Turmeric, ginger and garlic are my medicines plus InFiore products that I’ve been using for more than a decade. Also an evening dance with myself because it brings me Joy and Joy = Resistance.
Lisa: I tend to work and play through almost anything. And thankfully, others keep tabs and ensure that I'm taking care. Llane surprised me last month with a glass jar of body balm and instructed me to slather myself in it. If doing so constitutes self-care, I've been self-caring for one month now thanks to Llane.
Has the year inspired any new hobbies or change in routines?
Llane: I finally discovered the reason for happy hour during lockdown.  
Lisa: I've doubled-down on taking meandering weekend walks to different parks spanning the city.

Five words that describe your style.
Llane: I consider myself a stylish revolutionary.
Lisa: Less is more, plus more?

What is something you can't live without?
Llane: Can’t live without music, olive oil, marmite, friends that feel like family, a good streaming tv show/movie/documentary to watch while I’m working so wifi is key. A little mezcal and white aromatic flowers to name a few. Did I mention avocados? And socks? This is a very incomplete list.
Lisa: Humor, good tools, seasonal produce, water... the basics.

What brings you joy?
Llane: Music/dance brings me joy. Revolutionary women fighting for equality and human rights brings me joy. Blackness brings me joy. Accountability brings me joy. Seeing my friend’s kids growing into remarkable little human beings brings me joy. A tropical beach brings me joy. Giving and gifting brings me joy. Being respected and considered brings me joy.
Lisa: Giant oversized pockets! (These are Lisa's favorite!)
Favorite quote or personal mantra.
Llane: Work with what you have.

A favorite sound, taste and smell.
Llane: The roaring sound of human voices coming together voicing their demands for justice. The smell of ripe tropical fruits such as guava and pineapple. The taste of properly made vegan Cuban black beans.

Can you share a favorite recipe?
Llane: Vegan Cuban black beans: soak the dry black beans overnight. You’ll need olive oil, garlic, honey, paprika, oregano, red bell pepper, onion, salt, pepper and cumin. Ok, I’m not good at writing recipes. But these are the ingredients I use. Guess what I’m cooking tonight?!
Lisa: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Halve and place as many vine-ripened tomatoes as you can fit face-up on a cast iron roasting pan. Drizzle the tomatoes liberally in a mixture of olive oil and pressed fresh garlic, sprinkle thyme, salt, and pepper on top, and bake for up to six hours. Eat your freshly roasted tomatoes on a thick slice of crusty sourdough topped with a soft-boiled egg and a side of any grilled green vegetable.  
Best thing you’ve read or listened to recently?
Llane: Best thing I’ve read is a so-called children’s book titled 'Animals Brag About Their Bottoms.' Music wise: sooooo many! But still going back to this Nina Simone rare released titled 'Fodder on my Wings.' I recommend any book by Octavia E Butler.
Lisa: I recommended 'Animals Brag About Their Bottoms', which is a picture book by Maki Saitō, to Llane. It's hilarious and self-affirming. I'm currently reading Lucia Berlin's 'A Manual For Cleaning Women', and on my nightstand is a copy of the 'Verso Book Of Dissent', which chronicles revolutionary words from three millennia, beginning circa 1800 BCE.

Shop Lisa's Looks / Llane's Looks

Photography by Peter van der Pas