Holly and Tomra, Gravel and Gold
Emma: Hi Gravel and Gold! Thank you so much for sitting down to answer my questions.
Shout out to women-owned and operated endeavors! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start a design collective. Where did that vision start and how has it evolved into present-day Gravel and Gold?
Holly & Tomra: Gravel & Gold was started in 2008 in San Francisco, as a shop and creative hub for us and our friends. We wanted a place that would support creativity of all kinds, so we held art shows, dinners, lectures, music and dance performances. We hosted artists for residencies in our homes and we sold vintage treasures we found at flea markets, and jewelry, ceramics and apothecary items made by our friends.
It’s been eleven years and we still do many of the same things, but we’ve added our own line of textiles and clothing. We love textile prints, so we collaborate with artists to make a new design every season. We also love the process of making clothes and being able to dress our friends and family, so it has been really fun to create and grow our own collection.
E: That boob print though—she’s a beauty to behold! I saw her around and knew of her long before I learned she was one of Gravel and Gold’s signature creations. To my mind, this print has become a landmark of contemporary feminism and I’m wondering if feminism and/or gender plays a role in your collective’s mission, operations, or creations.
H & T: We try to run Gravel & Gold as a holistic enterprise. Our driving ethos is a desire to live a healthy life and collaborate with one another. We value communication and individual expression and have a non-hierarchical operation. Our clothes are made for women to feel great in their bodies at work and at play. We like working with women and enjoy the mutually supportive environment that a group of like-minded people can create.
E: I love the hope expressed on your website that the things you make “encourage the freedom to be kind to strangers, fierce foes, and gentle under the sea.” Your collective is presented as a community of makers linked through design and I’d love to hear more about what you think design offers us as humans that is so essential and in need of fierce protection.
H & T: What we value most about our work is how design work lets us work with and for other humans. When we are starting a new project, we are thinking about how to make clothes that feel, look and work better.
It is super fun to get together with creative friends to generate new ideas for projects and activities, this makes a wonderful bond between the creating group and for all the other people who get to experience the result whether it is a pair of pants or a dinner party.
Our designs are often nostalgic or referential, we are trying to generate an emotional response, something that gives the person feelings of joy and comfort. We love objects that have a unique aesthetic perspective and show evidence of the human that made it.
And, we have to consider history and context; of craft, of material, of the work that people did before us. We work as lenses that take up information and refract it in a new way.
I think what needs protection is the possibility of making things by hand, working and/or living in a slow, deliberate, intentional way. This is in contrast to the immediacy and digitization of every other aspect of current life. We do so much all the time, and cram so much information and stimuli, that the idea of working with tangible material in human time, with other folks, in person, might be a radical thing.
E: Your studio and retail space are located in the Mission District in San Francisco, could you tell us a little bit about how space and place play a part of Gravel and Gold?
H & T: The Mission District is a distinctive neighborhood, the people and the architecture are diverse. It feels like a village, with everything you could need in a mile radius. We bike and walk most everywhere. We love the deep connections we’ve made by staying in one place for such a long time.
The shop itself is an intimate, welcoming place and acts as a social hub. We are a CSA farm box pick-up site, we have public benches outside, and a hanging chair inside, we welcome kids and the curious to take a load off for a minute or 20. Neighbors of all kinds stop in regularly on their daily routes.
The tech boom has changed the demographics and the types of businesses that you find in the neighborhood, but there are still a lot of unique, independent companies.
We are also really proud to produce all of our apparel in San Francisco, not far from our shop.
E: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Any deep dark secrets or funny personal quirks you feel inclined to reveal?
H & T: Our answer is good lead in to your next question! We are constantly thinking about food and cooking, and we usually plan what we're having for dinner while we are eating lunch. :)
E: Finally, I wish we were able to have this conversation over a shared meal rather than via email! It sounds like connecting around meals is a regular occurrence in the community you’ve created and I’m wondering if you could share your favorite dish with us. Go ahead, make us hungry.
H & T: We love peppers! Hot, and sweet, and fresh, and dried, any of the above. We love making salsas or roasting up a big batch of sweet peppers for salads, spreads or sides. We eat them in some form, almost every day.
Our current go-to lunch/ snack is incredibly simple: Cut up a pile of sweet peppers (Bell or Italian roasting peppers) add a good amount of olive oil and some salt, and roast at 375 for 15-30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so, until the peppers are darkened and shriveled. Eat as-is, or spread a slice of country bread with goat cheese and layer the roasted peppers on top.
E: Thank you so much, again, and I can’t wait to encounter your designs at Burke!