Mackenzie Reed
APORTA Shop ambassador, writer, maker

In our second volume of Portraits, we sat down with Arianna Lauren (she/they) of Quw’utsun’ Made to talk about her work, the nomadic nature of their craft, and the impact and importance of showing up for social causes. Arianna is a daughter of the Quw’utsun’ and Cowichan tribes, raised in Vancouver, BC, with roots in Washington, NYC, Arizona, and New Mexico. Their line of skin care and home goods started when she noticed a lack of ancestral medicines in the form of modern skin care. Apart from skincare, Arianna has launched a line of merchandise featuring original artwork. Their work is stunning and her apothecary goods are some of the most popular in the store. We carry a variety of goods from candles to infused oils, so come on in and discover what makes Quw’utsun’ Made so special. 

APORTA Shop: I’m so curious about how the different places you’ve lived have impacted your work. I know you recently moved back to Washington, a much wetter climate than Albuquerque, do you feel that your work changes or adapts to the places you live? Do you feel that your connection to the work changes with your physical location?

Arianna Lauren: I have always been nomadic, my business and I have learned to thrive when faced with any type of change. So with my most recent move back to the PNW from the SW, I got the chance to purge and make room for new amazing opportunities. It was the perfect time to reassess all my assets, inventory, and just get organized. To some that might not be ideal, I mean, who enjoys going through everything they own to make sure it has a place in their life? Since I live and work from home, moving gave me a huge perspective on what spaces and lack thereof that I could adapt to. The PNW is great for access to my plant medicines but affordability & weather wise, Albuquerque gives me so much more to work with. Unfortunately, it took me moving back up here to see the full potential of Albuquerque so it's very likely I'll be moving back very soon.

AS: What designers and/or artists have inspired you historically? Recently?

AL: I have always been super inspired by my friends and the majority of them are artists. I vicariously live through their experiences and I see that translate through my work time and time again. As of late, I've been watching my friend Hotvlkuce Harjo aka @dommivera [on instagram] turn their sketches into incredible merchandise. It really pushed me to sharpen up my graphic design skills and get my own merch line launched. With the success of my most recent Devils Club design, I've been thinking of taking it further. Another artist I'm super inspired by is Kanye West. I always feel a little shy admitting that nowadays but in my lifetime, his work in music, fashion, and pop culture, has given me immense perspective on what staying true to one's own spirituality offers. The amount of detail, research, and bravado he infuses into his everyday actions as both a  human and celebrity, influence how I carry myself as a business owner and social media figure.

"I try to walk this earth with a good heart and good mind, as my ancestors did."

AS: How do you feel that Covid-19 has impacted your practice? Have there been any upsides?

AL: Covid-19 impacted me in so many dynamic ways it's hard to focus on just one. First off, it changed how I interact with clients and customers. I used to be so deeply invested in community events including pow-wows, makers markets, and bazaars. Now I have to reach that audience through social media and online campaigns, if it is at all possible. I did lose a huge percentage of my income because I was no longer able to do retail events and since a lot of my wholesale accounts had to close their doors. It saddens me that so many people had to find other means to survive. Although I lost that income, I found alternative routes to make my ends meet, merchandise being one of them. At the end of the day I am very grateful for my supportive clientele & community.

If you’re comfortable sharing with us and our readers, what are some of the most important and valuable lessons that your elders have shared with you that you have incorporated into your business?

AL: My elders have shared so much valuable knowledge with me in my short lifetime but the teaching that stood out to me the most is remaining honest & authentic. I try to walk this earth with a good heart and good mind, as my ancestors did. That means I have to think of my impact on my nation, my followers, and the planet. I am very transparent with my journey as a business owner as well as a Native woman. This has allowed me to offer medicines through my brand that teach and inspire others to think constructively about their own impacts. The best part about Elder wisdom is that one teaching can't be reduced to a singular subject. When you're truly listening to them, their knowledge transcends.

AS: How are you practicing sustainability in your work? I know you use a lot of a native plants in your goods, I’d love to hear more about your work with them. 

AL: When I spoke of my elders’ teachings, I mentioned walking this world with a good heart and good mind. I try to live and die by that. As a business owner that creates a wide range of products, I try to be mindful of how much waste and pollution I am generating. I try to use the least impactful methods, packaging, and energy that I can but that usually comes at a cost to the consumer. That means I have to put in extra time educating my customers about the value of their purchase. A lot of my skincare ingredients are wildcraft harvested and the products come in glass or aluminum versus plastic. To me that seemed like the smartest choice for sustainability but as I grow I know it needs to go beyond that. I use renewable energy within my home, I source packing & ingredients from local businesses (when possible of course), I only use paper products when packing & shipping orders, and I am working on a refill program to encourage folks to re-use their current vessels. I also don't offer products that use the traditional plant medicines if that medicine has been over harvested or is out of season. The last thing I want to do is exploit the very plants that have sustained my career and lifestyle. 

AS: What is a social issue/cause that is near and dear to you and your work?

AL: As a Native woman who also happens to be queer, it feels like I’m impacted by all social issues especially those related to mother earth and her inhabitants. I don't think I could choose just one that I focus on more than the others. However over the last year or so, Black Lives Matter & Stop Asian Hate have opened  my eyes to the injustices that my friends face on the daily and have pushed me to use my platform to support them the same way they did during Standing Rock & Idle No More. The biggest blessing in all of this is our interconnectedness and kinship. The BIPOC has been through hell & back but we manage to remain resilient with the support of each other.

AS: What’s been something you’ve been incredibly proud of in the last year?

AL: This last year really changed my life. Again with all the movement happening in the BIPOC community, I learned to mobilize and be of service. My 30th birthday was spent in Vancouver, BC holding space at a blockade. I used my physical body & social platforms to raise awareness & funds. I also did what I could to amplify the voices of the land defenders when so many were shadow banned or silenced by the RCMP. I didn't know that just a few months later, in the middle of a pandemic, I would be marching & volunteering with thousands of people in Albuquerque, NM for the BLM. I look at these events as a monumental time in my life because it was the first time I was really intentional with my voice on social media. It seems heavy in perspective but at the time it was more than necessary.