Conversations with an Artist: Betsy & Iya
Betsy & Iya is the jewelry line designed by Betsy Cross and run with her husband Will Cervarich, out of Portland, Oregon. We were introduced to their collection when a client of Poet and/the Bench was wearing a cuff bracelet we admired. Soon after, we were heading to Oregon on a road trip and we visited the Betsy & Iya studio. We love their varied influences, approachable and fun culture, and their celebration of beauty in details big and small. Betsy's response to our interview really gives you great insight into what moves her.
Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
I've always found myself pursuing art—I studied and taught theatre in college, played in an all-girls band, and founded betsy & iya in 2008! For me, art is always about storytelling, and whatever medium I'm in is a way to express myself and help others express their own individuality.
What themes do you pursue in your art?
I'm always, always drawn to the concept of perpendicularity. Where two things butt up against one another and create something totally new and incredible. I love looking at contrasting things and saying, "How can we bring those together? What can we make with that?"
Tell us about what influences the direction for your jewelry collection.
Each collection is totally different. A lot of times they stem from ideas that have been percolating for a long time—ideas that maybe started from one image I jotted down in my notebook a couple years ago and morph into something new and exciting.
My travels influence my work often; our most recent collection was inspired by my time in Peru with my husband. The way imagery, culture, stories and my personal experience come together creates ideas and impulses for collections. I love trying to capture an experience or thought within a piece.
How has your work developed over time?
My work has developed both as I've grown as a person and as a metalsmith. As I've learned more and more in the 10 (!!) years betsy & iya has been around, I've implemented that knowledge into each new collection. And with every year I learn new truths about myself and discover more about the world (or realize I know less than I thought...). But one thing I love about jewelry is that it transcends time. If it's designed from a space of love and a desire to create, rather than the space of "what can I sell right now?" then it will speak to more people across time and space, and your favorite pieces can remain your favorite pieces forever.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My microscope! I'm addicted to it! It helps me do my best work.
Do you collect anything?
Fortunes from fortune cookies... I love things that have a mystical, magical quality to them—you have to listen a little harder to what they're trying to say.
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
Tara Brach's podcast Rewiring for Happiness and Freedom. It's fantastic. It's about how to bring compassion, presence, acceptance and love into your life, and how to cultivate those feelings within yourself.
What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic journey?
Take the leap. Believe in yourself, but also lean into your fear. That's where you'll find your strength and determination. Always trust your vision, your work, and your passion. You're surrounded by people ready to support, love, and believe in you—don't forget that!
Betsy and Iya has so much variety and we love the layers of influence that you will discover with each collection. These pieces are perfect for holiday gift-giving... but don't forget gifting yourself!
See you soon,
Bonnie & Jeffrey