We support blatant acts of originality and seek authenticity in all aspects of life.
A Somewhat Brief History of Organic LLC
by Erica Skadsen
I began piercing and making my own surgical stainless steel rings in 1992 while still in college in San Francisco, under the name of Subcutanean. A friend had taught me how to make small and large gauge SSS (surgical stainless steel) body jewelry using little or no electricity, a non-existent budget, and lots of hard work - an influence which continues to this day. Shortly after this, I began making my own jewelry out of wood and bamboo and researching natural materials and ethnic body piercing traditions and jewelry. I put myself through college at San Francisco State University with two BA degrees in under four years, and celebrated by taking my first trip to SouthEast Asia in Spring of 1994 after I graduated. I traveled solo for three months to explore my interests and inspirations in the cultures there.
In the Fall of 1994, I traveled around the States in my truck selling surgical steel jewelry that I had made. After much adventure, I landed on the East Coast with little else than a block of ebony and $50 well-spent on a Dremel tool and a few sheets of sandpaper. A friend lent some space in his tiny apartment, and I carved my first set of ebony plugs for sale there, quickly realizing this was my calling. There was a lot of steel body piercing jewelry out there that was not aesthetically pleasing to me; it seemed cold and mass-produced. Having larger stretched piercings myself, I realized that natural materials had been used traditionally for thousands of years, and that they were not at all available for current wearers. They worked excellently for myself, and felt far more comfortable and appropriate than metal. I was determined to introduce natural materials as a viable option for body piercing to the modern world (it seems to have worked!). The response was fantastic, and I financed my way home selling the new ebony plugs I had made and the remaining steel rings, making many long-lasting friends, customers, and contacts along the way.
I soon switched to manufacturing jewelry only. After much research, I began to offer several species of hardwood, as well as bamboo plugs, and later, added antler to the repertoire. Sacrificing my kitchen in a studio apartment in SF, then moving up to a workshop (and a better respirator!), I was making custom body jewelry available first under my own name, then under the heading of Organic. I even silk-screened my own t-shirts and dried them in my oven. My last paycheck was in mid-1995 working as a press operator for an eco-print company, where I was able to print the covers to my first zine, I Am Not My Body. I realized that I wanted to be my own boss and to commit to my business as my sole source of income. It was equally exciting and scary, but as I had been spending most of my time and energy doing it anyway, it was (and still is!) worth the risk, hard work, and irregular pay.
During a brief and chaotic move to New Orleans in late 1995, along with many members of my boyfriend's band (Crash Worship), I continued to manufacture wood, bamboo, antler, and some steel, and published the second issue of my zine. Even more chaos was to be had while touring around the States and Europe with them in Summer 1996, selling jewelry and making contacts along the way. Once back, we settled in at our current location in Portland, Oregon, and have been here ever since.
I added several other materials to my companies' offerings, including amber, horn, and ethnic jewelry. Surgical steel had been phased out as it became clear that natural materials were my true love. I also began to design jewelry and to work with expert carvers, as well as to distribute others' quality work. I checked out a book from the library to learn basic HTML, and launched the Organic jewelry website in mid-1997, which has been continually updated since then. I took several backpacking trips to SouthEast Asia, falling in love with that region, and in particular Borneo and the Dayak people. I hired an employee to help take orders and ship packages, and taught my boyfriend how to make the bamboo.
Though there have been many different chapters the first decade and beyond, the goal and focus of my company has not changed: to provide high quality handmade natural body jewelry. I continue to juggle the business and design aspects of Organic, traveling when possible, and researching natural and indigenous materials and practices pertaining to body modification as it has applied throughout the ages. This long-term interest in natural materials, cultural anthropology, and the plant-people interactions that unite them has lead to a fascination with ethnobotany and a desire to study in a formal academic setting. This lead me to pursue a BS in Biology (Botany) with an Anthropology minor from Portland State University, graduating at the end of 2015. Hopefully grad school and field research in Borneo will follow in 2017.
The rest is history...
Erica :: creator/destroyer ::
acting secret weapon in the ordering and shipping realms.
She'll be taking your calls, answering most of your emails,
and making sure all of your packages get sent out safe and sound!
Erica looks forward to connecting with y'all in person or via email or phone!
Not only did she start and run this whole situation, she designs, she scans, she maintains the website, she slices, she dices, she writes about herself in the third person. She hopes to be traveling more soon, visiting customers and friends more frequently, finally writing I Am Not My Body #3 (ha!), as well as Solanaceae, a zine about the nightshade family of plants,
and possibly even attempting to have a life outside Organic (imagine that!).
This is it, folks! We like it small.
The old Organic crew after a tough night in Vegas (APP 2002)...
Who we are :: Who we aren't
We are a small and extremely dedicated woman-owned business located in the Pacific NW. We offer mail-order and phone sales, but do not have a storefront. We specialize in providing comfortable natural and ethnic body jewelry for larger piercings-emphasizing high quality and appropriate materials, rather than massive quantities, cutthroat prices, or shoddy materials. We are always here Monday through Friday 12noon until 7pm Pacific Time (Federal holidays not included). We have been providing body piercing jewelry for over 20 years now, and this has been my (= Erica's) love, life, and focus all that time. We take our business very seriously and are thoroughly committed to what we sell. I don't design, make, or sell anything I wouldn't feel confident having a friend wear or wouldn't wear myself (if at that size). I've written and maintained this entire website myself. We know how our jewelry responds to the body and feels since we have big piercings ourselves and actually wear it and live with it daily and long-term. We do our own careful research about materials, tools, and suppliers, and run our business honestly.
This is not a second job, side project, or seen as an opportunity for a quick buck. We are real people and not some huge corporation with little interest in the actual products that they are selling only for the profit potential. We do not sell cheap navel bananabells, barbell ends with insulting and degrading words, flashing or vibrating tongue plugs, or low quality piercing jewelry of any kind. We do not steal images, scans, designs, patterns, engravings, shapes, or ideas for promotional materials; we do not plagiarize nor paraphrase descriptions, product names, META tags, business names, care instructions, or text of any kind. We do not misspell the names and descriptions of what we sell. We do not sell species likely to cause allergic reactions. We know the difference between horn and bone, we don't call bamboo a type of wood, we do not sell fake amber, and we can educate you about all of these differences in materials as well. We do not copy other's ideas about materials and species to use. We do not misrepresent nor make false claims about our products or our company. I write and rant about these actions because I have personally experienced all of the above and find these to be unethical and questionable business practices. Theft of intellectual property rights is a very serious issue. There are dozens of examples on and off the internet even now. These companies' and individuals' lack of integrity and originality is truly astounding.
Let's pull back and consider the big picture for a moment:
In this modern world of global exchange, the use of your money casts an extremely strong vote. Money has shifted - from a convenient means of exchange, an agreed upon medium, bargaining chips to facilitate exchange when trade-in-kind became difficult or inconvenient - to be presently conceptualized and utilized as units of power, able to sway opinions and politics merely by the holding or throwing about of vast quantities. Think carefully about whose lifestyle, values, and material objects you are voting for with your dollars in any exchange. Corporations, mass-produced items (including food), cheap materials... to me these are the lowest common denominators, promoting worldwide homogeneity and the destruction of cultures, resources, and will. Consider supporting, promoting, and consuming small scale, unique, hand-wrought, quality items made with intent, respect, and love. Further, the power of currency can be deflated by the use of straight exchange, and reducing consumerism altogether. Choose your own adventure.
Overcoming initial shyness and a general wish for privacy, a few brave souls have managed to squeeze out some interviews, articles, and speeches over the years:
Body Play: Issue #13.
Back issues are still available. Tell him we sent you.
I Am Not My Body. Erica's own limited edition zine. Issue #1 was published in 1995/96; #2 in 1997.
These two issues so far, with plans for two more. Then, perhaps, redoing all of them into one big happy book (like five years from now). Yes, it's been on the back burner for several years now. The task, the demand, the anticipation, and the expectations are daunting. She swears she'll get to it.
Tattoo Savage: Number 26 (late 1998/early 1999).
Erica participated in an interview with a few random folks about natural materials.
Lectures at the APP
(Association of Professional Piercers) conference in Las Vegas, NV.
Lectured four times so far about the nature and safety of natural materials (1998, 1999, 2002, 2004), once about cultural anthropology and the history of traditional body modification with Paul King and Alicia Cardenas (2000), and helped facilitate the roundtable discussion on wood as a body jewelry material (2006). We might post some of the handouts from the lectures online if there is interest... they are geared towards professional piercers rather than piercees. This is also the only venue where Organic has had a booth at a convention. Erica organized our Small Manufacturer's Preview Party the night before the expo, with several friends' companies participating. Attended and participated for over 8 years.
Facebook. There's a Facebook fan page for Organic LLC. Connect with us to get special sales, announcements, deals, and first looks at new loot.
Myspace. Our Myspace page was a spot to read or leave testimonials about our jewelry. Although no one uses Myspace now, you could become our Myspace friend, leave a comment, and read more about us!
Websites. Yup, there's been a few interview snippets here and there (like a jeweler of the month feature), with a few still upcoming. Links might be posted.
Your Hostess at Work!
Stay tuned... we hope to show a selection of various old fliers, business cards, catalogs, etc.