Brother and sister duo, Rachel and Roy Blodgett started Serpent & Bow which they describe as “The serpent and the bow are both fluid symbols, used to describe our wish for the collective to bend and contort, accommodating an entity that will be forever changing with the curiosities and whims of various artistic visions as well as our collective ambitions."
I visited them at Roy’s house, where Rachel has been staying this summer as she relocates back to California from Rhode Island. They both have a love for vintage and a strong relationship with the handmade, their father is a goldsmith and they have both worked (Roy currently) in their family's jewelry shop which specializes in estate and antique jewelry. Their styles are their own but compliment one another well.
Questions with Roy;
How long have you lived in your place? I have lived on the general property since July of 2012, but only moved into my current space upon its completion in late December of 2013. Before that I had been living in the primary two-bedroom house at the western side of the lot, while my landlord was building the structure in which I currently reside. I didn't have the intention of moving out of the main house until the second structure was nearly complete and I realized all of the potential it had for a home and workshop space.
What are your favorite things about living in this house? The light in the second level is really wonderful, with windows on all sides, and I enjoy the way the room changes throughout the day based on the natural light flooding in. I also really enjoy the use of salvaged materials throughout the house, as they give the space a soul and character all its own and soften the sharp, shiny edges that usually come with a recent home. Perhaps most of all, I like how open and efficiently everything is laid out, with the upper level essentially a single room that serves as kitchen, bedroom, and living space - it's very comfortable, given that I live by my lonesome.
You have a lot of collections displayed. What are your favorite things? Well, I try not to collect anymore just for the sake of collecting, as I don't want to clutter my space with anything I don't need or use - but almost everything I have in my home has one glaring attribute in common: they're all well made and serve a function. Starting at age eighteen, I began outfitting my home and wardrobe with an emphasis on quality. I don't want to buy anything twice, and I try to be the most considerate consumer I can. I'm very fortunate to come from a family of craftsmen and women that both recognize and value quality workmanship, and I inherited those values double-fold. My favorite things are those rare items that blend quality, function, and beauty; an old Swiss military backpack I've used everyday for years comes to mind.
Your house is pretty great, but what would your perfect space look like? Or, what kind of "improvements" would you make to your current place (if you could)? I suppose my perfect home would be one of my own making. Like many of my generation, I dream of owning land and building my own small home, and I'd really like to take that to an extreme and make every aspect of that home myself - from framing, all the way to hinges and fixtures. I'd like to grow and learn alongside my home. Aesthetically, my taste is heavily influenced by Japanese architecture and the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. I envision exposed beams, stone, iron, copper, natural light, wood heat, and maximization of usable space. Everything with an intention to guide it. As for improving my current place, I'm beginning to focus on the lower level of my home, which has been largely neglected these first many months. I intend to convert the space into a general workshop where I can pursue my interests in various arts and crafts, from etching to drawing to woodworking, leatherworking, metalworking - most of which I've only had the space and time to pursue at a very basic level thus far. If all goes as hoped, this next year will see a lot more time spent wearing in the space and investigating these pursuits further. I yearn for a more meaningful connection between my efforts and the results they produce, and it seems there's no better way to address that longing than to work with my hands and make mistakes and successes in equal measure.
You collect and sell vintage clothing and wear a lot of Native American jewelry. What do you think about men's fashion and what do you see changing as American men become more interested (in general) of men's style? My own take on men's fashion is based on the principle of function over form. I have a basic wardrobe comprised of only a few items that are very well made and tend to to work well together in a number of permutations. I catch some flak once in a while for wearing the same items all the time, but they are items which have truly moulded to my form and become part of my character, and I don't see anything wrong with having less and meaning more. I used to care a lot more what people might think about what I was wearing, but it's become a non-issue as my values have changed. I also struggled for a long time to find sources for a style that felt like it represented my character and ideals, but with the trending surge of interest in 'heritage quality' goods, scores of brands have come up, most notably out of Japan and the USA, such that finding ethically-made, quality clothing is a lot easier than it has been in recent decades. It's no longer out of reach for the average Joe to find a his niche amid the fray. I also really like to accent my wardrobe with small details that I feel have a certain mystical quality. I have a few vintage items I feel that way about, and my Native American jewelry definitely falls into that sentiment. On that subject, wearing it is something I've considered and reconsidered many times over. As a representative of a very privileged minority, being a twenty-something white guy in California, I feel it's extremely important to have reverence, intention, and understanding of cultural importance when wearing such pieces. It's too easy to simply buy a turquoise cuff with no idea of where it came from, or what it means, or why it's important. I try to research and educate myself on these matters. I don't think of these items as accessories, so much as talismans with significance and power.
Questions with Rachel;
How did you find Indigo? And what drew you to it? I started using Indigo when I was a student at California College of the Arts. At first, I was not really excited about it because I figured it was just a single color and it would get boring, but very quickly I became addicted to the process and the mythology surrounding Indigo as a color and as a dye, historically. It is one of the oldest dyes and so it has collected a lot of symbolic meaning as well as technical variation within the different cultures that have used it. Lately I am especially excited about Indigo as a medium that connects me to other makers throughout history. The genealogy of a color.
What is your favorite part of the process? I love the ritual aspect of indigo as it requires daily care. Working with an Indigo vat is an intimate relationship that evolves a lot over time. I am still learning about the little cues that the dye vat is always giving me, teaching me how to care for it. It is also really magical to watch the color shift from neon yellow to cobalt blue as a piece of cloth oxidizes before your eyes!
Who do you want to wear your clothes? The process of designing the clothing is very personal; usually a way of physically manifesting my own desire for a certain garment. I consider most of the clothing to function as talisman, carrying a symbolic meaning that brings strength or helps to visualize a specific intention for their wearer. I have personally struggled with a lot of health issues over the past year, and have been making myself a custom underwear each month as a way to mark time and depict the changes I have gone through spiritually and mentally. I would hope that my level of care and intention is recognized by whoever wants to wear the clothing; I hope it makes them feel empowered. I think that treating yourself to handmade underwear is an incredibly empowering thing to do.
What is your ideal studio situation or studio/living situation? I feel really grateful for the space that I have been occupying (at Roy's). I love that I have easy indoor-outdoor access. I am in town but the space feels like a rural sanctuary. I think the most important aspect of a studio for me is access to the outdoors because I prefer to keep the indigo vat outside, and I love to do the painting outside.
You are leaving Roy's at the end of the month. What are your plans? For the months of September and October, I will be subletting my friend Kate Klingbeil's storefront space in Oakland, with Catherine Sieck. Catherine and I are organizing some workshops and events (including dye days!) and we will also have open hours for shoppers to come in and see our work. I am really looking forward to being able to make something and immediately place it on a rack in the storefront to display and possibly sell. Beyond that, I am hoping to wind up back in Sonoma County. Santa Rosa has felt like a cornucopia. I am really grateful for the community of friends and family in this area, and excited to be a part of it.
Also, this post from when my brother, Julian was working with them creating beautiful batik.