I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – when a shop has owners that stock their shelves with their own creations, it’ll always be a more special, intimate place, and the choices they make when sourcing product to compliment their own goods will always be a deeper, truer reflection of their vision as a whole. This is most certainly true of Gravel And Gold, what many locals consider to be a curious find, run by a wonderfully creative team of artistic women and led by owner Cassie McGettigan. The vibe inside the shop, which itself is warm, rustic and smart, calls to mind a summer cabin in Northern California during the seventies, hums quietly with an earthy, creative, DIY energy. If you look beyond the front counter, for example, you’ll notice sewing machines and spools of yarn and thread where Gravel And Gold design and craft, the latter part courtesy of resident tailor Holly Samuelson, their own line clutches as well as totes and women’s clothing, both of which serve as a uniquely perfect canvas for Cassie’s illustrations. And all of these mingle perfectly with staff selected vintage wear and wares. ”The clothing is a mix of new and vintage items. We think of vintage things as inspiration for things we’d like to design ourselves,” Cassie said.
That type of hands-on direction that sums up the heart of the shop also answers what I am told is a question Cassie, manager Em Gift and the others hear quite frequently – just what exactly is Gravel And Gold? Indeed it is a store, where you can come in and buy things. But that wasn’t always the case, nor was it even part of the original plan. “We hear it constantly, and I honestly understand that because we never really intended to have a store in the first place so we’re kind of evasive about it. We’re way more interested in the art.” The original plan was to utilize a studio space upstairs and use the shop space as a community space to display their work as well as others. “Something that was tangible, sustainable and, as a business, could support itself and wasn’t arbitrarily dependent on funding and stuff like that. We actually began, in March of 2008, in a tiny studio space that was 10 by 12 feet. So when this space became available we moved here. Now we’re in our fourth year.” Since their move to the current space in August, 2009, the evolution into a full-fledged store was a journey Cassie likens to something being “flipped on its head. We’ve always wanted to be making our own stuff.” Instead, the store came first and now it affords Gravel And Gold’s crew the opportunity to focus on creating and designing their own work.
So what you’ll find as you browse the walls and Tripp Carpenter’s gorgeous black walnut table, which has run down the center of the store since its opening, is a beautiful amalgam of their product as well as both the new and old, all of which share a seemingly effortless harmony of aesthetic. Whether its Darren Wilson’s line of ceramics, Oregonian George Knowles’ paddles and spoons, or Californian Cliff Glover’s gorgeous pottery, Gravel’s choices in wares reflects their personal favorites of the vintage world. The same is true of the clothing and accessories. Whether its the super cozy boots made by WindWalkers, the handsome line of belts by Tanner Goods, the indigo dyed scarves and ties by Upstate, or the boldly designed earrings by Laurel Hill, it’s clear the staff takes great care to choose artisans and designer that craft goods they would wear and use themselves. You can also find more eclectic items, like assorted knives hand crafted in France by Opinel, the totally interesting straw and steel cake tester and the Fat And The Moon herbal care line from across the bridge in Oakland. And books, books galore. The staff here clearly appreciates a good book that can teach you how to make and beautify your own things and create your own culture. “The Printmaking Bible” caught my eye. And I was particularly attracted to Lloyd Kahn’s “Builders Of The Pacific Coast”. The cover contained an image in the lower left corner which seemed to echo the look of one of Gravel And Golds window displays in some distant, sublime way. I think perhaps whats’ most amazing about searching through the many treasures at Gravel And Gold is hearing the the girls discuss their newest ideas in the background, the clacking of the sewing machine just beyond that producing the next piece that will appear, perhaps, on the wall just behind you. Or the table in front of you. Who knows? But there is always something new happening here, more work being done or plans being laid. In the words of Cassie herself, “It’s fun!”