ARTIST INTERVIEW: Hall Newbegin of Juniper Ridge
Company: Juniper Ridge
Artist: Hall Newbegin
Hall Newbegin is an EPCF veteran since the beginning. He was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Growing up in the shadow of Mt. Hood, and spending weekends on the lakes and in the forests of the Cascades, instilled in Hall a lifelong love of nature. It wouldn’t be until many years later that Hall truly understood its restorative power and the importance of wild places to his personal well being.
Hall studied with Adam Seller at the Pacific School of Herbal Medicine (1991-1997) and took a year to practice small scale, organic farming and Zen meditation at Green Gulch Farm (1997); he also spent time in Bisbee, AZ, learning from herbalist Michael Moore. It was during these studies that the idea for Juniper Ridge took root and began to grow. If people couldn’t get to the natural places Hall knew to be so intrinsic to our spiritual, mental and physical well being, how could he bring some part of nature home to them?
At Juniper Ridge, they formulate Wilderness Perfume by distilling and extracting fragrance from wildflowers, plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, and tree trimmings that they harvest on the trail. All of their products are named for the wild places they come from. They are building a new fragrance grammar of the American West. Their company is built on the simple idea that nothing smells better than the forest and that the only way to bring this beauty home is to strap on your boots and go there.
Tell us about your current work and how that work has evolved since you first started your business?
I started doing what I do 20 years ago. I didn’t have a business plan or philosophy or anything when I started. I didn’t envision a fully fledged plan, I just wanted to make something beautiful. I had my truck, clippers, a copy of Jepson’s Guide to California Plants and I just spent time out there learning. Smelling, crawling around on the ground and sticking my nose in the dirt. I would sell bottles of trail soap, as I called it then, at the Berkeley and San Francisco farmers markets in a booth sandwiched between James from the Blue Bottle Coffee and Taylor from the Fatted Calf. We were like the SF farmers Market class of 2000!
We have become such a “big” company compared to where we started out twenty years ago. We’re still micro by any normal business standards, with just a dozen employees and about $3m in sales, but we’ve grown so much in twenty years. Our product and process however, is the same. We still put the mountains in a bottle, and always do it for real. We use real plants and wild harvested aromatics from a place. That part will never change, no matter how “big” we get.
What has changed is our overall market vision and ability to make this crazy thing work. Everything we used to make was an art project, and I was basically losing money on everything we did. Now, we’ve stabilized the money making part and we make enough on our core products to sustain our other less profitable, but important artistic projects like our seasonal Field Labs. We’ve been able to invest in larger scale production with bigger trucks, distillers etc. and we’ve been able to tap into larger pools of sustainably harvested wild ingredients. We’re happy to have been able to grow into a sustainable business model while also being able to keep the core of our products and principals in tact.
How long have you been participating in the Echo Park Craft Fair?
I first went to the Echo Park Craft Fair about ten years ago when it was a much smaller event. I pulled my van outside the main trade show area, set up the distillation unit and table, and proceeded to have an extremely busy weekend in sales. I was really impressed right off the bat! I met one of my music heroes that weekend, Devendra Banhart. He came up and started talking about how much he loved our stuff, and when I asked him his name, it confirmed my suspicions. I walked him back to the van and the stack of recently purchased vinyl I had back there, and I showed him a copy of The New Dawn from Salem, OR (early 70’s soft psych masterwork) and started an incredible and ongoing business relationship that continues to this day. Amazing sales and meeting musical heroes; I loved Echo Park Craft Fair from the start!
Have you noticed any changes over the time you have been visiting or selling at the Fair?
Yes, it’s gotten way bigger, but the original spirit and vision is still present. It feels like the whole maker world is blowing up. We run a trade show in the desert for the same type of maker freaks, and it’s been beautiful to watch the whole thing get so big. Just like us, Echo Park has managed to stay very close to its original vision, and it’s growing like crazy because of that.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Echo Park Craft Fair?
I’m inspired by the community of makers there. They are kindred spirits and everyone gets what we’ve been doing from the beginning even when no one else did. This is a community of people making the best of whatever it is they make. Belts, leather goods, hemp shirts, clothing, textiles, CBD products; whatever it is, Echo park always has the best in class stuff, and usually you can talk to the crazy maker right behind the table who made the shit.
How has EPCF been important to your creative and business growth?
It’s been important because it consistently reminds me of why we do what we do. To see people experience and react to your product and be able to stand behind that as the maker, is an exchange the EPCF has provided an inspiring space for. It’s been really important to our evolution.