Interview with Genevieve Raftery, Creator of Eden's Harvest

I recently got a chance to speak with Genevieve Raftery (she/they), a Eugene Lang 2020 grad and the owner and artist behind the jewelry brand Eden’s Harvest. Officially established by Genevieve during the beginning months of the pandemic lockdown, Eden’s Harvest takes their years of experience and love of jewelry and craft to the next level, centering pieces around the natural world and found materials. Here’s some snippets from our conversation, covering the founding of the brand, to the inspiration of her childhood, to the future of the brand. 

 

Can you tell me your full name and pronouns and what year you graduated from The New School?

My name is Genevieve Raftery, my pronouns are she/they, and I actually graduated from Lang in 2020. Craft-wise, you would maybe assume Parsons, but I didn’t actually get to take any Parsons classes, which was kind of unfortunate, but the proximity gives you a little bit of creative energy at least. So that’s definitely inspiring. 

 

Oh, what was your Lang major? 

I was Literary Studies with a concentration in Creative writing, and primary genre was fiction and my secondary genre was poetry. 

 

And so where does the name Eden’s Harvest come from?

It actually came from a book I read for AP Lit in high school, which I was so taken by. There’s a lot of things now, as a person who has read more and learned more about that book that aren’t great, but the singular message of it...in a very corny way, I’ve always loved like Harry Potter and all these dorky fantasy things, but they’ve always had this similar theme of even if you’re predisposed to darkness, or if there’s something “bad” about you, what’s beautiful is having a choice. Having free will, having a mind. And that’s the theme of that book, East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. 

I actually grew up going to church, and I knew all of that stuff in an intense way for a while...all of those stories and those images and ideals are still something that occupies space even if I don’t necessarily have inclinations towards them or believe them. I'm really interested in spirituality as a whole and not as particular to any one practice. And I think in my own way, the jewelry is very meditative and allows me to think...it allows me to think through and process, and for me, that in itself is its own spirituality. I can’t sit and meditate and just think, so this is how I meditate. So if this is how I’m describing a place of beauty and safety, it's like my own beacon. And these pieces are the fruits of that labor. 

 

What inspired you to start Eden’s Harvest? What was the process like for creating the brand, getting started? What’s the big story? 

I always kind of did it. It didn’t have a label or a name or anything, but I definitely grew up in a creative environment. My mom was definitely a creative person, with interiors, and we’d always hand-make birthday gifts and Halloween costumes and stuff like that. Both kind of out of necessity but then also, just wanting to move our hands and be engaged. So when I was a little kid, my sister and I would make jewelry all the time. We grew up on the beach so we used a lot of natural materials and things like that, so I’ve always really fluctuated in and out of it over the years. It wasn’t like constant, but it was something I always came back to. And for a person that’s a little bit all over the place and, you know, will get really into one mode of craft and then…leave for a long time and go to something else, this was something that I repeatedly came back to. It was comforting and felt safer, and reliable. In that way, it felt worth investing in.

I lost my restaurant job back in March of last year, and I had already kind of started making jewelry, but I was still in school and it was really exhausting. It wasn’t something I could devote as much time to. So pretty soon after I graduated, I was like I have this new apartment I’ve just moved into, I have more space, I have all these materials, I have all this time, and it really came down to just realizing and putting aside space for it, that it was important...it’s really so funny, because I think it’s this specific situation that if it didn’t happen, I don’t even know what I would be doing right now. But [my roommate] was getting rid of a bunch of furniture, and was like ‘Do you want this tiny little sewing table?’, and my boyfriend was like ‘Why don’t you keep it, why don’t you use it to work on your jewelry?’. I would always sit on the floor...and it wasn’t even given its own particular space, and basically, as soon as that happened I started making things again. I started taking things more seriously because it literally had space in my life...and so it was able to take the shape that it’s in now, and I really think it’s grown a lot since then too. 

 

It’s so interesting that the physical space was so important in getting your practice started because your jewelry is so tangible. It’s got such a clear physical space it takes up, so it makes sense that the catalyst was getting the space set up and really having a workshop. 

Yeah, basically as soon as the shutdown was occurring I had already rented a U-Haul for the next day, for moving into this new apartment, and I was like Okay, well everything’s changing so at least I have something to look forward to...and then in the same way, just having a lot of creative energy. It was nice to spend time making a new apartment and that interior space, and fostering that -- like making a little nest, and from there it was like You have this solid space, and that’s really productive for you so it’s natural to be more productive once I have this solid space, solid table, to really foster a craft. 

 

Where does the majority of the inspiration for your pieces come from? I know you mentioned nature, with your sister, but how and from where do you get inspiration for new types of pieces, for styles, and designing new collections? 

I mean, I still like to try and use natural materials when I can… My mom moved to Florida, and in the same way of liking to make handmade gifts for people, is really good at making mail packages for me. So she’s constantly wrapping things in ribbon and seashells and stuff and tying them off -- and now I have all these seashells, and can I incorporate something like this into a piece, since I did grow up using that. It’s kind of like breaking those materials down and seeing what can be reused and recycled...and also, wanting to push as many bounds as I’m physically capable of.

Something that really excites me is different silhouettes. Because obviously a necklace is a necklace, but then what can you do and how can you change the shape of a necklace yet still make it functional? That’s something that I think is slightly under-explored. I definitely like referencing a lot of older jewelry, like things you see in the Met, with a lot of practical use but then also beauty, at the same time. 

 

What does your process tend to look like? Do you have a set idea when you’re starting to make something new or does it more happen naturally throughout crafting it? 

It really does depend. Sometimes I’ll have the idea of a shape, from seeing something architectural or out in nature, and wondering if I can mimic that shape. Sometimes I’ll try and execute that and it really doesn’t work, either I don’t have the right materials or just get frustrated. Or sometimes making something along the way, if it doesn’t work, it’ll transform. So usually I’ll start off with an idea and end up with something completely different, but I’ll still really be down for that.

 

Yeah, I totally get that. I’ve done pottery for a while and I’ll think I know exactly what I’m going to make, but end up with something else entirely.  

Right, because there are so many factors. Like what you’re physically capable of imparting on something, and what the material is able to accept and everything like that. And then sometimes you’ll make something and you’re like I don’t even like how this looks and totally start over, and make something much better. 

 

And then kind of in a different vein, on the business side of things, what does Instagram, and marketing, and the website look like for you? 

Instagram marketing is always just really interesting because that platform has really turned into a marketplace… the only thing I really try to be consistent with is having my personality as part of the marketing...I like to utilize that and have it be a bridge between a certain demographic of people, or a different one, and then -- where there’s a certain physicality to things, it’s also nice to have a face to put to it. I think it’s easier to be interested in and want to relate to. 

Since I started really spending time on the website back in July, I’ve done a few pop-up street markets. I did Hester Street Fair three times, which was really great. Unfortunately, they’re going through this really weird debacle with people now renting out space, a larger market corporation, which is really frustrating because a lot of people have been selling at that fair since it started and have a really strong community of creatives there. So if anything, let people know to sign the petition and get involved, because it’s communities like that that really help me feel comfortable advocating for myself.

 

What are you looking towards for the future of the brand?

I have ideas. Sometimes it really is just buying a bunch of new materials and seeing what you can do and getting excited about that potential. That’s kind of a small future I anticipate. It’s kind of been steady growth, which is nice, and that’s what excites me every day. It’s like new people from a new location are looking at the website, you know. It’s funny, because this question is really hard for me, not because I don’t anticipate it having a future -- I think it always has had a future, it’s been in my brain the entire time -- but I feel like it’s timeline is like my timeline. It’s always a part of me…I don’t even know what the future looks like, exactly, but I just know that it’s a part of it. It’s comfortable and exciting at the same time. 

 

Check out Eden’s Harvest on Instagram over at @edensharvest and view their pieces on their website

Sign the petition to save the Hester Street Fair and check out their website to get involved.