MOM CRUSH: BRITT
Britt is part unicorn, part warrior. Sitting at the helm of one of portland's most creative and community-orientated businesses, the Portland Garment Factory, she leads an all female staff with a "we've got your back" motto and believes in the power of people. Here are her candid words on surviving teen mom hood, creative problem solving (ie. hodge podge mom hacks), and on the importance of mentorship and stepping out of your bubble.
Interview by Karin Hesselvik
Photos by Nikki Fenix
What’s the first thing you remember creating?
A small sculpture of a clown, a portrait of pussy willows using my fingerprints and various kitchen experiments from "Bisquick Coffee Cake A La Britt" to my personal masterpiece "Jell-O Fish Bowl"
What’s the LAST thing you created?
A red suede laptop cover. I also recently hand made ceramic tiles and tiled 37 square feet of my kitchen walls!
Are you a kid or a grown up?
70% child. 30% adult.
What are you most proud of?
Where I am in life, the tricky situations I have gotten in and out of, and the risks that ended up to be blessings.
When are you your most creative self?
Sometimes it is when I am riffing with other creative people and we jam out making ideas come to life. But I truly feel in my happy creative place when I am alone with headphones, wine, stress free and with my materials, whatever they are at that time, and I can mess stuff up and be a dork and go down the wrong road and then all of a sudden something pops out at me and I'm stunned at how much it speaks to me. It's unique and beautiful or powerful and that's the moment I feel my most creative self - I guess it's when I surprise myself.
What does freedom mean to you?
Freedom is having the choice to use my voice, my brain and my body how I want. Freedom is my education that taught me that these choices I have are in fact a privilege and that I should use my voice for the people who are not yet as free.
Where do you turn to for inspiration?
Libraries and Bookstores (So old world of me). I like to check StyleLikeU.com
How do you stay inspired?
I evolve - The idea of evolving as a person is inspiration enough to seek out the materials (books, clothes, new friends, experiences, art and music) that inspire and invigorate. I am currently researching paragliding...
How has your vision for Portland Garment District changed over the past year?
It was important for me to empower and lift up the crew at PGF in order to get through 2017, which was my first year running the company solo. Before last year the organization had more of a hierarchical structure and I always felt uncomfortable as that kind of boss. I wanted to change that. I wanted to give more room for the staff to blossom and in a way each become their own boss, via training, opportunity, listening to feedback and really getting heard. They are the ones doing the job!
We compromised and collaborated within the business and made room for them to grow into bosses, in part because this is how I want this company to be, but also because leaning on, listening to and learning with these women was a means of survival for PGF last year. I am so proud of where we are. Business is better than ever and we are so thrilled to come to work each day.
What is it like to run an all-female staff?
Natural and easy.
What is your most important role as a boss?
How has becoming a mother influenced your career and how you operate your business?
I have been a mother since I was a teen so I have it turned a bit backward. My kids have always been built in to what I am setting out to accomplish. They are almost always complimentary to my decisions. It is not something I think of: work life vs. mom life. I think of it all as a fluid thing. I am in my head, at work on both the business and the mom stuff in tandem, all the time.
What was it like to be a YOUNG mom and how do you feel about it now?
I'm damn proud. I feel like a warrior and I feel lucky that I'm smart and resilient. I didn't have stuff.....like all the stuff you have now with babies like the slings and fancy burp clothes and cute clothes and those necklaces everyone puts on their baby....or a car. I made it happen with what I had, there was no other way.
Three words that describe your take on motherhood
Passion. Humor. Surrender.
What role does creativity play in how you parent?
Currently it feels like I talk about creative problem solving. Not bad problems but just pre-adult life and drama stuff. My kids are 16 and 10 so we get into a lot of creative convos. When they were younger everyday was a new thing: making up a game or a song on the fly to cheer them up or getting creative in the kitchen when the fridge was empty, that's how "hodge podge" was born. For dinner I take everything out of the fridge and put it in cute bowls: pickles, cheese cubes, a leftover sandwich, some cheezits and some cut up fruit - I just make it look fun and we all love it.
What's a life hack you’ve learned as a mom?
Probably tricking them into thinking they are getting something they want but really I am getting me time. Like when I tell them we are going to the pool and then I sit in the hot tub the whole time.
What's an IRL moment that doesn’t show up on your insta feed?
When my son vomited after I asked him to help with laundry and the detergent spilled and then gave him an allergic reaction!? Or maybe when I act all hippie but then I Febreeze the shit outta my kids rooms before we have company...
If PGF could have unlimited resources, what is a dream project you would work on?
We would be called on to work with Tracey Emin on a huge collaborative art installation similar in scale to a Christo bridge wrap. Or Michelle Obama would call up and say, "Hey let's design the inside of an inner city play ground for underserved children." And my astroturf dreams would collide with helping children and hanging with MO? Come on!
What does the word community mean to you?
Nonjudgmental. Open. Smiling. Working together. Being honest about problems. Active solutions. Jovial. Connected. Having each other's backs.
How can the creative industry do a better job supporting marginalized communities?
Find ways to support under served populations via mentorship, moving out of your bubble and stretching your circles, hiring people who aren't friends of friends.
At PGF we have set company goals in this realm and each year we have increased our outreach. We have a new matching donation policy this year as well. We have done work with Coffee Creek Women's Prison, Portland Public Schools through the Oregon Connect Program as well as our internal internship and student job shadow program. In 2017 we were fortunate to work with Eileen Fisher's Renew Program which opened doors to new connections and enabled us to help donate to Dress for Success Oregon. We also adopted a family for the holidays, which was extremely humbling and warming to wrap gifts as a group on the day of our holiday party. This year we are looking to partner with Caldera Arts and KairosPDX among others.
What role can creativity play during our current political climate?
Creatively solving problems and unique workarounds for resisting/fighting this asinine administration of man clowns, including sharing information via Instagram (ie HOW to call a congressperson, WHAT to say to have the most impact....these are not everyday things for most of us but they can become common if we share info).
I also think artists play an important role in setting the tone for everything from satire to fashion to HOW we speak to politicians, the language we use.
How do you define success?
Success is such a spectrum. I have felt successful when I was poor and felt terrible when the feedback was positive from onlookers. I am interested in a unique and dynamic journey and I define success in being able to feel the peaks and valleys.
What’s your biggest struggle right now?
Delegating. I have two kids and I run a business, my man works out of town. I am over loaded with decisions and to-dos and this is ALL MY FAULT! I take on a lot and then I need to smooth things out and finesse.
One lesson from 2017?
One dream for 2018?
Stronger than ever, collective, compassionate action on behalf of the underserved that leads to an upheaval so spectacular that it makes the herstory books.
One thing you would still like to do?
Still? Like I already did everything?! I want to be a renowned sculptor when I am 80 and have a show at MoMA, I want to hike the rest of the PCT and the AT and Machu Picchu. I want to make art and write a book and I want to live without a routine. I want to find myself aiding a community of women through art.....basically I have about 3 more lives to live...
One thing you’d like to tell another pom pom mom trying to figure it all out
There are no rules in parenting, keep trying because it's not over when they get older, it sorta feels like it's just the beginning!
About Portland Garment Factory
Portland Garment Factory (est. 2008) is a lady owned, full service design + build soft goods manufacturing studio. With creativity, expertise and an "Anything Goes" outlook, PGF serves companies big & small on a diverse range of projects. As a zero waste facility, PGF is proud to be Silver Certified by the City of Portland's Sustainability at Work Program.