The Curators: Jewellery designer & artist Stephanie Simek on being creative in Portland and her Portland city guide

Portland Sign by Orlando Lane | Portland City Guide |

A little while back I came across a Portland based jewellery designer, Stephanie Simek, who creates the most intriguing little adornments for all of your jewel wearing body parts.

I was instantly drawn to her Classealienne Rings – the colourful baubles you see me wearing below which decorate your often-overlooked finger nooks that you can buy in lots of different colours at one of my favourite stores in NYC, Maryam Nassir Zadeh in Lower East Side.

Classealienne Rings by Stephanie Simek | Portland City Guide |

Classealienne double sphere rings in onyx and lemon by Stephanie Simek | Nails by Sakura Nail Spa | Photo by Paul Barbera

I had the opportunity to meet up with Stephanie for coffee and a chat about her latest work and what it means to be a creative person living in Portland Oregon. We also managed to put together a really cool city guide full of all the hidden secrets Portland has to offer those people looking to dig deeper into where the city’s creative community is finding inspiration through galleries, shops, cafes and of course Portland’s natural wonders.

Stephanie Simek | Portland City Guide |

Stephanie Simek. – Photo: Lucy Greene

MB – I noticed that you’re working on a number of art projects as well as designing jewellery – tell me about one of your favourite art projects.

SS – In a recent exhibition at PLACE Gallery in Portland, I built a radio that occupied a large room. It was made of copper, pyrite, paper, and steel, and was able to play a local station through a powered speaker.

Radio Room Project by Stephanie Simek | Portland City Guide |

Radio Room Project by Stephanie Simek | Portland City Guide |

Radio Room Project by Stephanie Simek | Portland City Guide |

MB – What inspired you to create your latest product the Grey Garden Perfume?

SS – Lately I’ve been really interested in working with and understanding different types of plants. For Grey Garden I wanted to capture the feel of a special garden in bloom, not just in the scent, but also the packaging. I chose real pressed flowers and natural essential oils including rose absolute, which smells exactly like a rose garden in a bottle.

Grey Garden Perfume | Portland City Guide |

MB – -Creating a perfume feels like quite an involved creative process. Tell me about what it takes to develop a perfume and how you learned about the process for the first time.

SS – It was through a good deal of research and a lot of experimentation that I developed Grey Garden. In order to create a complex and long-lasting fragrance, there must be a top, middle, and base note. The top note is what you first notice, followed by the mid notes, and the base note is what lingers longest. I started thinking about this process of how the scent unfolds as a time-based experience, as if the wearer would be walking through a garden, passing different aromatic plants along the way.

MB – And what about your Classealienne Rings? What inspired those?

SS – For the rings, it was other types of jewelry (such as pins and piercings) and decoration that led to the design. I was thinking about charms and hidden treasures that show up unexpectedly. So I consider the rings as a collection of adornment for the nooks of the fingers, rather than for the fingers themselves.

Classealienne Rings by Stephanie Simek | Portland City Guide |

Classealienne Rings by Stephanie Simek | Photo: Maryam Nassir Zadeh

MB – Are there any celebrities or people you admire wearing your jewellery?

I saw that the Danish singer Oh Land was wearing the 14k gold Pair of Eyelashes Necklace in Soundvenue and Nylon Magazine:

Oh Land Soundvenue Magazine | Portland City Guide |

Oh Land in August issue (#43) of Soundvenue Magazine

Pair of Eyelashes Necklace by Stephanie Simek | Portland City Guide |

Pair of Eyelashes Necklace – Photo: Catbird NYC

MB – You live in Portland, would you say that it’s a city where you find a lot of creative inspiration?

SS – I moved to Portland 6 years ago because I was looking for something new and wanted to set out for some adventure. I ended up staying a long time because it is conducive to the type of lifestyle I prefer.  Also it is in close proximity to many beautiful and inspiring places outside of the city, such as the coast, waterfalls, and hot springs.

MB – I saw that you moved to Portland from NYC, do you think that the move has influenced your creative work at all?

I think it’s hard to say whether it has changed the type of work that I make, but what Portland does do is provide me with more time and space to think through the work I’m doing. Just the fact that it rains outside so often physically keeps me inside working longer!

I think Portland has a lot to offer in terms of it’s creative community – it’s home to a large, tight-knit group of people that I’ve found to be very supportive. It’s also a lot more affordable than cities like NYC so from a practical perspective it allows us more financial leeway to develop our creative ideas.


Portland City Guide |

Click on the map to access the city guide



A curiosity shop full of carefully curated plants and natural wonders. Here you’ll find everything from bizarre carnivorous plants and handmade jewelry to preserved lizards and mounted butterflies. Their postcard describes it as “a cross between Martha Stewart and David Lynch”.

Best Bit: I always go in there to see their unique selection of “raw” materials- carnivorous plants, crystals (they have an impressive assortment of bismuth), and fossils.

Paxton Gate | Portland City Guide |

Paxton Gate Store – Photo: Jarod Opperman

Paxton Gate | Portland City Guide |

Coyote skulls from Paxton Gate – Photo: Kelcey Olson

Paxton Gate | Portland City Guide |

Green Beetle aka “Dicraphaneous obertherni” from Paxton Gate – Photo: Christopher Michel

Paxton Gate | Portland City Guide |

Succulents from Paxton Gate – Photo: Michelle Hisae



A great store selling a carefully chosen assortment of clothing, jewelry, and books by labels like Slow and Steady Wins the Race and Cosmic Wonder Light Source.

Best Bit: They stock the in-house collection from Portland Garment Factory, HouseLine.

Stand Up Comedy | Portland City Guide |

Inside Stand Up Comedy store – Photo: Kim France



About 1 hour away from Portland, Breitenbush Hot Springs is different from the other naturally occurring springs Oregon has to offer.  This is a special place where you can go to relax in beautiful and respectful surroundings.   It also offers yoga classes and freshly cooked vegetarian meals.

Best Bit: The silent meadow pool is my favorite and the view from there out to the greenery is incredible. It’s also nice to walk in the Labyrinth and sometimes you will be in the company of deer.

Breitenbush Hotsprings | Portland City Guide |

Meadow Pool at Breitenbush Hot Springs – Photo: Planet Pink & Green



These guys are very serious about their coffee and it shows in the end product. They’ve even invented their own way of brewing coffee by designing the Kone Filter – a stainless steel brewing system that results in a more sustainable, better tasting coffee.

Best Bit: An amazing open space fitted out by their neighbors Bamboo Revolution

Coava Coffee | Portland City Guide |

Inside Coava Coffee – Photo: Coava

Coava Kone Coffee Filter | Portland City Guide |

Coava Kone Stainless Steel Filter – Photo: Coava



An always-busy artisan ice cream store selling unique seasonal ice cream flavors made from local ingredients. Some of the interesting flavors include honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper and pear with blue cheese.

Best Bit: You can sample all of the flavors!

Salt & Straw | Portland City Guide |

Icecream from Salt & Straw – Photo: Leela Cyd



Roses are synonymous with Portland so you’ll see them all over the city. This particular rose garden stands out because of its landscape design, which feels like something you’d see in a storybook – absolutely picturesque.

Best Bit: Walking through the garden when the roses are in bloom (in the Spring and Summer). The fountain, gazebo, and the rest of the grounds are beautiful any time of year!

Peninsula Park Rose Garden | Portland City Guide |

Peninsula Park Rose Garden – Photo: Nick Weston



The owners of Sip juice cart have opened a brick and mortar incarnation called Canteen, which serves up delicious and healthy juices, raw and vegan foods.

Best Bit: Fresh juices made to order.

Canteen | Portland City Guide |

Inside Canteen – Photo: Michael A. Muller



Nationale is shop-slash-art gallery that dedicates itself to promoting and curating the arts through exhibitions, performances and the sale of goods like jewelry and art books.

Best Bit: Nationale stocks local designers, such as OLO fragrances, as well as a number of imported French soaps, oils, and other toiletries.

Nationale | Portland City Guide |

Nationale store – Photo: Nationale



There are 2 floors of exhibits ranging from traditional to more experimental craft-oriented works.  Also the gift shop on the first floor stocks a nice assortment of my collection. I’m excited to be doing a residency here in March of next year in their storefront area as well.

Best Bit: It’s a great store for buying gifts for people. Inside you’ll find a range of ceramics, jewels and other small handmade items.

Museum of Contemporary Craft | Portland City Guide |

Outside the Museum of Contemporary Craft – Photo: Basil Childers



Owned by patron of the arts Sarah Miller Meigs, lumber room is her private space where she exhibits works from her collection and hosts artist talks along with other events.  It is a rare opportunity to view contemporary art outside a museum or commercial gallery.

Best Bit:  You can walk around all parts of the residential space, including the rooftop patio.  Check out the library too.

The Lumber Room | Portland City Guide |

Inside Lumber Room – Photo: Lumber Room



A contemporary art center housed within a historical building that takes up an entire city block in Southeast Portland.

Best Bit: This space has so many special things about it.  If you can arrange a tour of the space, it will be one of the most memorable highlights of your Portland trip.

Yale Union | Portland City Guide |

Inside The Yale Union Laundry Building – Photo: Finetooth



This place has a huge collection of rocks, shells, and minerals of all sizes. I have spent hours in this store and never leave without finding something really special. If you’re the kind of person who likes to look at curious things – you will love this store.

Best Bit: My favorite item that I bought from Ed’s is a piece of white, fuzzy looking crystal called okenite.

Okenite Crystal | Portland City Guide |

Cotton ball cluster of white okenite crystals – Photo: John Betts

Ed's House of Gems | Portland City Guide |

Outside of Ed’s House of Gems – Photo: Lucas De Shazer

Ed's House of Gems | Portland City Guide |

Inside Ed’s House of Gems – Photo: Tullitha



I came across this gem through researching different crystals for my Radio Room project. This place has the most inspiring collection of rocks and minerals probably in the whole country – the agate room alone is worth the trip and seeing the fluorescent rocks glow in the dark is extraordinary.

Best Bit: The building is a perfectly preserved 1950s house and feels like stepping into a time warp. Each room, where the specimens are kept, still has its original furnishings so you really get the feeling you’re in a private home while walking through a museum.

Rice Museum of Rocks & Minerals | Portland City Guide |

Outside the Rice Museum, a 1950s style American home – Photo: Travel Oregon

Rice Museum of Rocks & Minerals | Portland City Guide |

The agate collection in the basement of the museum – Photo: Stephanie Simek


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