Studio Visit: Cobracult

Jessica Ilalaole’s jewelry line Cobracult has taken Portland by storm. Jessica has dabbled in jewelry making for over seven years, but not until 2 years ago did she perfect her unique brass cutouts that she has become known for. It is inspired by relics, mysticism, mysteries of old, and magic of the natural world. And the rest is history, her amazing friends and community supported her and endorsed the hell out of her jewelry and Cobracult took off! Jessica has an amazing spirit and determination about her that shows in each of her handmade pieces. Each accessory is hand cut, sawed, soldered, cast, stamped and, set by hand and by Ilalaole’s. We were shocked how quickly she hand sawed the arrowed head pendant that she made during our visit. Jessica (Lala to friends) is magic, and just a little bit of that comes with each of her designs.


1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here? 

I moved here from Hawaii when I was 15 years old and immediately fell in love! Portland is small and the art and fashion created here is authentic to who Portlanders are and what’s important to them. There’s a freedom here that I don’t feel in other cities and a strong connection to nature. I live and work in Southeast Portland and I’m surrounded by parks and trees, if I need to find inspiration I just have to look out the window. I think I’m becoming less and less of a city person and dreaming of the country more often but Portland never feels suffocating and I love calling myself a Portlander!

2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland (design or otherwise)?

 I love all of the collaborating opportunities I’ve had in Portland and the feeling of mutual inspiration between artists. I’m planning the CobraCult 2013 Winter/Fall lookbook and I have the honor of working with photographer Amanda Smith.  We’ve worked together many times and she’s such a gem and has so much talent. I’m literally surrounded by talented and creative people. Some of my best friends have become my best collaborators, such as Tashina Hill who is the kind of stylist that will knock your socks off! Expect to see her styling and modeling in the new CobraCult lookbook. I’m lucky enough to also feature hand-embroidered apparel by Tuesday Weathervane and heritage axes by Trust Co. I don’t want to give too much away but this is the type of collaborating I love about Portland. Some of my other favorite brands are See See Motorcycles, Poler Stuff, and New Church Moto.

3. How did your brand start? 

I started making Jewelry when I lost a favorite earring and I decided to make another one myself, so I did, and that felt powerful! That was about seven years ago and I’ve been compelled to make jewelry ever since. I experimented with different styles and mediums but always knew I wanted to work with brass and silver. I’ve learned a lot from others but I’m mostly a self taught silversmith. I started seriously building the CobraCult brand a little less than two years ago and I hope to launch in early Dec. 

4. What has been your biggest obstacle? 

My biggest obstacle was making the decision to put the day job on the side, letting go of financial stability and just going for it. It takes a lot of courage to let go of what’s comfortable and follow your dreams, but I’m thankful everyday that I made that decision. 

5. Who is your style icon(s)? 

This is really hard for me to answer. I guess my style icons aren’t really designers or celebrities, I’m inspired by my friends. I’d say Tashina Hill is probably the most fashionable person I know. She puts things together that blow my mind. I’m also really inspired by the dress of indigenous people, right now I’m obsessed with Peru!

6. What are your favorite things about Portland? 

I love that nothing really surprises me here, yesterday I was at the grocery store and a guy came in dressed like some sort of weird fish and he had bright red hair, honestly I didn’t even look twice, if he wants to be a fish today more power to him. I also really love how easy it is to get away, I can escape to nature in a flash and be home for dinner. 

7. What neighborhood describes your style the best?

I would say SouthEast Portland in general, I live and work in the Clinton neighborhood. I feel like SE portlanders are pretty relaxed and I have a relaxed style but when we really go out we put on those crazy shoes, that bright thing or that amazing Concho belt. 

8. Your favorite thing about your workspace? 

Since my workspace is home-based for the time being it’s been nice to have 24hour access so that I can work on projects whenever I’m inspired. When I get an idea and I can just get to work on it within minutes without having to drive across town, also I have easy access to tea, the fuel of CobraCult. I’m planning on sharing a studio space with another artist in the coming year which will change things but for now I’m really happy with my setup. 

9. Tell us two truths and a lie! 

My full name is Jessica Hoku’au Pahakalani Ilalaole T: I collect books on the Alchemy, Magic and the Occult  L: I hate my iphone 

10. 5 things you can’t live without?

My 1000 Mile Samantha Pleet / Wolverine Boots

My Lucky necklace

My motorcycle

My favorite Pendleton Blanket 

My Favorite Black Denim Vest