Words by Lauren Lipscomb
Photographs by Lauren Lipscomb & Jade Elhardt
An Interview with Business owner & Environmental Advocate
Slowly we are beginning to see a conscious shift. Individuals and businesses alike are taking the small steps towards a direction of awareness and intentional action in how we interact and exist on our Earth. So many of us 'know' how we should be behaving and how we should be changing our ways, but the realities of closing the gap between what we know in our minds and how we actually behave is a slow relearning. It is having the awkward conversations, trying something new, putting ourselves out of our comfort zones, pulling back on old habits, and then doing it over and over and over again. This is why we need each other through this process; to hear how someone is making it work or how they are trying. We will each have our own priorities of where to begin or a different method that works for us but its the beginning that is important.
Mariah Palmer is one that has begun the task of taking those new steps. As a business owner and a rising voice among the growing community of entrepreneurs and environmental activists in Bozeman, Montana, she has found her impact to be strongest in the foundation of her shop, Wilder Goods.
"I see purpose in art and functional items made with care and intention that hold an energy of reverence for the materials used. When we work closer to the earth, simplifying the process and connecting with the ingredients or materials, we’re connected to the source. I’d like the shop to be a gateway to this connection."
The shop is a beautifully curated boutique, gallery, and, most recently, a shared artist workspace and workshop venue. Wilder's vendors are selected not only for their aesthetic, but for the values they represent within the creation of their products. As Mariah states on the shop's website, Wilder Goods is 'a treasure-filled retail space where creativity, craftsmanship, and conscious consumption could coexist'. With addition of the artist workspace and workshop venue, Mariah has created a space that can act as a full circle environment for artists and patrons to come together to observe, learn, and create together in a manner that encourages a wholesome connection to goods and the materials in which they are cultivated.
In an effort to encourage mindfulness of the shops waste production, Mariah has begun making requests of her vendors such as refraining from using plastic in their shipments to the shop and using recycled papers and boxes when available. This has been paired with the introduction of a zero-waste product line that includes every-day items such as bamboo straws, reusable coffee filters, produce bags, reusable tea bags and more. While these may sound like small details from an outside perspective, these are huge changes for designers and producers as well as shops to not only request but to put into practice in how they handle the impact their of waste. No matter the perceived size of the impact, it is about beginning those steps and continuing to take one after another.
A little about your history: how has your upbringing played a role in influencing your relationship with the environment as an adult?
I grew up in Hailey, Idaho surrounded by Mountains. I was lucky enough to spend my childhood immersed in nature. Continuously exploring the mountains, rivers, hot springs and lakes with my parents left me with a deep connection and reverence for nature. Our spirituality was based on this connection. As an adult I’ve come to realize how incredibly lucky I was to grow up with that kind of relationship to the outdoors and how rare it is today. Humanity is suffering from that disconnection. We are nature. Without a connection to our source, to what sustains us, we are utterly lost. This feeling runs through everything I do and makes me want to do better everyday.
How have these values and connection to the environment influenced your cultivation and management of Wilder Goods?
The shop is a place where I can explore this connection by building awareness around source and process. I thrive on aesthetics and see my gift as offering beauty and simplicity. Still, I struggle with the commerce side of things. Is it truly mindful when the bottom line is always to sell more stuff? I’m always searching for a purpose beyond this bottom line. I see purpose in art and functional items made with care and intention that hold an energy of reverence for the materials used. When we work closer to the earth, simplifying the process and connecting with the ingredients or materials, we’re connected to the source. I’d like the shop to be a gateway to this connection. For example, a simple deodorant, or face wash made with purity and simplicity can enlighten a customer to ditch the old products packaged in plastic and filled with synthetic ingredients and even inspire people to make their own. I feel an ever-evolving commitment to be radically ethical and earth-friendly and to have that be the lead driver—to make that the core of every decision infused with a deep love for nature. Not just by using buzz words like ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ as a way to make people feel good, but to use this as a core value that goes deeper into every aspect of the business. So far, this manifests in creative new ideas, like a zero-waste collection or taking the extra time to research the entire process of a clothing line. Or, asking my vendors to refrain from using plastic in their packaging. It’s the little wins, like opening a box from a vendor known to wrap everything in plastic, to find only recycled paper, beautifully wrapped. I feel I am just scratching the surface of what’s possible when we turn our attention to the source, after all, that’s were all inspiration stems from.
How does your role as an activist translate to the voice you wish Wilder Goods to represent?
This is ever-evolving. I was initially inspired by the book, ‘Good Morning, Beautiful Business,’ by: Judy Wicks. She was a pioneer in the local food movement and used her business—The White Dog Cafe—as a platform for some really great causes. It was a glowing example of how you could elevate your cause and inspire change by engaging in thoughtful business decisions on every level, from energy use to sourcing goods to packaging choices.
With Wilder Goods as a platform, I’ve been involved in some exciting things like traveling to D.C. to lobby for wildlife, hosting events to benefit and raise awareness for wildlife and most recently I’ve seen how a local community can come together to protect our shared land and sense of place. As a member of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, I’ve seen how a group of local business owners can affect real change when it comes to protecting our local land. In this case, making big strides in securing permanent protection from mining near Yellowstone National Park.
Currently, I’m working on a new and exciting project to create a shared studio/workspace where people can come explore creating art in a community setting. This feels like a natural extension of the shop and a way to go deeper into the practice of connecting to source. Inspiring creators instead of consumers. Art as activism!
What values, practices, and aesthetics do you look for when selecting artisans work with in your shop?
I look for kindred spirits. People who are infinitely curious. Makers and artists who challenge creative boundaries. I often find the people with the most exciting art and goods are the ones who readily accept the challenge to be more mindful in their sourcing and production and are more in tune with their natural surroundings.
In what ways have those ideals translated to your your personal life (or vise versa?). In turn, in what ways do you feel the values of your shop and its artisans can influence its’ patrons?
Setting these goals for the shop definitely bleeds into my home life. Sometimes I feel like it’s more talk than action. This pushes me to try harder, to actually ‘walk the walk.’ It’s not easy and I fall into convenience pitfalls every day. I hope the shop can continue to not only inspire my everyday choices but to also inspire others to engage in a more compassionate way to consume.
To learn more about Mariah Palmer and Wilder Goods or to hear about updates on the newly launched artist workspace and workshop venue, you can visit their website here or go to www.shopwildergoods.com.
They can also be found on Instagram @shopwildergoods and Facebook
Wilder Goods is located on the ground level of the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture in Bozeman, Montana.