Moss + Mineral is thrilled to welcome Allison Phillips to the fold! Allison brings an amazing package of knowledge, ideas and energetic expertise to the shop. Please drop by and say hello during our newly expanded hours, Wednesday through Saturday, noon-5. Now, meet Allison…
Moss + Mineral: Hi Allison, I am pleased to introduce you as the new studio assistant, plant wrangler and co-author of cool at Moss + Mineral. Please tell us a little about yourself and your interest in plants.
Allison Phillips: Very happy to be a part of the coolness that is Moss + Mineral. I’m a fairly recent Northwest transplant by way of the Southwest, and I guess that is where my interest in plants began. Plants, specifically succulents and cactus, make me truly happy – in them I find inspiration and unparalleled sanctuary. I do love learning about how I can keep my cactuses alive in the Pacific Northwest. If I were to move back to the Southwest, I guess I would learn how to propagate a rhododendron.
MM: We became acquainted when you bought a big prickly pear cactus from the store. You told me you were researching making your own cactus potting soil…What do cacti like to eat? Do you think empathy as well as nutrition plays a role in raising healthy plants?
AP: I’m so proud of that prickly pear, he’s really growing a lot. Cactuses don’t require much nutrients (unlike our rich soil we have around here). You just have to water them consciously. I’m looking forward to developing a cactus soil blend that can be used and sold at M+M. Plants can indeed teach us empathy, especially succulents. They go against traditional planting wisdom and beg you to learn their secrets, however hard to hear. They have tough exteriors, but are just a bunch of softies on the inside.
MM: I wish I was a mindreader when it comes to plants; their muteness makes me nervous…
AP: I think our hurried pace makes them nervous…
MM: The rush to watering is indeed a problem, it’s the main killer of houseplants.
MM: I am really excited about the knowledge and skills you bring to M+M, where the goal is to expand and transform the retail environment into something much more. It is a very small, intimate space that is constantly changing as interesting art objects, furnishings and vegetation come and go. Two projects on deck are an uber-garden show and an exhibition involving Western and Native art. How do you think the “Go local” ethos applies to the culture of a community?
AP: It relies on being able to trust your community. People are no longer only looking for a place to buy their goods – you can go online for that. What they’re looking for is authentic experiences and it takes trusting someone to offer you that. Passion also has a lot to do with it; it’s a good thing when you have a community full of authentic, passionate, almost obsessive individuals.
MM: You have a Bachelor’s Degree from Evergreen State College in art history and museum studies and have expressed a desire to expand your understanding of culture through the lens of art, with an emphasis on community. That answers to a very Tacoma-esque job description. How do you explore and experience the arts in Tacoma?
AP: You see a whole generation of people appropriating images and symbols as if they’re grasping for something to hold on to. Something to situate themselves in the world – that’s what I love about Tacoma. I lived in Las Vegas for a few years, and there’s a city that vehemently destroys its history by way of dynamite. I see the history of this little blue-collar port town being lifted up and it’s very interesting. And mixing it up with the contemporary…I love the Museum of Glass, something so special and unique to our area – I also enjoy walking around downtown, and welcoming uninitiated conversation.
MM:What is your favorite place, activity or food in Tacoma?
AP: My favorite place, activity, and food in Tacoma would have to be The Red Hot. And Gari of Sushi…
MM: And in the world?
AP: Cozumel, Mexico; hiking in Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas; a lobster roll from the restaurant in The Drake hotel in Chicago.
MM: A book I love is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which people generally consider source material for a B movie, but is really a literary gothic novel about the dangers of scientific hubris. If you could graft two or more plants or living objects in the world, what would they be, and why?
AP: This is actually something I think about often. Beyond juxtaposition, the actual blending of things. The first thing that comes to mind is grafting a cactus with a crab – because they both have to defend themselves. And another thing…I want a very specific plant in my backyard – the size of a healthy Agave americana marginata, with the vibrant pinks of a coleus, and the tall thin flowering center of a yucca.
MM: A cactus/crab with martial artist tendencies – take that, Monsanto! We have an antique centrifuge at M+M to help you get started with your scientific experiments…Welcome to the shop, Allison!