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Eugene Weekly : Style : 10.4.07




Modern Independent Charm

Augurie takes flight

BY MOLLY TEMPLETON

The tiny store near the corner of 13th and High is a wonderland of crafted goods. Owl tote bags, peculiar stuffed creatures, simple silver earrings, coin purses made of kimono fabric, handmade notebooks and stenciled gift bags share the small shelf and table space, and T-shirts and elegantly simple dresses hang along the quirkily painted walls. From behind a white curtain that hides the back of the store, a petite, smiling blond emerges: Dagua Webb Nelson, the 36-year-old owner of Augurie.

Detail of mural at Augurie; art by Ryan Heidt and Sam Grunseth
Dagua Webb Nelson

But before Augurie came Ladydove, a charming clothing boutique at the same location. When paper went up in the windows of Ladydove, I was horrified: I'd never gotten to buy a dress there! It couldn't close! Before long, reassurance came in the form of a small sign. Something else would be coming soon. Something, I figured, just as winning. After all, the store's owner had a brief but worthy track record: Her first Eugene store, Deluxe (which opened in 2003 on Willamette Street), had long been a staple of my shopping routine. The resale shop, which Webb Nelson jokes that she sometimes referred to as her "geisha men's club" for its vivid paint job, was her way of creating a job for herself in Eugene. "I've always been kind of an entreprenuerial thinker," she says. "I knew I had a lot more energy than most jobs will let you expend, and I really wanted to put all of it into something."

Running Deluxe was hard work, but eventually Webb Nelson found time to start working on her own designs. "I got to really test the market and try my new designs and come up with cheap, fun things that I thought people would want," she says. At the shop, she also hosted jewelry-making days at which designers could learn from each other, then sell their designs at the shop, thus benefiting themselves and the store. "It was a really great meeting place for designers," says Webb Nelson.

After a few years she sold Deluxe, and in 2006 she opened Ladydove in the space next to Full City. "I just can't be too idle," she says of the change. The second store was a learning experience in "how to produce quickly and how to come up with ideas that would sell and be inexpensive to make." Ladydove sold Webb Nelson's designs — like those covet-worthy dresses — as well as the work of a few other designers: Funky swimsuits, printed T-shirts, cute skirts and more.

But after a year, it was time for another change. A trip to L.A. gave Webb Nelson the inspiration for a different kind of small boutique, one stocked with the crafty work of independent designers. While she was talking with a friend about the negative aspects of L.A.'s garment district — "You don't know where these things are coming from. They're cheap to buy, but they're cheaply made," she says — and checking out a few independent boutiques around town, everything just clicked. That was the beginning of July; by early September, Augurie was open. "It just felt right, and it was time to run with it," says Webb Nelson. "I didn't have a lot of money," she adds, "but in a way I feel like that would be a limitation because the actual limits of not having very much money make you super-creative. For me, that actually helps. I can only afford to spend $1,000 on the decor, or maybe less. OK, I'm going to start looking in the alleys for furniture I can paint. I'm going to spend $20 on a gallon of high-gloss gray paint, and I'm going to paint everything I can find that's cheap or free. That kind of thing."

Webb Nelson is careful about what she selects for her store, describing her general aesthetic as modern and urban. "There is an indie aesthetic, and that has a whole other thing that goes with it," she says, noting that with indie, "it's ironic, but also kind of sincere." She cites the freak folk movement and its peculiar imagery as well. "It's definitely DIY. I want the things to have the mark of the person doing them. When it gets too slick, I'm not into it anymore."

In a way, even her store name reflects the hard-to-pin-down indie aesthetic; auguries, in the old sense, are meanings read in the flights of birds, and as Webb Nelson points out, "Everybody in the trendy world has a fascination with birds." She also sees her store as the work of a flock of designers "moving toward an interesting future," which gives the name additional meaning.

Augurie's stock is made by a mishmash of designers from across the country. Only a handful are from Eugene though Webb Nelson says she's happy to showcase people whose work is in keeping with her store's aesthetic and themes. She finds many of the designers on the craft site Etsy.com, which hosts online stores for individuals to sell their jewelry, body products, clothing, trinkets and more. She admires the friendly, supportive mentality that exists among the small online retailers, noting, "It's an interesting reciprocal thing." It fits well with Webb Nelson's interest in running a community-based business; with Augurie, she's had friends help with ads and decorating, and she's quick to praise the involvement of UO interns on both the business and the production sides. "It's definitely a hub of business, and I just don't see how that can't be good for all parties," she says. Or good for shoppers: I may not have a dress — yet — but I've got a cute new coin purse, and it makes me happy.    

Augurie is located at 285 E. 13th Avenue and is open 12 pm-6 pm Monday through Saturday and 12 pm-4 pm Sunday. www.augurietheindyshop.com