Portland, City of …
… Roses, we learned on our flight. Urban gardening Hipsters, we had been told before. Best Quality of Life coefficient on the West Coast, our host says.
And of makers, we have to add. Of course.
In only a day, we tried to charter the makerhoods here, and with some help of the Portlandians, this is what we learned:
After an all organic breakfast near Ford Building, we visited Portland’s maker space ADX. Located in an semi-industrial neighbourhood near downtown, the ADX celebrated its first birthday with a festival called “Process & Prototype”, and when we arrived, the place was already filled with extremely cute walking cardboard animals, physical synthesizers, people showcasing, people watching, lasercutters demoing and a – for the Portland newbie – extraordinary large amount of tattoos. Not only is ADX equipped with workshops and tools for nearly every kind of making and workmanship, but it is also filled with a strong sense of style: The already beautiful half finished furniture in the wood workshop, the solid wood desktop speakers on display, and the people working and presenting there all seemed equally stylish – but in a very relaxed and down-to-earth manner. (I guess that’s what th word “hipster” originally denoted.) If we were to choose a place where to build our own perfect furniture: This would be it.
Invited by our friend Linda’s friend Susan, we drove way east from ADX to the Fabric Depot to meet her and her fellow crafters there. When we arrived at the Depot, our first thought was: OMG, where have we stranded? A huge space filled with fabric and kitsch, a place where our grandmothers would have bought stuff because it was on sale. Or so we thought. Because the second thing we learned was: how judgemental you can be when you judge a place by the absence of tattoos or other signs of stylishness. When we entered the classroom, talked to the quilters and learned what they were doing, we were immediately won over by their openness, knowledge, sense of humor and, yes, of style: Stuff bought at the Depot turned out to be beautiful, timeless scandinavian patterns led to a discussion of mid century modern furniture, which in turn led to a recommendation that enabled the third part of this post (thanks for that!). Quilts were complemented by stylish bags, talk of patterns by talk about technology, and by the time we had to leave, we had lost some of our prejudices and won some ideas for how to decorate our own priced mid century modern stuff.
What could have seemed an antithesis to the Sewing Day wasn’t – and not only because we only learned about it there. The Beam & Anchor is a relatively new, very stylish shop located at the industrial waterside of Portland that specializes in local makers’ products and vintage furniture and decoration (the latter sold at very reasonable prices). Exhibiting the perfect balance of industrial heritage, attention to detail and authenticity, it’s the kind of shop you simply can’t leave without buying something. (We could only stop ourselves from buying more stuff by reminding us of the fact that we’ll be on a plane tomorrow.) But not only do they sell beautiful stuff other people made, they also have a whole floor for making and refurbishing stuff themselves, complete with a wood workshop and full upholstery equipment – a light-flooded place with a stunning view of the river that smells of wood and is filled with sound by an iPod and vintage Klipsch horn speakers. All of this is, of course, stylish and hip, but at the same time it felt very down-to-earth and earnest – like the vintage blankets in the shop that looked and felt a lot like the ones the quilters were sewing.
All in all, for a day we were immersed in Portland’s laid back brand of creativity and hipness, and we liked it a lot. A lot of people told us how rare it is in Portland to meet foreigners – we can only recommend to our fellow foreigners to change this!