Studio Visit: Martina Thornhill

The effortlessly chill Martina Thornhill had us over to her home ceramics studio. Martina and her husband, Drew, converted the garage of their Mt. Tabor home into a functional space for her and her beautiful work. She graciously walked us through her intricate process; Martina hand builds EVERY ONE of her pieces, and for those of you who don’t know much about ceramics - that's real intense. Hand building is a process that she admits is not conducive to making large quantities but something that ensures that each piece she makes is unique and requires her presence. Martina embraces her curiosity and playfulness, carrying it over into her work by experimenting with interesting clay bodies and custom glazes. Working with clay has always been therapeutic for her; self taught she has been able to turn it into a full-time gig. 

1. What has been your biggest obstacle?

    Myself. I was, and at times still am, so worried about what "real" artists would think of my work. Whether I was original enough, interesting enough, good enough. There was this deep feeling of insecurity like I was waiting for someone to call me out on not knowing what I was doing and the fear of putting myself and my designs out there and possibly being rejected really held me back for years. Those fears still surface every time I move in a new creative direction, but I've gotten better at talking myself through them and remembering that whether or not my work sells does not define it's value. Do I feel proud of it? Does it represent me in the way I hoped? Those ideas are more important.

2. What or who inspires your design?

Lately I've been pulling a lot of inspiration from Japanese ceramics, ancient artifacts, shells and natural textures. Expanding into more sculptural work while still allowing each piece to be functional has been a really enjoyable challenge that has me searching out vintage pottery and designs books everywhere I go in the hope of finding new glaze recipes and intriguing shapes that could possibly be translated into ceramics.

3. What is your favorite part of your studio?

It's proximity to my house. Ceramics is such a time based art with each step based on moisture levels. If things get too dry too fast, they crack. If you work on something that's too wet, it could collapse. Being able to check on pieces throughout the day and sneak in even 30 minutes worth of work whenever I can would be so much more difficult if my studio wasn't next door.

4. Your favorite thing about your workspace?

     After years of using communal ceramic studio space it feels so wonderful to have a space that is completely mine. I can step away and when I come back everything is exactly where I left it. 

Studio Visit: Wood & Faulk

We revisited the lovely team of Wood & Faulk at their new(ish) studio. Initially, founder Matt Pierce built his brand through a lifestyle and do-it-yourslef blog that archived projects he was working on. After 6 years Wood & Faulk now designs and manufactures a cohesive line of bags, accessories and lifestyle goods. 

Pursuing his own interests in creating and exploring on his blog, Pierce gained momentum and the concept of the brand was born. Quickly Matt and his team have diversified W&F's product line, increased stockist and become a coveted lifestyle brand for those on the go. Matt continues to apply his curiosity and attention to detail to every aspect of the company, with a constant hands-on approach. The result is a growing and reputable company known for their quality and timeless designs. 

The Thompson building (where Wood & Faulk now call home) was once a luggage company - fitting don't you think? Sitting dormant for sometime it was recently rehabbed back to it’s original glory, including the original steel frame windows wrapping the building, refurbished wood floors and addition of a few modern amenities.

Get to know a little more about Wood & Faulk with the Q&A with Matt as well as the slide show!

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

Portland was the utopia for me. Coming from Kansas, it was so different with a more vibrant art/design scene, mountains and close proximity to the ocean. I still am shocked to turn a corner and see Mt. Hood on a clear day and it’s been 10 years now.

2. How did your brand start?

It started from a DIY blog, and due to consumer demand, I got pulled into this full-fleged manufacturing gig. It’s been great, I never would have anticipated it, but I love what I do.

3. What has been your biggest obstacle?

So many obstacles! I like to fix things, so I take things in stride. Growth is always an interesting puzzle. I’m feel like I’m getting an MBA with all the books I read and advice I’ve been given from amazing mentors.

4. What or who inspires your design?

Portland, Kansas, antiques, furniture, art, outdoors, cars, people, music… pretty damn much anything. I’m inspired every day.

5. Your favorite thing about your workspace?

The windows in here are amazing. Cold this last winter, but so helpful in the rainy season to have that much natural light. I tried to create an inspiring place for everybody and I think they all like it.

6. 5 things you can’t live without.

A watch, family, my employees, music and a comfortable place to recoup at the end of the day.

 

Studio Visit: Alexandria Cummings

One of our favorite Portland ceramicists', Alexandria Cummings, work first caught our eye while sipping Portland Apothecary tea at Sweedeedee. There is something soulful about her mugs, they are emotively familiar. Her work features fun proportions, unique color ways, and interesting texture. Focusing on the function of each creation, Alex has managed to make a line of relevantly utilitarian ceramics. Her work seems to be everywhere we turn; her collaborations with Tusk and Langbaan restaurants are beautifully executed, effortlessly complementing each dining experience. 

We dropped by Hey Studio for a visit. Hey, founded by Alex and her business partner Dina No, set out to create a collaborative ceramic space and gallery. Members share a communal workspace and some have private areas with their own wheels. Hey is home to over 10 local ceramic artists including Rabbit Rabbit, Dina NoScot Cameron-Bell and Katie Mudd

Enjoy the photos and interview below and get a glimpse of Alex’s process and the creatively packed Hey! 

 

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

I was initially drawn to Portland because it sounded like a 'big' city that felt small, surrounded by a beautiful landscape with endless outdoor possibilities. Oh, and I heard Oregon had a Potters Association. I didn't actually know that much about it here before I moved other than a quick weekend trip where it rained. A lot, hahaha. That said, I am so glad I made the decision to move here and have definitely stuck around for the past 9 years because of my ever-growing community of friends, clients and studio mates. I never did become a member of the Potters Association...

 

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

One of my favorite things happening in Portland right now is that so many creatives are starting their own businesses or studios, both craft and design, and are working and kicking ass for themselves.

 

3. How did your brand start?

I never intended to start my own brand, it just kind of happened organically. I got my BFA in ceramics, took a break and did a plethora of other jobs including preschool teacher, gallery associate, personal assistant... I was working at a creative agency tackling a variety of jobs including project, production and studio management for almost three years. During this time, I opened a shared studio space that I co-operated with another gal and picked ceramics back up and immediately fell back in love. As the years passed, I found myself in the studio more and more, the shared studio business model was growing to what is now called Hey Studio and I continued to grow my business. I finally took the step into full-time ceramics and have been developing my brand now for the past year and a half - its forever changing and evolving. 

 

4. What has been your biggest obstacle?

My biggest obstacle is the quest to find more time, theres never enough of it to get everything done!

 

5. What or who inspires your design?

I'm inspired by my family, specifically my Great Grandma and my late Great Grandpa. Both were successful artists and craftspeople and always encouraged me to spend time in their clay studio, wood shop or forge with them. My Great Grandma is 95 years old and I still call her to this day to troubleshoot why my kiln is misfiring or why my plates are warping, I love that we have this connection and I know she's proud someone followed in her footsteps.

 

6.What are your favorite things about Portland?

Favorite things about Portland - we're so close to the ocean, mountains, rivers and lakes - being surrounded by like-minded people - the flowers, plants and trees -

 

7. What is your favorite part of your studio?

My favorite part of my studio is wherever the plush green swivel reclining chair is, its the super chill zone.

 

8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?

The two large bay doors - I love opening them on a warm, sunny day letting the natural light and breeze roll in.

 

9. Tell us two truths and a lie!

I love cilantro. 

I had a rabbit named Hambone.

I have a tattoo on my butt.

 

10. 5 things you can’t live without.

My pups, Curry + Snacks, my fam., trips to New Orleans, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Studio Visit: Matthew Philips Williams

Matthew Philip Williams warmly greeted us in a familiar space, Supermaker, a shared studio space located on S.E. Belmont. He is the space’s wood shop guy, running his one man show out of the converted carpet warehouse. The vibe is busy and people are getting shit done tucked away in each of their zones. We are long time fans of his work and have been seriously impressed by the shops that he has built out around Portland (MML and WESS we are talking about you). Matthew’s genuine playful spirt is reflected in his work that consistently teeters between art and design with each piece or project. There are colors where you don't expect them and cheeky shapes in a minimally modern context. And it works so well! He drives his focus on function and practicality but he just can’t help himself, it always turns out jovial and unpretentiously artful. It can’t not make you smile! 

Acquiring his initial footing in fabrication after finishing his studies at V.C.U., eventually making his way across the country to be a part of OCAC and PNCA’s first year of their collaborative MFA program; Applied Craft and Design.  Portland stuck on him, he is still here making this city a little bit prettier every chance he gets - from peoples homes, local stores to work environments. 

Check out his studio and look for the handsome Second Chair as well as a liquor-cabinet-meets-a-bar-cart that he is starting to prototype. Also we included a slide show of some stellar Matthew pieces and spaces here in Portland. 

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

I came to Portland in 2009 for graduate school, and finished the MFA AC+D program through PNCA and OCAC in 2011 (with a follow up fellowship through 2012). Right after I got my current studio space in Supermaker, and it has been my home base ever since. I think what has kept me here is the supportive community. Portland has been an amazing place to really cut my teeth and develop my practice. I’ve found some incredible clients who have really let me loose on projects that have helped me find my style and direction. Working alone is hard enough; without my Portland clients believing in me I wouldn’t be here. 

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

I actually hate what’s happening in Portland, though I recognize that I’m part of the reason it’s happening. The city seems to be homogenizing at a pretty incredible rate. 

3. How did your brand start?

I’m still not sure I have a brand. I work under my full name “Matthew Philip Williams” simply because it’s easier to get results on google than without the middle name. My creative work started more as an art practice than an attempt at business, and it has organically developed into what it is mostly because I had bills to pay and realized I could line the two things up. If I wanted to keep a roof over my head, and continue my practice, they had to be mutually beneficial. That being said, I think the introduction to design in graduate school and the exposure to Portland’s deep creative community have really pushed my work into the direction that now is my “brand”. My work feels like an extension of my personality, and as a result my personality is my brand. 

4. What has been your biggest obstacle?

My biggest obstacle has been learning how to run a business. I have worked really hard to push my practice to the level it’s at, but I’m still a complete novice when it comes to being an entrepreneur. Especially as a one person show, wearing multiple hats to fill all the needs of a small business has proven to be no easy task and every time I crunch numbers or try to file something I feel like a fish out of water. 

5. What or who inspires your design?

Lately, I’ve been really inspired by product designer Jasper Morrison and the duo of Studio Gorm. There’s something very pure and authentic in their work and approach that I’m trying to strive for. Designers can embellish all they want to make an exciting object, and this approach works, but I think the real challenge is simplicity. Making an object that can’t be any simpler and still works is an incredibly difficult challenge, and I see that in their work. 

6. What are your favorite things about Portland?

The Red Fox and Cherry Sprout combination, Skidmore Bluffs, Kelley Point Park, Powell’s, the amazing coffee everywhere, and the light (if you’re from the East Coast you’ll know the difference). The only thing that’s been missing for me is I can’t find a decent fucking breakfast sandwich. After 8 years here it’s starting to wear me down. Anyone have any suggestions? Cheap has to be part of this. A good breakfast sandwich can’t be expensive and it certainly better not be artisanal. 

7. What is your favorite part of your studio?

I share my studio space with a number of different types of folks. In the front we have a Jewelry shop and upstairs there is a recording studio. There are a few independents here doing their thing in video, product design, art and design. One of my studio mates is actually working on developing the product design for a portable Malaria testing device, while another is working on graphic design and painting a motorcycle helmet. It’s weird here, and I love that; I never know what to expect from this place. 

Store Visit: Mantel

The sweetest new addition to the historic Kenton district, Mantel, sits proudly on the Corner of Denver and Kilpatrick.  Owner Karen McClelland has cultivated her shop around the idea that a Mantel is what people use to set the tone of their space, consisting of their most prized possessions, treasured keepsakes and objects that make their house feel like a home. 

Mantel’s tall ceilings and large windows weren't always as charming. Karen’s neighbor, Integrate Architecture, had their eye on the nearby historic building and foresaw the potential. The two businesses partnered to restore the space. Integrate’s offices are located behind Mantel’s storefront. The dropped ceilings were removed, windows were replaced, walls torn down, all to revive a once dreary rehab clinic. Karen and Integrate applied for a storefront renewal grant through PDC (Portland Development Committee) which helped fund the buildout and restoration of the store front. Her husband, David McClelland, and her son were a huge help throughout. The McClelland crew managed to conquer a majority of the tasks themselves, designing and problem solving along the way. 

Karen is a proud advocate of the neighborhood that was once a meatpacking district. She sits on the Kenton Business Association board, lives 3 blocks away from the store, and walks to work everyday. It was important to her to support local businesses in her hood, almost all of the wood in the space is reclaimed from either Salvage Works or The Rebuilding Center. And Mantel carries several of her neighbors' goods such as Kati Von LehmanTamara Bryan, Elisa McLaughlin’s  Truly KindredThe Granite, Wolf Ceramics and PrimeCut. So praise the Portland shopping gods if you live out north - and if not it’s still well worth the journey!

 

1. Tell us about Mantel! 

Mantel is a brick and mortar home goods store in the downtown Kenton neighborhood of Portland,OR.  Opened just over 5 months ago, Mantel focuses on handmade goods from local/regional designers and makers, with a touch of vintage.

2. What made you decide to open a store front?

You know I don't remember how the idea first popped into my head. Maybe it was a friend suggesting it, maybe it was just shopping around and having the sudden urge to rearrange displays in the stores I went to... But I think it took feeling a little restless in my current profession. After teaching ceramics to high school students for 12 years I was ready for a new challenge. And, hello, it's Portland! There's always room for another indie business here. So eventually it became less about "why should I" and more about "why shouldn't I." I knew I wanted to continue to work with artists and makers and somehow support them. I knew I had some decent skills to tap into. And once I heard that there was a perfect space available just down the street from me, I was pretty hooked. My husband and friends were insanely supportive and I think that helped give me some courage. 

3. What is the concept behind the store?

A major goal of the store is to support up-and-coming makers and the surrounding community. So I make a point of including artists from Kenton and other nearby areas. We also offer a small space for local high school students and give them all the profits. I'm actually looking for more young artists, so spread the word! Of course everything has to work with Mantel's brand so I still have to be pretty picky. But by mixing established, recognized brands with newer brands, I can gain people's trust. All products should be well-crafted, simple, minimal. 

4. How did you come up with the name Mantel?

My 9 year old, Lewis, came up with it! He had the best name ideas. Turns out all vocabulary words from the 3rd grade make great store names! Area, Radius... those were taken but he was on a roll. Then he said, "Mantel!" He had been studying the layers of the Earth's crust but my mind went straight to one of the most common focal points of the home. The mantel is where we often display our most prized pieces, where we show off the style we aspire to match in the rest of our house, where we gather for warmth and company. I mean, it just seemed perfect. He's pretty proud of himself. I'm slowly teaching him aspects of running a business in the hopes that he can play a larger role. I already pay him to stick on the price tags and address my envelopes to vendors. Although I think he's mostly just interested in being my IT man.

 5. What are your 3 favorite things in the store?

I get this question a lot but I am super hesitant to pick favorites. (Teaching and mom-ing have taught me well- although let's be real, we all know that the dog is the favorite.) I honestly think that everything in the store is pretty great or I wouldn't have it there. As a ceramics teacher I am partial to the pottery because I have a better understanding of all the sweat and tears that went into it. I am currently loving Pawena Studio's bold designs on her pots. As far as jewelry goes, I love the raw look of Ritual by Hannah Fischer. And I'm using some Facial Oil from Live Botanical right now that's slightly life changing. I still refuse to say "favorites," but those are some loves from this week. How about that. 

6. What’s a funny shop story you have?

My logo came from a can opener. You know, the kind with the little pointed end that you use to open pineapple juice? I decided to hand make over 400 porcelain coins to hand out at my first street fair last summer. (Remind me to never do that again.) They were to be used as 10% off tokens. So I stamped MANTEL on the back and then on the front I stamped the end of the can opener, overlapping them slightly. It looked like an M. I did that on opposite ends of the coin. My designer merged the two Ms together and there you go! My logo was born! 

7. Who inspires your style?

Everyone. Everything. I'm constantly taking in what I see and altering my ideas. I'm influenced all the time. Even if I hate what I see, that helps me more clearly understand who I am and where I should go artistically. I think the bigger issue, especially in today's information age, is to figure out how to draw the line from the input we are constantly receiving. And to give ourselves time to contemplate, to blend this information with our own views and practices. What do you do with it? What will you create from it? How will it change us? There is a risk of forgetting who you are in the process of trying to please everyone else. So the conversations I've been having lately with friends and family are more about learning my limits. And finding time to prioritize the creative process. I need to spend time alone, in the basement, in my studio. Just flexing my creative muscles. Because I will never create anything original unless I give myself time and space to think. 

8. Tell us two truths and lie. 

- I own a concert tuba. 

- I won 1st place in the nation for writing a feature story about a retirement community playing bingo.   

- Carrot and tortilla chip consumption stress me out. SHUSH! It's too loud!