Studio Visit: Bowen Ames

Creative/Art Director and stylist Bowen Ames is a multitalented creative that knows how to make things look good, real good!  With a background in art curation and as an exhibition technician he honed his eye and aesthetic. Adventure led him to Portland, where he has been working for 5 years. If we could make up a better word than aesthetic enthusiast, a word that describes a person that can only make something beautifully applicable to it’s desired environment - that would be Bowen. His freelance clients range from apparel lines to music labels, advertising agencies to production companies. He art directs photo shoots, designs sets, styles wardrobe and props, and directs videos. Ames’ talent has encouraged his dynamic fields to eloquently overlap, part of the reason why we were so interested in getting to know Bowen. Enjoy the interview and photos of his perfectly curated studio, prepare to be jealous! 

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

I moved to Portland from New York City after swearing I'd live and die in The Big Apple. I loved that city, I loved my job there, and I couldn't imagine ever leaving. After starting an artist's residency program on a small farm in Upstate New York where I spent summers and weekends, I realized I was sorrily lacking the quality of life that a proximity to nature provides. After that realization it was literally a month or two before I closed up shop and hit the road to find a place that offered both a vibrant art and design community and easy access to inspiring landscapes. I've been here for nearly 5 years now and I can't imagine calling another place home.

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

I travel a lot for work and I love seeing touches of the Portland aesthetic influencing other design communities near and far. Revealing I'm an art director from Portland has a certain cachet these days and is a source of pride for me. From our unique street style, to our apparel and accessory industry, from graphic design, to photography, to objects and furniture, and even interiors -- I love that the Portland aesthetic has evolved to reflect our rugged Northwest heritage while incorporating a unique but elegant sense of restraint and minimalism.

3. How did your brand start?

In New York I worked as an artist's assistant and later an exhibition technician and curator for a few contemporary art galleries and museums. When I moved to Portland I found the infrastructure of art and design here was built upon industry rather than exhibition, so I shifted gears and started working on commercial photo and video productions as a prop stylist, then a wardrobe stylist, and then a set designer. Pretty quickly thereafter I decided to build my brand around all three of those roles as an art director for film and photography. Now I oversee and build concepts for all three departments and I get to work closely other amazing stylists and designers I love.

4. What has been your biggest obstacle?

I think the hardest part of owning a business like mine is the ebb and flow of work. It's not uncommon for me to be booked solid for six months before suddenly having a month completely free. It's taken a few years to realize that's called a vacation. Now I spend those slower periods traveling, reading, and doing creative shoots with my other fellow freelancers. That down time is what has helped me develop my own brand of art direction and inspires me for projects to come.

5. What or who inspires your design?

Strangely, I'm inspired by psychology, memory, and sensory experiences. I love finding the reasons why we react to imagery in specific ways and using that knowledge to influence my work. I really think aesthetics can be broken down to science and while I like to work intuitively and be influenced by other designers, I also like to know why trends exist and how they speak to what's happening in our culture.

6. What are your favorite things about Portland?

I love that it's opened up my life and work in ways I wouldn't have imagined a few years ago.

7. What is your favorite part of your studio?

I love it's evolving nature. It changes according to whatever project I'm working on. It's not uncommon for it to be filled with racks upon racks of clothing one week and then large-scale paintings and set pieces the next. I've used it as a set a few times and completely dressed it to look like a teen girl's bedroom and a SoHo style loft.

8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?

Mainly I value the light. It's hard to get enough sunlight in Portland, but the skylights here help me to feel like I'm maximizing my exposure to whatever daylight there during the gray season.

9. Tell us two truths and a lie!

I am also part owner of a dog grooming business.

Lena Dunham is one of my close friends from college.

I was competitive figure skater as a child.

10. 5 things you can’t live without.

My dog and constant companion, Camper.

The color green.

My eyesight.

My phone, because it connects me to so many amazing people.

Road trip therapy.