Jason Leonard invited us to Archipelago Gallery, his Northeast Portland building. The primary business run out of the space is the Affiche Studio which specializes in vintage poster restoration. He has been perfecting his craft since 2003 and has accomplished some truly special restoration projects. Jason recently transformed an old grocery store into a beautiful space that houses Affiche Studio as well as hosts music events, cooking classes, art openings and curated dinners. The acquisition of the building and the build out took around 1.5 years and was done thoughtfully and with function in mind. The space is filled with beautiful light streaming in from the skylights and has a open floor plan that truly makes it easy to transition for any style of event. Enjoy this visit with Jason and learn a little about his unique expertise.
1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here?
I graduated from art school (BFA in Illustration & Animation) in San Francisco in 2003 and figured I couldn't afford to live there anymore. I had a bit of a friend circle already in Portland and wanted to stay out on the West Coast instead of moving back to Austin, my hometown. I was drawn in first by the culture. Although not as ultimately diverse as SF, it was/is similar to Austin in terms of personality, music, the arts, and geography which makes me feel at home. I think in the end what is keeping me here is having grown a community of friends that I love and want to collaborate with. Portland for me has always felt a bit like one big living room. People like to collaborate with each other and build things together here, and I feel like right now it's just starting to hit it's stride with that idea. I want more. And it's a great home base to come back to after traveling.
2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland (design or otherwise)?
One of the first things I loved about Portland was the TBA (Time Based Arts) Festival. I love the international, experimental, and sense of community aspects of the festival and am always blown away by at least a couple performances each year. And by blown away I mean psyche shifting, boundary pushing, emotional tornado performances.
3. How did your brand start?
The Affiche Studio (Linen-Backing and Restoration of Vintage Posters & Paper Memorabilia) is a business that I essentially apprenticed into starting in 2003, and eventually bought and became owner of in 2006. We do work for galleries, private collectors, and museums nationally and internationally. There are parallels to museum quality paper conservation, although vintage poster restoration (linen-backing) is a very specific process and a small industry spread out around the world. The only way to really learn the trade is by working for a studio.
In terms of brands, I'm actually in the midst of shifting to/creating a new one, Archipelago Gallery & Studio based out of the new building. I can't say much until it's completely manifested, but I can tell you how I'd like it to start. I want it based on collaboration, interaction, and experience.
4. What has been your biggest obstacle?
Trying to do everything myself, hence all this collaboration talk. A lot of the things I've done over the years: illustration, music, animation & video, and poster restoration can be so isolated and solitary. And that just gets boring. I think the proudest things I've worked on have been with other people. In collaboration I feel like you're more forced to dig down and find out what you really believe in, and have to offer. I guess trying to juggle many different types of endeavors has also been an obstacle, but who wants to give that up? Just gotta figure it out.
5. What or who inspires your design?
I have a cross pollinating sense of inspiration in everything I do. Images or a sense of a place can inspire music. A conversation can inspire imagery. The way that the light pours in on one day each year can inspire a way of life.
6. What are your favorite things about Portland?
I definitely love how easy it is to get out of the city and into nature. You don't even have to actually leave the city to get out of the city. Forest Park is a great place to slow down and reboot your inspiration level. Theater pubs. I honestly don't go see a movie nowadays unless it's at a theater pub. My favorite thing though comes down to the people. Portland has smart, influential, creative, and strong women, men, children and everyone in between. I hope everyone will continue to adapt, problem solve, and create what they want out of a city, despite all the recent changes.
7. What is your favorite part of your studio?
Skylights. I never want to live or work anywhere again that doesn't have skylights. I love having so much natural light, and watching the patterns move throughout the day across the floor and walls just instantly puts me in a better mood. (See above: watching light pour in). I love having people over and hosting events. Archipelago so far has hosted an array of things including a catered four course dinner, music nights, and cooking workshops. We'll be doing more in the future such as gallery shows, drawing parties, workshops, and lectures.
8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?
Having a full kitchen in the workplace is pretty darn nice, I must say. But other than that, I wanted to keep everything modular and movable. I like that I can completely shift around the whole studio for small events and gallery shows, or just to mix things up. Also, owning and restoring a building is a really great endeavor but way more of an undertaking than I could have imagined, so I'm always learning.
9. Tell us two truths and a lie!
I've done yoga in a park with Jonathan Richman.
I was traumatized as a 13 year old by millions of daddy long legs.
I once spent 24 hours in Heathrow immigration detention.
10. 5 things you can’t live without.