Studio Visit: The Tiny Spoon

We were initially introduced to Perry Pfister of The Tiny Spoon through Seth Neefus on our studio visit with Red Clouds Collective. Perry is a talented designer and screen printer with a great eye and a sucker for a good font.  His newest medium he has added to his design work is neon signage. From the large neon knot that hangs above his workspace that was part of a recent show at Valentines and the smaller neon letters that decorated the studio. We were fixated watching Perry heat and bend the glass with such finesse and deliberation. The saturation of color that comes with using the neon glass as a medium is incomparable - there is something about the vibrancy and clean lines that is eye catching. There is also a sense of nostalgia that comes with neon signs - an old medium with a modern approach, we just can’t get over Perry’s work! He also does amazing screen printing collaborations with brands like Red Clouds Collective, Ace Hotel, Hand - Eye Supply, and Danner Boots to name a few.  Enjoy the photos of our visit with the talented artist as well as a great interview below!

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

I made Portland my home initially because Hurricane Katrina had just happened, leaving New Orleans in a dysfunctional state for the foreseeable future. I had just completed my bachelors degree in Landscape Architecture, and was planning to stay and be as big a part of the rebuilding process as I could, but this aweful mayor was reelected, and that was my cue to move on. Just recently, 8 years later, the same mayor has been convicted of 20 counts of corruption, thus proving how much he had undercut the rebuilding effort that was pooling so many great ideas and great minds.

The aspects of Portland that really attracted me were the sensibility of the way it functioned as a city(especially in contrast to post-Katrina New Orleans), the people I met when I visited were very nice, the residential gardens were a big part of peoples lives, and mostly there was a sense of ambition among the whole crowd of young people here. The South is slow and chill, and it enjoys life on a whole other wavelength, and Portland felt like folks were very interested in getting stuff done, there was this air of ambition. It seemed to be a prerequisite that you were going to do something awesome here, and I hope all of the people moving here get the same sense of contribution.

I also play music, so Portland felt like a great place to build myself as a musician in tandem to what I've been working on visually.

There's alot to this question and to its answer for me. The community of friends I have here has been what keeps me here, as well as the opportunity to operate my business as a freelance screen printer and neon artist via the great individuals and institutions that provide this amazing variety of projects.

I have to leave Portland a lot to maintain a healthy relationship with it.

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

My favorite things happening in Portland are the creative circles that grow like little cultures throughout the city. I love to see the overlap of these circles, and to see how many niches exist here.

3. How did your brand start?

The Tiny Spoon began in the shadow of the recession around 2008 after I'd lost my landscape architecture work, and was finding glimmers of work in providing screen printed posters and album covers for bands and making art prints for my friends Mark Warren Jacques and Seth Neefus. I started in a garage and moved to the Together Gallery (formerly on Alberta St.), where I became fueled by the creative work of my friends who were also part of the gallery. Tim Karpinski, Meg Adamson, Mark Warren Jacques, Seth Neefus, David Wien, and Mia Nolting. Eventually I was full time with design and printing, as well as producing art shows and installations. I owe alot to Together Gallery.

4. What has been your biggest obstacle?

The biggest obstacle for me has been maintaining all of the peripheral aspects of self-employment. It's not easy at all. You can work 80 hours a week and still not get the payback that most employed folks take for granted. I work alot, and struggle to maintain all of the details outside of the realm of my production and creation. You have to pay taxes, and keep up the website, keep the city fed with fees, and constantly be lining up the next projects, so there is alot of work atop just making beautiful things.

5. What or who inspires your design?

My friends are my biggest inspiration. I see what they are doing, or they invite me to help them, and with that I realize my own potential. As far as what inspires me, it just comes down to having really clear opinions and trusting them. I know what I like, and I'm open to alot, and I trust my interpretations of the life around me.

6. What are your favorite things about Portland?

My favorite things about Portland are my friends, the landscape, the coffee, the musicians I play with, the Summer, skateboarding, and the quality of the food.

7. What is your favorite part of your studio?

I like my studio for many reasons. As far as a specific part, I like the garage door.

8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?

My favorite thing about my workspace is the fact that it is a continuation of something I always made for myself for as long as I can remember. I've always had a garage or a corner of a room, and eventually studio spaces, where I could make the things that were interesting to me. When I was little, I had a garage where I made and painted model airplanes and rockets, then it was BMX bikes and raising orchids, then bands... And now I have the same outlet and sanctuary, but for neon, printing, painting, and anything else calling to me.

9. Tell us two truths and a lie!

Portland is changing drastically in the madness emanating from the real estate market and the accruing popularity of this city as a place to be. 

This influx is directly threatening the ability for makers to exist in a place that is not as available to people who can't afford the change.

Everyone is on the same page in Portland.

10. 5 things I cant live without:

1. My upright bass, a beautiful 125 year old instrument made in Bohemia (now Czech Republic)

2. Food

3. Water

4. Friends

5. Freedom. True freedom, no rules.