Oregon Home Team
Imagine crafting a piece of art without being able to really see what you’re creating, only having the vision in your mind to go on. That’s exactly what Portland woodworker Ben Carpenter does when he carves his vessels and sculptures. “After I’ve turned the basic vessel shape on the lathe and hollowed it out, I sit down in a chair with my hand-held power carver and start carving away at it,” says the 23-year-old. “But during the whole process it looks really rough and you can’t see the grain until you put the finish on, so you have to be confident that it will turn out the way you want it to.”
A fading artform—the exquisite Japanese stencil dyeing known as katazome—is alive and well in Oregon, thanks to Karen Miller. The Corvallis, Ore., fabric artist creates stunning katazome textiles, such as Tide Pool 3 (right), but infuses her fabrics with distinctly Northwest imagery. “The Japanese stencilmakers depicted nature in their stencils,” says Miller. “I put my plants and animals into my designs: maidenhair ferns, trilliums, tide pool animals.”
An up-close look at a fire-red coral-like sea creature. A bird’s-eye view of a tight cluster of pointed, polka-dot-covered shells hovering in space. Swirling lines of microbial organisms spinning into a distant black hole. These are the lenses—magnified and telescopic—that Portland painter Jason Bradbury peers through when composing his brightly colored pieces. “I’m influenced by Ernst Haeckel, a German scientist who created detailed sketches of microscopic marine organisms,” says Bradbury. “I became fascinated with their complexity, and the symmetrical and radial forms.”
For most furniture designers, it can take years, decades even, before awards and accolades come their way. But for Portland furniture designer Ryan Thomson, the first time was a charm. Thomson entered the prototype for his Res Table (below) into Show 2006, a local furniture design competition and exhibition sponsored by fix studio and held at Design Within Reach, and he walked away with best of show honors. “This was the first show I’ve ever entered,” says Thomson, 36. “There are so many people out there doing furniture design, and what they’re doing is great. It was nice to talk with other people who are using different techniques and materials and who are solving everyday problems on a human scale.”
Yeah, you could buy your sweetheart a store-bought card with a poem printed on it, but think how much more permanent a sentiment could feel if it were hammered onto a piece of art furniture. Kate Grenier’s Te Amo Square (right), a handmade aluminum table with a hand-hammered stanza from poet Pablo Neruda’s “Love Sonnett XVII,” does just that. “Some people buy my tables for wedding or anniversary gifts because they’re romantic and unique,” says the Portland artist.
The Pacific Northwest is known for great glass—and Portland glass artist Christine Downs pays homage to the area through some of her fused forms. Surf the Northwest (right), a 10-inch by 15-inch serving platter, is a good example. Oregon inspired both the form and the colors. “This is from a series of pieces that look like surfboards and sharks’ teeth,” says Downs, who learned her techniques by taking classes at Bullseye Glass and Cline Glass, and from her mentor, glass tile artist Karen Story. “I was picturing surfing off the Oregon coast. When I added the border, I put in quick, gestural drawings of trees. And the greens and deep reds are Northwest colors.”