Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Mid-Century Modern Master • Gordon Martz

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

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Recently I had a few people ask how I got started creating lamps.  It’s not an easy question to answer.  It’s kind of a funny thing, to stumble upon something that becomes intriguing… then a challenge, and finally a passion you cannot live without.  For most of my life I thought that working in film and television was going to be what I did with the rest of my life.  Now, I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t taken the jump to create my first lamp and start a business.  When I think about that vulnerable place between having an idea and taking the first steps towards turning it into a reality, it can be a lonely place full of self-doubt and hard realizations.  It really helps to have a good guide to steady you so you can make that first, precarious jump.

For me, one of those important guides was Gordon Martz.

I first stumbled on Gordon’s work online while doing research for my first lamp design.  I spent hours looking at different lighting styles but I couldn’t find much on how they were created.  When I clicked across a site featuring worn and weathered lighting catalogs from the mid-century era one night, it was like a lightning bolt struck me.  There was Gordon, captured in black + white in his studio in the 1950’s, finishing pieces on the wheel, pouring 3-foot-high plaster molds, brush glazing lamp bases, lampshades and patterns stacked endlessly behind him.  As I looked at the photos, my idea of making a lamp and starting a small company didn’t seem so far-fetched.  I wondered if he was still alive and sent an email out to the website archivist, Craig McCormick, that night.

Gordon and his wife Jane ran one of the seminal factories for table lighting production in the mid-century era, Marshall Studios.  The studio was famous for its large collection of table lighting and home wares made from earthy clay and glazes, as well as hand-loomed lampshades, which Jane sometimes decorated with natural materials and rooster feathers.  At its zenith, the studio had 50 employees and shipped out over 1,000 lamps per month.  Gordon designed much of the lighting, stamping “Martz” in his decisive script at the bottom, and was invited to be part of MOMA’s “Good Design” Exhibit in 1953, among other accolades.

Gordon and I struck up a relationship over emails and phone calls over the next few years as I slowly began to make my way through designing and making my first lamp.  I remember one time in particular; late in the studio one night, covered in slip that had spilled out of one of the molds and exhausted from pulling another 60-hour week at my day job, I called him with questions about a casting problem I was having.  Really I just wanted to hear his voice and know that someone had been there and done that.  Gordon could be a little aloof at times, I’m sure hearing about the trials of a novice ceramist was probably not how he wanted to live out his retirement, but he came through and offered several hours of advice and tips with a great deal of encouragement as I struggled to sort things out.

When I visited him with Craig in 2014, he had moved into an assisted living facility in the South.  He had somehow convinced the groundskeeper to convert one of the outbuildings into a ceramic studio.  A sprightly 94, he led us down the short path to his studio and showed us the different sculptures he was working on.  It seems like his hands were always in clay, that its textures and endless plasticity were never far from his mind.  A quick look around the studio offered glimpses into Gordon’s past and future. Old lamp bases were tucked away amongst the new sculptures he was carving and trimming.  After a lifetime of working in ceramics, he was still exploring, still searching for the perfect balance of shape and form.

Sadly, Gordon passed away this fall.  My sympathies go out to his family and to those who had the pleasure of knowing him.  He possessed the rare talent of being able to combine his vast practical knowledge with a unique artistic style that shaped America’s mid-century era and inspired many artists and designers today.  More than his legacy of work with Marshall Studios, I’m inspired by the true dedication and passion he showed for his craft throughout his life.  It seemed to give as much back to him as he gave to it.  Thanks Gordon.

 

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Bobby and the Big Leaf Maple

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

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When I started my business a few years ago, I had a vision of what it would look like.  Mostly just me, in a garage, puttering away happily, making lamps one by one.   In the last year, we’ve grown to three employees, several contractors and a list of over 50 vendors that we work with on a steady basis.  In other words: still a small business, but much larger than my vision of a sole maker hammering away in the night.  The last year has really taken my breath away in how we’ve expanded and the things we’ve been able to do.  And I’ve realized that, as the business evolves and grows – so do I.  When the business gets busier and life gets more hectic, I find myself going back to the basic reasons of why I started my company.

One of them is Bobby , a woodturner I met when I was creating my first lamp prototype.  Bobby turns 90 this month and hasn’t slowed down a bit.  When I visited him earlier this month at his shop, he was wrestling a 100 lb. block of Big Leaf Maple onto his bandsaw.  A quick look around Bobby’s shop will tell you that he’s been doing anything but retiring.  Gouges are stacked up near his old pulley-driven lathe, sawdust covers the floor, and fresh piles of wood scraps creep up knee-high in some places.  As we hoist the chunk of wood up onto the bandsaw, Bobby tells me that it comes from the third largest Big Leaf Maple tree in Oregon.  “Look at this,” he says pointing to a beautiful velvet-black ribbon of spalt threading it’s way through the wood, a characteristic highly prized by turners.  “This piece really says something!”  I love that after all his years around wood, he still gets excited and shares his victories.

When I’m in Bobby’s shop, time seems to melt away, the steady hum of the lathe and the scent of sawdust are a calming balm from all my daily thoughts and worries.  Just being around Bobby teaches me the lesson I have the hardest time remembering, to slow down and enjoy life.  He moves with purpose around the floor of his shop, carrying the block of the Big Leaf with him to the jointer.  “I’ve been around this long because I love what I do!  When you love what you do, it’s not work.  There’s not a lot of people in this world that can say that.”

I turn 40 this year, less than half of Bobby’s age.  Whenever I feel like I’m straying from my true path in life, I feel lucky to know Bobby and I think of him at his lathe.  Turning Big Leaf Maple into piles of sawdust and gold.

 

Field Trip: Crater Lake

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

 

Some shots of Crater Lake and Wizard Island from our recent trip out to Southern Oregon.  None of the photos are retouched – the sapphire blue of the lake is truly that color!  The lakes and streams that Crater Lake feeds are some of the clearest and coldest waters I’ve ever seen.  A quick trip down to Umpqua River was just what we needed for this sizzling hot month.  True paradise.

 

 

 

Ruth Asawa

Friday, September 13th, 2013

One of my favorite artists, Ruth Asawa, passed away earlier this month.  What an amazing person, mother and artist she was.  With just crochet hooks and spools of wire, she was able to create intricately crafted worlds.  The daughter of truck farmers in California, Asawa was placed in an internment camp with her family during WWII, where she learned how to draw under the tutelage of several fellow internees who had been animators for Walt Disney Studios.  She went on to study art at Black Mountain College, learning how to weave on a trip to Mexico.  Ruth later became a well-known artist, exhibiting her work in fine art museums across the country.  A fierce advocate for creativity, she later started a children’s school for the arts in California.  She’s one of my favorite artists because of the way she passed the feeling of creating and making on to others:

“When you put a seed in the ground, it doesn’t stop growing after eight hours. It keeps going every minute that it’s in the earth. We, too, need to keep growing every moment of every day that we are on this earth.”

 

Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake

Friday, July 26th, 2013

 

 

Just a quick post on a recent trip out to Trillium Lake near Mt. Hood.  As Ray (my sweetheart) and I left the city, gray clouds hung over the road and I thought we might be sleeping in the drizzle that Portland is famous for.  Instead, the skies cleared and we had a miraculously beautiful weekend.  Trillium Lake, named for the flowers that surround it, was a breath of fresh air after a hot and hectic summer in Portland.  We took a hike around the lake and then dove in- nothing beats the heat like a day at the lake.  The highlight of the trip was seeing an osprey dive down into the lake and carry off a fish!  So beautiful, hope to go back again soon…

 

Bee Local

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

 

I’ve been meeting some really inspiring people in Portland lately, one of them is Damian Magista of Bee Local Honey.  Damian harvests honey from hives from Portland’s many neighborhoods to create artisinal honey with distinctive flavors.  The honey looks incredible and I love how he inspires whole communities to help him create his product.  Check out his great line of homegrown honey here:  www.beelocal.com

Hi there!

Monday, February 18th, 2013

A big thank you to the wonderfully talented Leela Cyd who stopped by the showroom earlier this month to take my portrait for our website.  It’s been close to a year since I started my business and I feel so lucky to have landed in Portland.  Not only do I get the chance to meet people like Leela, who are as kind as they are talented, but there’s a creative energy in the air here that’s infectious and life-affirming.

Also, recently I’ve felt the need to start sharing a more personal perspective on my work and business here on this blog. I’m a private person and have always been a little shy of the blogosphere, but it was listening to this talk by Imogene + Willie that changed my mind about sharing my thoughts.   I feel that in building my business, I’m becoming part of a larger conversation about how we design and manufacture things in America.  There are a lot of small business owners spear-heading this movement, and I hope to be one of them.  I have a passion and curiosity when it comes to America’s manufacturing past and I hope that by sharing what I learn along the way, I can help build a better future.

If you’re interested in building on this conversation, please convo me on Twitter:  @caravanpacific

Also, please check out the Made In Portland section of Leela’s site for beautiful photography on local PDX makers.

Thanks!

Stitch & Hammer Goods!

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

 

I am one lucky girl!  Amy from Stitch & Hammer was so wonderful to send me some of her beautiful leather goods right before the holidays.  It’s hard to name a favorite, but the wrapper clutch has been traveling with me everywhere, just love the feel and texture of it.  It’s been so nice to discover such a sweet person behind all this finery as well.  Something I’ll treasure just as much.  Thanks Amy!

Luxe Magazine

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

 

It was an absolute thrill to be interviewed for Luxe Magazine’s Pacific Northwest issue this season.  It’s one of my favorite magazines, with limitless resources on new trends and designers.  They also highlighted some of my favorite makers and shops:  ABJ Glassworks, Beam & Anchor and Ruth Asawa.  Thanks Luxe!

 

Syrk Tableware

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

My good friend Jason was kind enough to give me one of his gorgeous ceramic bowls for my birthday this year.  I love how simple and clean his work is.  I was happy to hear that now has a whole line of ceramic vessels, Syrk, inspired by minimalist images of sea and sky.  Relaxing and refined, it’s one of the most prized possessions in my kitchen.  Thanks again Jason!