Posts Tagged ‘caravan pacific’

Mid-Century Modern Master • Gordon Martz

Thursday, January 7th, 2016


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.









Bobby and the Big Leaf Maple

Thursday, April 30th, 2015






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.


Caravan Pacific at Home • Casey Keasler of Casework

Monday, January 19th, 2015



Many thanks to our friend Casey Keasler who took these beautiful photos of our Alberta Table Lamp over the holidays.  Casey just started a new company focused on her love for interior design • Casework.  I love how she styled our lamp with a minimalist wreath from Fieldwork Flowers.  Check out her site for more of her beautiful work and one of my favorite companies here in Portland.



Introducing: Modern Metal Hair Ties

Thursday, July 24th, 2014






It’s official – this summer is HOT!  The mercury can easily rise to around 90 degrees in our steamy ceramic studio, which made me start thinking of different ways to tie my hair back.  After experimenting with several different materials the solution was simple –  the Modern Metal Hair Tie.  A lightweight, polished piece of brass or copper, fixed with a hair elastic on the inside.  It creates a look that is functional and elegant, easily transitioning from casual day to more formal night styles.  My studio mate Erin Gardner of Studio ERG, an experienced jeweler and metal-smith, is assisting us in manufacturing several designs for different types of hair and styling.

You might be thinking, “What the heck is Caravan Pacific doing making hair accessories?”  It’s a good question.  I love creating our lighting.  And things that are useful.  Things that are well-made.  Modern.  Beautiful!  I’ve designed these pieces for the woman who is looking for great modern design.  Someone who will appreciate considered details and quality in craftsmanship.  Even if it’s something as small and subtle as a hair tie.

We’ll be launching the Modern Metal Hair Ties on our site Monday July 28th and at Betsy + Iya Thursday, August 7th.  Stay posted for details!


Photos by Shannon Guirl  //  Styling by Emily Katz  //  Models:  Fonda Sanchez, Molly Georgetta






Portland Supply Co. Interview

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Photo Credit:  Mikola Accuardi / Portland Supply Co.

It was wonderful meeting the team behind Portland Supply Co. during their visit to my studio last month.  I love the idea of their blog – interviewing Portland makers on their work and exploring their spaces to catch a glimpse of what happens behind the curtain.  Thank you so much for the interview Mikola and Jacquelyn!  Look forward to reading more soon!


Sunday Emporium @ Rejuvenation

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Small and subtle: The Sullivan

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Just a quick snap of the Sullivan at our studio in N. Portland.  The Sullivan is quickly becoming one of our customer’s favorites.  With it’s small size, simple shape and textured linen shade- it’s the perfect lamp to quietly brighten up that little corner in your room that needs some light.  Available in all our glaze, wood and shade selections.  See our Custom Listing to create your own.

New Colors for 2014

Monday, May 5th, 2014


We’re proud to introduce our New Glaze Colors for 2014:  Ochre, Cobalt, Peony, Matte Black and SpeckleAvailable now on our website in the combinations you see here or in the Custom Listing for all our lamp styles.  Photos by Dan Cronin.


West Coast Craft Show

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Hi everyone!  I’m headed to San Francisco next weekend for the West Coast Craft show.  If you’re in town, come on down to the Fort Mason Pavilion where over 100+ makers from California, Oregon and Washington will be displaying and selling their finely crafted wares.  I can’t wait to check out new scents by Juniper Ridge, gorgeous jewelry by Tiro Tiro and see what  Eric Trine’s got cookin’.  I’ll have lamps in our new woods and several different colorways along with a few new surprises!

West Coast Craft
November 16 & 17, 2013
10am to 6pm
Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion
San Francisco, CA

Sneak Peek of Our New Studio

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

This June, I’ll be beginning a new phase of my business and will be moving into a manufacturing space in NE Portland.  Our new studio will be located in an old warehouse from the 1950s in the industrial section of the city.  It’s a great place about 3x as large as my previous one, full of old fir beams and rough wooden floors that have seen many years of hard work.  It will have separate rooms for assembly and ceramic production- a space with lots of elbow room to grow into and dream bigger dreams.

You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter as the space comes to life (#caravanpacificstudio).  Some good buddies of mine pitched in recently and we built the walls in about 6 hours!  I’m really looking forward to moving in and beginning a new phase of Caravan Pacific.  It’s been such a great experience so far.  I can’t believe that barely 2 years ago this whole thing was just a twinkle in my eye!  I owe so much to my first backers on Kickstarter and the creative community here in Portland for helping me and this business to grow creatively.  It’s something that I haven’t forgotten and will keep at the heart of Caravan as it grows.

In thanks, I’d like to offer 10% off any of our products during the month of June!  Enter in Promo Code NEWSTUDIO at checkout to claim your discount.

Thanks for reading and look forward to showing you more progress on our studio soon.