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Some Takeaways from Design Week

Posted on 23 April 2016

I sifted through the schedule chaos of Design Week Portland and zeroed in on three events. All were vastly different in nature, but they all echoed something similar: keep making, take on challenges, and be yourself...

Our event! Curiosity Club: Creating in the Mind You Have / 4.19.16It was special to see a host of Curiosity Club alumnus back in our Glisan Garage for a directed conversation about the link between mental health and creativity. Everyone on the panel pulled the curtain back a bit to let us see where their work comes from, and how we might understand it as a direct (or indirect) manifestation of their mental processes. 

Each artist offered insight, but something Alison Jean Cole, a lapidary artist, said stuck with me in a pretty lasting way. She spoke about embracing the madness within, not running from whatever is in our heads, but instead, listening and utilizing that madness. As she spoke, I was reminded of a Neitzsche quote (sorry), "One must still have madness in oneself to give birth to a dancing star." Most of us lack the command of language to say it as Neitzsche does, but this is the what Cole was speaking to. And I think it's the crux of what our event was about, and thus, what art and creating is about. Make whatever is you make, make it honestly, work to make it without judgement (most importantly of self), and let the madness have a place to live and breathe. 

Glass/Wood at the Material Edge - MADE + Bullseye / 4.21.16
Dan Schwoerer and some buddies founded Bullseye back in 1974. They were recent college grads, they believed in glass, and they set up shop in an old Portland house. Today, Schwoerer is still at the helm and Bullseye continues to reimagine glass processing and how it fits into our world. It's folks like him Schwoerer that started a wave a culture, design, and making here in Portland. So, it was appropriate that the panel included Made's Bo Hagood, who seems to represent a recent and newer wave of Portland's maker culture. 

Hagood and Schwoerer discussed a recent collaboration in which they built custom tables, cabinets, and doors from both glass and wood. They combined their teams, their knowledge, and their desire to learn in order to make unique pieces for the home. I've resisted even thinking about how much these custom pieces might cost retail, but instead focused on the spirit of making, collaboration, and a love of process that ran through the discussion. 

In Portland, we pride ourselves on the 'maker culture,' and we should. And I think, after listening to these guys, to be a part of it, or to really appreciate it, we have to challenge ourselves, try and fail, learn a little bit and try again, step outside our creative comfort zones, and always believe we can make, create, and build better. 

Shared Perspective with Cinco Design x Smith Optics / 4.21.16
Smith and Cinco Design have been working together for about three years. Cinco has helped decades-old Smith realign their brand, and the collaboration has sped up since Smith relocated to Portland seven months ago. The two companies designed this event specifically for Design Week. Together, the 3-D printed a circular frame to hold Smith's tinted optics, which then screw to the front of a DSLR camera. They then tasked six photographers with capturing "epic" images using the various tints - Chromapop Ignitor, Grey, and Brown. 

The photos were stunning. The event did more than show cool photos, though. It gave us a little insight into the brand/agency relationship. It let us consider how we can make design and branding a more hands-on experience. And it encouraged us to do things we truly love, to discover naturally through continued work, and how that work might sync up with others and a greater audience. 

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