Patrick Sisson - Writer, Journalist, Cultural Documentarian, Music Lover

Local Aesthetic: Portland Design Guide


Nothing Major

July 19, 2013




In the second installment of our Portland Design Guide, we zero-in on stores and galleries with a focus on the handmade and hands-on. From a legendary outdoor brand to the nation’s oldest craft musuem, Portland offers a range of designers and designed objects reinterpeting the region’s design heritage for today.


 1300 W Burnside /

An important place to outfit before any outdoor trek, or merely a one-stop shop to gear up for the seasonal shift to fall and winter, Poler’s new flagship store (as of March 2013) showcases the best of the local outdoor brand, as well as rotating pop-up displays and camp coffee gear from Stumptown. “Poler is an amazing brand with deep roots in Portland, utilizing the design talents of locals like Marc Smith,” according to Jason Sturgill, a local artist and educator. “Their camping gear is top-flght, and the amazing store design is worth a visit by itself.”

Control Voltage

3742 N Mississippi Ave / 503.265.8494 /

For the mechanically and musically inclined, the synthesizers on display at Control Voltage, which boasts more diodes and dials than a 1971 NASA control room, elicits warm, fuzz-toned feeling. Husband-and-wife owners Jason Kramer and Shelly Bambina have created a utopia for electronic musicians, a space to tinker, play, and even take classes. “Control Voltage serves a pretty specific niche group, namely those interested in high-end analog synthesizers,” says freelance creative director Mark Rawlins. “However, spend about 30 seconds pressing buttons and twisting knobs in their space and you’ll probably find yourself included in said niche group.” (Photo by Scott Jaeger)

Hand-Eye Supply

 23 NW 4th Avenue / 503.575.9769 /

Hand-Eye Supply’s latest quarterly publication—a profile of top local craftsmen modeling the fall apron collection—may seem like stereotypes writ large, but we prefer to think of it as an on-point example of what makes the city and store so great. A project of the Core77 industrial design magazine, the store, brimming with workware, clothes, and tools, plays frequent host to events like theCuriosity Club lecture series and serves as a supply depot and hub for the creative class.

Sword + Fern

  811 East Burnside #114 / 503.683.3376 /

A working artspace/store/studio helmed by Emily Baker, Sword + Fern stocks a variety of glittering jewels and local crafts, including Baker’s own eco-designed necklaces, rings and earrings. Be sure to stop by for First Friday events featuring guest curators and local artists and musicians.

Schoolhouse Electric

2181 NW Nicolai Street / 503.230.7113 /

Simply “a great design brand, remaking classic designed products,” according to Mark Rawlins, Schoolhouse Electric does retro without resorting to an ounce of kitsch, capturing the essence of past styles with a sharp eye for modern detail, especially in its acclaimed lighting and furniture. You can read about the new fall line online.

Museum of Contemporary Craft

724 NW Davis Street  / 503.223.2654 /

A more spry and sophisticated vision of craft pervades this centerpiece of handmade goods in the Pearl District, which displays a collection focused on the living history of artisan goods. Current exhibits include The Tool at Hand, a deft display of workmanship featuring projects made with a single object. (Photo by Basil Childers)


819 N Russel Street / 503.753.3608 /

“A great store filled with a tightly curated selection of goods,” according to Jason Sturgill, Lowell does makes shopping seem like an exploration of the home of a local eccentric. If the curios don’t make you feel welcome, the stellar selection of food, including congee and Water Ave. coffee, basically dare you to spend the entire afternoon perusing.

We could go on. Our short list of great stores and venues worth visiting also includes Cord PDXEm-Space and Una, to name a few. Any guide to PDX would be incomplete without listing a few spots to score records (Beacon Sound), clothing (Frances MayLizard Lounge and Table of Contents) and caffeine (See See MotorcycleStumptownCoavaHeart and Ristretto Roasters). Find more Portland recommendations in part one of our design guide.

Beam & Anchor

2710 N Interstate / 503.367.3230 / 

This sleek converted warehouse, husband-and-wife-team Robert and Jocelyn Rahm’s vertically integrated design mecca, houses designers a floor above a tightly curated retail space showcasing their work.

“Beam & Anchor offers the quintessential Portland perspective on how design can be woven through every aspect of life. Not only does the store sell all types of homewares designed by locals, directly above the store are many of the makers that are featured in the shop. Merely a few blocks away is Lowell, which is another great store filled with a tightly curated selection of goods.” –Jason Sturgill, artist, designer, and educator

“They are pickers extraordinare—experience their wonderfully curated experience through beautiful products.” –Mark Rawlins, freelance creative director


Ampersand Vintage

2916 NE Alberta St / 503.805.5458 /

Bibliophiles will salivate upon entering this reverential center for prints and printing, with extensive and eclectic displays of photo and art books.
“Ampersand is a bookstore that sets itself apart in the land of books aplenty. After you’ve become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books at Powell’s, head over to Myles Haselhorst’s shop, where he will give you personal attention and guide you through his treasure trove of art and design tomes. Next door, you’ll be pleased to find Cord, run by Myles’ wife Carey, which is more object focused but with the same attention in selection and service.” —Jason Sturgill
Land Gallery
3925 N Mississippi Ave / 503.451.0689 /
The brick-and-mortar manifestation of the locally oriented, this gallery/retail space curates an eclectic collection of Portland goods, providing a cheap way to take a bit of Cascadia home.
“An art gallery and shop that features a great collection of local illustrators, authors, designers, and artists. Really good for T-shirts, cards, books, and unique Portland-flavored souvenirs.” —Lizy Gershenzon, Partner at Scribble Tone
811 E Burnside / 503.477.9786 /
Highly recommended by local designers, Nationale, a shop and arts center opened by French expat May Juliette Barruel, has transceded its retail origins to become a hub for visual culture. This fall, the gallery will feature a photo exhibit from Delaney Allen through October 27, a solo show from painter Jaik Faulk opening November 1st, and a holiday arts retrospective.





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