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Local Aesthetic / Portland, Oregon / Part Two

In part two of our Portland design travel guide, we focus on brands and stores reinterpreting heritage goods and artisan crafts.

Article By Patrick Sisson, October 9, 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 / polerstuff.com

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 / controlvoltage.net

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 / handeyesupply.com

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 the Curiosity Club lecture series and serves as a supply depot and hub for the creative class.

Sword + Fern

  811 East Burnside #114 / 503.683.3376 / swordandfern.com

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 / schoolhouseelectric.com

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 / museumofcontemporarycraft.org

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 / lowellportland.com

"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 PDX, Em-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 May, Lizard Lounge and Table of Contents) and caffeine (See See Motorcycle, Stumptown, Coava, Heart and Ristretto Roasters). Find more Portland recommendations in part one of our design guide.