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Portland, Oregon is famous for a number of things–but did you know that it is also known for being a mecca for cyclists as well? While cities like New York have only just started to get on the biking bandwagon, Portland has been consistently appearing on the top five lists of every possible biking blog and magazine as “America’s Bicycle Capital.” But some bikers in Portland consider their bikes to be more than just a means of transport–these entrepreneurial spirits have started businesses on their bikes! Here’s a look at some of Portland’s most innovative bike businesses. (more…)

Mad Men PDX

With the release of the new The Great Gatsby movie, the Roaring ’20s are making a full-fledged comeback, even in the corner of America  known as Portland, Oregon. Walking in the door of the vintage barbershop, The Modern Man, visitors will leave behind the hustle and bustle of the digital era and enter into another era.  “My bet is that they will never have visited a shop like ours before and that’s what we want,” said The Modern Man founder Chris Espinoza. A time when flappers roamed the streets smoking cigarettes, jazz was king, and speakeasys were the place to be during the Prohibition Era. “This is where a kid becomes a man,” said barber Chase Danielle.

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What do men with conjoined beards, jars of pickled vegetable, houses blooming out of flowers, a superhero-like beluga whale, and pair of coffee-loving mermaids have in common? They are all the whimsical artwork of Portland-based illustrator Brooke Weeber, the creator of The Little Canoe. According to the artist’s website she began drawing at an early age and pursued her passion for drawing at high school and in college; she received her BFA in painting at the University of Oregon. She traded her Northwest roots for New York City, where she pursued her other passion of professional baking. After some time she began to miss her Douglas fir trees and wished for more elbow room to draw so she packed her bags and headed for Portland in 2009.

The Little Canoe - Brooke Weeber illustration

Untapped: Where did the name Little Canoe come from?
Weeber: The name Little Canoe came from my own love of oceans and rivers and all things nautical. I also felt that the canoe was a good metaphor for me and my journey in life, rowing swiftly from one phase to the next, never knowing what kinds of rough waters I might encounter along the way, always knowing that there will be smooth sailing ahead and the views will make it all worth it.

Untapped: What is the process behind each of your pieces of work?
Weeber: I don’t often enter an art piece knowing what the end result will be, unless it’s contract work. Most of the time it starts with a small idea or inspiration. Then I’ll do some research, look at pictures, write down some notes, and then get started. I like the paintings to work in an organic way, so if I need to veer from the original plan, I will. The end product is always something more emotionally driven and meaningful that way, which is often more appealing to the audience.

The Little Canoe - Brooke Weeber illustration

Untapped: Where does most of your art-making get done?
Weeber: I have a studio space that I share with another artist in the SE Industrial part of Portland. It’s a big open space with large windows that let in a lot of natural light. I have enough room to store all of my product stock with room to grow. It’s a very inspiring building with other talented artists and makers that help to motivate and encourage me.

Untapped: Where do you find the most inspiration for your work?
Weeber: I find inspiration in the world I surround myself with. This could refer to the mountains and trees that populate the beautiful Pacific Northwest, it could be the art community that I’ve found myself in, or it could be a song, a movie or a picture that I find online or in my travels. It also comes greatly from life experience. I allow myself to respond to what I’m feeling through my artwork, so there’s often a little bit of myself in each piece.

The Little Canoe - Brooke Weeber illustration

Untapped: What do you love about what you do?
Weeber: There are so many things that I love about what I do! The freedom to make my own schedule, the ability to be totally self sustaining, my complete independence. I love being creative, coming up with ideas and following through with them until completion. I love the limitless possibilities that I have with my artwork, and I love the wonderful response I get from my customers, clients, and the general public. It’s so rewarding to do what you love only to find out that other people love it, too. There’s no other feeling like it.

robotloveetsy-001

Untapped: What do you do when you are not working?
Weeber: When I’m not working, which isn’t all that often, I like to explore the outdoors. This could mean traveling to another state, or simply taking advantage of Oregon’s terrain. I love hiking, swimming in rivers, walking on hilltops, biking country roads and snowshoeing icy landscapes. Then I top it off with some cold local beer!

Little Canoe

Untapped: What new things can we expect to see from you in the future?
Weeber: I expect people to start seeing Little Canoe more and more in their favorite shops and online. I’ll be doing lots of big projects this year as well as growing my inventory and product line. And if I’m really lucky, a children’s book will be finished up this year.

Expect to see more of Brooke and the Little Canoe in 2013! You can find more of her illustrations on her website and in her shops on Society 6 and on Etsy. Get in touch with the author @alicperez.

The Pearl District, where old meets new

Take a walk around the Pearl District and you will discover block after block of century-old abandoned, historic buildings that have rose from the dead and have a second life as a mixture of hip restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and furniture stores.  The Pearl District is a turn-of-the-century revitalized niche in Portland where old meets new, with the young and old cohabitating together and old brick warehouses become friendly neighbors to giant skyscraper apartments.

Old brick warehouses are friendly neighbors to giant skyscraper apartments

Old brick warehouses turned into lofts and apartments

Over a century ago this northwest quadrant was the heartbeat of Portland’s industrial and transportation zones with a number of occupied warehouses and railroad yards formerly known as the “Northwest Industrial Triangle.”  Fast-forward to 2012, the Pearl District continues to have a pulse as Portland’s most hip and distinctive shopping and lifestyle neighborhoods.

The Pearl district was once the heartbeat of Portland’s industrial and transportation zones

According to the Pearl District Neighborhood Association website the name behind Pearl District “caught on as a way to describe a neighborhood of rough old buildings each concealing ‘pearl’ in the form of artists’ studios and art galleries.”  The Pearl District has a number of hidden gems that visitors can see if they look up at the old red brick buildings and discover the signs of the past that haunt the side of these buildings with peeling paint and faded lettering.    The fading ads  in Portland are relics of old advertisements that were painted on businesses and warehouse where travelers could view them in plain sight.

The  fading letters of the Modern Confectionary Building  

Step back in time and stroll down Thirteenth Avenue Historic District which is the “Avenue of the Ghost Signs”  with a number of vacant warehouses and lots that were once home to candy factories, kitchen equipment and utensil warehouses.   On the corner of 13th  and Hoyt, sits the Filson store, an outdoor clothing store for men and women who for the past four years has called “The Modern Confectionery Company Building”  home. “The heritage of this building fits our tradition of the industrial look,”  said Filson Store Manager, Nathan Gray. Filson was established back in 1897 in Seattle, “We are what clothing was for the outdoor person, said Gray.

Gray later dusted off the cob webs of the story behind the sign of “The Modern Confectionary Company,”  and the “Delicious Brand Hams and Bacon,”  which he said was built in 1907 and was originally a candy factory. The inside of the store is complete with the entire original framework including brick walls and beams. The red brick walls continue to bleed and the store warns customers not to brush their clothes on the brick because they will get stained. The store was able to salvage a part of a conveyer belt from the sugar company and built a chandelier out of it which proudly hangs near the register. “The building fits our company’s history,”  said Gray. Around the turn-of-the-century the building underwent a warehouse-to-loft renovation. Six lofts were built and the developers retained the name of the original building, dubbing it The Modern Confectionery Lofts.

The Gadsby Building built in 1906

Across the street from “The Modern Confectionery Company Building,”  is the four story warehouse known as “The Gadsby Building”  which was built in 1906 by William Gadsby and his sons. They operated a downtown retail furniture store from 1898-1953 and built this warehouse on 13th  Avenue railroad spur to support their downtown store. Today, the Gadsby building is home to three different stores: Hunt & Gather, Barista, and Ready Paint Fire.

The next time you’re in Portland, take a walk around the Pearl District and go on a ghost sign hunt. Take in how Portland retains its past while simultaneously planning for its future.

Get in touch with the author  @alicperez.

“Rush hour” on Hawthorne Bridge as Portlanders cross on their everday way to work, school, and play

Entering into the mouth of the Hawthorne Bridge, travelers will find a herd of bicyclists young and old, from businessmen to clad hipsters, from the first-timers to the avid riders, all heading into Downtown Portland.

Portland is a bike-friendly city with bike paths, lanes, and boulevards for bicyclists

Bike paths and bike lanes are scattered throughout the city like arteries all connecting to the heart of Portland,   with a total of 180 miles of bike lanes and 79 miles of off-street bike paths. The city has also built 30 miles of Bike Boulevards also known as neighborhood greenways reserved for bicyclists to safely ride freely throughout its city limits.

Bike lanes are stamped all around the city limits of Portland

Portland has been dubbed a Bicycling Mecca for its vibrant bike culture

Over the years the city of Portland has become a popularly known bicycling mecca in the US for its growing bicycle network and a world-class bicycling infrastructure. This has been partly accredited to the work done by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), a non-profit organization which for the past twenty plus years has worked in serving the Portland metro area on a mission “to promote bicycling and improve bicycling conditions in Oregon.” 

The offices of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance

2008 was a big year for the Rose City. After campaigning for years for the city to go Platinum, The League of American Bicyclists awarded Portland as the first major US city the title of Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community. Portland has rightly earned this status because “Anyone who wants to ride can ride,”  said BTA Communication Director, Margaux Mennesson. Portland was the first US city to implement bike boxes at intersections and elementary-school bike commuting trains.

The BTA has been a leading bike advocacy non-profit organization in Portland and in the state of Oregon for the past twenty years

Portland offers bicyclists many places to ride

Portlanders can ride safely around the city sharing the road with drivers

A cyclist’s paradise

Fast-forward to 2012. Portland reclaimed the first spot on Bicycling magazine‘s list of  America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities, before Minneapolis in 2nd and Boulder, CO in 3d place. The BTA is currently in the works of publishing the Blue Print for Better Biking, “a guide for building a world-class network with the highest standards for our region.”  Between the summers of 2012 through the spring of 2013, the BTA will engage policy experts, cycling advocates, and the public in order to make this happen. Portlanders meanwhile continue to ride, and a new bike shop in the city is probably the first to offer bike valet parking.

Get in touch with the author @alicperez.

Once upon a time there was a 1982 Chevy step van that was transformed from a raggedy old van to a beautiful letterpress print shop with the help of   Kyle Durrie and a little magic. A dash of man power and a touch of elbow grease crafted today’s only on-the-go letterpress truck in the country nicknamed the “Sweetheart of the Road.” 

The Moveable Type Truck was a dream come true for Kyle Durrie, a letterpress printer and proprietor of Power and Light Press that was born during the late summer of 2010, after going on a cross-country tour with her boyfriend’s band Run on Sentence. “By the time we got home from the tour, I had started dreaming my Moveable Type truck. I thought it would be a really different way for me to travel, and also a really inspirational adventure, learning a ton, and sharing what I know about this craft that I am so passionate about,”  described Durrie.

Over the last decade, a do-it-yourself (DIY) hand-made craft movement has swept across major North American cities and abroad. The Moveable Type Truck is a perfect fit to Portland as an urban epicenter of creative indie-entrepreneurship.   “I’ve always been a hands-on girl, and had made a living as an artist (drawing) before getting into letterpress. But this renaissance has definitely created a welcoming community for me to get involved in,”  said Durrie.

In 1440, Johannes Guttenberg created the first commercial form of printing for the past 500 years. Fast-forward to 2012, letterpress print making has seen a revival within cities of creative hubs across North America and abroad. “I’ve been letterpress printing since 2006 and have run my own shop, Power and Light Press, since 2009. This project is an extension of my full-time printing work,”  said Durrie.

“And so, on one sunny day in April, my brother and I tore everything out. Floors, walls, ceilings, ratty in”¦everything down to the metal skeleton”¦Turns out that diving right into demolition work and spending some time working under the truck is an incredibly empowering experience, and was just what I needed to feel like maybe, just maybe this was something I could actually pull off,”  recounted the creator of the Moveable Type Truck.

Durrie is currently enjoying a little R and R after nearly finishing a year-long tour across the states and tapping into the country above us in the Great White North. Folks may find Durrie and her letterpress truck from August through October throughout the Pacific Northwest. “It sounds kind of cheesy, but most of my moments on the road were memorable. There were very few disappointing days or experiences. Mostly this was because every single day I got to share something with someone new. It never got old, seeing the expression of joy when someone who had never printed before peeled up their sheet of paper off the press”¦there was always a ‘wow!’ moment, and it felt really good being able to foster that,”  said Durrie.

Kyle parks her truck at schools, universities, libraries, shops, galleries and many more places.

Kyle’s letterpress print shop on-the-road appears to be the queen of the highways as the only truck bringing letterpress print making into the neighborhoods of folks of both rural and urban neighborhoods. “I don’t know of any other letterpress trucks that are out on the road-ready yet”¦And I met a lot of other mobile businesses/projects along the way, from a traveling zine library, to a vintage clothing store in a bus, and I recently heard   about a letterpress bike set up, which sounds cool,”  said Durrie.

Kyle and her truck are currently wrapping up their 2012 tour ending in the Pacific Northwest.

Get in touch with the author @alicperez.