Design Week Portland Artist Feature: Zenbox Design

Karma, Jen and Bryan Danger

Karma, Jen and Bryan Danger

Bryan Danger started Zenbox Design after a May 2014 article in the New York Times featuring he and his partner Jen’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) garnered a lot of attention. Bryan has a master of Architecture from UofO but moved into Graphic Design and somehow found himself working in a high-tech corporate office for 14 years. After a year driving through Mexico and Central America in their 67 VW Bus, Bryan and Jen moved back to Portland to start on their new path. The problem? They had renters in their home. Solution? They had a 480-square foot garage that wasn’t being used. They designed and built out the garage into a cozy living space. Word got out quickly and readers and neighbors alike were demanding Bryan design their ADU and custom furniture. Hesitant at first, the couple wanted to keep their new found “nomadic balance”. Though they had been working with neighbors for free for some time, zenbox design was officially born and takes on a few clients every year for custom homes and furniture. The rest of the time the couple rents their garage on

The problem? They had renters in their home. Solution? They had a 480-square foot garage that wasn’t being used. They designed and built out the garage into a cozy living space. Word got out quickly and folks started requesting Bryan design their ADU and custom furniture. Hesitant at first, the couple wanted to keep their new found “nomadic balance”. Though they had been working with neighbors for free for some time, Zenbox Design was officially born and takes on a few clients every year for custom homes and furniture. The rest of the time the couple rents their garage on Airbnb and travels with their dog, Karma, around the continent in their custom sprintervan (another Zenbox project).

1. How would you refer to yourself? Woodworker? Artisan? Craftsman?
Designer/Creative. Our designs range from custom furniture and installations to small custom homes.

2. How did you get started?
Ive always designed/built as much of my own furniture/environment as I could. In 2013, my wife and I had downsized and purged all our belongings to take a 2 year road trip. Upon returning we hated the idea of simply buying all our furniture rather than each piece being intentional, and started designing/building them instead.

The garage transformed into an ADU.

The garage transformed into an ADU, courtesy of zenboxdesign.com

3. Why wood?
Our designs tend to use a combination of wood and steel, but we feel wood is critical because of the softness and warmth it brings to a space. All the better if that wood is also reclaimed and has a story/history to tell.

4. What was the first thing you made from wood?
As best I can recall, a 3’ tall model of the Trojan Horse, when I was 6th grade. As Zenbox design, I think our first piece was a steel and reclaimed wood barstool that we still use (and offer to clients) today.

Barstool

Bar stool

5. What does being creative meant to you?
It’s simply how my brain works—I have to be designing or creating something to feel active or alive. It’s not a switch I can turn off and I naturally find my brain creatively redesigning every space I walk into and everything I touch.

6. Do you have any rituals?
None.

7. What is your favorite piece?
Our tiny home has a bar/island that takes up no space on a day to day basis but can roll out to seat 6–8 when we entertain. It’s a 6’ long slab of reclaimed fir we took out of the house in the remodel and it seems to be the perfect combination of creative reuse because the material is serving in its second life and the piece itself serves multiple roles (and is also the centerpiece of our home).

6' slab of reclaimed fir, courtesy of zenboxdesign.com

6′ slab of reclaimed fir, courtesy of zenboxdesign.com

8. Who inspires you?
Anyone who is thinking and living outside the box, breaking norms and following their dreams!

9. What do you hope to communicate through your work?
Clean lines. Elegant simplicity. Functional beauty.

10. If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
We seem to be constantly reinventing ourselves, so “this” is different every day.  Luckily we seem to keep finding clients that push our creativity and expertise, so the evolution of Zenbox Design is created by the projects and clients we choose to partner with. If we one day run out of both client and personal projects, I guess I would likely become a tattoo artist, or scuba diving instructor, or both.

11. The ultimate piece you want to create?
I feel like each new client presents this opportunity.  The goal is always to design that person or families’ perfect custom home. To craft both the environment and pieces within it in a creative and functional way so that their living space literally transforms their lifestyle.

12. What’s your favorite thing about PDX?
The people. The creatives. The dreamers.  We travel much of the year and have yet to find anyplace with the intense diversity, creativity, and “weirdness” that is Portland. It’s almost impossible to not be charged or pushed creatively here. We live our lives outside the box and Portland seems to the only place where that is not only accepted but fully understood and supported/celebrated!

13. Favorite song?
Anything with a fiddle.

14. Favorite bridge?
Steel.

15. Favorite neighborhood
Division/Hawthorne.

16. What’s your favorite tool?
The planer. The process of getting just beneath the surface of reclaimed wood to find out what beauty lies beneath, it never gets old.

zen barcart for Design Week Portland

zen bar carts for Design Week Portland

Bryan and Jen Danger from Zenbox Design at read:grain, works with reclaimed wood on Friday, April 28th from 4-7pm during Design Week Portland. For more information, go here.

Design Week Portland Artist Feature: Global Homestead Garage

Philip Krain from Global Homestead Garage, art by Jennifer Korsen

Philip Krain from Global Homestead Garage, art by Jennifer Korsen

Philip Krain is an entrepreneur, consultant, and founder of Global Homestead Garage whose mission is to provide community members a platform to grow big ideas using shared resources. A series of fortunate events lead to his dream of running an incubator space for makers in Portland; in 2016 he received an email in his junk folder that advertised a business for sale. That business was Shop People, which is the original community makers space. It hosts around 30 artisans in the heart of the eastside industrial district. There is event space, artist studios, a lounge; shared equipment is provided for jewelers, metal workers, and wood workers—all now part of Global Homestead Garage thanks to that email.

1. How would you refer to yourself? Woodworker? Artisan? Craftsman?
My primary role within the Global Homestead Garage is to create a platform for artisans and small businesses to grow big ideas using shared resources. When given the opportunity, I enjoy designing and creating with natural and upcycled materials.

2. How did you get started?
My previous career as a renewable energy developer allowed me to work with architects on active and passive solar design. My recent hands-on work has focused on landscape design and implementation as well as home remodeling. As a result of these projects, I took an industrial design class, which solidified my passion for problem-solving design.

3. Why wood?
I love working with wood, as it is a natural, beautiful, and soothing material. Although it’s a renewable resource, we need to honor its scarcity, reclaim its integrity, and enhance its value in our life.

4. What was the first thing you made from wood?
I remember making an ash baseball bat in seventh-grade shop class. It wasn’t the best piece of wood and it broke shortly after I began to use it. As an adult, I turned a stick shift knob for my Jeep from a chunk of maple burl.

5. What does being creative mean to you?
To me, being creative means finding realistic solutions using limited resources (tangible or intangible) and unlimited options.

6. Do you have any rituals?
No, but I should make time for some…

7. What is your favorite piece?
I love our front yard. It’s an all-encompassing portfolio of permaculture, craftsman, and playful design.

Phillip's front yard project.

Phillip’s front yard project.

 

8. Who inspires you?
Children inspire me because no one should bare the burden of fixing other people’s mess. We need to work to clean our mess so that the children of children can enjoy their lives.

9. What do you hope to communicate through your work?
There is inherent value in many items that have been deemed worthless and may be headed for the landfill.

10. If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
Great question. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

11. The ultimate piece you want to create?
Global Homestead Garage is my ultimate project.

Lobby at Global Homestead Garage

Lobby at Global Homestead Garage

12. What’s your favorite thing about PDX?
It used to be the smell of beer riding my bike down West Burnside at 2 am. Today, it’s the positive energy of all the people. My neighbors continue to rally as leaders within our community for a life designed with sustainable intention.

13. Favorite song?
Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue – “So What”.

14. Favorite bridge?
The Sellwood Bridge.

15. Favorite neighborhood?
Sellwood.

16. What’s your favorite tool?
My laptop.

Doug fir used for Philip's table for Design Week Portland

Doug fir used for Philip’s table for Design Week Portland

Philip Krain from Global Homestead Garage at read:grain, works with reclaimed wood on Friday, April 28th from 4-7pm during Design Week Portland. For more information, go here.

Design Week Portland Artist Feature: Work PDX

Henry Silvestrini and Billy

Henry Silvestrini and Billy

Henry Silvestrini has been working at ADX since 2013. His mother was an art teacher and so Henry has been immersed in a creative world from a young age. After studying neuroscience in college he realized that this was not the career path he wanted and refocused on the studio art classes he had started to take at ADX in his free time.

Henry joined ADX’s shop steward program making tables, cabinets, and furniture. Now, in addition to leading the fabrication department, he has begun his own woodworking business, Work PDX. Henry’s project for our Design Week Portland Open House makes use of timbers reclaimed from Centennial Mills.

1. How would you refer to yourself? Woodworker? Artisan? Craftsman?
Fabricator/Designer.

2. How did you get started?
I started building things in college (4 years of studio art/sculpture).

3. Why wood?
Every piece is different and the tools you need to work it are accessible to someone just starting out.

Timber from Centennial Mills

Timber from Centennial Mills

4. What was the first thing you made from wood?
A toy sword as a kid.

5. What does being creative meant to you?
I’m not sure. I guess just having the desire to come up with new ideas or solutions.

6. Do you have any rituals?
None other than my morning coffee.

7. What is your favorite piece?
Michael Heizer’s, “City”. There are not many people who successfully build objects that stand against the scale of nature. He gets close.

My favorite pieces that I’ve made are cast aluminum coyote skulls. Melting and pouring metal by hand is exciting.

Cast aluminum coyote skulls

Cast aluminum coyote skulls


8. Who inspires you?
My biggest influence was my sculpture teacher from college Mike Rathbun. The man could build anything from wood and he did. He also emphasized consideration before building.

9. What do you hope to communicate through your work?
Nothing. I’m happy if people look at it and think, “that’s cool.” I’m interested in ideas of permanence and weight; I like to build big heavy things that will last.

10. If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
Working on my house. I bought a teardown and I made the mistake of fixing it up one room at a time.

11. Ultimate piece you want to create
A fire lookout tower out in the middle of nowhere. I love having a view, and living 50’ the air sounds perfect.

12. What’s your favorite thing about PDX?
The people and the food.

13. Favorite song?
Mean, by Taylor Swift. Classic.

14. Favorite bridge?
Steel Bridge.

15. Favorite neighborhood?
South East.

16. What’s your favorite tool?
A table saw

One of the timbers used to make the lamps for Design Week Portland.

One of the timbers used to make the lamps for Design Week Portland.

Henry Silvestrini from Work PDX at read:grain, works with reclaimed wood on Friday, April 28th from 4-7pm during Design Week Portland. For more information, go here.

Design Week Portland Artist Feature: Wessinger Woodworks

Bill Wessinger in his woodshop
Bill Wessinger in his woodshop

Bill Wessinger in his woodshop

Bill Wessinger is a sixth-generation native Portlander. He grew up working with his grandfather, Clay, who was always building things in his garage workshop. From the 1st grade until he graduated high school Bill was in the school shop. After college, Bill began building boats and substitute teaching for his former shop teacher. In 2014, he began working for a local nonprofit teaching a mix of boatbuilding, woodworking, and math and introduced him to the community hub of ADX. Since joining the fabrication team at ADX, Bill has worked on his own company Wessinger Woodworks, providing custom made furniture and sculpture.

1. How would you refer to yourself? Woodworker? Artisan? Craftsman?
I think of myself primarily as a woodworker. There are a lot of folks describing themselves as makers these days, but I think of myself more as part of a continuation of the studio furniture movement that has been quietly going on for decades. The newer maker movement I see as being much more focused on integrating electronics and computer modeling into how they make things.

The use of hand tools features prominently in my work, and I think the traditional sense of craftsmanship applies to my work. I’m not sure you can talk in terms of craftsmanship, at least not in the traditional sense, when your pieces are cut out of plywood by a laser cutter or cnc machine. That’s not to say that the things made that way are of a lesser quality in terms of their function or durability, but I think there is something that has been lost when things are made that way.

2. How did you get started?
My grandfather was someone who was always building things, and he would often find ways to involve me and my brothers in his projects. He passed away when I was only about 13, but I think those projects helped me learn to love working with my hands.

Growing up I also went to a K-12 school that even now continues to have a woodworking program. They had me pounding nails into a stump starting in kindergarten or first grade. In high school, shop was an elective that I took all four years. This foundation gave me the skills and the confidence needed to start building boats and to take on a variety of ambitious projects after college.

One of Bill's boats from Wessinger Woodworks website

One of Bill’s boats
from Wessinger Woodworks website

 

3. Why wood?
It is organic and it has a warmth to it. When working with wood we are trying to make things as perfect as possible out of an imperfect material. Wood’s imperfect nature is both a constraint and a challenge; the design is incredibly important and must take things like shrinking, swelling, and grain direction. There is always more to learn, new challenges to be faced, and I enjoy that.

4. What was the first thing you made from wood?
I’m not sure its the first thing I made, but I still have a wooden ladder I made in first grade. It’s only about 5′ tall and pretty narrow but for all the nails in it only just two that are bent over—one where I tried to pound through a knot. There was a good lesson there.

Ladder Bill made in 1st grade

Ladder Bill made in 1st grade

 

5. What does being creative meant to you?
I think that one of the most important ways of being creative is being able to take lessons learned in different places and being able to put them together in new ways.

6. Do you have any rituals?
Not that I can think of.

7. What is your favorite piece?
I have a short bench I made during my junior year of high school. It’s made of just three pieces of wood, cut from the same board—a display at the old OMSI from when it was next to the zoo. It’s very tight, straight grained fir, and the pieces are arranged so the grain is continuous up one leg, across the top and down the other leg. The corners are joined with what is called a twisted dovetail. Its a traditional Japanese joint that is very rarely used and for good reason. Instead of having pins and tails where one piece fits into the other, sliding at a 90-degree angle, this joint has a series of fins which are compound angles, with each one alternating which was it is angled. The two pieces have to slide together at a 45-degree angle. Its hard to describe and probably harder to make, but it turned out quite well. It sits in the corner of my bedroom.

Bench from 11th Grade with Japanese twisted dovetail joints.

Bench from 11th Grade with Japanese twisted dovetail joints.

 

8. Who inspires you?
My love of the outdoors and of the material. I think all my designs are influenced by me feeling that while wood is a renewable resource, it is also often over-harvested, and even where it isn’t necessarily over harvested it will tend to have negative consequences for the environment. That sense inspires me to create designs that will honor the material while building pieces that are light without being delicate.

9. If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
If I’d known about it in college I probably would have studied industrial design, and I could see moving in that direction in the future. I love thinking about the place where the design of an object and how we experience those pieces as people meet.

10. The ultimate piece you want to create?
Hans Wegner talked early in his prolific career about designing “just one good chair.” I think he came to recognize that such a chair didn’t really exist, but there is still something there about trying to design and build a chair that looks good, is comfortable, lightweight and durable. Something that instantly feels like a classic. There is something elusive and seductive there.

11. What’s your favorite thing about PDX?
People are interested in applying their creativity towards improving so many things, I like that.

12. Favorite song?
I’ve been turning up Tiderays, by Volcano Choir

13. Favorite bridge?
I enjoy biking across the lower deck of the steel bridge, and I enjoy kayaking under Tilikum Crossing.

14. Favorite neighborhood?
A couple years ago I lived walking distance from that stretch of Stark between about 76th and 82nd with the Academy theater and all the different restaurants and pubs and such. If I could own my ideal home in any neighborhood that might be where I would want to be. Preferably just high enough to see Mt Hood on a clear day.

15. What’s your favorite tool?
Probably the chisel. It requires a lot of attention to the grain of the wood, how the tool feels and how it sounds as you are using it, and they must be kept sharp, but when those things line up the results can be so precise and so rewarding.

Bill holds the prototype for the chair he is making for Design Week Portland.

Bill holds the prototype for the chair he is making for Design Week Portland.

Bill Wessinger from Wessinger Woodworks at read:grain, works with reclaimed wood on Friday, April 28th from 4-7pm during Design Week Portland. For more information, go here.