Amazing artisans offer ‘green’ crafts at unique store

See why the folks who think ‘Buy Local’ is more than just a slogan are checking many of their Holiday gift needs at Trillium Artisans this year. Amazingly, many shoppers shop there online, and don’t even have to visit the store on SE Foster Road …

Hundreds of unique gift items, all crafted locally from recycled materials, await shoppers at Trillium Artisans.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Holiday season is upon us, and many folks are finding amazing solutions to their gift-giving quandaries – all while “Buying Local”, and supporting local artisans.

Trillium Artisans – they started in 1999 as the “Eco-Biz Program” – adopted their new name, represented by the three-pointed trillium flower, for a good reason, said Executive Director Amanda McCloskey, at their 11th Holiday Open House on November 13. “We operate on a ‘triple bottom line’ of people, planet, and profit.”

Trillium Artisans’ Executive Director, Amanda McCloskey, helps visitors find unique gift ideas at their SE Foster Road store.

Their program, funded in part by the City of Portland, helps lower-income craftspeople to build their business. “All of our artisans create their products using at least 50% recycled or reclaimed material. It’s a green community economic development program,” pointed out McCloskey.

“It’s not a ‘sheltered workshop’; we provide small-business counseling and access to markets for our nearly 50 artisans. We don’t teach craft-making, we help the artists build a sustainable business.”

Mary L. K. Davis shows one of her “sewn arts” on sale at the Trillium Artisans store.

One of the artisans at the open house, Mary L. K. Davis, works and lives in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood – specifically, Errol Heights.

“I first started working with Trillium Artisans by serving on their advisory committee since 2001,” said Davis. “I did so, because, in the back of my mind, I knew that I would ‘grow up’ and want to become a Trillium Artisan myself someday. Sure enough, the time came when I decided to start a small craft business.”

With the support of Trillium, her company, Above the Surface, started up not long ago. About her style, Davis explained, “Whimsy is a great counter to imperfection, and returning quality and value to the discarded item can induce a giggle or two.”

Davis, who has served on Trillium’s board since 2004, held up a shopping bag she manufactures and sells. “My line is kitchen linens, aprons, towels, and hot pads. I also make small gift boxes out of recycled calendars.”

In addition to selling her products at Trillium Artisans, Davis also has them in stores like “e.moreland market & KITCHEN” on SE Knapp Street, and Elemental Arts, in the Brooklyn neighborhood on SE Pershing Street, just east of Brooklyn Park.

Fused glass artist Naomi Berg says the organization has helped her set up and run her home-based business.

Sellwood’s Naomi Berg joined up with Trillium in July, she said as she greeted guests at the open house. “I’ve always loved working with glass. A few years ago, I was looking for a new creative outlet, and took glass-fusing classes.”

After working with glass for 2½ years, this “full time mom and home-school teacher” decided to start a home-based business, called Transformations Glassworks.

“I get auto glass and old window glass scraps from Precision Glass here on SE Foster Road,” explained Berg. “With the kiln in my basement, I’ll fuse several layers of glass. Then, I ‘slump’ it into the shape of a vase, bowl or plate.”

A friend recommended Trillium Artisans several years ago. “I drove by and saw the storefront. But then, as a small businessperson trying to make my art into a business, it felt really overwhelming. Trillium provides a lot of resources that really helped,” Berg reflected.

See her products at the Trillium store, or read more about Berg at her blog: CLICK HERE to open that webpage.

Jason Greene says he gets a kick out of recycling skateboard decks into toys – like this top.

Another artist we met at the open house, Jason Greene, said he’s a “stay-at-home-dad” who hails from North Portland.

We were fascinated by his craft: Making toys and wine bottle stoppers out of recycled skateboards decks.

“I’ve been doing it for about a year now,” Greene told us. “I’ve been a longtime skateboarder. The stacks of old skateboard decks have been piling up but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. So I started making stuff out of them.”

A skateboard’s deck – the platform to which the trucks and wheels are attached, are made from laminated birch and maple ply, pointed out Greene. “It’s really beautiful wood. And, with the scratched up graphics on the surface, it’s like the toy already has a ‘history’ that comes with it.”

See Greene’s crafts at the Trillium store, or buy them online through their website.

Extended holiday hours now in effect
Holiday hours at the shop are 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. To 4:00 p.m., through Christmas. Trillium Artisans is located at 9119 SE Foster Road.; or see their website at CLICK HERE. Or, shop online at their site on Etsy.com: CLICK HERE.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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