ANCIENT ART OF SEA SILK by Britt Howard

One of Chiara Vigo's embroideries using sea silk. Image: Pietro Melis

One of Chiara Vigo's embroideries using sea silk. Image: Pietro Melis

It has the makings of a fairytale: off the coast of Italy lives Chiara Vigo, perhaps the last person to harvest, spin, weave and embroider, sea silk, also known as byssus. Vigo spends the early mornings diving into the sea and harvesting this rare material from large clams which remain unharmed during the process. The sea silk is treated with lemon juice and spices, giving it a golden tone.

In Vigo's workshop, "The Museum of Byssus" nothing is for sale. Vigo asserts that selling this sacred thread, which her family has harvested and worked with for generations, would "...be like commercializing the flight of an eagle." Instead, she embroiders, weaves, and gives the thread away to her community. She calls bysuss "the soul of the sea." Explore more of Vigo's fascinating story in this BBC article. 

Chiara Vigo with a clam shell that is home to bysuss. Image: Andrea Pasquali 

Chiara Vigo with a clam shell that is home to bysuss. Image: Andrea Pasquali 

It can take up to 400 dives to collect less than half a pound of sea silk. Image: Pietro Melis

It can take up to 400 dives to collect less than half a pound of sea silk. Image: Pietro Melis

"BITCH" JUST MEANS "BOYS, I'M TAKING CHARGE HERE" by Britt Howard

PGF's Britt Howard & AKQA UX Designer Aimée Reed. Photo: Jayne Liu

PGF's Britt Howard & AKQA UX Designer Aimée Reed. Photo: Jayne Liu

That brilliant headline came directly from an attendee at the first ever Portland Ladies Get Paid Women & Money Town Hall at Swift. The panel, which included PGF's very own Britt Howard, and audience (a record 150!) spoke honestly about their experiences facing prejudices, advocating for themselves in the workplace, and learning to lead a fulfilling life beyond career aspirations. For insightful key takeaways from the event, including negotiation tips and how to use crime TV to track your work hours (!), visit the Ladies Get Paid blog. The next Ladies Get Paid Portland Town Hall will be on November 8th, link to tickets and info HERE

Attendees share their stories. Photo: Jayne Liu

Attendees share their stories. Photo: Jayne Liu

Color Study: Turmeric by Britt Howard

SOFT OBJECTS FOR A HARD WORLD: AN INTERVIEW WITH MALIA JENSEN, PGF'S PILOT Artist-in-Residence by Britt Howard

Malia Jensen in her PGF studio. 

Malia Jensen in her PGF studio. 

PGF pilot Artist-in-Residence, Malia Jensen, sits down with PGF’s Gabi Lewton-Leopold, to talk about design projects she’s exploring during her three month residency at PGF.

Gabi Lewton-Leopold: Your work seems to occupy two main strains: a fine art, primarily sculptural, practice and design objects that have a functional quality. How do you see these two sides of your practice?

Malia Jensen: With the design side, I feel like I get to explore more humor and be a little more lighthearted and maybe explore ideas that I wouldn’t put in my “serious” fine art practice. The turnaround is theoretically quicker. I get to processes something with a greater immediacy.

GLL: Have there been certain concepts that have crossed both sides of your practice?

MJ: I have an affection for useful things and tools, and I tend to think of my fine art as thinking tools with a conceptual aspect, like poetry versus an instruction manual. In contrast, my design objects, like the Bookworm, solve a very literal, direct problem for me, although the problem has an element of poetics too because it’s funny. In the case of the Bookworm, the problem is that your book won’t stay open. I want to address that with this finely made yet humble thing.

Bookworm in action.

Bookworm in action.

GLL: You've mentioned before that you make, “helpful objects that you didn’t know you needed.”

MJ: Yes, I think that part of what I wanted to do here at this residency was explore things that can take care of you. If you have a tool that maybe also makes you laugh and holds your book open while you're reading and eating dinner, or using a cookbook, or just looking at an art book that you want to stare at, if you have some nice way to keep it open, maybe it feels like someone is looking out for you.

GLL: And it also counters the feeling of there being so much crap in the world, physically and emotionally, because you are actually making thoughtful things that are helpful.

MJ: I was thinking of calling it “soft goods for a hard world.”

GLL: I like that! There’s also something very satisfying about the tactile materials you use.

MJ: Yes, and then there are pieces like the "spill your guts" fanny pack. I like morphing things that are gross and hard to think about, or painful, into things that are beautiful and approachable. That idea crosses over both sides of my work—when I say thinking tools in my art work, that is what I try and do too, to give a space for something to be reconsidered or redeemed. Redeeming pain. I like the word redeem because you can redeem a coupon for something or you can also redeem a soul. It’s the same word for this kind of transaction where you make something or turn something into something else, it’s shifting value.

The "spill your guts" fanny pack.

The "spill your guts" fanny pack.

GLL: I’m curious also about your use of materials in both sides of your work. You use so many different materials—fabric, ceramics, metals, wood, and so forth—in the past, and still do. You seem to have mastery over all of them!

MJ: I don’t know about mastery, I think I just have will. Funny because sometimes I go headlong into something I actually don’t know how to do, and by the end I’ll just be able to fool you that I knew what I was doing.

GLL: Are all these things mostly self taught?

MJ: Mostly.

GLL: What was first?

MJ: I studied painting and then I realized after I got out of school that I had an affinity for objects that I wasn’t addressing in painting. I guess art school at the time was really painting oriented, I don’t know it was the 80s!

GLL: What were your paintings like?

MJ: They were big figurative paintings that had a kind of portent—doom was always around the corner in pretty much everything. Now I add humor but doom is still around the corner! I’ve always made and built things, so I brought that into my work. I have makers and artists in my family; my mom always made a lot of things, from weaving to painting, and my dad was a potter.

GLL: What attracted you to the idea of a residency at PGF?

MJ: What drew me to it was partly that as an artist I often work in solitude. I love the idea of working with other people who are busy and are doing their own work. That in itself is an inspiration, just to be around people who are manifesting projects. I also wanted to experiment with a different kind of problem solving. This is a work place and I want to come and bring some of my problems into the work place and say “how do I work through this and make it into a viable design” or what ideas do I let go of? That has been really interesting because I’ve let go of a lot.

GLL: Did that surprise you?

MJ: Oh, kind of. There were a few high-minded ideas that I let go of in favor of pursuing things that are smaller and funnier, and maybe less about solving the world’s problems. This is a unique program, there's an aspect of independent study to it. You're in a busy environment and learning by looking, because of course, it’s a working factory. It’s not structured like other residency programs, it’s exposing you to a different practice. If it was a typical residency program you'd have a studio and just be left alone to pursue your work in a different space, surrounded by other artists who are also working in the solitude of their studio spaces, and you probably all get together for meals. The artist role as the PGF AiR is about self-driven projects but also about generating an exchange between art and industry.  It’s quite a different beast. I've found coming here 3 or 4 days a week gives me the time I need to maintain the rest of my studio practice and work life. 

GLL: Let’s talk about your new project that you are working on at PGF.

MJ: I’ve literally had allergic reactions to bras and have had a long obsession with not wearing them, so I decided to offer a service. If you send a t-shirt or sweater to me at PGF I'll sew leather pockets onto it so that you can feel defiantly discreet. I’m calling the company Sans-a-Bra... maybe. Particularly in the summer when it’s hot and you’re working outside or just doing anything physical, it's a challenge to feel comfortable while wearing bondage around your torso. I know that some women structurally need the support that leather pockets on your t-shirt just won't provide, but I want there to be another option. A "more comfortable" bra is still a bra. I think there’s a tyranny of squishing your nipples down, or putting adhesive products over them. Clothing, if it’s for women, is designed with the assumption that we're going to wear a bra under it. Shirts typically have one breast pocket, how about two? Then you have some coverage. Think of this as leather jackets for your breasts. 

Malia wearing her "Sans-a-Bra" work shirt. 

Malia wearing her "Sans-a-Bra" work shirt. 

GLL: How does the service work?

MJ: Put your T-shirt or sweater on, make sure it's straight, mark your nipples with tape, safety pins or chalk, send it to me here at PGF, or drop it off, and I’ll send it back with leather pockets on it. $20 for machine stitched shirts, $30 for hand-sewn sweaters. $5 for shipping would be great but you can also come pick it up at our super fun program launch/open studio at PGF on November 30 from 5:00- 7:00!

GLL: We started talking about developing this program back in June. How does this project and your other work here fit with how we envisioned the AiR program? 

MJ: After working with you and Britt this summer on shaping the program, and knowing it would develop as we went, it has been humbling and illuminating to actually be here as the AiR. Finding the reality between envisioning something and manifesting it is always interesting and the range of ideas I came in with has given me some solid satisfactions and some glorious failures. I let go of several project ideas pretty quickly but I feel great about what I am working on now. 

I think the Bookworm is a good example of my willingness to take what might be a funny, spontaneous idea far enough to make it into a sincerely useful and perhaps even chivalrous object. It wasn't something I'd planned to make prior to being here but it might be my favorite thing.

GLL: Can you talk about your decision to turn Sans-a-Bra into a service? 

MJ: The Sans-a-Bra project evolved from wanting to produce something (dare I say, a "line"!) that would be available for purchase, to becoming an alteration "service." It's interactive by nature and feels like a perfect fit with some of the mission ideas we talked about this summer, like creating ways to reach out to our shared communities and build conversation around creative endeavors.

GLL: Any other design ideas that you haven't had a chance to dive into yet? 

MJ: For years I've been obsessed with the apparent fact that there's no classy bag designed for the back of a wheelchair. My dad always used a tote bag pulled awkwardly sideways on the handles. This was an idea however, where I quickly realized I was over my head and also recognized it would be hard to finance, but I'm not done with it yet. I love the idea of collaboration and maybe there's still time to do something together with PGF when we're all not so busy with everything else!

Thanks to Malia for being our pilot Artist-in-Residence! She’s helping define and test out the program and we’re excited to also have her as a member of the AiR Advisory Board. Don’t forget to send or drop off your t-shirts and/or sweaters to Malia at PGF for her Sans-a-Bra service! She’ll be accepting orders at PGF through November 15th. Questions about this special service? Contact Malia directly: malia@maliajensen.com. Orders will be available for pick up during the AiR launch party/open studio on November 30 (5–7pm)! 

PGF LAUNCHES NEW ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE PROGRAM by Britt Howard

PGF's Britt Howard & Malia Jensen share a love for 1980s landlines

PGF's Britt Howard & Malia Jensen share a love for 1980s landlines

PGF is excited to announce its new Artist-in-Residence program, which seeks to create a dialogue between emerging and mid-career artists, and the daily operations of PGF. The PGF AiR program encourages the development of innovative work that reaches beyond the typical scope of the AiR’s practice, including the broadening of materials and processes and the exploration of new concepts within the factory setting. During their residency, artists are given access to PGF’s space, tools, materials, resources, and guidance from PGF staff. Artists are able to realize fabric-based projects with assistance from PGF’s team. The PGF AiR program encourages artists to explore the intersection between art, design, and manufacturing, and the ways in which the studio and the factory overlap.

PGF’s pilot AiR is celebrated Portland artist, Malia Jensen. Please join us at PGF for the launch party and open studio with Malia on November 30, 2017 (5–7pm) to learn more about the program and experience the work she has made during her residency. Malia will give a short artist talk at 6pm. 

SOFT SCULPTURE SURVEY: MIRANDA JULY by Britt Howard

Artangel & Miranda July present Norwood Jewish Charity Shop, London Buddhist Centre Charity Shop & Spitalfields Crypt Trust Charity Shop in solidarity with Islamic Relief Charity Shop at Selfridges (2017). Image: @mirandajuly

Artangel & Miranda July present Norwood Jewish Charity Shop, London Buddhist Centre Charity Shop & Spitalfields Crypt Trust Charity Shop in solidarity with Islamic Relief Charity Shop at Selfridges (2017). Image: @mirandajuly

Can a thrift shop be an art piece? Artist Miranda July thinks so. In collaboration with Artangel, an organization which supports art projects in unexpected spaces, July has set up a functioning inter-faith charity shop in Selfridges, a popular London department store. While charity shops, as they are called in London, are often run to support religious groups, July's temporary store is the only one to bring together four faiths under one roof. She collaborated with the four religious charities to stock the shelves and racks with clothing, objects, art, books, and all the other treasures you'd hope to find in your favorite thrift shop. Proceeds will be divided evenly between the organizations with 2.5% going to another charity of their choosing, to keep the funds flowing forward. July's project is not only a thoughtful and lively bridging of diverse cultures and belief systems, but it's also a rare opportunity for the public to participate in a living art work, even if they are unaware of starring their role. More info on this exciting project can be found HERE and on Miranda July's Instagram! 

Image: Hugo Glendinning © Artangel

Image: Hugo Glendinning © Artangel

COZY PROJECT: USING FABRIC SCRAPS TO DO GOOD by Britt Howard

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It’s amazing to see what PGF fabric scraps become once they leave our doors. As a zero waste factory all of PGF’s fabric scraps are either donated to the community or recycled. Our scraps have taken on new lives as leather accessories, patchwork blankets, and latch hook rugs—they’ve even been used to stuff punching bags!

One of our favorite community programs that uses PGF fabric scraps is the Cozy Project started by Portland artist and founder of PenFelt Studio, LeBrie Rich. For the past eight years LeBrie has been teaching teen sewing workshops in public libraries. Two years ago she started the Cozy Project which teaches teens and youth how to sew mittens, hats, scarves, and tote bags. The handmade accessories are donated to Rose Haven, a women’s day shelter in NW Portland. LeBrie noted that her program gained momentum when teens started making items for Rose Haven, “What these teens need is to be needed for a project. Along the way I’ve learned that all people are eager for a chance to do something for others—especially if it is working with your hands and making something cool!”

The Cozy Project has received a great response from the community. From sewing machine and fabric donations, to crafters volunteering their time, the program continues to grow and thrive. Interested in getting involved? The Cozy Project has two upcoming workshops for grades 6–8 at the Capitol Hill Library on November 1st & December 5th, more info HERE! Also check out LeBrie's website HERE for news of upcoming workshops and projects. 

All images courtesy of LeBrie Rich

NORTH PORTLAND UNKNOWN FILM FEST THIS WEEKEND by Britt Howard

Happy a film by Joy Risk screening at the North Portland Unknown Film Festival

Happy a film by Joy Risk screening at the North Portland Unknown Film Festival

Looking for some out-of-the-box entertainment on Friday October 13th & Saturday the 14th? Join PGF's Production Manager at Disjecta for her labor of love, the North Portland Unknown Film Festival! The Unknown promises an exciting weekend long line-up of underground films from Portland to Portugal. See you in the popcorn line! 
 

PROJECT FOCUS: SCOUT BOOKS PORTFOLIO by Britt Howard

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PGF collaborated with Scout Books, makers of our all-time favorite notebooks, to design and fabricate a custom portfolio to showcase their wares. With a sturdy black canvas exterior and two-tone grey felt interior designed to hold a variety of notebooks, these beauties are ready to hit the road with the Scout Books team! A behind the scenes look below! And even more on the Scout Books blog

And voila! The portfolios complete with blue and yellow zippers—the signature Scout Books palette! 

And voila! The portfolios complete with blue and yellow zippers—the signature Scout Books palette! 

MINI MAKER FAIRE FUN by Britt Howard

These mini makers created flower bracelets from leather scraps! 

These mini makers created flower bracelets from leather scraps! 

PGF's booth at the OMSI Mini Maker Faire 2017 was a blast! Feeling inspired by the boundless creative energy of the kiddos we met over the weekend! 

PROJECT FOCUS: ADIDAS ORIGINALS CRAZY DUFFELS by Britt Howard

Playboi Carti & Young Thung sporting Crazy adidas Originals (note the "Crazy" Lamborghini!)

Playboi Carti & Young Thung sporting Crazy adidas Originals (note the "Crazy" Lamborghini!)

Our most luxurious accessory to date: plush leather duffel bags for the adidas Originals' Crazy 8 ADV capsule collection! The process began with duffel prototypes made from black canvas, and ended with 100 limited edition screen printed leather bags lined with soft satin. Trust us, these babes are truly DELUXE! Click through to see the process unfold:

TYLER GLICKMAN/HYPEBEAST

TYLER GLICKMAN/HYPEBEAST

TYLER GLICKMAN/HYPEBEAST

TYLER GLICKMAN/HYPEBEAST

TYLER GLICKMAN/HYPEBEAST

TYLER GLICKMAN/HYPEBEAST

WEAR THE TWIST FOR HURRICANE RELIEF by Britt Howard

Remember the TWIST DRESS designed & made at PGF? It's one dress that can be worn multiple ways! We're selling the last precious few from our archives to support hurricane relief for both Irma and Harvey. Funds will be divided between All Hands to support Hurricane Irma relief, and the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

Sizes range from XS–L; $120 (US shipping included. All sales final). The reversible dress, originally $475, is made from comfy curpro from Japan, dyed in LA, and sewn by the PGF team. Send your desired size and shipping address to gabi@portlandgarmentfactory.com. A big thank you to those who have already ordered the twist dress for this fundraiser!  

PROJECT FOCUS: ELLEN LESPERANCE'S W.I.T.C.H. CLOAKS by Britt Howard

The feminist/socialist collective, W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), first established in NYC in 1968, has emerged in years since in various locales, including a current Portland chapter. The long history of the activist group inspired Portland artist, Ellen Lesperance’s recent project W.I.T.C.H. 1985, on view at the Portland Art Museum through Nov. 5th. PGF was honored to collaborate with Ellen on the 13 black wool cloaks, which before being displayed at the Museum, were part of a series of performances at the Seattle Art Fair. Ellen based the design for the garments on a cloak worn by an activist at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, which was featured in a scene from the 1985 made for television video, "Can't Beat It Alone."

 Process images and photographs of Ellen’s performance below!

The cloaks in action: W.I.T.C.H. 1985 performance at the Seattle Art Fair (images courtesy of Adams & Ollman). Wooden pentagram pedestal by Jason Rens

The performance continued outside in Seattle's Pioneer Square. Image: @ellenlesperance

The performance continued outside in Seattle's Pioneer Square. Image: @ellenlesperance

WEAVING WORKSHOP WRAP-UP by Britt Howard

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We had a blast hosting an off loom weaving workshop with Bay Area fiber artist, Meghan Bogden Shimek last Sunday. Amazing to see how everyone's weavings, although made from the same material (wool roving), were utterly unique—and so beautiful!

Roving, roving, roving and students in full weaving mode! 

Roving, roving, roving and students in full weaving mode! 

PGF's Britt Howard and Sasha cooking up some fluffy wall hangings.

PGF's Britt Howard and Sasha cooking up some fluffy wall hangings.

This lovely student brought her adorable new born! 

This lovely student brought her adorable new born! 

Meghan also made and installed a few pieces at PGF. Next time your in the neighborhood, stop by to check them out!

GUEST POST FROM PGF'S SUMMER INTERNS by Britt Howard

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Hi! This is a guest blog post from PFG's 2017 summer interns, Hanna and Calli. Over the summer we have been involved in various projects at PGF, and we wanted to share two fun ones we've worked on. 

The first project was well-suited for PGF's commitment to reduce the amount of fabric waste in the clothing industry. Together we collaborated on a few pieces of clothing made from fabric scraps. 

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"I like the challenge of working with the limited nature of piecing together scraps into something wearable, functional, and fashionable."
~ Calli

First, Calli went through the scraps and found some that she wanted to work with, then she sketched out ideas for what the scraps could become. 

The next day, we settled on a design, which was a coat that had panels of large white mesh, and sleeves of tighter mesh with variations on the mesh throughout the piece. We also wanted to make a slip dress from some satin we had found to compliment the coat. We started by overlocking the fabric squares for the coat. 

Then, we adjusted the panels on a dress form to find the fit we were looking for and made alterations.

This went back and forth until the panels were where we wanted them, and then we worked on the sleeves. 

And behold the finished look! 

Another project we worked on this summer was preparing for PGF's booth at OMSI's Mini Maker Faire (September 16–17). Our booth activity involves making wearable and usable items from leather, metal snaps, and fringe, so stop on by! Calli prepared the leather for our activity, and made some samples of the finished products. 

Our booth decoration is very... flower-y! Hanna cut out all the pieces and combined sewing with iron-on glue patches to complete our photo booth. 

"During my time at PGF I really enjoyed discovering the hidden gems within the scrap bins and making projects like these flowers come to life!" 
~ Hanna

LADIES GET PAID upcoming town hall by Britt Howard

We're nearing 2020—flying cars are on the horizon, and we're still dealing with a gender pay gap?! Women earn 83% of what men earn, and although women comprise 60% of today's college graduates, less than 22% move into upper management. Apparently, the "business woman's special" ain't so special. 

As a woman owned and powered company, PGF is thrilled to get involved with Ladies Get Paid, a supportive network promoting female leadership and helping women advocate for what they need and deserve at work. Join PGF's Britt Howard and a panel of rad women at Swift Agency on August 30th (6:30–9pm) for a Women & Money Town Hall. Ladies, come share your experiences!