Craft beer, food trucks, handmade goods: there are some Portland, OR features that live up to their stereotype. Portland is famously a city of makers, and it didn’t get that reputation without a certain level of truth. Indeed, the destination made famous by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein is unabashedly proud to be a place that laid-back, plaid-clad artisans can call home. “Keep Portland Weird” isn’t just an emblem painted on the side of a building near Voodoo Doughnuts—it’s a mantra.
There is a certain level of widespread Portlandia thinking that suggests, “If they can do it, I can, too”. This DIY attitude culminates in many shapes and forms, one of prominence being ADX Portland. The shared workshop facility provides a space for members to learn, develop, and explore their skills—whether they be first-timers, hobbyists, or professionals. “We try to promote Portland as a hub for makers,” says communications director Matt Preston, who moved to Portland from Florida in part because of ADX. With over 150 members, ADX’s group is “a total mix,” says Preston. “We’ve got master craftsmen next to people who have never been off of a computer.”
There are multiple layers to ADX, the first being the basic woodworking area and metalworking zone (complete with a power tool station inside a shipping container) that take up the bulk of the large warehouse. Beyond that, the facility also houses a design lab with computers and a 3D printer, a café, a sewing space, and a small display shop at which supporters can purchase some of the items made right on site. For beginners, ADX offers pop-ups, classes, and one-on-one instruction; for the masters of their craft, the space becomes a playground. And in true Portland community-oriented fashion, there is little animosity between novices and professionals. “Our members are really good at helping others and sharing their skills,” says Preston. Even among the top dogs—and there are many highly skilled craftsmen who operate full businesses out of ADX—it is more about support than competition. “The fear of having your product stolen is not here,” Preston adds.
ADX has an in-house design team often commissioned for specific projects, be they brewery tap handles or branded T-shirts. Members who come through make everything from wooden guitars, to canoes, to furniture—even homes. “We had two tiny homes built from the ground up in the parking lot,” Preston says proudly. Projects in various stages of completion line every inch of available space: some textiles here, a soapbox there. ADX was founded by Kelley Roy, an author and urban planner who Preston says “opened the doors with a bunch of Craigslist tools.” What could be more Portland than that?
Member Charlie Haughey is a woodworker who takes scraps and turns them into large, incredible spheres, one of which sits in the Portland mayor’s office; Andrew Moe makes beautiful long tables out of dark walnut; William Wessinger crafts whale bone skeletons out of FSC-Certified, locally grown white oak and cedar that he picks up from the mill himself; even wildly popular high-end shaver brand Portland Razor Co. began at ADX.
“It’s a great hub for the creative class,” Preston says of the city as a whole. “Hopefully it stays that way.” He references Portland’s expanding real estate market, explaining that rising costs are making it harder for creatives to, well, afford creation. It’s a sentiment that certainly hits home for Vancouverites. As our city’s maker class struggles to achieve a reasonable cost of living, Portland—though experiencing tribulations of its own—is leading by example. The rest will, as they say, come out of the woodwork.
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