Olander Earthworks

1. How did you get started in your particular craft medium(s)?

Creativity and play merged for me very early as a child and I’ve been a maker as long as I can remember.I started taking ceramic work seriously in high school, which led me to pursue a BFA in Sculpture at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.After school I worked in the jewelry industry for 8 years; immersed in small precision craftsmanship, mold making, casting and design. Using similar methodologies I began creating my wall hanging faces as gifts for friends and family that I could afford to give away.Once I wrapped my head around production cement casting, new series began to emerge and I began to recognize the potential for this approach to making reproducible and broadly affordable work.

2. Where do you draw influence from?

The body of work presented at the market draws from two distinct sources.The expression-based figurative sculptures- faces, heads, and animals- are pulled from the endless well of emotion and interaction we experience every day.I’m a people watcher; we are fascinating.Our gestures often communicate more than our words and working with this subject matter tickles my sense of humor. The spheres have their roots in the patterns of the natural world.I use familiar textures and forms but present them in an unfamiliar context that engages the audience in an unexpected way. With the spheres I hope to share my sense of wonder and a sense of the creative experience with participants. With all of this work, I lean on universal themes and want my work to be inclusive and fun for everyone.

3. What is the difference between PSM and other markets?

Many factors make the Portland Saturday Market a special place.The most significant difference I recognize is that it’s open every weekend from March through Christmas.This provides a variety of creative entrepreneurs in the region a predictable outlet to build and nurture a small business.While that stability allows vendors to sustain relationships with local customers, the prime location in central Portland is a magnet for visitors, exposing our work to potential customers that would be hard to reach in any other venue.The diversity of work a visitor can find at PSM is exceptional as well; there really is something for everyone. That variety seems inevitable with such a broad mix of members, from 30-year veterans that seem part of the market’s architecture to new vendors bringing fresh and unexpected products and energy.All of these aspects create a wonderful sense of community and that warmth and vibrancy seems to keep people coming back and keeps drawing new people in.

4. How would you describe the difference between "arts" and "crafts"?

The difference between art and craft is primarily about function and utility; how we “use” these things in our lives.I think of Craft broadly as work made for a physical purpose: a bowl to hold food, a stool to sit on, clothes or jewelry to wear.Art for me is more cerebral, created as an expression for us to observe and consider, to feel and be moved by.Art refuses to be defined or confined but I don’t believe it’s created to assist us physically in our daily lives.

There is a grey area of course. Arts and Crafts share values in aesthetics, and the pursuit of one’s own sense of beauty or style.An art object can certainly exhibit all the qualities of high craft, just as the surface of a vessel or woven blanket can have artistic expression or concept beyond its primary function.I don’t like to draw clear distinctions.I’m often asked by visitors in my booth, “what do you do with these?”It’s a reasonable question after seeing cutting boards, t-shirts, and earrings.I respond, “they are more like sculpture.” “Ohhh I see,” they respond, and pick up one of my spheres or heads and ask, “can I use it as a paper-weight?” “That wasn’t my intention but you certainly may,” I say with a smile.It’s difficult to say exactly what things are in the art/craft context, but a painting is not created to cover a wall and a cup is not made to hold air.

5. What’s your favorite thing in the world right now?

Sushi.Mmm sushi.

6. How long have you sold your wares at PSM? What encouraged you to apply/ keeps you vending with us now?

Olander Earthworks joined the PSM in late 2008.Friends encouraged me to apply based on their company’s success at the Market.The first couple seasons I was testing the PSM waters, doing freelance work and staying home with our first child while my wife worked during the week.After taking the opportunity to earn an MFA through PNCA and OCAC from 2010- 2012, we found ourselves in a similar situation with our second child.I decided to return to the market in 2012 and have been dedicated ever since.My wife Sarah joined the business in 2014 and our operation continues to grow.While direct sales at PSM provide stability for our business, the marketing alone has been worthwhile. It’s a rare and unique opportunity to engage tens of thousands of potential customers from all over the country and around the world on a weekly basis.Direct customer feedback from such a wide range of people gives a small business amazing insight into what’s working and what’s not about your product and presentation.We have met most of our wholesale clients at the market and would not be where we are without this unique and dependable outlet.

To learn more visit: www.olanderearthworks.com or www.etsy.com/shop/OlanderEarthworks