Portland, Oregon: Hand-Eye Supply
Words by Joanna Han Photographs by Michael A. Muller
A multifaceted shop in Old Town, Portland, that sells supplies for makers.
Simply put, Hand-Eye Supply is a shop that sells supplies for makers. Established in Portland, Oregon, by Eric Ludlum and Stuart Constantine, the founders of the industrial design blog Core77, Hand-Eye Supply has been supplying the city with tools for creating since August 2010. We asked manager Tobias Berblinger a few questions about the store and its ethos.
Describe Hand-Eye Supply. What was it intended to be like?
We’re excited to be able to take part in the historic—and accelerating—culture of craftsmanship and creative labor that lives in our city. The store is for both “creative types” and those who love them—and really, nowadays, who doesn’t? It’s built to appeal with a selection of the basic tools of creative work (pencils, paper, pens), a line-up of high-quality tools and fabrication implements (foam cutters! wrenches!) and a wide variety of task-specific clothing made for the shop or studio—we have more aprons than you’ve seen in one place, ever. It’s a life-style store but for what you do, so it’s a work-style store.
In addition to functioning as a retail space, Hand-Eye Supply puts together many creative side projects including the Curiosity Club, a lecture series that takes place in a hallway outside the shop’s back office. What’s that all about?
The Curiosity Club was established in October 2010. It’s a series of lectures featuring an eclectic group of speakers across a broad range of subjects around our shared interests in the areas of culture, design, science, technology, art, fabrication, design techniques and lost common knowledge. We’re honored to have a diverse and accomplished group of alumni; our group is made up of designers, tinkerers, makers, writers, theorists, open-source manufacturing advocates, teachers, a cyborg anthropologist, a historian, a luthier, a pinhole camera maker, a knife maker, a one-wheeled motorcycle designer and developer, a chef, an upholsterer, an amateur rocket scientist, an improv comedian and cargo bike builders. With each Curiosity Club meeting, the list continues to grow, feeding our natural curiosities with the fascinating expertise of equally fascinating people.
What are your favorite products?
I’m really fond of our pocket knives, our selection of pens and stationery and of course the safety glasses. They’re best-sellers.
What’s your favorite thing about being involved with the shop?
I love being involved with Portland’s creative, craft and maker communities. Our customer base is extremely faceted and broad-based. This makes for compelling conversations, and exciting opportunities for the store and employees. Our quarterly Lookbook series feature locally based creative projects such as artisanal spirits, landscaping and just for fun creative projects. The Curiosity Club speaker series is a great example of our interaction with Portland’s creative scenes and for me is one of the most enjoyable parts of the job.
What do you like about the neighborhood you’re in?
Old Town is exciting to us because it has an extremely diverse cross-section of Portland’s denizens, perhaps more so than any other part of the city. It feels slightly rough-edged and unfinished, unpretentious, immensely creative and perpetually fresh.
23 NW 4th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209