The Mud Room

By Nina Silberstein

Lizzie Koehler and Cole Lendrum searched for a place to practice their craft but the few, existing ceramic studios in the area were all full. With an “everyone is creative” mindset, they set out to make a space for people to find and nurture that creativity. 

Access to art and ceramics is what it’s all about at The Mud Room, at 2011 SE 10th Ave. 

“We wanted to create a place that was warm, inviting, inclusive and beautiful,” Lizzie said. 

The Mud Room opened in August of this year, and offers a variety of classes at every level, including long-term eight week sessions so people can really delve into ceramics and get their hours in. 

Pottery skills can be difficult to master and the only way to improve is to spend time practicing.

“We thought that having eight-week classes would add value for our students,” Lizzie said. 

Short-term workshops run the gamut from glaze techniques to combined basket weaving and handbuilding.

“Intro to wheel throwing takes the cake as the most popular class,” Lizzie added. 

In terms of instructors, Lizzie and Cole are proud of the teachers they have on board. “They are deeply talented and each have a unique background that offers students a rich understanding of ceramics,” she said. 

Some are geared toward technique, while others take a more scientific approach. “No matter what, though, if you take a class with one of our teachers you are getting advice from well-seasoned ceramicists,” she said.

Membership is open to those who already have some experience with ceramics and are looking for a place to practice and build community. 

“We provide wheels, kilns, a slab roller, an extruder and other equipment for members to use,” Lizzie said. 

“We are happy to provide 24/7 access for our members because everyone has a unique schedule and life and we want to accommodate that.” 

There are special events for members such as holiday sales and “member mingles,” where one can throw blindfolded or attend potlucks. 

All types of groups are welcome for everything from birthday parties and office teambuilding sessions, to bachelorette weekends. 

For folks who want to try it out for a day or those who might be visiting from out of town, a daily drop-in rate is offered during open studio hours. 

While members have 24/7 access to the space, student access is limited to time during class and open studio. Open studio is available for fifteen hours per week to help students get in practice time and someone is always on staff during this time to answer questions.

Lizzie was born and raised in NE Portland and took ceramics classes at Scripps College in California. Her passion is in wheel throwing, but she learned slip casting, (creating ceramic forms by casting slip – clay suspended in water) in molds. 

She is looking forward to taking The Mud Room handbuilding class next session with artist Paige Wright. Lizzie enjoys spending time with members, making things and problem-solving for the business. 

Cole is originally from Juneau, Alaska, and has roots in Portland as well. 

He went to the University of Oregon, and after studying biology for three years, transitioned to product design where he found a deep love of ceramics studying under artist Brian Gillis. 

Cole’s background includes slip casting and mold making. He enjoys mixing mediums by using both wood and ceramics in functional pieces.

The Mud Room, is at 2011 SE 10th Ave. themudroompdx.com

Joel Cooper

Kabinett PDX

By Jack Rubinger

Remember the scene from Casablanca where Ingrid Bergman pleads with Dooley Wilson to play “As Time Goes By?” Close your eyes and visualize the potted plants, ceiling fans, clouds of smoke, fez-wearing waiters, martini glasses.

That’s the kind of vibe Kabinett, a recent retail addition to the Central Eastside Industrial District, puts out; vaguely foreign, sort of vintage, muted tones, lots of dark wood, slightly surreal.

Owners Trent DeBord and Melissa Macfarlane have been collecting and selling curiosities for several years first from their outpost in Melbourne, Australia and now here in SE Portland. 

When The Southeast Examiner stopped by, the owners were in India on a buying spree. Joel Cooper, an upbeat and informative fellow Aussie gave us a look.

“Trent has a fantastic vision for curating a look and a space,” said Cooper. As I was lead around on a tour of the 3000 square former John Deere factory, Cooper explained that customers often visit with one thing in mind and exit with something completely different – like the guy who bought a concrete deer as a present for his wife.

While most of the deer have since been sold, there are lots and lots of vintage barware all housed in a “poison” cabinet that would look at home in any mancave.

Especially eye-catching were a collection of Czech prints; old match book covers that have been blown up to poster size. The poster’s bold swirling funky fonts swimming in seas of oranges and reds caught my eye.

While some items are definitely from far away places, others are simply colorful and cool like a group of red glass lamps from an old hotel in Salem, Oregon.

As we took in textiles from India, cushions, blankets, throws and other textures, Cooper explained the location was chosen because this area is happening and alive with several unusual gift-type stores nearby, like Cargo, which has more of a Latin American/Mexican/Caribbean feel.

“It’s fun to mix and match furniture from our store,” said Cooper.

The shop is filled with furniture, textiles, barware, art and other odd outdoor/indoor goods hand-selected from Europe, Asia, the US, everywhere.

While most of the collection tends toward vintage, Kabinett stocks new items as well: handmade rugs, pillows and other textiles, home fragrances, select barware, ceramics, and outdoor furniture.

 The owners are currently designing and building their own range of furniture. 

Kabinett is at 214 SE Alder. Call 971.409.9003. Email info@kabinettpdx.com.

EcoHeat and Ruby Press + Mercantile

By Nancy Tannler

As SE Portland continues to demolish and then develop available land into apartments, houses and businesses, it is a compliment to our history when someone repurposes an existing building. Thomas Schwab and Ruby Shadburne, life partners and individual business owners, did just that: saving an old building from the wrecking ball.

Affectionately known as The Marvin, the building at 2710 SE 50th Ave. was remodeled to accommodate Ruby Press + Mercantile and EcoHeat three years ago. 

When Ruby started her letter press business, it was done in their carriage garage with a cast iron letter press they purchased in Medford from an old shop teacher’s estate. “I was drawn to the process of letter press printing after taking a class at OCAC.”

Thomas was renting a space for EcoHeat, but they knew the ideal situation would be if they found a building where they could combine their businesses. The Marvin, at the corner of 27th & SE 50th, had been empty for many years. 

The building’s owner, Nancy, was at Emerson house. Her husband Ace was deceased and their friend Marvin Bridge was handling her property. Marvin knew Nancy would prefer finding a renter that would use the building rather than selling to a developer who would most likely demolish it.

Ruby and Thomas’ hope was to find something in their neighborhood and when Ruby found the building vacant, she knew this was the place. She began negotiations to rent it.

They immediately went to work with renovations using the natural charm of the original structure while adding contemporary enhancements like hinged barn doors, polished cement, natural wood features, raised ceilings and a built-in room divider that opens the space up but separates the businesses.

This was three years ago. After an extensive permitting process with the city, they invested in the restoration. While this was going on Nancy died, and the building became available for purchase. 

Marvin knew that his friends, Nancy and Ace, would rather see Ruby and Thomas make their dream a reality then to develop another apartment building, so they brokered a deal. 

The Marvin has exceptional windows and light – the perfect storefront for Ruby Press + Mercantile. In one portion, separated by a crafted divider, are two cast iron presses where Ruby works her printing magic. 

In a quick demonstration, it was impressive how the machines work either embossing or engraving letters and art. She has mastered the art of layering colors, which has to be done one color at a time. 

Ruby Press offers custom printed cards of all types done on 100% cotton Lettra paper, by Crane. Her ready-made work is available in the mercantile. The gift section is spacious and welcoming to all people including families with small children. Plenty of available parking makes it easy too.

Ruby’s hand-painted monochromatic displays create a perfect backdrop. She is passionate about selling quality gifts that support makers and small businesses here. 

“These objects are carefully made, unique and also practical, she said. “I like to say think big, shop small.”

Ruby herself is fond of large earrings, so along with other finely-crafted jewelry, the statement earrings reign supreme.

Gifts range from wild-crafted apothecary elixirs, K9 fashion, plants, books, children’s items, plants, home and special paper items from her  letterpress studio. It’s one stop shopping; right down to the wrapping paper and cards. 

She wants to provide a welcoming space for “humans to be with other humans.” 

Connecting Ruby Press+ Mercantile and EcoHeat on the inside of the building is a spacious lunch/training room for employees. 

A large, beautiful table made especially for the space by Benjamin Clark is the centerpiece. He also did other woodworking in the space.

Thomas started EcoHeat in 2005 after gaining experience working for other heating and air conditioning installers here. He brings twenty-five years of knowledge to the job and knows how to do things right.

“We emphasize customer service making sure that our team is respectful of every home and jobs are priced and finished as we have quoted,” Thomas said. 

EcoHeat has been awarded the Mitsubishi Diamond Dealer for their innovative and creative use of their equipment in residential homes. They are inverter heat pump pioneers and one of a select few who sells Mitsubishi products. 

“We use the training room constantly so employees can learn the new technology,” he said. 

These days they specialize in residential maintenance and installation. Thomas says they are kept busy right here in their own neighborhood with people upgrading old houses as well as working on new infill houses projects.

Lately, many people are interested in air filtration systems due to smoke from forest fires we’ve experienced during the summer. 

“The old way of opening up the house at night to cool it during the summer is not as effective when the air is so smoky.”

EcoHeat offers their ten employees full benefits.

“We have found that the best way to help someone learn this trade is to hire them as an apprentice and teach them as they work.” 

EcoHeat is currently looking for a few good people to keep up with the growing business.  

Thomas and Ruby have put a lot of love and sweat equity into preserving The Marvin. 

Being on the bike route they cheer travelers on with their flag of the day. The favorite is Smiley Face Friday. They are also involved with the Drop Box Derby event, organized by Lovette Deconstruction that benefits The Raphael House of Portland.

The Marvin is at 2710 SE 50th. See rubypress.com for more.