Brew, food, fashion, bikes – what do these have in common? They are all part of Portland’s emerging artisan economy. Other cities have their bohemian districts, but Portland stands alone as an urban economy that has broadly embraced the artisan approach to living and working.

The Artisan Economy Initiative is an extension of research that was first published in Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy. Rich in detail and also theory, Brew to Bikes describes how the transformation from a mass production to a post-modern economy is being articulated in the trend-setting edges of Portland’s artisan production. The thesis of the book is laid out in a simple table that compares the relevant characteristics of mass production and artisan economies (Characteristics Table) and is examined in chapters that profile hundreds of local businesses.

The success of Portland’s artisan economy raises many questions. In a global mass market economy how can homegrown artisan products find a market and thrive? Is Portland a frontier in the transformation of urban economies or a cultural anomaly representing a romantic, populist turn away from the global? Is artisan production limited to a narrow range of expensive, high-end retail products or are we observing a broader shift from homogeneous, mass produced, mass marketed products to hand-crafted, limited production products that engender a more personal relationship between producer and patron? If the artisan economy is part of a seismic shift in how we do things, is this transformation grounded in a larger moral shift in values toward local, sustainable, self-reliant systems of making and using?

The Artisan Economy Initiative works collectively to examine these and other questions stimulated by the book and by a growing literature on the role of arts, culture and creativity in economic development. Through research, advocacy and outreach, we engage both scholarly and popular audiences in understanding and creating connections between local artisans, organizations which support them, policy makers and the public at large.

The purpose of this blog is to be a forum for a conversation for those interested in the work of artisans and the economic transformation they embody. While the focus of our research will emphasize Portland, we hope that this is only a starting point for comparative work by ourselves or others.

The AEI blog will offer short essays, real time access to our research work, as well as links to our publications in academic and popular forums. It will be an aggregator for research on artisan, cultural and creative economy literatures. It will serve as an archive for our raw data from interviews, surveys, archival information as well as our bi-weekly meetings.

We hope you find this forum useful and invite your comments.

Dr. Charles Heying – Director – Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University in Portland, OR. His research interests include the interrelationship of private, nonprofit, and public sectors in market economies; institutional network analysis; and elites, power, and social transformation. Heying’s interests led him to develop a new project on Portland’s artisan economy, depicting the “creative class” and cultural economy of a rising city. He is also the author of Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy.

Steve Marotta – Steve is a PhD student in Urban Studies at Portland State University. His research interests are in studying the role of art and artists in revitalizing abandoned urban areas, and his research goal is to contribute toward a critical conceptualization of art and creativity in terms of urban revitalization. Steve has a BA in Integrative Studies and an MA in Social Justice and Human Rights from Arizona State University.

Tracy Braden -Enamored by all things Portland (well, maybe not the rain), with mad curiosity about what makes this city so great, she is delighted to keep exploring the realms of all things artisan. As co-author of the food chapter in Brew to Bikes, Braden began her quest for artisan economy knowledge and like Anthony Bourdain, she is hungry for more.

Katrina Johnston – Katrina is a graduate student in the Masters of Urban Studies program at Portland State University. Her focus is urban design, specifically open space and human behavior. She recently worked on a research project at Arizona State University, Urban Organization through the Ages, and has a BA in Anthropology.

Casey Szot – graduate student in the Masters of Urban Studies program at Portland State University.

Jen Turner – Jen is a graduate student in the Master of Urban Studies program at Portland State University. She is focusing on urban food issues, especially how concepts of civic agriculture are used to support urban communities. She currently works in community relations for New Seasons Market’s North Portland location, and would like to know more about how the local/artisan food economy interacts low-income neighborhoods.



3 thoughts on “About

  1. Pingback: Maybe the people aren’t the problem: an alternate take on Portland-area wages | A Weird Fish

  2. Very much enjoyed your articles referring to Portland’s artisan economy. I live in the UK and I am currently setting up a business that is artisan based, so hats off to you, and I will be spreading the good word this side of the pond.

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