Strolling the Pearl (a favorite occupation I hardly ever get to do these days), I spied a big cast glass sculpture in the window and stopped in to see who made it.

“He’s from Israel, really talented artist,” said the clerk.

“Ahh…and that one?” I pointed to a big blown dinosaur-like piece, reminiscent of Tagliapietra.

“Celotto, from Italy.”

Hmmm. “How about that one?” and I indicated a series of flat, fused (ooops, sorry, Lani) kilnformed panels on the usual powder-coated steel stands.


The paperweights were from Poland, the big yellow sandblasted vases from Czechoslovakia, the Chihuly flower knockoffs were from China, and I was getting a bit miffed.

“So where is the glass from Northwestern artists?” I asked.

“Our clients aren’t looking for local glass,” came the lofty response. And while I didn’t make an exhaustive survey, the closest art-of-glass I found in that place was from the Bay area. Further inquiry revealed that the owner doesn’t believe there are local artists capable of working to their standard at the price point they need.

Despite the fact that there are probably 500 artists working in glass within a 25-mile radius of this shop (more if you count their other shop, on the coast, or the one in Oregon wine country)…none qualify.

Which REALLY ticks me off. Portland is one of the most locavore-centric places I’ve ever seen when it comes to food and booze (thank heavens, actually, because it means that as long as you stay out of the national chains, it’s really tough to have a bad restaurant experience in Portland), but am I detecting a growing trend away from using local artists and artisans?

An article from our local public radio station points out that not everything in the “Made in Oregon” store comes from Oregon. (Ditto for the Made in Washington store)

Dunno. I did point out to these galleryfolk that there was an exceptional gallery just up the street selling LOTS of art-of-glass from artists living in this area. “Yes, but that’s to promote sales of their glass. Really, most of those artists wouldn’t work in a regular gallery setting.”

Uhm…that’s contrary to MY experience, but then I probably don’t count. Or something.

I realize we’re in a global village, and I’m thrilled that the web has enabled me to reach artists in other parts of the world (bunches of you read this blog, for example). I’m tickled pink that I can ask for help and know that Ron from New Zealand, or Stephen from the UK, or Hattori from Japan, will just chime right in.

Globalization has made the artist’s life MUCH easier. And I appreciate the opportunity to see (and buy) artworks from artists in other regions. But when did “locally made” stop being a selling point?

It’s something I think the Oregon Glass Guild (and a bunch of other local artists) need to work on this year. If our work isn’t perceived as saleable, why not? I agree that price points may not match someplace like Penang, where mansions rent for five bucks or something, but is that really an obstacle?

Maybe what we need is a great big education campaign for local retailers (and consumers).

And of course, this isn’t just a glassland problem. So…homework assignment: Wherever you are in the world, head down to where folk buy arts and crafts in your area, and see how much of it is actually local. If it isn’t, well, you’ve got some work to do!



  1. Pam December 19, 2011 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Ok, so didn’t mean to repeat “holiday sales” in the same sentence. hehehehe

  2. Pam December 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    I wonder if this is a west coast thing. Here in the New England Area, featuring local artists (for example, 100 mile radius) is huge for the holiday sales at the local craft school/arts organizations’ holiday sales. Yes, they will bring in work from across the country, but hmmmm, let’s see… at least four of the local craft schools try to balance it with 75% local, 25% US.

  3. Cynthia December 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Hey, Tam. I’ve seen Pampeana before–it’s very inexpensive and usually pretty. But you’re right, it’s a fair trade company, i.e., someone in Portland creates the designs, then jobs them out to disadvantaged artisans in Ecuador. It’s an admirable model, but the best you can say about it is it’s “designed in Oregon,” not made here.

  4. Tam December 7, 2011 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Recently, my husband was traveling through Portland & purchased a piece of glass for me at the “Made in Oregon” store. It’s a piece made by Pampeana Glass Art. I goggled the “artist” & found out the glass is actually made in Chili & Equador. It’s imported by someone in Portland. Needless to say we were both disappointed that a Made in Oregon store would so misrepresent a product.

    I’m in Alaska & the state regulates who can use the “made in Alaska” logo. Artists have to register & prove they acutally create the pieces.

    Enjoy your posts…especially the new kitty posts. 🙂

  5. Cynthia December 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Lani, you elitist, you! I thought you were kidding about by animal, but apparently not. I suppose we could call it a gift shop.

    I suppose there’s some contempt for the familiar, or something, that makes art from afar more desirable than local…but from my babysitting stints in a local glass gallery I found exactly the opposite–tourists ask if the work was made locally. Apparently the retailers haven’t latched onto that?

  6. Peter Cummings December 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    Makes it near impossible in Aus. when we are so very close to and part of Asia.
    Artists aren’t aggressive enough in marketing.
    Relying on “galleries” who are after a quick buck, whatever their speil, doesn’t help.

  7. Lani McGregor December 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    Call me an elitist, but I prefer not to trade snarky remarks with a “gallery” that suggests one “Shop by Animal”.

  8. ellen abbott December 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    I think that’s a pretty common attitude. it’s the same here. not that we have an over abundance of glass artists, but art in general.

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