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!