winter 2016

Student Spotlight — Sage McElroy

Happy February, lovers of the arts, beauty and life. We are excited to share our latest student profile with you!


Sage McElroy is a junior from PSU, with plans to graduate in the Spring of 2017. Her work is strong and memorable. Striking pieces like her beautiful 3D alphabet explorations with matches, or trail reports and photographs that make up the Great Wild Open project, and illustrations for the National Parks postcards—they all have an elegance and playfulness about them.


We caught up with Sage and were able to connect a bit more on her passion for web design, her future plans, hopes and what makes her happy in life. Enjoy!

What about design excites and challenges you? Taking on projects that are out of my comfort zone is both exciting and challenging—I think it is important to always keep growing and evolving as a designer. I find web and interactive design to also be particularly exciting. There is something extremely satisfying in the creative process of projects that live on the web. Seeing an idea transform from a concept, to code, to something that people from all over the world can experience and interact with, is really amazing!

Post school — what would you like to be doing / projects you would like to take on / a difference you'd like to make? Working with a solid team of people or collaborating with others is something that I would like to do more of after I graduate. Right now I am working on two projects for different non-profits, and it would be great to continue along that path in some form. I would also love to work on projects focusing on interactive design, branding, and environmental design. Creating a unique user experience is something I want to dive deeper into, in both a digital setting and in various physical environments.

Apart from your design world, what other things make you happy, what else do you enjoy doing? I love music, photography, good company, and traveling! Experiencing different cultures and visiting new places is a great inspiration and keeps life feeling fresh. I guess I find comfort in being reminded of how small each of us are in grand scheme of things, too. I also have a great appreciation for the outdoors and try to get outside as much as I can.


To see more of Sage's design work and photography, visit her site

Best wishes on a new year, Sage! Continue exploring and enjoying the process. 


All images courtesy of © Sage McElroy 2015

Quiet Nature—An Interview with Nikki McClure

A peregrine falcon flies by, she pauses and writes down the moment. It was the first time this season she’s seen this particular bird. This is how our conversation begins, and something I suspect happens throughout her day. You see, Nikki is a collector of moments. She captures them as inspiration to be used in her work, many of which are personal. Through these moments we get a glimpse of her story, a little piece of her life… quiet, thoughtful, surrounded by nature and and rooted in family.

It was as a child McClure discovered that she was enamored with the natural world. She recalls her first trip on a boat in the Puget Sound and how it opened her eyes to environmental education and biology. 

“All the trees, plants, insects, and birds I have grown up around. I was consuming the names and stories of my neighbors,  it became that I wanted to learn everything about this location. I only uncovered a few stories because there are so many things that live here, but that occupied me for a long time. I drew pictures while I was learning, my sketchbooks were very intricate and detailed.”

Nikki went on to receive B.S. and a B. A. Degree from Evergreen State College.  It wasn’t long after she graduated that she knew she wasn’t meant to be a scientist. She was meant to react with and capture the stories of nature in another way.

“When I was done with college I got a job at the Department of Ecology for one year. People knew I could draw so they were asking me to draw things for them. I thought if I could draw a good duck maybe I could just stop working and draw ducks, so I did.”

The last project she did at Evergreen was her first book, entitled Washington’s Wetlands (1991)— it was a series of linocuts. Since then Nikki has published 26 books and 17 calendars, as well as several journals covering topics from new babies to the planting seasons

I remember the first time I encountered one of her calendars. I was excited to see the art of papercutting being explored in such a graphic way. The use of stark black and white combined sparingly with color mixed digitally is restrained, and purposeful. It tricks the viewer and looks as if it’s all created on screen, but that is far from the truth. 

“ I need to keep my structure intact. If I was creating the art solely on the computer I wouldn't have the same choices that I have by doing things by hand with paper. I intentionally limit my use of the computer.  I cut during the day and have someone else working on the color part at night. There’s people who love the computer and I don't, I would much rather be outside.”

Nikki McClure of Olympia, Washington is known for her painstakingly intricate and beautiful paper cuts. Armed with an X-acto knife, she cuts out her images from a single sheet of paper and creates a bold language that translates the complex poetry of motherhood, nature, and activism into a simple and endearing picture.

We are excited to host Nikki in and get up-close with her art for sketchXchange on Friday, February 5th. She’ll be sharing her process she uses to create, as well as some of her finished pieces. Special guest Carson Ellis will also join us as the moderator.

The studio. Photo's courtesy of Nikki

The Bird House Maker Competition is Back for Design Week

Open House

Doors open at 4 pm
auction Bidding closes at 8:30 pm

Tuesday, April 19
at Tillamook Station.
Free and open to everyone

We are celebrating our fourth year at Design Week with an Open House and the return of our anticipated bird house maker competition/auction. We used to call the event Put a Bird It, but this year, we've dubbed in an Open House - for birds and people. 

Our Open House will feature 40 custom birdhouses crafted by local artists, makers and designers. All the houses will be auctioned off with proceeds benefiting The Right Brain Initiative, a Portland-based arts education advocacy program supporting K-8 students. We raised $13,000 for Arts and Music Education in 2014.


Designer Dave Seldon took home our top prize during our last Design Week bird house auction. He's back this year, but can he keep his title?

“Supporting our local design community and makers of all ages is at the heart of WeMake’s outreach and events. This project formally known as Put A Bird In It may be taking on a new name, but the spirit remains the same—raise money for a good cause and make something awesome. A birdhouse is the perfect platform to interpret through various creative mediums and genres."

The competing builders are:

Sean Garrison and Wesley Younie
Aby Henry
Niles Snyder
Team FINE: Carin, Michelle, and North
Jeff Lawber
Claire Bandfield
Paul Anders
Charles "Mac" Macavoy and Carin Pike
Heather Champ
Team KindlingCo: Stephen Bamford, Ryan Mowery, and Joe Vernon
Matt Radosevich and Maren Salomon
Team Sky Burial: Alain Bally and Erik Berglund
Matthew Barry
Revive Upholstery & Design
Ryan Geels and Yasmin Stewart
Lizzie Falkenstein and Ryan Everson
Bret Hodgert
Team R/GA: Ben Williams, Rachel Starnes and Rachael Mitnick

Emmanuel Carrillo
Intel Security - Johnny Levenson
Team Evolve Collaborative
Team Gravitate
Eric Delph
Hallie Walker
Steve Ewoldt
Elizabeth Goss
Noah Twining
Rory Phillips
Amy Ruppel
BT Livermore and Kayla Carlson
Dave Selden
Mark Caneso
Keith Carter
Halle Cisco
Erika Lee Sears
Taylored Curiosities
Dave Hagen
Chris Streger
Sophya Vidal

Judging this year's competition will be a panel of esteemed judges from the bird, design and film worlds.  Prizes will be awarded to winning bird houses in the following categories:

  • Home Sweet Home 
  • Most Fly Crib 
  • Bird Brain
  • Cuckoo Award 
  • Peacock Award
  • Birdy Dream House 

This Open House is also a chance to meet the people of WeMake in our HQ during Design Week's NE Portland Open Studio Tour. Golden Rule Design is once again operating the press, so bring a t-shirt or buy one on site and you can pull the screen for free all while moving to the sounds of our in-house DJ. The auction bidding closes at 8:30 pm. 

Take a look at the houses from 2014.


PSU’s Graphic Design Named No. 6 in the country

One of the most valuable qualities of PSU’s Design Department is the faculty’s involvement in the design community. Most of the professors are actively participating in the design industry which makes them valuable resources for inspiration and connections to the real world of design.
— Dani Ramsby, PSU Alumni
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This month Portland State University’s Graphic Design program (PSU.GD) was ranked No. 6 Top Public Graphic Design School Program in the nation by the Animation Career Review. The online source compared hundreds of US schools offering graphic design program. 

The rankings criteria:

  • Academic reputation
  • Admissions selectivity
  • Depth and breadth of the program and faculty
  • Value as it relates to tuition and indebtedness

According to Portland State University, their Graphic Design program prepares students to be exploratory, experimental, collaborative graphic designers who can thrive in today’s world. 

“We make. We think. We believe learning is the same thing as doing. We are students, but our classroom is as big as the whole city or maybe even the whole internet."

The program grabbed No. 6 due to the faculty’s background as makers, as well as educators. They teach and do. 

As part of the design community at large, we are proud to have such a tremendous program in our backyard. We want to take a moment to congratulate and recognize the hard work and talent that resides in the program today.

Connect with PSU on Instagram here and here.


OPEN HOUSE—a creative interpretation any bird would be proud to call home.

Have nothing in your house that you do not believe to be beautiful or useful.
— William Morris

Or crazy, or imaginative, or ....

CALL TO ARTISTS. WeMake is seeking artists, designers, architects, builders, and makers of all sorts to help us raise money for arts and music education in Portland, Oregon. 

We are selecting a total of 40 artists and/or teams to participate in this project with a live auction to be held on April 19, 2016 during Design Week. Apply below to be considered. 


The project formally known as Put A Bird In It, maybe taking on a new name, but the spirit is the same—raise money and make something awesome for the birds!


Check out last year's houses here