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An up-close look at a fire-red coral-like sea creature. A bird’s-eye view of a tight cluster of pointed, polka-dot-covered shells hovering in space. Swirling lines of microbial organisms spinning into a distant black hole. These are the lenses—magnified and telescopic—that Portland painter Jason Bradbury peers through when composing his brightly colored pieces. “I’m influenced by Ernst Haeckel, a German scientist who created detailed sketches of microscopic marine organisms,” says Bradbury. “I became fascinated with their complexity, and the symmetrical and radial forms.”

For most furniture designers, it can take years, decades even, before awards and accolades come their way. But for Portland furniture designer Ryan Thomson, the first time was a charm. Thomson entered the prototype for his Res Table (below) into Show 2006, a local furniture design competition and exhibition sponsored by fix studio and held at Design Within Reach, and he walked away with best of show honors. “This was the first show I’ve ever entered,” says Thomson, 36. “There are so many people out there doing furniture design, and what they’re doing is great. It was nice to talk with other people who are using different techniques and materials and who are solving everyday problems on a human scale.”

Yeah, you could buy your sweetheart a store-bought card with a poem printed on it, but think how much more permanent a sentiment could feel if it were hammered onto a piece of art furniture. Kate Grenier’s Te Amo Square (right), a handmade aluminum table with a hand-hammered stanza from poet Pablo Neruda’s “Love Sonnett XVII,” does just that. “Some people buy my tables for wedding or anniversary gifts because they’re romantic and unique,” says the Portland artist.

The Pacific Northwest is known for great glass—and Portland glass artist Christine Downs pays homage to the area through some of her fused forms. Surf the Northwest (right), a 10-inch by 15-inch serving platter, is a good example. Oregon inspired both the form and the colors. “This is from a series of pieces that look like surfboards and sharks’ teeth,” says Downs, who learned her techniques by taking classes at Bullseye Glass and Cline Glass, and from her mentor, glass tile artist Karen Story. “I was picturing surfing off the Oregon coast. When I added the border, I put in quick, gestural drawings of trees. And the greens and deep reds are Northwest colors.”

Kicki Masthem’s character sculptures are so popular with the people who own them that they often send her photographs showing how a particular sculpture has become part of their home. Exploring how people use gesture as a means of expression and as a way to create their own personal space as they navigate through their daily lives is what inspires Masthem to create sculptures like Oscar, Charles and Luke (below, left to right). The ideas for her figures come from everywhere. “Standing in checkout lines at stores, I check out people’s expressions,” she says. “I notice how they hold themselves, and I sense how they feel about themselves in the world.” Masthem, 44, was born and raised in Kalmar, Sweden, a small town on the Baltic coast.

For Jerry Baron, painting is about finding the subject and expressing it through color. “Painting, for me, is like a discovery process,” he says. “I need to maintain a spontaneous attitude about my painting. I’m a colorist. I think in terms of color rather than content.”

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