Aww, design blogs: there’s nothing better to make yourself feel like a lazy failure (well, besides the Olympics). Clicking, glossy-eyed, through pretty photos of designers and artists in their modish homes and studios, sporting their sassy outfits, petting their pretty dogs, cooking their complicated meals; you realize what a shmuck you truly are.

Fashion designer Dawn Sharp sews away amidst her stacks of fabric.
  • Carlie Armstrong
  • Fashion designer Dawn Sharp sews away amidst her stacks of fabric.
In recent years the Internet has exploded this discouraging trend of artist’s portraiture—which dates back to the earliest days of the photographic medium; the blog the Selby comes to mind. On a slightly smaller scale, there’s designsponge, and (locally) Space PDX. I admit, I love these sites, but there’s no denying that they ultimately leave you feeling unaccomplished. In fact, the photos seem to rely on the audience’s ability to project themselves into the bright, beautiful, endlessly interesting spaces. Delight is preceded by shame; “house pornography” seems an apt name.

Carlie Armstrong, however, who began her blog work.place earlier this year, does not make you feel like a lazy failure. Armed with her medium-format camera and a nevermind-the-mess approach, Armstrong documents the studios and working habits of Portland creatives of the likes of Gary Robbins of Container Corps and, our very own art director, Justin “Scrappers” Morrison. The ambitious blogger is a California native who established her cred working for Spin and LA Weekly as a concert photographer—rapid work which Armstrong claims pushed her “more in the direction of film and careful composure, since it was the opposite.” With the high cost of film and developing, each photo she takes possesses weight, financially, emotionally, physically, and her images have the odd quality of feeling both spontaneous and composed.

Painter and illustrator Evan B. Harris works out ideas on his blackboard.
  • Carlie Armstrong
  • Painter and illustrator Evan B. Harris works out ideas on his blackboard.
Rare looks at unfinished work and cluttered studios all serve to flesh out portraits of the artists. Looking at work.place, it's amazing how the color palette and mood in the artist's studio tends to correspond so directly with the work that person makes. And so, the photos act not just as documentation, but as profiles: we are what we own, or at least what we surround ourselves with. (Sidenote, for a peek into the Mercury’s psyche, see Steve’s meditations on our upcoming yard sale).

Work.space especially means to document the practice of lesser-known makers. “I feel like Portland has a lot going for it, but so often I feel that the same art and the same artists are presented, and I know there are more out there that are producing work that needs to be seen,” Armstrong admitted. She recently received a Portland Stock Grant, which is generously helping with the price of her project.

Knowing how one works elucidates why one works: knowing what inspires a person, how their mind moves from one idea to the next, lays the groundwork for what it is they want to say. Armstrong's portraiture deviates from the standard effect of jealousy and instead leaves you to ponder, what is it like to be inside this creative's head?

By focusing strictly on local folk, work.space captures the zeitgeist of Portland’s steadily growing art scene. That being said, Armstrong updates her site weekly, and loves to hear suggestions, wide-ranging suggestions, from musicians, to sculptors, to illustrators. Feel free to do so in the comments!

The work table and inspiration wall of fibers artist Sally England.
  • Carlie Armstrong
  • The work table and inspiration wall of fibers artist Sally England.
Illustrator and comics artist Aidan Koch sketches in her sparse digs.
  • Carlie Armstrong
  • Illustrator and comics artist Aidan Koch sketches in her sparse digs.