A new specialty boutique has joined Portland's ranks, but instead of curating lines of hard-to-find European scarves and toiletries, this venture focuses on the tools we need for making things. Founded by Core77, the longstanding online resource for industrial designers, Hand-Eye Supply offers what co-founder Eric Ludlum (with partners Stuart Constantine and Allan Chochinov) describes as an almost retro selection of supplies for making things with your hands rather than on a computer—everything from wrenches to pushpins to eye protection to sketchpads are available, although perhaps the most impressive category of their merchandise is the workwear department.
With an emphasis on the esoteric and locally unrepresented, Hand-Eye features streetwear-worthy shopcoats, coveralls, work pants, and aprons from Ben Davis and Dunderdon as well as European lines like Sweden's Blåkläder and Gedore, a company that's been operating out of Germany's "tool city," Remscheid, since 1919 (their tools are carried here, too). While selected with a designer's needs (both practical and aesthetic) in mind, the color-blocked separates and sturdy vests are great for anyone who gardens or works on vehicles, or just wants clothing with durability and plenty of pockets. Just opened on the first Tuesday of this month, Hand-Eye has been something that Ludlum and Chochinov have been interested in since before they swapped New York for Portland as Core77's headquarters. The website was originally started in 1995 as a joint thesis for the Pratt Institute, with Constantine coming onboard around 2000, but the cheaper rents and fact that Ludlum says Portland "is a really good place to make things" won out. It's also no small coincidence that Ludlum's wife was pregnant when they made their permanent move last year.
Core77 has been producing its own T-shirt designs for years, and in the past have collaborated with bicycle manufacturers and even produced the "Blu Föm" sneaker with Fila, designed to look like it was made out of modeling foam. Hopefully the retail space will inspire more in-house designs, and Ludlum is interested in restoring more of a gallery aspect to the space, which currently boasts a cardboard prototype of a jet engine that he says is "an example of the point of our inventory in the process of designing: the phase of making things, and preserving physical artifacts." For now they'll stay open late on First Thursdays to take advantage of the tipsy creative types who swarm the store's Chinatown neighborhood with religious regularity. Stop in, and get inspired. (Hand-Eye Supply, 23 NW 4th, handeyesupply.com)