AT FIRST, Tobias Berblinger didn't want to do it. Core77's hard-to-define retail shop Hand-Eye Supply—a mix of well-selected workwear and tools for all manner of making and designing—had just opened, and the owners were interested in hosting a weekly event to activate the space. Berblinger, the store manager, didn't particularly want to be a host, and didn't particularly want extra work.
But he started spitballing, free-associating lists of the things that interested him, like theoretical physics, cyborgs/trans-humanism, his favorite science-fiction authors, and This American Life. It wasn't long before he'd roped in Will Lolcama, his close friend since age five, whose day job is as a machinist fabricating bicycle parts for Chris King. Eventually they came up with a concept that distills the guiding principle behind Curiosity Club, a free series of speakers that has been running semimonthly at the shop since October 2010: "The perpetual novice."
"Basically if you think you already know everything, you're not invited," say Berblinger. "That attitude makes it hard to create." Lolcama, nodding, adds, "Plus, it's a super buzzkill." Intentionally leaving their format freeform, Berblinger and Lolcama began inviting guest speakers to talk about their process over free beer, prompting informal Q&As between attendees and everyone from tall ship sailors to a guitar pedal manufacturer, a small house builder, a butcher and charcuterie expert, a bee expert, leather and apparel designers, a perfumer—the list is diverse and extensive, and video of each presentation has been preserved in an online video archive. Some speakers come with elaborate preparation, while others simply show up, and sometimes the people who think they don't have much to say end up with the liveliest discussions.
Although originally centered around people talking about their processes, Berblinger and Lolcama have taken note that things have naturally evolved to become more about the paths people take in life—how their decisions and circumstances lead to what they do and affect their work, and in turn how their work affects their lives. To that end, they're assembling a special eddition of Curiosity Club for Design Week, with a panel of past speakers whose stories are particularly interesting. They include Mudshark Studios' Chris Lyon and Brett Binford (the team behind the Portland Growler Company); Esque glass-blowing studio's Andi Kovel; culinary instructor/local food advocate Blake Van Roekel of Good Keuken; Mike Merrill, "the world's only publicly traded person"; and Chris Hoffman of RYNO Motors, who developed a one-wheel electric scooter.
The speakers will share the diverse circumstances that led them to their current projects, but beyond that, it's hard to say where the evening will go. "I don't want to define it," says Lolcama of Curiosity Club's purpose. "It will fuck it up."
Curiosity Club's "How Did You Get There?" at Hand-Eye Supply, 23 NW 4th, Tues Oct 8, 6 pm, free.