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Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Designer Interview: Mary and Topher from makelike

Ali

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I’m really excited to share a bit of insight behind the creative minds involved with makelike. If I had to pick a new set of friends the Portland, Oregon based designers, Mary and Topher, would be at the top of my list. Why? Well, who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who collects Boy Scout camp coffee mugs, framed photos of St. Mary’s Lake in Glacier National Park, vintage Brock dinnerware and photos of other people’s pets? Not to mention they are majorly skilled artists and seem like really fun, interesting, witty people. Enjoy!


photo courtesy of Adrian Gaut

Great brand name…what does it mean and where did it come from?

Thanks! We were inspired by the mysteriously undocumented folklore behind “makelike” phrases (makelike a tree and leave, etc.), so we chose it as our name (thanks to our friend Bob) and hosted a dinner party where our friends helped us write our own makelike phrases. We’ve also found that due to our “West Coast dialects” we end up saying it inadvertently in sentences when concepting ideas (e.g. “We could make, like, a really awesome tea towel.”)

Tell us about the process of starting makelike and how you got where you are today.

We got our official start in 2000…although we (Mary and Topher) had been working together at a Portland design firm called Johnson & Wolverton for several years prior. Our first job as makelike was a 200+ page spec magazine called MILK with CD Richard Christiansen (now Chandelier Creative, NYC), with whom we have collaborated with for the past ten years on various editorial (and other) jobs – including Suede and Radar (second iteration) magazines. We’ve always tried to incorporate pattern within all of our projects and our first intern (and now #3 man) Rob Halverson brought the hand-drawn stuff with him in 2000 from MCAD. Using self generated art successfully for our client’s projects for so many years, we finally decided to do it for ourselves in 2009 with our product line. We all love cacti, so we started with that as our first collection’s theme.

How would you describe your design style/philosophy? How has it evolved over the years?

We believe in making things that people want to keep – or better yet, cherish. What is the point of spending the time and resources to make something and then have it discarded or recycled? We try and make things with personality or soul – things you want to collect. For the product line, we’ve made things that we want to see in our own homes! A portion of our our time “designing” has evolved from something we do only for clients, to something we also do for ourselves. That’s made it a lot more fun. Aesthetically, when you take a step back and look at our client work over the years, you’ll probably notice that our style is diverse, flexible and capable of shape-shifting, but overall, we’ve stayed true to a consistent approach that ties everything together as a cohesive body of work – regardless of it’s complexity or simplicity.


You guys sound like you can do just about anything, photography, printmaking, sewing, installation…any favorite mediums? Any type of art you’ve been itching to try?

Well yeah, I guess we can….We all went to art school and we all studied some design in school – but none of us majored in it. That gives us a wide variety of skill-sets and the ability to do anything. Plus we live in the middle of a creative hotbed (Portland, Oregon), where it’s possible (and really easy) to remain curious, share and learn new things from the gifted people that surround you – every day!  Go spirit of collaboration!

Your dream project?

This.

Please share five things/people/places that inspire you.

M: Walking around my neighborhood, walks in the forest, camping, the makelike cactus collection, my home (my partner and I are restoring a 1915 craftsman and I am inspired to create what I want for it. Ha!).
T: Thrift stores, amateur/found photography, national park/forest ephemera, music (all kinds), utilitarian things made of wood, Sweden, The Thermos Corporation, Space/Time continuum, log cabins and my spiky agave/yucca/cactus-fortified front yard garden – to name a few.

Do you collect anything? Tell us of your treasures….Any prized possessions?

M: Let’s see…vintage fabric, old stationary, lists, art made by friends, idiosyncratic oil portraits, cookbooks, vintage Brock dinnerware.
T: I love this question…i feel like a cliché, but here goes: Vintage Thermos’, educational textbooks from the 70′s, Polaroid cameras, framed photos of St. Mary’s Lake in Glacier National Park, boom boxes, amateur-mounted antlers, old Sunset How-To books, “woodsy” things, floppy discs, Boy Scout camp coffee mugs, decopage things, cacti/succulents (we both do this), vintage camping equipment, road bikes, ceramic pots (with flat sides, stripes or embossed/tonal patterns), vintage stir-sticks, amateur needlepoint, photos of other people’s pets, old Le Crueset/Dansk cookware (anything orange or yellow ochre with a wood handle) to name a few.

What advice would you give aspiring designers?

Don’t stop ’til you get enough.

If you could see a makelike piece in the home of any one person who might it be and which product would you choose for their space?

A tea towel in the kitchen of Ray Eames.

Finally, what is next for makelike?

Forest is next! Then…hmmm…any ideas for our next theme?

Thanks, Mary and Topher!

View all of the makelike pieces on Design Public.

About Ali

I enjoy wood paneled station wagons, German food and senior citizens (I am 80 years old at heart). Nearly every weekend I am taking photos at other people's weddings and I have a blog of my own (but I don't update it often enough). I love to paint, sew and knit. Check out my DP Staff profile on Hatch.

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  1. Becky says:

    September 29th, 2010 at 11:01 am (#)

    They are so inspiring! Great interview Ali! I’m so glad to know more about them!

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