Coffee + Art + Friends : Stuart Breidenstein


Stuart Breidenstein

Designer • Beauty Lover • Material Explorer • Creative Problem Solver 


My favorite moment is when something finally comes together. You reach that crux and everything falls into place. That’s my favorite moment. I used to experience it with music more, when you add something or take out some ingredient so you have that instant where it comes together and everything falls into place. It feels like “Yes!”

You’ll be struggling with something and then a certain element comes into it and everything just flows. It’s like “Yes, now it’s working!” You can struggle your whole way through a project and get to the end of it and still not be satisfied. Or you can struggle and struggle and some cool element will happen and the rest of it goes pretty fast. You can struggle for 8 hours and then that moment comes and 20 minutes later you’re done. You put it on the shelf and think, “That’s great!”

I grew up in a creative household. My mom played piano and did different art projects. She would go to the craft store and find a new materials and bring it home and we would make stuff. My dad made jewelry when I was a kid. My brother and sister are both creative. I don’t remember any time where I first thought “Oh, Art is something…” It was just there.

My parents sent me to guitar lessons. There was always music in the house. I grew up in a creative environment. There were times when I thought “Oh, this is what I am going to do for a living.” That became more and more concrete as I got older. At this point there is no other option. I can’t not be an artist.

I consider myself more of a crafter than artist, I think. I don’t focus on Art for Art’s sake. I like functional Art. I like functional objects that are esthetically appealing.

I have to preach to friends and other artists I know about selling stuff. There is this stigma around making art to sell or selling art. Same thing in music. There is definitely a stigma to selling stuff— selling out. But you have to do something for a living and if you want to make art and you can keep doing that and you don’t want to be distracted by another process, then you have to figure out what you do into something people can buy. It usually involves compromise, which is a dirty word. But I think if you are willing to compromise some of your work, you don’t have to compromise your whole life.

I can remember my mom bringing home this stuff you would make a wire frame and you would dip it in this stuff. It would make a bubble film, it kind of looked like stained glass, but a thin and delicate film. At the time, I thought “this is cool and weird.” I’d never seen anything like it.

I remember her also bringing home Sculpty. I haven’t used it in ages. And then when I was in my 20’s we had all these wooden shingles outside my house. It was kind of leftover from the roof— my dad was a true do-it-yourself-er, before DIY was trendy. I cut them up and made them into earrings. I remember cases like that where it was like “Oh, this material is fun to work with.” 

We used to make our own toys out of lead. We’d melt down lead and make it into toys. We would use this rubbery mold and shape it around cars and stuff and we would melt down sinkers and stuff and pour it into the molds. When I hear people being upset about lead in their toys paint, I’m like “That’s nothing! We actually made toys out of lead!”

I am inspired by materials a lot. If I am out and about and I find a cool material, I immediately start thinking “What can I do with this? What’s it ductility like? Can I drill though this? Can I bend it?”  A lot of times, I’ll have something I’ve designed in one material and I’ll use it as an algorithm and I’ll throw this other material into it and see how it affects the outcome. If I am working with wood and I throw plastic into that equation, how that is different?

When I was growing up, my mom was an antiques dealer and she would collect these resin bangles from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. I would go around to auctions with my mom and dad. They weren’t into it, but I was really into the mid-century stuff, the shapes and colors, slightly organic, stretched and stylized shapes. The curves. The simplicity. It wasn’t an ornate era. There was no baroque-ness to the mid-century stuff. I liked that. I have a lot of that influence and those ingredients in my design aesthetic.

I have a decent local following. I kind of have to keep doing new stuff. If I don’t, why would anyone want to come in? That works for me because I get bored easily. I have to create new stuff all the time. For me it works that I get to keep being creative and coming up with new stuff in my retail world. The other side is that there are things that sell really well and I can’t stop making them. Luckily, they are easy things to make.

I think maybe people see Art as a luxury or something that is an extra unnecessary thing on top of society. In a lot of ways it is a necessary thing. It is necessary for artists— every artist would be a crazy person if we couldn’t make stuff. The fact that you can use it as therapy is evidence it is necessary. It is also necessary to society because what would be the point of anything if we were’t creating beauty? It’s in everything— in everything not created by nature has some sort of Art in it. Even in engine design— the thought that goes into it, the symmetry, the lines and curves. It is just a necessary part of human existence.

It is also, on a more local, pragmatic cultural level, when we have Art in our culture, in our municipal life, it is kind of a signal that this is place you enjoy. This is a society that is healthy, because if you ever go to places where there is not much thought in the Art and you don’t see art around, even if you don’t notice is consciously, you notice it subconsciously and know something is missing. When you come here and there is roundabout art and there are places like The Workhouse which is all about Art, there is no way, at least subconsciously you don’t think, “Oh that’s a really good little society they have there.”  

As artists, we are in the habit of being creative. Creativity and money are two different sides of the same coin. You can have a problem and you can throw creativity at it or you can throw money at it. For us creatives, we don’t have a lot of money, so we are in the habit of being creative. No matter what it is, feeding ourselves, clothing ourselves, transporting ourselves, housing ourselves, entertain themselves— we creative people are in the habit of throwing our creativity at a problem. 

July 14, 2016 • The Workhouse • Bend, Oregon