Portland Saturday Market Presents
MAKER MONDAY
with RUSTEK.co
clayton@rustek.co

What is the name of your business? *

Rustek

How would you describe the work you do?

Wood inlay, laser cutting, handcrafted wood products, natural apparel and accessories.

How long have you been a PSM member?

3 years?

What is your background? How did you come to be at PSM?

We started out at Portland street fairs, always knew about the market and didn't think we'd qualify, but sure enough we gave it a try and were accepted!

What attracted you to this particular work?

It initially started with skateboards, but Miles and I have always been passionate about quality. Ever since I can remember we've always looked at consumer goods and thought 'why couldn't that be more sustainable? Better quality? Better looking? etc' -- all started with Miles wanting to make a better looking skateboard than he could buy. He didn't want to cover the beautiful wood with paint, and so a focus on the beauty of the natural material was a theme of our work from the beginning. We then started slowly creating more products to apply these ideas to, and all the sudden we're making over 300 different products!

Who/What are your biggest influences?

MC Escher was definitely an influence for our early phone case designs. We've also been inspired by a couple local companies like Grovemade, as well as some more established and further afield such as Arbor collective, who took on the skate and snow industry with a simple philosophy of making everything they could just a bit more sustainable and a bit more beautiful. Their incremental attitude towards pushing the needle in an industry is a big inspiration for me.

What are you trying to say/accomplish through your work?

We are trying to bring the beauty of nature back into everyday life through functional everyday products. From using natural materials in the construction of our products, to nature themed designs, all of our products and designs start and end with nature as the focus.

Do you sell/exhibit your work other places besides PSM? How does PSM compare? What makes it special?

PSM will always have a special place in our hearts as the place that truly gave us our first traction to turn this into a full time business. Other local markets and events were fun, but PSM provided us with the ongoing support to take this full time and really push to the next level. The ongoing support of our local community, but also the strong tourism pull of the market allowed us to connect with both local and nationwide audiences right in our backyard in a way I couldn't imagine happening any other way. Since the start of the pandemic we've largely shifted our business online and we've definitely come to terms with the fact that PSM is a pretty big undertaking for such a small company as ours in order to maintain inventory etc.

How do you price your work?

As low as we can afford! We are our own target demographic, and we understand that quality things cost money but can be made without the luxury price tag. We make premium products, so they're not cheap, but we try to only design products that we could bring to people like us for a cost they would be able to afford.

Do you cultivate a following/collector base? What is your niche?

We get a lot of woodworkers for our wood specific products, but really nature lovers of all kinds, from the sustainability angle but also just those who also think nature is beautiful and want to bring more of it into their lives!

Can you suggest some marketing tips to other artists?

Hire an ad agency to run your social media and Google ads. It’s worth it! You will struggle to succeed at it on your own and end up feeling trapped selling your stuff in person only.

Do you have any special habits or tips for budgeting your creative energy/time? What inspires/motivates you?

Take days off! As artists it can be hard to feel like you've 'earned' time off, since everyone says you do what you love, why wouldn't you do it all the time? But realistically maintaining a healthy balance with socializing and physical activity keep us motivated to get back to work, kick ass and take some more time off!

What role do you feel the artist has in today's society?

I think artists have always been conversation starters, and I think the things we as artists prioritize in our designs and philosophy ground our art in many ways

How has your work/business evolved over time?

We really started with just woodwork, but over time our lines of merino wool beanies and cork headwear and apparel have really taken off. We discovered that although we do woodwork well, the theme of what we do is integrating natural materials and nature themed designs into functional products in new and innovative ways, not just woodworking.

What is your favorite part of your business/creating your art?

Probably reading our reviews! Reading people's unfiltered genuine delight with our products is definitely the most rewarding thing we do daily. I'm always surprised and humbled when artists or shops that we know reach out to us and are interested in working with us. That is always a humbling and exciting process!

What is the most difficult/least enjoyable part of your work?

Accounting, definitely. Spreadsheets, budgets and expense reports are categorically the worst part of creative pursuits. Everyone thinks art is just fun, but it’s a business too!

Does your work have a particular theme(s)?

Nature!

What other jobs have you had besides artist and business owner?

I was an early employee for a company called Lumi, starting out as production manager making photosensitive printing dye, which turned into managing operations, sales and eventually quoting for custom packaging. Worked catering for a few years and was a camp counselor prior. My brother/partner Miles has done some camp counselor work as well as some house painting and restaurant work.

How do you counter, or balance, the most difficult aspects of being a self-employed artist?

We live part time out of truck bed campers and spend a lot of our time in the mountains snowboarding and surfing at the coast. These really keep us motivated to keep coming back and pushing our brand further so we can continue to do pursue other things we love as well! We're brothers and have been pretty close our whole lives. Many of the challenges of running a business, especially an artistic one, are interpersonal, and we're pretty fortunate to have been pretty well on the same page from the jump. I think that has really helped us get where we are.

What three artists would you love to be compared to?

We love not being compared to others but appreciated how we differ. We strive to innovate and do everything we do a bit differently, so the only place we really want to be compared is in our innovation.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Everything costs thousands of dollars. It’s true. Everything worth doing is a big commitment.

What is your professional goal?

For our brand to support a network of independent artists, and to contribute to sustainability at the intersection of the art and outdoor worlds.

What would you not be able to do without?
Coffee. And snow.

Why Art?

Making art is the ultimate freedom of creation. Creating both products and the art that goes on the products allows us the ultimate freedom in what we want to make. It allows us to choose to collaborate with other artists or craftspeople where it will benefit the end result. We wouldn't have it any other way!
    • Phone number(s)(503) 222-6072
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    • Location(s) 2 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, Oregon 97204
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