Olander Earthworks -- Rolling with it
Andrew (Andy) Lonnquist had been sculpting beautiful, expressive faces and giving them as gifts to family and friends, when one fateful day a piece he’d been working on tumbled on to his bench, rolling in the sand there. When he lifted the face, he found a stunning imprint, and his gears started turning. Today Andy and his wife, Sarah, run a hopping workshop producing a wide range of thoughtfully-designed zen balls and cones that, when rolled, leave mesmerizing pattern trails. Their company is called Olander Earthworks.
In 2008, he left his job as a jewelry maker, and started creating on his own terms. It was a risky move, as they’d just had a child, and also a bold choice, as his shop was in their one car garage. Their property was filling up… Just one and a half years ago, their company was still operating out of their garage, but their success at the Saturday Market led them to increased sales and the need to hire six part time employees and quest for more space.
For Andy, it’s not just the sales that made him believe in the power of the Saturday Market, it’s the opportunity he gets every weekend to see customers interact with is product, for the balls are not only beautiful, they’re therapeutic and fun to use. As Andy says, “We like to make people smile,” and it’s at the Saturday Market where Andy sits back every weekend to watch people’s faces light up with delight as they roll his creations through the sand. But it’s not just joy he’s getting out of seeing people playing with patterns and feeling textures, it’s real-time product testing and feedback from consumers. He’s constantly testing new designs out at the Market, using the weekend hours and passersbys as enjoyable and invaluable R&D.
Andy and Sarah opened their new studio up to us recently to show us where their products are produced, though it’s clear much of the magic still happens at their home where Andy stays up late at night creating. As Sarah puts it, despite the fact that she brings her own design sense and skills, he’s very much the “mastermind,” always churning out new, delightful designs.
We loved talking with Andy and Sarah, hearing them echo themes we often hear with Portland Made members including the joy (and stress) of running a business with your life partner, the twists of fate that bring you to where you are, and how so many makers end up pursuing their craft because their friends and family were supportive and appreciative of the work they were doing.
So remember — next time a loved one takes the time to make you something unique with their hands, thank them and remind them that what they’re doing is special and worthwhile. Maybe someday they’ll have enough courage to strike out on their own to bring their beautiful products to life.
Check out the many whimsical and wonderful designs Andy has shared with world on their website or in person at the Portland Saturday Market.