Portland Design Power Couple Reflects on 35 Years of Local Maker Culture


Stephen Sasser and Lyn Nance-Sasser first met in the art department at Portland State University, and have now been making prints together in Portland for over thirty-five years.  In that time, they have seen a lot of changes in the maker community, mostly for the better.

Stephen says, “It’s different now from the old days, where there was a distinction made between ‘artists’ and ‘craft/makers.’ There were fewer opportunities to show and sell creative work in those days, mostly through a limited number of galleries. That all helped to keep things more competitive. People were protective of their processes and rarely shared with each other.”

Lyn says, “Now, there is such a great feeling of camaraderie, it is more like a big family. It’s not so individually divided, and there’s no real age discrimination.”

They credit the arrival of the Internet for a lot of these changes: The expanded options for both showing and selling work online, how the arrival of social media has changed and expanded ways of marketing.  And for Lyn and Stephen, this expansion has served to increase the public’s awareness and interest in printmaking. Advancing technology and digital imaging has greatly changed the speed and efficiency of the printmaking process, and has allowed them to keep up with the increasing interest and demand; it has helped them be able to produce work more quickly and that is more affordable, while at the same time still using archival paper and inks to maintain the longevity of the images.

The “You Are Here” series began with a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, and a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council. The idea was to feature iconic Portland symbols (The downtown Elk Fountain, The St Johns Bridge, etc.) collaged with the associated fragments of tourist maps. The series was a statement of place and a tribute to their city.  The idea has caught on and has expanded to include other cities across the United States as well as British Columbia, France, England and Japan. They hope to keep the series expanding.

Lyn does the drawing, and they both work on designs. They work in their large house, where there are three studio spaces, one on each level; this allows them spaces to be both creatively separate and together.

What is it like, being married and working together for so many years?

Lyn says, “It’s a real back and forth process, and the process never stops – we are always bouncing ideas off each other.”

See the You Are Here prints and learn more about Stephen and Lyn at www.youarehereportland.com