Central Oregonians are a collection of dreamers, doers, storytellers and innovators who have all chosen this beautiful place as home. The result is a thriving community of makers who help weave the cultural fabric of this unique area. To showcase the depth of creativity that flows here, Visit Central Oregon created the “Central Oregon Makers” campaign. The hope is that the content inspires others to seek out and support the people who bring the Central Oregon region to life. See videos of each of these Central Oregon Makers here.
Scott and Jennifer Seelye are the brains behind Outdoor Ukulele (locally crafted ukuleles built to withstand extreme conditions), founded in 2015. The instruments are made with polycarbonate and carbon fiber strands, which allow musicians to travel with the ukulele without worrying about weather or temperature—not to mention the amplified acoustics. “What I love is trying to create instruments that have never been made before,” Seelye told Visit Central Oregon. Buyers can also find guitars and banjoleles (a cross between a banjo and a ukulele) which are also made in Bend by Outdoor Ukulele. Instruments have been shipped to some of the most remote places in the wilderness including the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, because sometimes you just need a little music to go with the scenery.
Together, The Broomsmen and Local Plastic are one team built on a sustainable mission to support the environment. While people who recycle have good intentions, Philip Torchio, founder of The Broomsmen said that many people don’t know the materials that can be recycled, and a lot of previously “recycled” material actually ends up in landfills. “Our bottom line here is really trying to get the maximum use out of the material,” Tom Kochtitzky, designer for Local Plastic, said.
Recycling gurus at The Broomsmen take plastics from events such as weddings, tops of six-packs from canned beers, and even plastics from small businesses and individuals. efforts from The Broomsmen and Local Plastic result in sustainable, delightful products such as handbags and planter pots. The repurposing of recycled materials adds to the solution that many people don’t think twice about, what happens after we recycle?
An Oregon native born in Newport, Hunter Noack is the founder of the In a Landscape: Classical Music in the Wild series. From Noack’s invention, the world itself becomes a concert hall. A nine-foot Steinway piano is placed in grand landscapes of State Parks, ranches, greenspaces, farms and historical sites, especially in Central Oregon. Concertgoers wear wireless headphones that connect to microphones inside the piano, so if they are sitting hundreds of feet away, the experience is still vibrant and luminous against the natural backdrop. “To be part of an experience that is meaningful is something that I’m proud of,” Noack said.
Erica Porch, owner and founder of Derive Jewelry, uses inspiration from natural surroundings to reflect the designs of her work. “I pick up a lot of inspiration from the landscape, the colors, everything from the sunset, the ocean. There’s inspiration everywhere when it comes to [the] creative process and making something with your hands,” she said. From her collections, find gems and stones such as pearls and turquoise contrasted with bases such as gold fill or sterling silver. The delicate, natural and finite aesthetic of the jewelry reflects in the quality, and the handmade aspect only makes Porch’s pieces more special. Find Derive Jewelry on the website, or in Central Oregon shops including Hello Sunshine in the Old Mill, Clementine Urban Mercantile in downtown Bend, Willow Wild in Redmond and many more.
The conception of Sisters Meat and Smokehouse begins with Jeff and Kay Johnson who own the butchery and eatery in Sisters. With great appreciation for quality meats, and finding a way to provide this sustainably and locally to the community, they knew just the person to go to.
Brody Waller, used to give the Johnsons gift baskets of his smoked meat recipes. This gave them the idea to open Sisters Meat and Smokehouse and hire Waller as managing partner and master smoker. Brody’s brother, Wade Waller is head meat cutter, and many of the recipes, techniques and seasonings found at the smokehouse were developed by their father, Steve Waller. “A lot of family works here. A lot of people that we hire from the outside become family,” Wade Waller said. The smokehouse is a place to get expertly cut meats such as Porterhouse steak, chicken, smokehouse jerky and many more. Or, stop by at lunch for a delicious, handmade French dip sandwich.
Wade Waller said. The smokehouse is a place to get expertly cut meats such as Porterhouse steak, chicken, smokehouse jerky and many more. Or, stop by at lunch for a delicious, handmade French dip sandwich.
Paige Bruguier, the lone artist and designer of J Paige, said that each leather hide she works with tells a story, including bug bites and stretch marks that can be found fossilized on the material. She creates handmade leather handbags, pouches and backpacks that are entirely unique due to the originality of the material. “Every hide has character; and it’s also just really unforgiving,” Bruguier said. “If you’re sewing [with leather] and you make one hole, that’s never going to go away. So, you have to be really intentional.” Bruguier quit the job she had in town to pursue and take a chance on her own company, J Paige, which shoppers can find online. Some signature elements found on her bags besides leather are brass embellishments—including the bass “J Paige” tag—and tassels.
At Santiam Snolab, customers design the skis or snowboards of their dreams. The process begins with choosing your ski performance design. Then, the expert team at Santiam Snolab brings the dream to life after gathering your themes and ideas.
After that, the collaborative effort is handed to the customer who goes into the shop, ready to work—with guidance from professionals—so the experience is even more memorable than ordering custom gear. “Anyone that actually goes through this process, whether they do it alone or whether they do it with their family, they never think the same about what they strap to their feet to go play in the snow again,” Hank Gulledge, department manager for Santiam Snolab, said. Although the staff at the Snolab is there to help, gather material and take over the process when expertise is needed, you truly get to be the “maker” here.
Kelli Palmer is a basket weaver in Warm Springs. She learned to make baskets at a local culture camp when she was a kid; after sharing her newfound passion with her, Palmer’s mother revealed she also loved to make baskets. Palmer uses inspiration from the changing seasons to make the corn husk baskets, “I notice I change as the seasons change,” she said. Reflections of the natural surroundings in Warm Springs, and the alternating colors of the seasons can be found in the baskets Palmer creates. “I just see this as a way that people can preserve part of their culture and be able to pass it down,” she said.
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
Tour the Central Oregon Mural Trail
Take a scenic tour around Central Oregon, and among the lush forests, arid high desert landscapes and bright blue skies, you’ll start to notice stunning murals dotting the region. The murals, each with distinct symbols unique to the town, reflect the spirit of Central Oregon in animated colors and design. Artists Katie Daisy and Karen Eland began the “Greetings From…” series with inspiration from vintage postcards. Now, nearly every town in Central Oregon hosts a large hand painted mural with stunning details specifically designed for that town. Follow the Central Oregon Mural Trail and discover hidden treasures in each high desert town along the way.
The Central Oregon Mural Trail
Large-scale, hand painted murals have been growing in popularity in Central Oregon communities in recent years, following the updated city codes (the moral - more murals in public spaces). These bright engaging murals not only bring new life and color to once drab building walls, but they provide the communities and visitors with a sense of pride for their natural surroundings. And let’s not forget, they make great selfie backgrounds!