August 3rd, 2010 5:33 pm | by Retail Therapist Retailtherapist | Posted In: Shopping

RETAIL THERAPIST: Design*Sponge's Grace Bonney in Portland

Grace Bonney

This Retail Therapist dispatch was written by WW's Sarah Davidson.

Brooklyn-based designer and editor of Design*Sponge Grace Bonney is in Portland this week. She'll be the keynote speaker of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) Portland conference and while she's at it, she's hosting a Design*Sponge Portland meet-up at Alder & Co.

Bonney's area of expertise aligns with this year's IDSA conference theme, DIY Design. As someone who has made a career out of using the Internet to bring mid-level designers together to form communities and learn about the business of craftsmanship, Bonney has done a lot of research on the DIY scene. The conference asks attendees to consider whether DIY design is a friend or foe of professional designers, and Bonney's come to conclude the former.

"The design scene is really reinventing itself," Bonney says. "A formal degree is no longer a prerequisite for a career in art. I think we'll start to see clusters forming, and designers will team up to share resources."

But since Design*Sponge launched in 2004, Bonney's been concerned with whether amateur design is sustainable as a business model for people who quit their jobs to paint or make prints all day.

Bonney's made an effort to educate the DIY art community about the business side of art by traveling to major cities and giving talks along with lawyers and retail specialists to followers of her site. Since her audience is mostly young women living in large cities, she called this series (which is now a web column) Biz Ladies.

"This is my favorite part of what I do because it results in so much collaboration," she says. "The goal is to connect people on a regional level even though we operate on the web."

Bonney said Portland is the perfect place to begin forming those communities, comparing it to Brooklyn in terms of creativity and ethic awareness.

"Both cities are really concerned with keeping things small, personal and creative," she said. "Portland is easily the most ethically aware design community I've ever visited."

Bonney said Design*Sponge has a book in the works that will feature 75 houses, 50 DIY projects and 50 before-and-after stories. "It's a giant inspiration guide to creating your own personal dream home," she said. "Those of us who have learned a lot need to educate a community that might be under prepared for this boom of DIY design. This is the direction we see the site going in."

GO: You can meet Grace Bonney and Design*Sponge users at the meet-up at Alder & Co., 537 SW 12th Ave., 224 1647. 5-8 pm Tuesday, Aug. 3. The event is also a benefit for p:ear, so bring an art supply for donation to the organization. If you want to catch Bonney's speech at the conference tomorrow night, ticket information is available at the IDSA website.
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