Thursday, July 16, 2015

MDC's All-American Road Trip: The West

We’re heading out west for the next leg of our month-long virtual road trip around the United States. American craftsmanship and the entrepreneurial spirit are alive and well!

The Pacific Northwest may be known for its vibrant natural beauty, but there are also many talented artisans located here that create hand-crafted tile ranging from ceramic to glass and stone. Located in southern Oregon, Encore Ceramics produces a large collection of sustainable decorative tile, all made from scratch. Their commitment to the environment is quite extraordinary. No raw waste is produced during the manufacturing process, which captures all the clay, glaze and water waste, and recycles them back into the process until it results in a finished tile.

Next, we head to Oregon’s biggest city, Portland, which is home to two all-American tile manufacturers; Ann Sacks and Pratt and Larson. Both manufacturers originated in the early 1980s and got their start by selling hand-crafted ceramic tile. As time has progressed, both companies have expanded into other flooring options, such as glass, porcelain and stone, yet stayed true to their roots by continuing to operate ceramic tile manufacturing facilities in Portland. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of Pratt and Larson’s factory by clicking here.

Whether it’s California’s strict upholstery legislation – which many out-of-state manufacturers use as a standard – or the manufacturing itself, the Golden State has a significant influence on the interior furnishings industry. Our first stop brings us to San Francisco, where in 1948, a young couple by the name of John and Elinor McGuire started a furniture company creating tables and chairs by binding rattan with rawhide, and offering dozens of custom finish options. These pieces captured the essence of casual luxury and quickly caught on in the design community. While John and Elinor are no longer living, their legacy lives on in each piece of McGuire Furniture produced today. Check out this video interview with the late John McGuire, describing the innovative design behind McGuire’s unique furniture.

Around the same time that John and Elinor were building their furniture empire in San Francisco, a pair of entrepreneurs downstate were looking to make it big in the textile industry. Matthew M. Pindler and Carl Pindler formed Pindler & Pindler Inc. in 1947, opening their first fabric showroom in Los Angeles. Throughout the following decades, Pindler continued to expand, always upgrading the square footage of its corporate headquarters as well as expanding into new markets, with 18 company showrooms and 10 representative showrooms to date. The company’s two largest fabric collections – Newport Mansions and Hearst Castle – are manufactured in the USA and draw their inspiration from artifacts found at these historic American homesteads.

Our final stop brings us to an unlikely home for a furniture manufacturer, Goodyear, Arizona, where Lorts Furniture has been creating quality casegoods for three generations. Located in the Sonoran Desert, it comes as no surprise that sourcing wood for their furniture locally was out of the question. That’s why in the company’s first generation of ownership, Andy Lorts began sourcing wood from the Pacific Northwest – a business practice that still remains in effect today. The Lorts tale is a somewhat unlikely success story, starting with its inception in 1966 when Andy Lorts began manufacturing dining room suites with no previous experience in the matter; to later in its second generation of ownership under Mike Lorts, Andy’s son, who capitalized on the popular waterbed trend of the 80s and 90s, but quickly had to re-invent when that industry took a nose-dive. Today, the company is in its third generation of family ownership under Ty Lorts, Mike’s son, and has developed the reputation for having some of the finest finishes in the country and recently expanding into the upholstery market.

 Check back next week as we will be heading home to Michigan for the final leg of MDC’s “All-American Road Trip.” We’ve invited many craftsman from our road trip to MDC for our event “The Craft” on July 23. Come to the event to meet them and see their skills demonstrated live and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as we will be featuring more All-American products!