There's a certain symmetry and logic to it: Phloem Studio makes furniture for multiple generations, by multiple generations. This isn't the only thing that makes Phloem furniture special, but it's one of the little details that stands out as unusual. Of course, the furniture itself stands out too, regardless of how or where or by whom it is made, because of its lines, look and feel.
35 year old Ben Klebba is the prime mover behind Phloem Studio. He makes his furniture alongside other young, generally one-person operations working in the industrial shop space above Beam & Anchor retail store on North Interstate Avenue in North Portland. We visited the workshop last week (here's the link). This week we take a close look at what Klebba has been doing at Phloem.
Phloem has been in business for about four years, and has been steadily growing, though not in personnel. Most of the time it's still just Ben designing and building the few desks, tables and chairs in his line, but a couple of days a week, his father comes in from Hood River to help out. Yes, Dad is a woodworker too. Ben has been learning from him for a long, long time, but he didn't set out to become a fine furniture craftsman. His career twisted and turned toward furniture and cabinetry, and his path led to Portland (from Chicago) about six years ago. He followed his sister. Mom and Dad moved west a year and a half ago.
The impetus for Klebba launching his own business was not unlike many a recent start-up: the recession of 2008-09 led to his being laid off from his job making furniture for someone else. The lay-off was "awesome," Klebba says now – "a kick in the pants." Business was rough for a while, but has settled into a steady and satisfying upward trend. Cabinetry projects for residential clients supplement his furniture commissions. New designs are sparked by new customers with new ideas or needs. The process of developing a piece, working with a client and also engaging his fellow artisans at the Beam & Anchor workspace, seems to create a productive environment. Klebba enjoys "feeding off the energy" of his colleagues, and interacting with customers visiting from the retail shop downstairs.
The slide show here pulls from Klebba's blog account of how the Laura desk came to be. (He doesn't credit the photographer, or I would). The desk is beautiful, and the photos are too.
2710 N. Interstate Ave.
Portland, OR 97227