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The second month-long celebration of Portland's creative community of textile workers expands to become a platform

COURTESY: PORTLAND TEXTILE MONTH - It Is What It Is by Krista Anara Cibis from her show Sampler, part of Portland Textile Month.

This is the second year of Textile Month in Portland, and the organization has grown in a typically Portland way.

This year there are 75 textile-themed events, as opposed to last year's 35.

Instead of merely increasing the number of events and sponsors, the organizers, Annin Barrett and Caleb Sayan, are giving Textile Month a shove in the self-organizing direction.

Again, as in its debut year 2018, the month is an invitation to the Portland textile community to host their events. Most of them are talks, demonstrations and open houses. Eventbrite handles payment and ticketing — even for the many free events. The textile community in Portland covers everyone from traditional quilters to those trying to make streetwear out of Digital Age fabrics.

For Barrett and Sayan, members of the Portland textile community are keen to interact with each other and diversify.

For Textile Month (October), hosts of free events must pay $20 to list them on the website. For events where admission is charged, they pay $50 to be listed.

They also are giving Textile Month an all-year-round presence. New this year they have set up the Textile Exchange online, an all-year website where organizers can submit two events per month. Textile Exchange is free for listings in October 2019. Thereafter, it will cost $100 per year for unlimited listings.

COURTESY: PORTLAND TEXTILE MONTH - Portland Textile Month showcases the range of textile crafts and fabric art being made in the city. Workshops include one on indigo dyeing.

The opening party is at Portland Garment Factory, a for-profit business where designers can have their designs professionally sewn in small batches, or rent a sewing machine and do it themselves. The closing event is a costume party with the theme "reuse" at Revive Designs in Kenton, an upholstery business.

Having spent much of the year making the website more robust and scalable, Sayan is promoting it as a platform for other cities to organize their own textile festivals. After traveling to Japan in 2018 he persuaded organizers in Tokyo, Tango and Kiryu to use his platform.

Budget threads

Sayan is still operating on a shoestring, but expects to grow over the next three years as the event establishes itself.

"Years three and four will be about getting more sponsors. Rather than build a big organization like Design Week, I want to keep it smaller and add initiatives every year."

He says he respects Design Week and what it has become.

"This year, we are trying to transition to a year-round organization. We're also keenly aware there are 11 other months in the year, and we want to keep in contact with people. We can't just wait for the Ferris wheel to come around again. The trick is, do people see this as something they want to support and become a member of the Textile Exchange? We have to execute," Sayan said.

Not all amateurs

Many partners have donated their space, such as PNCA and Portland Garment Factory, while other launch partners contributed $500.

"We're building out the website as a community resource, which will make it easier to get funding," Sayan told the Business Tribune. "Potential sponsors want to see what it's like before they'll follow us."

COURTESY: PORTLAND TEXTILE MONTH - Portland Textile Month showcases the range of textile crafts and fabric art being made in the city.

Instead of running on volunteer labor, this year, much of the admin work was paid. His website designer is in Tennessee. Sayan has known him for eight years, but they have never met face to face.

The website is built in WordPress with a lot of customization, and is hosted by GreenGeeks.

"On the old website, you had to manually reenter a lot of information. We could have just reskinned it this year, but we totally repurposed it. We're using a novel back end called Airtable. It's a cloud-based spreadsheet. When you submit something, it goes into the spreadsheet and is published live on the website and on Eventbrite."

As part of spreading the platform, they are trying to make it plug-and-play for other cities. In Japan, they will be able to use the website itself to create tickets instead of Eventbrite.

He calls Portland Textile Month a social enterprise, which makes it a limited liability company, not a non-profit. However, it is still eligible for grants. He applied for one for $3,000 from the Regional Arts and Culture Council.

Former Pendleton executive Almarina Bianchi is advising, but getting input from big apparel companies such as Nike and Adidas has not been easy.

Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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