ELEEK INC. officially opened its doors in 2000 when designer and patternmaker Eric Kaster and his marketing-savvy partner, Sattie Clark, scraped together their resources and rented a shop space in Portland, Oregon’s southeast industrial area. By that point, however, Eric had already been working on his unique designs and skills for many years.
Eric Kaster is a third-generation patternmaker, a rare thing these days. His grandfather Willie Kaster hired on at Willamette Pattern Works in 1939 and then purchased the business in 1962. Eric spent countless hours as a child playing and sweeping up at the shop. At sixteen, Eric started at Willamette Pattern Works as an apprentice patternmaker. Six years later he achieved journeyman status and started managing the family business.
Simultaneously, on his own time, Kaster was pursuing interest in a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, photography and graphic design as he worked on remodeling a string of houses that he bought and sold, dreaming of better options for decorative building parts as he went along. Finally he brought his artistic attentions full circle and started designing lighting, sinks, hardware and other architectural accents using cast metal and wood, among other materials.
Eric Kaster’s designs are profound in a world where nearly everything we encounter has been designed and overdesigned, vying for our attention and affection. Kaster’s pieces sometimes feel old, like relics recovered from archeological ruins. They are sometimes modern and simple, sometimes whimsical or intricate. Always though, whether rustic or polished, they feel authentic, made from real stuff by real hands. Our eyes know the difference. Our hands know the difference. And somehow, inexplicably, our hearts know the difference.
What is Patternmaking?
Patternmaking is the old world craft of making detailed wood positives from which molds for metal castings are made. It is equal parts precision woodworking and engineering and requires a formidable sense of spacial relationships. As computers take over patternmaking, fewer and fewer people know how to do it by hand. But doing it by hand makes all the difference when you want a handcrafted feel.