With a background in television editing and production, Caravan Pacific’s founder Shannon Guirl never had any intention to start a business handcrafting Midcentury Modern-inspired lighting.
“Caravan Pacific began in 2010 when I started decorating my small Brooklyn apartment,” she says. “I fell in love with the vibrant colors and shapes of vintage midcentury table lamps and wanted to bring them back for my own generation to enjoy.”
Love for Mid Mod
Drawn to the many facets of midcentury design, Shannon has immersed herself in the history of the movement—gleaning from its various forms out of Sweden, Denmark and North America. “There was such a love and dedication to craft and yet a determination to push its boundaries during its heyday,” she says.
Shannon focuses on studying the design movements and the people who created during the midcentury era so as to better hone her craft. “[It] has inspired me to become a designer that works and gains inspiration directly from the materials I work with,” she says.
For Shannon, this inspiration runs deep. “The midcentury style that I love most combines minimal forms with natural materials and is influenced by a sense of place,” she says. Located in the Pacific Northwest, Shannon has plenty to inspire her, noting “an abundance of color and texture through dynamic landscapes created by volcanoes, mossy forests, ocean waves and the slow, steady beat of rain.”
For most artisans, studying the work of the predecessor that inspires them most is the only opportunity they’ll have to glean and learn. Luckily for Shannon, this was not the case for her. The man that inspired her most, ceramicist Gordon Martz of Marshall Studios fame, became her mentor.
While in the research phase of her first lamp, she discovered his work and suddenly found all the inspiration she needed. “There was wonderful fluidity between his daily practice as a ceramicist and his attitude towards designing,” Shannon says.
Through emails and phone calls Gordon shared with Shannon his expertise—guiding her as she learned the ropes of working with ceramics. In 2014 she got to meet Gordon, and at 94 he was still designing. Though he has since passed away, Gordon’s lessons helped to mold the future of Caravan Pacific. “Gordon Martz will always be a great influence on my work,” Shannon says. “Connecting with him was an integral experience to me as a designer and one that I will always cherish because of his generosity with his time and advice.”
“I wish I could spend 100% of my time just working on new designs—they are always humming in the background of my thoughts, but it’s the challenge of the day-to-day tasks of running a business that lets the most relevant designs rise to the top,” Shannon says. “In essence, it creates a good system to weed out what isn’t essential.”
One of the elements that makes Caravan Pacific unique is that the designs are not reproductions. Rather, Shannon studies the sensibilities of midcentury style and has reinterpreted them in her own light. “Our color palette continues to expand each year, offering a wide array of glazes, woods and shades that are customizable in endless combinations.”
Each of Caravan Pacific’s lamps is made in Portland. “From slip-casting and burnishing each ceramic base by hand, to turning and assembling the finished product in-house,” Shannon says. “It’s a lot of hard work, but we think the outcome results in a more finely crafted and beautiful piece of lighting.”
For more on Shannon Guirl’s work and Caravan Pacific, visit caravan-pacific.com.
Atomic Ranch is Celebrating Women’s History Month!
March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, join us as we showcase some of the midcentury’s most beloved women designers as well as some modern makers inspired by their legacy. Click here to read more about the ladies behind your favorite designs, pieces and places.