Perhaps the most intimate way to familiarize yourself with a culture and its people is to visit a local artisan’s market—to see the colors, shapes, and designs that linger deep in the region’s collective subconscious. And while so few of us are able to see every corner of this vast globe in our brief mortal visits, one Portland importer has done their best to consolidate a world’s worth of craft into one gorgeously curated space.
Cargo occupies a historic 20,000 square-foot multi-level brick warehouse in Portland’s Central Eastside neighborhood. With founder and ceramicist Patty Merrill alongside co-owner and interior designer Brigid Blackburn at the helm, the space is professionally designed and its wares elegantly curated to be both a feast for the eyes and an exacting test of your ability to “just look.”
Everything except the old-growth timber beams and soaring ceilings that make up the building is for sale. The space erupts in a smattering of patterns, textures, and objects that together comprise a landscape of global craftwork. A range of forms is represented, from textiles to trinkets, furniture to flatware, bric-a-brac, and beyond. Over the years, they’ve engaged artists from Guatemala, the Philippines, Japan, India, Mali, and Mexico.
While the venture began as a one-business importer and vendor, Cargo has since expanded to include several other local makers and importers into their empire of wares. Among them is Tasi, a jeweler working with internationally-sourced antique beads; Xuxo, which imports indigenous styles of Mexican pillows, shawls, and bags from collectives in Chiapas and Oaxaca; and Giraffe, a Japanese convenience store with grab n’ go bento boxes, sandos, and more.
With an ever-changing inventory that seems to burst at the seams even in this sweeping building, there’s a world’s-worth to look at, no matter how many times you visit.
Know Before You Go
Free parking behind the building.
Entry on Water Avenue.