10 Questions with: Plastic Birdie, PDX Muralist

10 Questions with: Plastic Birdie, PDX Muralist

If you've been to our Vaughn Street cafe in Portland recently, you may have noticed the mural on the side of the building. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with the artist, Jeremy Nichols, also know as Plastic Birdie, to learn more about his Hello Bear! mural.  

You can see more of Plastic Birdie's work on his website and be sure to check out Hello Bear! if you're in the area.

Hello bear mural at Vaughn St cafe

First off, thank you for taking the time to speak with us and for painting a beautiful, colorful, and impactful mural on our Portland Vaughn St. Cafe. What inspired you to paint a large bear and owl on the cafe? 

Since this building is on the edge of the NW industrial zone, shopping, and Forest Park, this mural was inspired by the vibrant energy and luscious green nature of the surrounding area. I wanted to create a mural that was inviting, playful, and welcoming to the surrounding community. The owl and bear are two creatures native to Oregon and are the main focal points of the mural. They are intended to first grab the viewer's attention and draw people in. 

You mentioned community, which is important to us at Groundwork. We strive to constantly support our origin communities and local communities through our organic and philanthropic philosophy. What does community mean to you and your work?
As a muralist, the community is very important to me. After all, we are creating something for the whole community to enjoy. We brighten up neighborhoods and provide the community with accessible art that they otherwise may not be able to enjoy. We strive to paint murals that the community will be proud to have in the neighborhood and bring everyone together to enjoy. One of my favorite parts of painting murals is to interact and engage with the community.

We are not so different, as we hope to do the same with our organic coffee in our neighborhood locations. Also, we are both not natives of Portland, but since moving here we have been greatly influenced by the coffee culture here, even developing blends inspired from the city like Slabtown.  Can you discuss how Portland has shaped you as an Artist?
So, I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and moved out here about 11 or 12 years ago. A lot has changed in Portland since then. When I first arrived here the mural scene had its issues, as the city was dealing with a lawsuit with Clear Channel, so it was rather difficult to get walls to paint. Since then, the city grew, mural restrictions became more relaxed, and with the help of several art organizations, the mural scene blossomed. So it was great to be a part of the mural scene as it developed here, and grow as an artist as Portland itself grew. Living here has given me a lot of opportunities I may not have had in other cities.  

Your mural seems to link humanity and nature and at Groundwork we see a future where people honor the planet; where humans and the environment flourish. A world where organic is the new form. Do you believe your work, your muralist work, shares the same values?
Yes of course! I think that all muralists are trying to make the world a better place through art. We all try to create something for the whole community to enjoy.

What message, if any, did or do you hope Groundwork customers or Portlanders or visitors have taken away from your Groundwork Vaughn St. Cafe Mural?
Overall, I wanted to create a friendly, welcoming mural that reflected the surrounding neighborhood. I want visitors and locals to see the mural and be reminded how fortunate we are to have access to such a beautiful area, like forest park. 

A few lighter questions for you about your relationship to coffee, how does coffee, if it does, play a role in your life as an artist?
I drink a lot of coffee when I work. Maybe a little too much. 

What is your favorite coffee drink? And Why?
Simple black coffee, no cream no sugar. It’s quick and easy

What do you think about latte art? 
I think it's pretty impressive! I have never tried, and in a lot of cases, I have no idea how its done. 

Do you think coffee roasting is an artform?
Although I am not completely familiar with the process, I believe anything you do that requires expert craftsmanship and some level of perfection, is an art form in some way. 
Could you please share with us where we can see more of your work and any of your upcoming projects?
It’s currently the rainy season here in Portland, so I will be mostly working on studio work and some interior wall projects and getting things ready for the next painting season (spring/summer).