Imagination Station

A new collective in south Ashland hopes to share with the community its artists' passions for digital art and design, clothing design and production, and live performance.

The Imagination Station, which provides studio and office space for artists and an environment in which to share equipment, expertise and marketing efforts, will hold an open house from 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at the center, 722 Jefferson Ave.

Founder Matthew McLean, who graduated from Southern Oregon University in 2011 with a double major in business and music, and a minor in digital design, originally developed the idea for his capstone project.

"You get all of these people together, and "… it's kind of like a collective that can do anything," said McLean, who has many ties to the local creative arts scene, including work with Dancing People Company and the Rogue Fam Jam.

Michael Eakin, a friend and clothing designer, suggested a similar idea to McLean: Why not finance the space McLean wanted for his new music production business by sharing a large workspace with other artists they knew?

Before long, McLean and Eakin were joined by nine others in a 3,000-square-foot suite divided into nine offices, a front reception and display area, a common area for meetings, and a multi-use area in the rear for dance, events and classes. Almost all are in their 20s.

Palmer Nicklas, another recent SOU graduate, is a computer artist/designer and writer who works on the catalog, helps members produce professional business branding and logos, and tends to his own digital art. He and McLean have a "wearable art" partnership called Sacred Designs, one of several collaborative businesses among the members.

"No one ever sells just clothing," Nicklas said. "You sell a lifestyle. When you wear something, it changes how you feel completely and utterly."

He said he hoped they could help change the "whole corporate-manufactured idea of fashion, and how we're supposed to be and look and act all the time."

"We're all weird. You should celebrate it," he said. "Everyone's a little bit strange and quirky, and we shouldn't all be trying to be the same, we should all be trying to be who we are."

He and others are finding work in the collective powerful and inspiring, he said. The station is democratically operated, along with an ethic of helping each other and giving back to the larger community. "It's a place to work," he said, "but it's work that we love. We really love what we do and really want to share it with the world."

Eakin, who said he is "a completely self-taught tailor" who is "highly influenced by the steampunk style" (blending punk rock with Victorian looks), named his growing, two-year-old business Lost Boys Ragz, a line of men's outerwear that is currently sold in six West Coast shops, including Hemporium and Atomica in Ashland.

"We all have to put in everything," Eakin said, meaning everyone's skills and efforts are necessary for the collective to succeed. He has one employee for the clothing business and is in charge of managing two new sales people who will be representing all the products featured in the Imagination Station catalog.

The first product catalog, in pdf format, will shortly be emailed to contacts, and is available by request. The catalog is central for connecting the collective's creativity with retailers throughout the Northwest and nationally.

In addition to Lost Boys Ragz, catalog-listed products include Sacred Designs T-shirts and hoodies, and painter Ivan Beauvalet's hats.

From artists Shalako Lee, Shelby Zamboni, Adrienne Hasler and Jessica Williams come an array of accessories, jewelry, feathered wear, specialty and costume items, hats and decorated hula hoops and toys.

Other unique, live performance and upcycled items from Beauvalet, Lee and Chelsea Gaudette will be marketed on the summer music festival circuit, another aspect of the collective sales strategy.

Saturday's open house is also a "trunk show," with a 20 percent discount on all Station goods, Nicklas said. The public can see artists in their studios and enjoy food, Ninkasi beer (the Eugene brewery is sponsoring the event), live music and, probably, a performance by Culture Creatures, said Nicklas.

Headed by Nicklas and Niels Goossens (a performer and sound engineer) with support and participation by most other members, Culture Creatures performs at events throughout the Northwest, most recently in Corvallis.

But it also functions as a service of the Imagination Station, and a way to give back to the larger community, Nicklas said, including unannounced public "improv theatrics" performances in Ashland.

David Chuse is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

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