November 9th, 2010
Portland’s Grove makes exceptionally awesome iPhone 4 cases out of bamboo—and for a limited time old skateboards
While I tend to write about the Web, mobile, and open source technology, every once in awhile I feel the urge to branch out a bit. To write some stuff on the industries tangential to tech. To cover other startups in Portland that are doing awesome work. To cover something less ethereal and more tangible.
Well, I didn’t have to look very far. Meet Grove, an awesome Portland, Oregon, company that makes incredibly beautiful bamboo iPhone 4 cases—by hand. Well, at least mostly. I mean, they use freakin’ lasers.
The company, started by Joe Mansfield and Ken Tomita, employs a team of artisans that craft the cases out of bamboo, probably the most sustainable wood product around. They work out of the Towne Storage space, close-in east side.
The cases these folks create come in a variety of flavors. They’ve got theplain for $69 or, if you’re looking for something a little more funky, they’ve got the artists series for $89—which come with matching wallpaper for your iPhone desktop. Both come in either natural or amber.
Don’t see something you like? Get creative. You can create your own custom case with practically anything laser etched into the back of the case. A custom Grove case will run you $89.
An artisan, sustainable, slightly crazy company that focuses on being happy and open while making stuff for the iPhone? I honestly have a difficult time fathoming anything more Portland-y. Or interesting.
And I’m not the only one who thinks so. For example, Gadget blog Gizmodo wrote up a piece about all the flaws of the wooden Grove cases. And then told folks to buy Grove’s product anyway.
Here’s the thing: It’s wood. It’s not supposed to be perfect. And as far as the quality of the workmanship goes, I am seriously impressed.
The design itself is smart, with a modern-looking trough to expose the volume controls and a 45° bezel around both edges that comes from the workshop with a smooth hand finish. (Much of the sanding and polishing on Grove cases is by hand, although they’re not afraid of sanders either.)
It feels about as thin and precise as a wooden case could be. I can’t ask for more.
Plus it’s wood. Wood that feels better the more I hold my iPhone. Wood that has taken a couple of short falls and looked better as it has weather scuffs and scratches. Wood that’s just pretty to look at, to turn idly in the hand.
Two Portland companies that taste great together: Grove and MapleXO
And as if Grove weren’t awesome enough, they’re striving to be, um, awesomer. How? By partnering with Portland’s MapleXO to make a limited edition of cases—out of old skateboards. That’s right. MapleXO here in Portland recycles skateboards into jewelry, bike fenders, and, well, now iPhone cases.
I know, right? Amazing. Two great sustainable artistic Portland tastes that taste great together. Who woulda thunk?
And remember, it’s never too early to get started on your holiday shopping for your favorite iPhone geek.
File under happy happenstance. Treehugger just wrote up MapleXO this morning.
Recycling skateboards is nothing new, as skateboarder and designer Lindsay Jo Holmes will tell you. Holmes is the founder and mastermind behind MapleXO, a Portland-based company that specializes in hip, handcrafted jewelry and standout accessories — like the terrific iPhone 4 case shown above — made entirely from salvaged skateboards.
For more on all of this awesomeness, visit the Grove site, follow @grovemade on Twitter, or like Grove on Facebook. More more on recycled skateboard awesomeness, visit MapleXO, follow @maplexo on Twitter, or like MapleXO on Facebook.