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GuildWorks: Prioritizing Artistry & Environmental Stewardship

“GuildWorks aims to Inspire with Lightness in form, Beauty in Structure and ​Grace in Movement,” reads an inspirational quote on GuildWorks’ website, a design build company in Portland, Oregon that creates fabric architecture installations. “In a lot of ways, we’re multiple companies in one,” explains Founder and Senior Design Principal, Mar Ricketts. “We design. We engineer, or specify, and then we fabricate and install.”

With one foot in the art world and the other in architecture, GuildWorks uses the sky as its canvas, creating elaborate geometric structures that are both aesthetically alluring and provide shelter. Mar founded the company nearly 25 years ago in Massachusetts, then moved it to Madison, Wisconsin before settling in Portland. In its infancy, Guildworks created tension structure kites which Mar sold to stores and distributors. The company evolved to creating work for stage sets and mobiles for lobbies and hospitals, then took another turn in Portland, where Mar started creating installations for events and outdoor summer festivals. This year GuildWorks is embarking on more permanent installations than ever before, fulfilling a dream he has had since founding the company.

“Fabric structures are visually stunning and beautiful and that’s part of what drew me to them, along with being sustainable,” recalls Mar. “The combination of being sustainable, having material sufficiency, and while offering beauty, function and form – all in one, this is what drove me into the industry.”

Photo courtesy of GuildWorks.

The materials GuildWorks uses are amongst the most sustainable options in the building market. They require less heavy equipment, fewer transport needs and contribute to greater efficiency across the board, ultimately resulting in higher efficiency in design, production and installation.

GuildWorks recently went through the rigorous process of applying to become a certified B Corporation, furthering their commitment to environmental stewardship, high social standards and inclusive business practices. Mar is also passionate about educating architects and developers about the advantages to using fabric architecture. “Many architects don’t see fabric structures as a basic material. You know, they see bricks, concrete, glass, etcetera, but membrane structures really have so many possibilities for being enclosure and weather protection, while being sustainable and making a visual statement.”

In addition to his dedication to sustainability, caring for his growing team, and giving back to nonprofits in Portland, Mar has been working with community organizations to develop his self-described bootstrap company. At an event hosted by Portland State University’s Business Outreach Program, he was introduced to Business Impact NW Executive Director, Joe Sky-Tucker who “made a commitment to help us,” Mar says. “He really was the one to make a difference in how we looked at our business, and saw the potential of what we were doing, as well as saw the potential of the equipment that I wanted to get in here.”

Business Impact NW was able to support GuildWorks with a loan that provided them a CNC cutting table and high frequency welder. “That equipment has made a humongous difference in what we are able to do,” as far as productivity and bottom line, adds Mar who is planning large permanent installation projects in South Carolina and Spokane, in addition to events all across Oregon and beyond this year. GuildWorks also completes projects overseas. A few years ago, they created permanent rain canopies at an eco-resort on an island in Greece.

2019 has been good to GuildWorks so far. They were featured in the January/February issue of trade magazine, gb&d (Green Building & Design) and later this year they will celebrate 25 years. To stay up to date on GuildWorks’ journey, follow them on Facebook, Instagram and their website www.guildworks.com.

If you’re interested in learning more about Business Impact NW’s lending services, visit: businessimpactnw.org/services/loans.


About the author

Megan V. Torgerson

Megan is the founder of the storytelling initiative, Reframing Rural. She is an MFA candidate at Seattle University and holds a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing from the University of Montana. Megan grew up on a farm and ranch in Montana and is inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of rural communities.

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