Shop Talk

FIELD TRIP-Nov/Dec 2009

by Veronique McAree
Photography Elizabeth Atterbury

Ferdinand in Portland’s East End serves as a showcase for Diane Toepfer’s designs and local indie crafts


Portland’s East End has been transformed in recent years by a steady tide of independent artists, designers, and restaurant owners moving into the storefronts that line Congress Street. Diane Toepfer is one of those designers. Her lovely little shop, Ferdinand, is where she sells handcrafted cards, journals, T-shirts, pins, and baby things. She also showcases the work of other artists alongside her “Found by Ferdinand” line of vintage and altered clothing and accessories.

Toepfer relocated from Oakland, California, to Maine eight years ago. “Uprooting is never easy,” she says. “But my husband’s family is from the East Coast, so we decided to go for it—and here we are in Portland.” Although she hadn’t originally planned on being a shop owner, the current storefront became available and she took the leap.

Perusing Ferdinand, it’s hard not to smile. The eclectic assortment—ranging from vintage shoes to hand-sewn potholders to handcrafted books—defies definition. “I am not a trend follower,” says Toepfer. “Ferdinand is a vehicle for things I make, things I like, and it’s constantly evolving.”

Recently, Toepfer’s creative eclecticism led her to invest in a two-ton letterpress, which she plans to use to create a line of cards and calendars. While most printing today is digital, Toepfer is determined to master (with a little help from her artist friends) the centuries-old art of letterpress printing. “Artists in Portland tend to have their hands in many projects and are always willing to share their skills and lend expertise,” she says. “It’s what makes being creative here great.”

When you have some time, amble up Congress Street from downtown Portland and visit Ferdinand, located just past Angela Adams. There you can witness for yourself Toepfer’s quiet indie-design revolution, and who knows what you will end up with: laser-cut paper mustaches (I bought two for my kids), a beautiful organic journal, or a handful of I Love Maine pins. I still owe her a dollar on my purchase!

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