Oregon Decal Obsession Part 3: State of the State

Please allow for a continutied dip into the pool of sticker insanity. We’ll get back to our regular scheduled blog posting soon but at this point we’re stuck, (brilliant pun acknowledged) in the world of Oregon Decals, not that I know the difference between decals and stickers. For the most part these seem to end up on the rear windows of people’s cars and not on the back of traffic signs.

This being the third installment of this series, I have to reiterate that my interest in the stickers is the homage to the Grand Daddy of all them all, the green heart with a white background surrounded by the state border. Until I am proven wrong I will always believe these stickers are making a homage to this idea, or is it outright theft? The designs continue cropping up in inventive ways inspiring me to collect these images.

Everything that’s special about Oregon or Portland seems to be announcing itself within the state’s outline. Most of these stickers could have considered a different design. I am insinuating that decal designers might be on the lazy side. In the end, it’s okay because of the local and state angle begs for border usage. As luck has it, the Oregon border is more interesting than other geometric shapes like squares and rectangles that could be used as framing.

Attis Shrugged

The internet can make it easy to solve the mystery of what Attis is. It takes two seconds but I procrastinate and still don’t know what an Attis is. This inverse use of the heart in Oregon design, white on a black border instead of green on white is a novel approach. Attis is where the heart is.

Mountain Sale

The Mountain Shop advertises itself with a bold gold outline,  blue background and a dynamic double mountain graphic that sneaks into an almost lightning bolt. It’s worthy of being paired with the Grand Daddy of Oregon border stickers

A Batch Of Bachelor

In my guesstimation, Mt Bachelor resides close to the middle of the state, or not. The sunny 70’s style logo and loopy, conjoined font, refer to the mountain that would then be appropriately centered in this state bordered design. It’s a pleasant thought to consider Oregon mountains having their own PR departments.

Dirty Old Town

Of course the reindeer, or stag, to be more specific, is making an effort to leap out of the sticker. This design captures the look of the iconic downtown Portland sign. I can’t tell if the sticker has an aged feel that puts the old in Old Town or if the effect is coming from my bad photography.

State Bird?

Here’s where I’m thrown for a loop even before I get loopy writing all this. I will say this is a fun design but I’m not sure if it’s trying to promote a type of bird that lives in the area because I don’t know enough about the region’s birds or if this is a cartoon bird. The leafy eyes seem to point to the latter. Then again, this may be the state bird. The research department is not returning my calls.

Pip’s Peak

This design is just plain nice, like an old State Park poster. The color is serene and the images are scenic and rustic. It’s hard to imagine a sticker that could transport me into the world of a winter’s afternoon wilderness but this one has that effect. These folks do unique things with donuts so why should I expect anything less of their decal design.


A sticker like this, on a beat up bumper, seems ironic enough. I knew the message well enough to disregard the duct tape covering the first word “Die.” Then I started wondering if the tape was intentional. The sticker now reads like an embracement of the moniker. You are the label you adhere to.

Bigfoot Retriever

I’m big enough of a Bigfoot believer to consider that there has to be at least a few of these creatures running around the backwoods of Oregon making this decal honoring them all the more spot on.

Scary Face

This is one intense sticker. It image has little to do with Oregon but it does capture the vibe I sometimes get from the state. The reason for using the border design escapes me, but let me tell you it’s a free country and if you want to make a scary monster face shaped state of Oregon decal and put it on the back of a traffic sign, well, you go right ahead and do that.

Wandering Around

The charm and a cutesy message of this sticker are not lost on me and neither is its wandering border. It offers hope to all wanderers. It’s a subtle beer sales tactic or maybe not so subtle given that the brewery’s name is Vagabond.

Home Stuck Home

If you have homes all over the state you need this sticker. I know, this design points out how at home people feel in Oregon. I could go on and on with theories about what’s being said here with each theory becoming more farfetched then the next but I’ll just give this sticker props for its use of a distinctive, skinny font on a verdant background. Home is where the heart should be.


Sports team insignia? Tribal affiliation? I’m not familiar with the image that pops out from the red background. I would have spent weeks tweaking the angle. Here I can’t tell if the hawk is flying or if it really should be sitting up, ready to fly off toward its prey. Maybe it’s just me considering the use of all that space the state outline offers. This mysterious bird leaped off a totem pole and is now soaring through this sticker.

Property Tax

While I like the colors used to create the property tax message and the hostage communique lettering, it’s sad to say that I can’t tell if the design is pro or con on the property tax issue. This one screams out to have a Portland city boundary around it because the rest of the state seems wary of rising property taxes.

You’re Welcome California

Out in the Gorge last summer, I spotted this on the back of the laptop of an artist painting a landscape of the fantastic view from Crown Point. We had a bit of a laugh and while it’s not exactly true I appreciate any attempt at humor on an Oregon decal.

Santa Conned

A great event such as SantaCon deserves its own sticker. The design gets bonus points for “coloring outside the lines.” Like the Old Town sticker reindeer-like creatures are doggedly determined to jump out of decals.

Pacific Wonderland

This sticker can’t encourage enough people to relocate to Oregon and live in a steel box condo. With the promise of giant trees everywhere, people will expect them in areas of the state where they actually aren’t. No one will be able to resist a state full of beautiful trees. I’m not sure why this sticker revels in a falsely advertised version of wonderland but I already fell for it.

The Pursuit of Goo-Goo (Part One)

Goo-Goo won me over with prolific stickering, the use of a baby sound proclamation and an image that reminded me of KISS frontman Paul Stanley. Despite Goo-Goo stickers filling me with an unexplained irrational fear of the unknown, I still need to make sense of them. I turned to a valued resource in all things counter-culture my old friend Jeff Bagato who lives in the Washington D.C. area. As an avant-garde artist/musician and author of poetry books and science fiction novels, Jeff is a scholar of all forms of creative expression, a category that Goo-Goo stickers fall under. “I’m assuming that Goo-Goo is a tag, but it could just be a weird phrase; both would appear on stickers,” Jeff noted by email when I queried. “I see it all the time on IG feeds. There seem to be a million sticker artists in Portland and Seattle,” he added. “Tag” and “IG,” those references left me a bit mystified but I’m playing up my ignorance for dramatic effect.

The problem with getting to the bottom of a mystery means it will cease to be a mystery. Once explained my imagination won’t fill in the gaps and my interpretation will probably become invalid. I suppose that will only inspire me to search out other unexplained phenomena.

When thinking about the application of these stickers around town my mind conjures images of a shadowy figure in a Jack the Ripper cloak and wide brim hat. Why this guy, in my mind, is not trying to look less conspicuous is beyond me. I’m sure sticker art is not like that at all. The act of disobedience by decorating the backs of traffic signs is probably duller than I realize. People are sure to be casual and not mysterious about it.

The stickers caught my attention because of the variations of design, color, size and the subject matter. Their ubiquitousness helps. I’m partial to those in my neighborhood. When a Goo-Goo sticker appeared close to my house it led me to think the sticker artist was clairvoyant and had caught on to my Goo-Goo obsession.

Speculation on the meaning of Goo-Goo abounds. Jeff astutely commented that it’s unlikely a reference to the band the Goo Goo Dolls. To me it calls forth the beginnings of language itself, the first attempts a baby makes to speak. The great unknown is the combination of the letters and the face that I so want to believe is a homage to Paul Stanley. That the lead singer of KISS could end up as part of an underground sticker art project is something that has held my attention and kept me on the look out for more of these images. While some would could say Paul Stanley never wore his make up as it is on the sticker others might be quicker to ask: Who is Paul Stanley?

The first time I wrote about Goo-Goo was when a sticker was placed next to a piece of Bill Murray art. I used the power of my limited graphic arts abilities to remove the sticker from one of the images mainly because I didn’t like one piece of street art encroaching so hard on another.

When I reached out to my friend Jeff to help me sort this out he offered an online resource to assist me in my quest to understand Goo-Goo culture. Originally I was too naive, neurotic or nervous to dig into sticker art in a way that didn’t include some support. I was afraid my mind would be blown and I knew I’d need some help putting the pieces back together.

Keep Kicking it Old School, Please

Unsure window designs that work.

Sure there’s plenty to be concerned about with the future of education but I’ve been thinking about the schools of tomorrow and whether all the charm and cool characteristics of Portland’s old schools will one day be wiped out. My guess is that new schools built from scratch will reflect our current fast and cheap world of building practices. Schools are more likely to resemble big box stores than the traditional schools of yesteryear.

Maybe not even a real gargoyle.

Schools in Portland have decorative elements that are cool in their subtly. These are things that students might not notice for years until one day they begin to wonder about the concrete designs up near the roof line or they spot a lion head gargoyle and point it out to a classmate. I am no student of architecture. I’ve have seen enough schools in the district to have the opinion that when new schools are built an effort should be made to keep things interesting inside and out.


Mrs. Tom Jolly

I work with elementary school children which has had me wondering what the kids that surround me will remember about their school experience. There may not be much to recall about what their school looked like. This theory is based on my own murky memories of my first school, Jolly Elementary in Clarkson, Georgia. It was your basic, boxy, one story, red brick building. The only memorable thing was a large, framed photograph of Mrs. Tom Jolly, the school’s namesake sitting on an easel in the main lobby. I couldn’t have told you a thing about her then. No one at the school ever talked her up. I didn’t know her first name or why she was the school’s namesake. The picture of an ancient woman haunted me every time I saw it. It wasn’t until recently that I found out what she did to help educate children in her community and what made her worthy of having a school named after her. My point here is give kids something to remember about their school.

Brick brack

This really is one of those they don’t make ‘em like they used to pieces. Back in the day delicate design accents were included in schools. Souped up windows, columns, carvings, latin phrases inscribed in concrete and Roman numerals appeared on schools. You could almost imagine kids of that era speaking Latin as a second language and maybe knowing their Roman numerals. I appreciate subtle architecture elements in school’s exteriors knowing it creates a better educational environment, if only on a subconscious level, that might inspire students somehow. It’s the least the older schools in Portland have to offer.

Windows so beautiful.

Old schools with over the top window designs still look great. They might combine these looks with concrete doohickies (not an architectural term, I know) as well as cravings and fake columns that border huge windows. One day, while substitute teaching, I noticed a malt liquor can in the well of the faux balcony. I never did get around to letting the janitorial staff know but it seemed out of place. What about these faux balconies? Sadly I have no picture to illustrate this but when would you ever need a balcony at a school?

Roman scholars unite!

I always loved the entrance to Benson Polytechnic along with the name of the school as I’m a graduate of a Polytechnic Institute. The front doors seem epic with real looking columns. I was supposed to learn in school whether they’re doric or ionic but at times like these it’s of no significance and not even worth looking up. They are gorgeous. If I had gone to that school I would have worn a toga regardless of whether  it was allowed according to the school’s dress code. I would have been proud to enter that school every day but it’s more likely this facade would have been so distracting that I would have hung around the columns for much of my class time never learning the difference between doric and ionic columns.

This way to the auditorium.

The Kenton School, now De La Salle, was built over 100 years ago. It’s further proof of what was done right then. Concrete carvings, a nice entrance and the labeling of certain buildings like the auditorium are all admirable design offerings.

The old Kenton School with planters.

This school has nice concrete trim around the windows and roof along with it’s own school crest  and a mysterious lion gargoyle that proved challenging to photograph. Announcing to the world that the school was erected in 1913 probably opens itself up to a preponderance of sophomoric jokes and would not be the type of thing that would appear on a  school building these days.

Every school needs a crest.

One of the Kellogg School owls.

To anyone designing and building schools in Portland make the effort to create a bit of mystery and decorative work in schools that will help students thrive.  Keep alive the spirit of intrigue that still exists in Portland schools today through the use of artistic masonry. Something like the Kellogg School owls outside one of the doorways would might seem like something insignificant, but it has possibility of making kids feel special like their school is a unique and wondrous place.

Kenton School detail: Lined up to learn.