Not Made-in-China

This post is part 2 of 3 in a story about Flora & Fauna, a project of Max La Rivière-Hedrick and Julio César Morales. Read part 1 here.

Courtesy of Andria Lo

There is an argument that creativity is on the decline in the U.S., and I believe it’s because we as American’s don’t make things anymore. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, in a recent article The Creativity Crisis, describe a test used since the 50’s that attempts to measure creativity in children. Since the beginning, the scores have gone up 10 points with every generation, just like with IQ scores. Then in 1990, the scores surprisingly peaked and reversed.

The reasons for this decline are surely complex, but right before the decline, America’s impudence toward making things was in full escalation. Manufacturing jobs were sent offshore, art and music school-programming was permanently slashed, and at the same time, Americans drew new lines of what jobs were below them. Our wealth has allowed us to replace any remaining creative aspects of our lives with full-time consuming.

Recently there appears to be a limited but exciting shift. Crafts has been resuscitated and are trending, Maker Faires are increasing in magnitude and quantity, and there is a renewed interest in small-batch products made by American hands, that doesn’t always include a premium price. Even large brands seem to smell the situation—Levi’s has been running “Ready To Work” campaign with their refreshing “Everyone’s work is equally important” message and traveling workshops. Jeep currently is running their moving “The Things We Make, Make Us” campaign which concisely hits all the marks. While I don’t think I will ever see “Designed and built by Apple in California.” on my favorite products, I hope the situation does snowball into Americans making more.

When you make something yourself, you face endless decisions, and in order to progress, you are forced to offer solutions for each. Even with every decision made, you still could face possible failure, your cumulative actions may not work. You learn to fail, and why failing is good, and hopefully learn to fail better.

Making things inspires:

  • insight into others, their ideas and challenges;
  • more appreciation of objects and skills;
  • respect towards objects and practice;
  • tempering of judgement, or at least support it with experience;
  • less meetings, more doing;
  • useful advice and knowledge for others;
  • investing in yourself and others.

We find these side-effects of making things desirable, and for Flora & Fauna, we made as much as we could. We designed and built our own solution for feeding 75 people family-style. Keith Mercovich, Chef of Headlands Center for the Arts, made the fresh cheese for the Fields course. We used ingredients like celery and herbs from the Headlands Center for the Arts garden, managed by hands of the kitchen. We used red wine vinegar I made at home for the Spanish Adobo in the Hills course. Each course had a custom soundtrack, created and played live by Shimomitsu.

A key hand-made artifact of the evening was the menu—designed by Brian Scott of Boon Design and letterpress printed by Rocket Caleshu. Inspired by Flora & Fauna’s Spanish-Portuguese direction, Brian referenced a Port bottle motif in his design and set the type in Austin (by Paul Barnes), a loose revival of the typefaces of Richard Austin of the late 18th century for the publisher John Bell. Lastly, together we hand-sealed the menus with a wax stamp.

Made with our heads, hands and heart.

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo