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Posts from the “Guest” Category

A Brief History of American Craft

Posted on March 4, 2013


Editor’s Note: Dan Zubrzycki is a writer/consultant/jack-of-all-trades gentleman currently living in Philadelphia. He will be writing a series on the history of American craft for us over the next several weeks. You can see his most recent article for us about Frank & Oak by clicking here.

America itself was a work of craftsmanship.  Forged by ambitious idealists, tempered in it’s own flaws, it’s bolts, nails, and stitching are the uninhibited hopes and dreams of those that built the first rough-hewn cabins.  But the concept of craft has had a strange journey.  In this series of articles I’m going to give a bit of thought to craftsmanship in America – ranging from looking at historical contexts as well as modern attitudes and applications.

But first, I’d like to take a look at a brief overview of it’s history in the US.

America’s first colonists were craftsmen out of necessity.  A craftsman is distinguished from a tradesman for the quality of what they create.  Living on the frontier or in the nascent towns of early America, everything you produced had to be top of the line.  With general stores only capable of selling basic supplies, craftsmen contributed to society by providing top of the line supplies. As America matured and became increasingly industrial, craft returned to a place of luxury where it stayed through the Great Depression.

The culmination of industrialization in WWII created a ubiquity in ownership.  To be American was to own products similar to those everyone else owned. We sought to align ourselves with patriotism – and dissociate ourselves with communism – by buying products which branded themselves as American.So began the modern struggle between individualism and a corporate attempt to monetize.  Through the 60’s and 70’s, mass market producers battled minor revolutions.  A brief craft beer movement is crushed by Anheuser Busch, the music industry is officially capitalized, image based advertising is essentially invented.

The uneducated consumer is born.  Market research drives popular music and film, art is constructed, craft abandoned.  While ubiquity doesn’t quite hold sway as it did before, brand allegiance does.  While all hope seems lost, that darkness paves the path towards a craft revolution.

Then, moving into the 90’s, a spark is lit.  The children of the 70’s coming to age, the rise of the internet – but mass production starts to lose it’s appeal.  The concept of ethical consumerism not only arrives on the scene, but also gains massive support.  We’re now living in an era where adherence to large brands seems a faux pas, and a constant pursuit for the next niche is lauded.

This is the modern American craft scene – inhabited by passionate artisans, fueled by the democratization of the internet, and driven by savvy consumers.  Knowledge and skill  have replaced brand identity, which allows for us to feel unified by a common intellectual goal, to support passion over profit.  We’ll continue to follow this idea, and flesh out concepts proposed in this first article, weekly.

Notes From the Field: Wardrobe 19 in Copenhagen, Denmark

Posted on October 24, 2011

A good friend of mine, Kasey Klimes who has guest posted here before, is traveling/working in Europe currently and sends me photo updates every once in a while of things I might like. Today’s comes from Copenhagen where he discovered a shop called Wardrobe 19 featuring presumably mostly menswear goods. A visit to their website tells you not a whole lot about what they do there and their brands list is clearly either out of date or has some very eclectic items on it. Judging by the photos that Kasey sent over, I’d say they’ve updated their stuff and currently stock some things worth checking out.

Regardless, Kasey’s photos are awesome and I’m jonzing for one of those duck cloth Sandqvist bags right now (see above). As Kasey said in his e-mail to me, it seems like they’re taking notes from what many American shops are doing to feature smaller brands making higher quality goods. If you ever find yourself in Copenhagen, among the other ridiculously cool design related stuff to do there, make sure to swing by this shop. Thanks to Kasey for the submission. Check the rest of the photos by clicking below.

Notes from the Field: Local35 in Portland, OR

Posted on May 29, 2011

A good friend of mine, Kasey Klimes, who runs the fantastic urban sustainability blog Secret Republic sent me a few photos from his recent trip to Portland, OR where he visited a few different shops along his way. The first one he sent me was Local35 who carries brands like A.P.C., Tanner Goods, Billykirk, Vanishing Elephant, Nudie Jeans, etc. Their site isn’t terribly descriptive so I figured I’d let the photos speak for themselves. If you’re in the area, it’s probably worth a look. Some stuff for the ladies towards the bottom there, or if you’re a gent and into wooden rings and jewelry it could certainly be up your alley as well. For you nerds out there, all photos were shot with a Canon t3i w/ a 50mm f1.8 lens and they’re pretty damn good so click on them to enlarge.

Click below to view the rest of the images.