“If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor to rule: That was the American dream.”
— Edward Abbey
Stuff that works
Stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real
Stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall
— Guy Clark
Modern living offers us many blessings. Who would seriously want to live in a world without antibiotics and hot showers? But our modern comforts and conveniences come with a cost. Most folks are completely disconnected from where their food comes from. Tools, appliances, and furniture are deliberately designed to fall apart and be replaced; repairing things is a dying art.
It’s hard to find “stuff that works; stuff that holds up… stuff that’s real.”*
We’re not only filling landfills with our junk, we’re also fraying the solid yeoman’s culture that lay at the bedrock of America’s founding. We’re surrendering our autonomy and self-reliance to unfathomably wealthy and powerful global megacorporations that keep supplying us with dubious “needs” and profiting off of planned obsolescence.
All is not lost, though. A cultural movement is growing that runs counter to the mainstream current. Small farmers and ranchers are producing quality, wholesome foodstuffs for their neighbors — who not only know where their food comes from, they know the people who grow it. Craftsmen are building stuff that’s real, heirloom quality functional art that profoundly enhances the quality of our lives.
Central Oregon is chock-a-block with artisans creating everything from foodstuffs to furniture, musical instruments to decorative arts. Turns out, our region is at the epicenter of a worldwide movement of creative entrepreneurs — in the parlance of the moment known as “makers.”
Blogger Joy Poe noted in a June 4, 2020 post at ToughNickel.com that:
“Today, almost every government in the world is researching the economic impact of the creative industries in their country. The study by the British Council concludes that small businesses ‘at the cutting edge of creativity, may not only be of growing economic significance, but in some sense, are a harbinger of a whole new economic order.’”
In an essay on The artisanal movement, and 10 things that define it, Grant McCraken cites farmer’s markets as an avatar of the movement:
“The best example here perhaps is the farmer’s market…. (W)e want to see the face of the man who grew the food and shake his hand. We prefer to deal with a small retailer, someone who calls us by our first name, and knows our tastes so well, he sets things aside awaiting our arrival on Saturday morning. It is as if we have declared war on anonymity. It is as if we are attempting to ‘re-enchant’ the world with personalization.”
Rullman and I have the good fortune to live in a thoroughly “re-enchanted” corner of the world, a region at the forefront of a movement that is bringing back to life values of simplicity, authenticity and quality — stuff that works.
Craig is creating an “artisan” movie. There’s no big studio behind The Len Babb Movie Project — it’s grassroots all the way. Homegrown subject matter; homegrown talent to create the film; grassroots support to bring it to fruition.
He’s also connected with an outfit dedicated to artisanship of the highest order: The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association. A few nights ago, Craig and Mike Biggers and I met at the Figure 8 to work on some musical themes for the movie — and I had to tear myself away from the magnificent images of hand-made functional art displayed in the Association’s book Cowboy Renaissance.
There’s a lot of really disconcerting BS flying around in our world today — but there is still some bedrock to stand on. We can find it in a good guitar, a custom-made hat, a craft brew, an independent film. Stuff that works.