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Of Dahlias, Devoted Growers, and their High-Stakes Competitions

While many gardeners take their flowers seriously, few devote almost all of their time to growing one breed—the dahlia—then drive hundreds of miles to go mano a mano against other fanatical growers, for nothing more than a blue ribbon. But that’s exactly what Deborah Dietz does.

Photography by JAK WONDERLY

Listen to “The Glass Builder”

Ann Morhauser started with nothing but debt in a tiny glassware studio in Watsonville, a coastal community in central California. Now her work is in stores across the country—and in the Smithsonian. What is her secret to artisanal success?

Listen to “The New Sign Painters”

The commercial signs of yesteryear, which were all painted by hand, offer a kind of beauty, personality, and longevity that today’s industrial signs have been unable to duplicate. While exploring what’s left of the old sign-painting traditions, we stumbled upon small but lively seeds of revival.

Build Back with Beer (Craft Beer, to be Precise…)

When veteran journalists James and Deborah Fallows spent four years criss-crossing the U.S. looking for what makes small-town revivals succeed, they repeatedly found one near-constant: craft breweries There are various ways to measure the civic success of towns and cities large and small. From economic development initiatives to innovative educational opportunities to inspiring, inviting river…

Congressman John Lewis’ Artistic Side

The late congressman’s civil rights legacy of “good trouble” is well-known, but his inner circle also knew him as an art lover and avid collector, particularly of works by Black artists. February 21 is the late Congressman John Lewis’ birthday. Those who mark the occasion are likely to reflect on Lewis’ long record on civil…

Listen to “James & Deborah Fallows on ‘Our Towns’: a Craftsmanship Artisan Interview”

This husband-and-wife journalism team spent four years crisscrossing the United States in a small plane, visiting dozens of small towns. The stories they found were surprising—and entirely contrary to the narrative we’ve all read about in the news. They saw  communities engaged in a vigorous process of economic renewal—a stunning portrait, in sum, of an…

Listen to “The Secret to Vintage Jeans”

In November, 2017, the doors closed on North Carolina’s White Oak plant—one of the first, and (almost) the last, big textile mill in the U.S. to make true, vintage-style denim. Our correspondent tracks down the secret to classic jeans, and their unexpected future.

Listen to “Parts & Recreation”

What makes people devote hours to the frustrating task of gluing together pieces so small you have to pick them up with tweezers? And does this obsessive hobby even matter anymore? To find out, a devotee of the art dives into Revell’s world of plastic models.

The Folk School Movement and ‘Slow Economics’

Rather than looking to big corporate employers for economic stability, could more rural communities welcome a less obvious, slower growing, yet more sustainable economic partner? In the far western tail of North Carolina, the road leading to the John C. Campbell Folk School narrows from a six-lane highway to four lanes, then barely two. It…