Every few years, discussions about using straw as a building material, in bale form, come up again. Now, as our environmental challenges mount—from wildfires to hurricanes—straw bales seem to offer an answer to a good many of them. As we step into October, and the one-year anniversary of Northern California’s first wave of historic fires, it’s time to ask: Has the straw bale’s time finally come?
Almost hidden on a funky old pier along San Francisco’s waterfront, Autodesk, a world leader in digital tools for makers, is running a prototype shop that seems more like a high-tech playground for grown-ups. In between contracts to make, say, a steel ship propeller with a massive 3-D printer, the company takes in sculptors, engineers, and architects who are pushing the boundaries of their own work. The effect of all this energy is a level of innovation that is expanding—and perhaps redefining—the meaning of craftsmanship.
As the job landscape changes, opportunities open for some and close for others. Since 2010, Kelly Carlisle has been trying to build options for youngsters in East Oakland–using an urban farm to inspire them to engage with the world as curious citizens. “Part of my work,” she says, “is to make sure we expand their worldview.”
While the fashion industry continues to produce more and more clothing made from synthetics, with all their harmful effects, we’ve ignored the wonders of wool. The material is natural, durable, and endlessly renewable; more important, its creators (the sheep) can help regenerate the world’s drying, fire-prone landscapes. Fortunately, a wool revival seems to be underway.
A year ago, we published the first guide to America’s best residential summer workshops for a variety of crafts, from woodworking and glass blowing to pottery and boatbuilding. In the process, we discovered a range of craftsmanship’s rising stars. Meet three of them: Maria Zamudio, “Rocky” Boikanyo, and Angela Robins.
Gorgeous pens have always symbolized the art of writing at its finest—the quintessential combination of beauty, tradition, and skill. But did you ever think of the fountain pen as a tool of environmental consciousness? Our author certainly does. Nonetheless, given the fountain pen’s myriad varieties, and the powers of vintage pens in particular, he shops very selectively, cleans his pens regularly, and searches for (and sometimes even makes) the perfect ink.
Most artisans struggle to pay the bills, hoping for a little good press along the way. Ann Morhauser started with all of those odds, and then some, in a tiny studio near Santa Cruz, California. Today she runs a nationally renowned business, with glassware featured in stores across the country—and in the Smithsonian. What was her secret?
On December 31, 2017, the doorsl closed in North Carolina on Cone Denim’s White Oak plant, the first, and now the last, big textile mill in the U.S. to make vintage-style denim. When our correspondent visited, he discovered that the secret to classic jeans has long come from a strange mix of obsolete machinery and American mythology. And their future, it turns out, is not as bleak as you might expect.
In a corrugated tin shed that somehow survived California’s massive fires in Sonoma Valley, Gary Freeman labors to keep old VW Beetles and vans—the cars that defined the counterculture of the 1960s—still chugging. Some become great “daily drivers” for as little as $15,000; in Europe, some get auctioned for more than $200,000. It’s all part of one man’s quest for automotive immortality.
Jill Giordano makes women’s clothing in what might be called sustainable designs: coats, pants, and dresses made with fine fabrics in timeless styles, and in combinations that can be mixed and matched any number of ways. Welcome to the art of “system” dressing—with quality. The goal: Improve your look, save the planet, and save money.