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Winter 2020

The Human Cost of Recycled Cotton

Everyone in the fashion world wants to find a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way to make cotton clothing—or a benign (and equally comfy) alternative to it. In Scandinavia, an enterprising cadre of materials scientists is on the brink of succeeding. But almost no one appreciates these innovations’ social costs.

Story and photography by ALDEN WICKER

Spring 2019

The Re-Bundled Worker

You’ve read the news: traditional 9-5 jobs are in decline; a patchwork, “gig economy” of contract workers is rushing in to take their place; and colleges can’t keep up with these changes. The resulting chaos creates at least one unaddressed challenge: In a world with fewer shared ladders for advancement, how do tomorrow’s workers build pathways to success?

By TODD OPPENHEIMER

Winter 2019

The Wizard of Old Wheels

Just like cars, today’s motorcycles have become dizzying assemblages of electronic connections—invisible to most riders, inscrutable to many mechanics. The more high-tech these machines become, the more there is to love about classic, old bikes. Among the simplest of the pack are the Japanese motorcycles of the 1970s, particularly the Hondas. They’re also among the most loved, and that’s exactly what keeps Dave Stefani in business.

Story by OWEN EDWARDS
Photography by PETER BELANGER and ELI MIKITEN

Winter 2019

Led by the Nose

If you’re tired of smelling like everyone else when you go out on the town, you can finally say ‘No’ to the big perfume houses, and their over-priced synthetic scents. In a growing number of kitchen labs and small shops around the globe, small-scale perfume artists are bottling a world of intoxicating new scents. Some seem to give new meaning to the concept of time travel.

By BARBARA TANNENBAUM

Fall 2018

Straw Bale Construction: The Ultra-Ecological House

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?

By MEA MCNEIL

Summer 2018

The Apprenticeship Ambivalence

Amidst political discussion about expanding apprenticeships in the U.S., two contradictory realities persist. One is a changing landscape, in both school and work, that increasingly needs a sound apprenticeship system; the other is the refusal by many parents to understand why a formal apprenticeship might make more sense for their children—and their finances—than four years of college.

By TODD OPPENHEIMER

Spring 2018

Is Digital Craftsmanship an Oxymoron?

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.

By TODD OPPENHEIMER

Fall 2016, Spring 2019

The Play Gap

In Providence, Rhode Island, Janice McDonnell started one of the unlikeliest of revolutions. On seven empty lots in the inner city, she set up a new kind of playground—places where kids could build anything they want, break anything they want. Her larger goals? To fight the disappearance of play brought on by the relentless testing that’s become the norm in today’s schools—and to spread playful opportunities beyond rich white families.

By TODD OPPENHEIMER

Fall 2016

Cuba’s madres (y padres) of invention

Since the communist revolution of 1959, Cuba has been on an economic rollercoaster. The country has lurched from dependency to self-sufficiency, in a bubble of isolation where technological time stopped. Our correspondent visits the artists and self-taught engineers who have kept Cuba running throughout its bizarre ride.

Story and photography by ROB WATERS

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