At least, I have been told a couple times now “you’re old” — in reference to whatever events in life — ok, honestly — when dating.
So. I’m old.
Old enough to remember going to a butcher when I was a kid — the sawdust on the floor and the carcasses hanging in the refrigerated room in the back.
Old enough to remember that I knew the names of the store owners in the town I grew up in. To remember that feeling of the city being a vital organism because of those connections.
Yesterday, I bought a bag of flour from a company called One Degree – their motto and marketing states that, I, the consumer, am separated by one degree from the grower and the grinder of the wheat I’m holding.
Today, I went to a Farmer’s Market in San Francisco, and spent some time talking with a grower who was also selling wheat. We talked about the protein content, the bran content — she told me the appropriate use of her flour in baking bread (which I have been doing a TON of lately).
For the 5 dollars I spent on that bag of flour, I got, as part of the purchase price, time with the grower and grinder of this product. I got some share of her experience.
Sourcing and the Qualities of Integrity
Lately, I have become more and more obsessed with 2 things: the sourcing of my food, and the tangible qualities of integrity.
I am trying to be more conscious of how I eat — for a lot of reasons, but importantly, because of how it makes me feel.
For instance, I make my own bread, and I even grew a sourdough starter recently, using local yeast instead of packaged yeast as a rising agent. Begetting a starter also begets its own questions: if I am using local yeast, then — what kind of flour should I be using — do I know enough about the flour that I am using? It feels like a natural question.
It is the same when I make pasta – I know where these eggs are coming from, I can visit the farm if I want, what about this semolina?
Knowing – Talking with the purveyor. Being reasonably conscious of what it is I am making and consuming – I don’t care if there are puritanical reasons to do it – I do it because it feels good — it feels grounded.
I am doing it because it is helping me define where I stand and what I stand on.
Can You Feel It
Which brings me to the second thing I have been thinking a lot about lately?
What integrity feels like.
A week ago, I was practicing Systema with my friend Anthony.
The exercise we are doing isn’t important — what is important, and what I will try and convey is.
As we were moving, Anthony hit me with a really nice shot. His arm was relaxed and the strike didn’t look like anything, but it felt like a ton of bricks as it connected.
I stopped him and asking him — partly to get my breath — it was a good shot — but also to ask “what did that feel like?”
I wanted him to remember that feeling — the quality of self he was holding as he reacted to me.
There is a feeling of integrity when something is done right — or to the best of one’s abilities — there is no subtle lie of “I could do better next time.”
When Good Enough Is Never Good Enough
I can walk through life doing things that are “good enough” – I can cut corners, and react intelligently enough in a lot of situations to not really have to bring myself to that situation.
I don’t have to have skin in the game if I don’t want to because, really who is going to know?
Other than myself of course.
For me, that exercise in Integrity spans most of my actions — the muscle I am building is one of honesty — that what I say has gravity because it is the truth as best I can exemplify it.
Recently, through a friend, I discovered Carol Sanford and her wonderful podcast “The Responsible Entrepreneur” — each podcast, she interviews someone who exemplifies what she sees as a core value of responsible entrepreneurship.
One of the messages in the most recent ‘cast was this: In order for you to really have value-added as a company, you have to understand what you, personally, bring to the table.
How is your company exemplifying your values?
Because, that is what makes your company Unique. No one else can offer the world what you offer.
Naturally, this rang true, because, after a lot of mental turmoil in defining sidgl, it came down to ‘what do I want to see in this world’ and how does that make the world a better place?
Is it important that my business or ANY business think about making the world a better place?
I think it does – I think the sustainability of any enterprise is important — and I think it is my experience that adds color and nuance to the idea of what sustainability is.
Some companies care deeply for the environment – Patagonia certainly is one — others have a deep rooted philosophy of social justice — 7th Generation and Method cleaning products, for instance.
For me, sustainability means a lot of things — but fundamentally — my vision for sidgl is that we make the world better by design.
That beautiful design can change the world.
We can also make the world better by presenting durability.
We can also effect the world by championing ‘Enough’.
Growth Through Collective Development
I believe that company growth is not about escalating profits or producing more and more product — but by asking ‘are we doing enough to advance our cause’ — have we done enough to reach our stated goal for the year — are we doing enough community outreach based on our stated ideals?
I did not found sidgl with the idea that I would grow a company to sell for profit. But that sidgl represents something.
I founded sidgl as a way of doing and funding what I love in a socially, civically, meaningful way.
Going back to the Carol Sanford podcast for a second, because this helps add color to my point — in one episode, she gives a brief history of business — from merchant class, to craftsman, to industrial revolution to now.
What struck home to me was her description of the craftsman — the person making something for others — who knows intimately their material sources-whether its cowhide or silver — and who knows the people that they are working for.
What is implied in this relationship is the investment of pride in the final product. What is also implied is the desire to craft something for that specific persons needs.
I grew up in a craftsman system. At 12, I was an apprentice to my fathers print shop. I graduated to journeyman, and eventually, to master printer.
Along the course of that journey, I gained values and perspective about my craft — about what I could offer, and how I could provide a skill no one else could. I cultivated pride in my technique, and that translated to the work I did for others.
(I think, as an aside, there is probably an entirely separate, long-winded approach to what my values are as a designer and a maker.)
What that taught me is the importance of connection to my customer — that it MATTERS WHAT I DO – A stitch matters.
A color matters.
The shape matters!
The function matters!
The feel matters!
For me, it is not only calculating that into my design and production, but to gain insight from my customers about the things that don’t work. The input from my customers matters as well.
Not everything is something I need to respond to – Some design decisions are practical and to change them would have huge ramifications — (not meaning they are not worthy of consideration, but I will weigh my experience in that choice) otters — like a seam, or a pocket, or a zipper placement — or a need — what I like about sidgl, is that I can pivot on a dime to make that kind of correction.
And I know from experience that a product can always be better, and further refined. That experience and technique are not static things, and they material things that get spun out of experience and technique can show those refinements.
Craftsmanship Still Exists
But the challenge now, in an age of very sophisticated automated fabrication, is keeping craftsmanship from becoming anachronistic — a living museum.
An oddity worth marveling over, but not worth discussing its vitality.
To use the method of craftsmanship, not to show the crafty side — the made-by-hand side, but to distill the best possible decisions into a product that will have lasting value. Into an object that will have a life.
I believe the human connection is important. That a way to heal the world is not just through laws and initiatives — but by one-on-one human interaction.
By touching one another’s lives in kind rather than caustic ways.
Sidgl’s business plan is simply this: Design is durable and design can change how we see the world.
More importantly, design can change how we see ourselves.
For me, that feels like integrity.
- Improvements to the Art Bag - September 19, 2017
- Fit Matters: Design As An Extension of The Self - June 30, 2017
- A Tale of Two Bags - June 25, 2017
- Designing for the MVP – Backpack Edition - March 19, 2017
- The Consumers Role in a Sustainable Marketplace - February 28, 2017
- When an Opportunity Is Masked As a Problem - February 21, 2017
- The Big Book of Sustainable (What Does Sustainable Mean) - February 11, 2017
- Painting In The Wild With My Plein Air Portable Art Studio (30 Days In Italy) - August 30, 2016
- Towards a More Sustainable Company. - June 13, 2016
- The Economy of Craftsmanship. - April 29, 2016