As we have been preparing our new research objectives, we have been immediately confronted by a handful of research dilemmas. What is an artisan or a maker, exactly, and where do we find them? What limitations do we impose on our research by creating boundaries around the artisans we include? Who gets excluded, and at what cost?
Defining “artisan” and “maker” will inevitably create challenges for us. One of the first orders of business for us was to try out the effectiveness of a few databases that catalog small businesses in fine detail. For example, we searched the list of 135 Portland Made Collective members on the Reference USA database. Of the 135 members, only 19 showed up in the Reference USA search results. This is not reflective of a deficiency in the database; rather it is reflective of the invisibility of Portland’s artisans. In other words, the self-reliant, autonomous, and amateur characteristics of makers and artisans make conventional economic analyses of the artisan economy very difficult to undertake.
With that said, we would like to emphasize the fact that Portland’s artisans have very real effects on the larger local economy. Their invisibility does not preclude their economic and cultural sway in this city, as anyone familiar with Portland would attest. We have many theories about why artisans and makers are so difficult to find, but of course, these will come to the fore through our empirical work. Stay tuned…
Hello (again)! After some time off, the Artisan Economy Initiative has forged a new path in our research on Portland’s artisan economy. AEI has teamed up with the Portland Made Collective to begin to investigate the relationship between the artisan economy and the larger economic “ecosystem” here in Portland. We are interested in interrogating the (in)visibility of the artisan economy within the broader understanding of economy.
Some of the topics we will be looking at in the weeks to come include: how to “locate” artisans and makers; how to define a boundary within which we conduct such research; limitations of creating such bounded research fields; and the methods with which we will proceed with this research. There are a lot of other questions that we have in the long run that will speak to the bigger project of better understanding the artisan economy. We will be updating this blog on our successes, frustrations, dilemmas, and impasses.
Anyone that happens upon any of our work should feel free to comment on any of it. We are particularly interested in hearing from others that are working on similar projects.
For more information on our partner, Portland Made Collective, please visit their site. You may be inspired to create something similar in your city…
Karoke as art? Dan Kois, senior editor at Slate and a contributing writer to New Yorker magazine consider this in How Good Does Karaoke Have to Be to Qualify as Art?. Is this just another paean to Portland. Yes, but something more, and along the way he does capture why Portland is a special place for artisans.
Portland isn’t just the capital of karaoke, I was realizing. The Japanese influence, the small-business climate and the abundance of bands don’t really matter. Portland is the capital of America’s small ponds. It’s a city devoted to chasing that feeling — the feeling of doing something you love, just for a moment, and being recognized for it, no matter how obscure or unnecessary or ludicrous it might seem to the straight world. It is the capital of taking frivolity seriously, of being silly as if it’s your job.
Note: This is a second post from Darren Hoad, Senior Lecturer, Edge Hill University, UK. Check out his beautifulbizz blog
My Trip to New York was intended as research but there was a point where work and pleasure became indistinguishable. As a consumer of chocolate, my visit to Mast Brothers Chocolatiers in Williamsburg in New York was a long anticipated indulgence (for research purposes you understand). I had used the case of the Mast Brothers during teaching sessions in the UK, examining the nature of consumption, production, localism, arts and craftsmanship. I have to admit to being a lover of chocolate. I tend to eat most types, most brands, milk or dark, it doesn’t matter. I consume but don’t think too much about where it comes from and how it is made. I eat chocolate therefore I am. However, industrially produced and mass manufactured chocolate is changing. The chocolate doesn’t taste as nice as it once did, and the bars are getting smaller! Continue reading
Surprisingly, the economic turnaround of the US economy has been led by manufacturing. Its a complicated story that includes the resurgence of innovative companies that develop small run, highly engineered products that require more skilled artisan-like workers. A second part of the growth of manufacturing has been around insourcing. No longer considered a trend, large companies like GE are placing big bets on US manufacturing facilities. Why? Again the story is complicated but one explanation is to protect intellectual property from knockoffs developed by outsourcing firms. Another is the changing role of labor. In advanced manufacturing, the walls between production and design are being broken down (in ways similar to what I described in Brew to Bikes:Portland’s Artisan Economy) For more on insourcing, check out two recent media stories, NPR’s Not Just Patriotic, US Manufacturing May be Smart and the Atlantic Magazine’s The Insourcing Boom.
Found this among the many comments on the Atlantic article, The Insourcing Boom. Check out the Reshoring Initiative. Not just a booster blog, it is doing a better than average job highlighting cases and estimating job impacts.
Hard not to love this Portland artisan. Check out Ryan Whites Oregonian article on Ear Trumpet Labs
Philip Graham didn’t set out to make the perfect Portland microphone — but he might be making the perfect Portland microphone.
full story here