From Makerism to Made in America: Notes for the Conscious Consumer

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, permanent pen on paper, 14in x 8.5in, 1999 Joel Bergquist

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, permanent pen on paper, 14in x 8.5in, 1999 Joel Bergquist

The morning of July 4th, I opened my Facebook feed to a drawing posted by my dear friend, the talented painter Joel Bergquist. I lived with Joel around the time he began doing a lot of hand and foot paintings, some 9 feet tall, and some with the look of fight clouds from cartoons. Joel’s paintings blend a hybrid of mark making (see above picture) traditions in painting and drawing, and choreography (Joel's sister Nonnie was with Dance Theater of Harlem at the time). 

The marker (maker) piece posted above is clean and crisp, almost graphic. Looking at it, I feel an iconic connection to maker culture, as this week we've been putting Made in USA stickers on our board game. Ani-gram-it is actually made in NYC (LIC and NJ), and I have made huge effort to produce locally for our first run for several reasons.

Just the way food went locavore, local products and production have increased dramatically through marketplaces like Brooklyn-born Etsy, which has reinvigorated makerism. The dream to quit the day job has thereby became a tangible reality for many in Brooklyn and beyond.

The support that makerism provides is entrepreneurial—financial, emotional, and social. Strengthening and enriching the creative engine within communities empowers makers medium solutions (what sorts of solutions? products?) that are both bespoke and boost their bottom line. It also inspires pride and trust—pride in place and local people, and trust in those makers. Fred Wilson posted on trust recently as the 11th item needed in startup ideas.

As a game designer, knowing I can set a press time with Steve (in orange shirt below) and his team in Long Island City, and go stand with them looking over press proofs (as the massive printer hums behind us) so we can tweak the color balance puts a face on my production I would not have if I sent my game to a Chinese factory.

Does our customer care about this as much as we do? We'll find out. We felt a higher level of quality, with a lower carbon footprint, mattered to our game and was one of the reasons it's design was nominated and a finalist at the NYC Design Awards. The green part we took a little farther with a partnership with Trees for the Future (trees.org), through which we plant a tree for every game bought. It does push our pricepoint up to make our games locally, and so it becomes a question for store buyers and direct web customers in our market to decide: how much does local production and conscious consumption mean to them?

Around our national holiday weekend, I'd like to hear from you—how much do you value "locally made" in your products, wherever you live? Beyond eating locally, is consuming locally a big deal which drives your buying and consumption choices?