It’s winter, just before my fourth birthday. I clamber onto a metal folding chair with a scrap piece of wood in hand. Before my skinny fingers is the tearing blade of an old, rusty bandsaw. In my father’s makeshift woodshop down in the garage, I was given full autonomy over the scrap box. Filled with spoils, that cardboard box contained an endless trove of opportunity, just waiting for the next idea.
Chapter 1: Learning to live the life of journey rather than a life of destination.
New York. Atlanta. Reading. Easton. Krakow. Appalachia. Lambertville. Hew Hope. The Delaware Water Gap. Baltimore. Richmond. Alabama. Sanibel. Just to name a few. And more yet to be determined … Green Bay. San Francisco. The Catskills. Atlanta. As I write this, I’m cruising at 30,000 feet. Over the last five months, I’ve been in New York a grand total of three weeks. We’re stepping into a season defined less as travel, rather as nomadic. Travel indicates a point of origin, a geographically fixed concept of home, a place to return. Yet for us, home is a fluid concept. For me, home is a person. Home is Jen.
Often it's the simplest lessons that are the most important to learn ... And to be constantly reminded.
Life is busy. Over the last three months, our schedule has been painted solid with travel. Looking forward, the calendar is no less colorful. But recently, we had a few days of downtime to do – well – to do nothing! Needless to say, we were excited at such a proposition; just a few days to get out and explore together. So, it's the first day home in what seems like an eternity. The forecast is rain, nonstop torrential downpour.
The Uschanka story started when designer Piret Puppart went on a journey to the Komi people, a small ethnic group living at the very heart of Russia near the Ural mountains. She stayed in an ancient village of reindeer hunters where women wore beautiful scarves and fabrics, often inherited from their mothers and grandmothers. Reaching the Komi villages is no easy feat. Travel first by train, then hitchhike, and finally walk. It is a journey knocking on the doors of local women, asking to view the most treasured pieces within their wardrobe. At first, the ladies are a bit taken back – tourists here are rare – but soon fabrics, embroidery, and patterns are gladly revealed. It is here Puppart finds her brilliant inspiration.
Building a sustainable endeavor in the Tenderloin, San Francisco
Tucked away on the second floor of a run down building in the heart of the Tenderloin in downtown San Francisco, Al is hard at work cutting and stitching together leather scraps. He’s been honing his craft for decades, just trying to make a living. Day by day. Wallets, bags, and even coats. Al’s been stopping by the local leather shop for years, and is always on the hunt for floor scraps. Late one afternoon, Allen from TL Made joins Al at the leather shop. This time rather than hunting for floor scraps Al is perusing full pieces of the finest leather available. As the sun is setting over the Pacific Al heads out, rolls of leather in hand. The leather shop owner pulls Allen to the side, and tells him this is the first time Al has ever purchased anything.
Investing in the future leaders of the world’s fastest growing economy.
Let me tell you the story of a brilliant young woman named Brendah. This year, the year of 2014, is her first year at law school. A memorable year for her. She’s bright eyed, a bit reserved, yet confident in who she is and who she will become. Her future is filled with potential. But for Brendah, her life was not always so bright. To say it was bleak is the use of an insufficient adjective. As a child Brendah was homeless, living in the streets of Mombasa, a large city on the western coast of Africa in Kenya. It was here, in extreme poverty, that her life changed forever.
I have often heard people say, but am only just now experiencing it to be true, that going back to college after having had a career is completely different than going to college directly after high school. To clarify, I’m not going back to college, I’ve simply been attending a few continuing education classes at FIT.
The Hudson River Valley is a true American beauty. A retreat for many New Yorkers, home to even more commuters. Quick getaways refresh the mind, but more impressively refresh the soul. The world around us has been shaped by forces great and small. Carved deep by behemoths of ice, cut shallow by iron plows, and congested with parkways and rails. The consciousness of culture is cultivated by a different cast of characters – corporate tycoons, underground musicians, little known authors, ambitious entrepreneurs, loving mothers, humble spiritual leaders, and many more. The impact an individual creates may not be fully realized until well beyond their own life. And therefore one must not measure ‘prosperity’ by one’s own field of view. An individual’s field of view is narrow – acutely narrow!
Our personal and professional lives revolve around entrepreneurship and we are thrilled by brilliant companies — brilliant people! We are consistently inspired by so many of the people we meet, and hearing their passion for life. While in San Fracisco we had many fun adventures, made new friends, and reconnected with old friends along the way. Below is a more info on some of the great companies, organizations, and people that we had the privilege of meeting while traveling and exploring the city.
Just north of San Francisco lies Mount Tamalpais State Park, and its heaven on earth. Its a truly stunning place. With sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the bay, tucked away beaches, ancient redwoods, hiking trails, and more, its a great place to spend a Saturday!
When opportunities arise, we tend to hop to it with little reservation. Earlier this autumn, I started talking with an entrepreneurial program located in Estonia and began to learn a lot about the region. Intrigued with the massive change that’s occurring throughout northeastern Europe, and specifically Estonia, we jumped at the chance for a house swap. Our Chinatown, New York City apartment for a great spot just outside Old Town Tallinn, Estonia. Such a beautiful medieval city, rich with history.
The November issue of HOW Magazine hit newsstands yesterday, and I'm quite excited to announce that Jen was featured in one of the key articles! It highlights Baker+Brown Co – our ongoing experiment – to illustrate how designers can take their side projects to the next level.
This past year I had the honor of working with ethically focused fashion brand Raven + Lily to develop surface designs for their Autumn 2013 collection. Raven + Lily is a socially responsible brand dedicated to empowering women through design partnerships and sustainable economic opportunities. They are working to alleviate poverty among women.
Sanibel Island holds a special place in our memories, and our hearts. A decade ago, in a simple ceremony at sunset with sand between our toes, we were married. And it has been one adventure after another. Our dreams continue to blossom as we continue to grow together, and Baker+Brown Co – this ongoing experiment of ours – has its roots in Sanibel. We found inspiration for our first collection from long walks along the beach at sunset, hunting for sea shells, and finding solace dreaming of the future as waves gently lapped at the white sandy beaches beneath our umbrella. Sanibel is a magical place for us, and one that escapes words.
While we enjoy the destination, we do love the journey!
Back in April, Jen and I did a bit of exploring. Meandering through Rhode Island and Massachusetts, we tried our best to get as lost as we could – of course, our trusty iPhones were close at hand when required! We prefer to keep our adventures completely open ended. We don’t know where we staying at night until we arrive – wherever that might just be!
Creating an environment to restore and foster relationships within our communities.
In New York City, everyone has something to share. But in a city that's this jam packed, it's hard to find a place to do so. We developed the Salt Space to be a transformable venue designed to provide a neutral platform for dialogue and community engagement. In our city, many have become accustomed to a lifestyle of anonymity. We pass thousands of neighbors everyday, rub shoulders with them on the subway, stand silently next to them in an elevator, and yet we often allow ourselves to live our lives disconnected from meaningful relationships.
In the heart of an eclectic arts district, on the outskirts of a town that exists as the nation's banking capital, the NoDa Film Festival's goal was to raise cultural awareness through film. Film that most would never see otherwise. A grassroots effort by a few individuals – dedicated and passionate – the film festival grew to a recurring audience upwards of 3,500 attendees, more than tripling in size by the fourth film festival.
Reflecting on Viet Nam. Two trips. Two months. Affected for life.
To say its humid seems inconsequential. It is a soup. Ninety-eight degrees in the middle of a chaotic Ho Chi Minh City. We had just arrived in south east Asia only days before. The exhaust chokes as an endless stream of motorbikes buzz along – each carrying more people that I ever thought possible. I am standing on a sidewalk watching. Jen stepped into a small shop. I watch and enjoy the pulse – the rhythm – of a metropolis in southern Viet Nam. After a few minutes I realize that practically everyone passing by on their motorbike looks at me. Eyes meet. Adults, children. Everyone. In that moment it hits me, as a caucasian male just over six feet tall, I stand out. I am the spectacle; not the rhythm of Saigon.