Build-a-Brother Andrew, seated, and Ted Sliwinski in their Detroit workshop. Photo: Brian Finke
The Kitchen-Table Industrialists
by Anand Giridharadas
New York Times, May 15, 2011
"Even as one boom era hurtled toward its end, a diffuse global community of nerds was at work on what it hoped would fuel the next one."
The revolution is being televised.
The latest rant during my public talks has been a return to the DIY ethos that the internet has thrust upon us (here’s one of the longer jags from 2006). In a nutshell, it attacks the default position of looking for some big company to give you money for your projects, ceding a huge amount of control in the process.
I’m almost 60 years old, so for most of my career I had no choice; if I wanted to do big, commercial ideas (which I do), the only path was through multiple (many multiple) gatekeepers, most of whom told me my notions were (pick one) stupid, non-commercial, impractical, intellectual, obtuse, obscure, or many other unremembered things.
But times are different, things are completely upside down for big corporations, and there’s no one in the way between you and an audience. Just ask the folks behind “Bottle" (FOF Kirsten Lepore), “Stop Motion with Wolf & Pig, “Weebl’s Stuff,” or “T-Shirt War,” “Happy Tree Friends,” “Dick Figures,” “Annoying Orange,” or “Her Morning Elegance,” among thousands of others. These filmmakers don’t waste their time blaming “them” for getting in the way (like I did for so many years), they look in the mirror and realize that’s who’s going to make a success.
Why bring this all up again? Because there’s proof all over the place —in every business imaginable outside of TV and film— that we’re only at the beginning of a revolution, and that if things go right, the innovative American spirit will bring about a resurrection. One that’s almost impossible to imagine or believe, because most of us, me included, only think about the past and everything we already know. (And, by the way, if the United States continues to fiddle while its industries burn, we’ll see that the rest of world will pass us by.)
"What makes this notion something less than complete fantasy is the availability of new manufacturing machines that are cheap, simple and compact enough for small companies, local associations and even amateur hobbyists to own and operate. What once only big firms with hulking factories could fabricate can now be made in a basement or by e-mailing a design to an online factory-for-hire. These machines can produce all sorts of things, including plastic pencil holders, eyeglass frames and MP3 players."
Today’s New York Times is telling us about some folks —”The Kitchen-Table Industrialists"— who are daring to envision a different future. One that puts heretofore impossible scales of manufacturing in individual hands.
I don’t have to point out the parallels between these physical manufactures and animation, do I?
Hands On Ayah Bdeir, the founder and, more significant, creator of littleBits. Photo: Brian Finke
"Makers, as they call themselves, can’t compete with the long, orderly rows of workers from the poorer provinces of China or India who cut, stitch and solder bras, shoes and cellphones for pennies — or even with the hundreds of billions of dollars a year worth of stuff that continues to pour out of large, old-fashioned American factories. Their method involves creating “hacker space” cooperatives, where a few dozen members share…”
Just a couple of weeks ago, a go-getter entrepreneur came to Frederator with an animation idea that could turn New York on its ear. Los Angeles isn’t going to do anything interesting, currently there’s too much work available, but New York really needs to figure out a new path. And, by the time the work dries up in LA —and it will, eventually— it might be too late. Other small hubs around the country, around the world, might have already replaced the need for such a grand center of creative activity.
Anyhow, check out the article. You might not get nearly as jacked up as I am, but, you’re probably not as stupid, impractical, intellectual, obtuse, or obscure as me.