This is a project summary for a grant application
Project Objective: Build the community identity of designer artisans and grassroots entrepreneurs in my local community by creating a database of the alternative culture of small entrepreneurs and resources with a special focus on ceramics as my own orientation.
The main deliverable, within an 18-month time frame, besides designing the system, will be a brochure designed to visually emulate the Town Plan published by my Town government, but this will be a Community Map of artisans and grassroots entrepreneurs, a demographic not given emphasis in the Town and State Reports.
Data will include architectural design and construction resources relevant to the business in a home community design.
There will be an overlay related to the risk posed by rising seas, and other climate concerns, for which there is not enough publicly available data to date.
The project will identify areas of expertise that will require project managers and it is hoped to locate expertise in all areas willing to carry the project on beyond the 18-month period.
The goal of the project is to develop a vision of community development, inclusive of the makers and small entrepreneurial community, and produce the findings in a brochure format similar to what is used in local government Town Plans, with a narrative that is both historical and forward-looking and presents an option to the top-down centralized vision advanced by the State, which recently passed LD 2003 granting the State large control over municipal ordinances.
Maine has been a constitutional Home Rule State since 1968 but since 1976 the State of Maine has statutorily and incrementally granted itself central control over most societal functions. Local autonomy will continue to erode if not actively reclaimed.
My background begins with being raised in a business in a home. Andersen Design is a ceramic art and design company started by my parents Weston and Brenda Andersen in the 1950s. Andersen Design produced its own designs using the ceramic slip casting process, starting with the raw materials that they made into original bodies and glazes. Dad was very much a philosopher and studied industrial design at Pratt Institute, learning ceramic slip casting under Eva Zeisel. His education was interrupted by World War II when he met his wife, Brenda in London.
After the war, the thinking of Lewis Mumford was popular, particularly in Europe. Munford’s philosophical approach was influential in Dad’s decision to not only design products for industry but to reinvent industry by using the production process as an art form. The mission was to create a handmade product affordable to the middle classes, and it was a great moment to do it, a time when, as Dad often told, the distribution of wealth took the form of a bell curve with the greatest amount of wealth distributed among the greatest number of people.
Today I am inspired by the works of Dr. Peter Critchley, who writes of Munford, “Mumford is an organicist thinker who is committed to creating life-enhancing structures and to destroying life-denying structures. This critical project is embedded in a conception of a planned regional and ecological decentralization.”
Craftsmen and small entrepreneurs have a long history of being at the forefront of social change. In The Making of the English Working Class E.P. Thompson tells the story of my ancestral heritage from my English mother’s side of the family. E.P. Thompson writes “In the years between 1780 and 1832 most English working people came to feel an identity of interests as between themselves, and as against their rulers and employers.”
E.P Thompson tells the story of the Society of Correspondence which was a mail subscription correspondence in the eighteenth century much like today’s Substack.
I am using my own Substack letter to build awareness about the designer-craftsmen and small entrepreneurial lifestyle while focusing on my local community, the Boothbay Peninsula of Maine. A developer has moved into Town and has intensified a culture war between the pre-existing community and the new arrivals. A political contingency has emerged in support of the developer’s interest acting in coordination and currently targeting a working waterfront park to stop it from proceeding with its plans.
The upside is that this has helped to form a coalition of interest within the long-standing local community.
In the eighteenth century, the London entrepreneurial working class faced the challenge of breaking through social roles established by class suppression:
In the first month of its existence the society debated for five nights in succession the question-“Have we, who are Tradesmen, Shopkeepers, and Mechanics, any right to obtain a Parliamentary Reform?” -turning it over “in every point of view in which we were capable of presenting the subject to our minds“. They decided that they had.
My newsletter informs an identity of interest. I am pleased to see that my newsletter is gathering steam in recent months, picking up new subscribers at a faster rate, many of them from my local community.
Recently the Maine Legislature passed a new act granting itself greater control over municipal ordinances. Now the State is collaborating with private sector groups to be awarded grants to participate in a Ten-Year Plan guided by the State. The timeline for developing the Ten-Year Plan is three years. I applied to be on the planning commission but do not have great expectations of being invited.
Businesses in a home, important to designer craftsmen and small entrepreneurs have been consistently excluded from public housing and economic development discussions that generally address housing for essential workers, and the workforce, a term used by the State in trade negotiations with private corporations, to mean a mass of workers employed by a corporation or specific industry.
Through municipal ordinances, our rights to live life on our own terms can be taken away. My Town selectmen have a history of closing down small entrepreneurs just at the point when new growth is evident. When my parents wanted to expand by building a larger ceramic-making facility across the street from their home, the Town would not allow it. A few years ago the Selectmen stopped Stimson’s Boatyard from building a 50-foot steel schooner, requiring Stimson to limit work on his premises to repairs. Now the Town Selectmen are targeting the regional grassroots vendor fairs that have been taking place on our Town Common for decades. The small businessperson is treated as a nuisance to be limited and controlled rather than recognized for the creative contributions they make to the community and the economy.
Software such as ArcGIS Urban, can be used to create a visualization of the small entrepreneurial community. Such software can be used to plan zoning ordinances friendly to small entrepreneurs and businesses in the home integrated into a community. Different concepts can be compared against the zoning ordinances projected by the State plan. The data can be used to project scenarios in motion so that one can visualize the growth of a community through decentralized regionalism and compare it to how a community grows through top-down central management.
The seeds of this idea first sprouted when I read a master plan developed for our local community by remote consultants hired by a local public-private economic development council. The report acknowledged that it used Ersi data compilation software. I saw that much of the data was derived from government websites but that the software allows the user to input their own data. So I started imagining what that might look like.
This is how the Ersi website describes it:
ArcGIS Urban allows users to search their cities and explore the locations of planned development, as well as their status. Allowing stakeholders to visualize citywide projects in a standard web browser supports the inclusive review of new projects and streamlines the building application process, potentially reducing it from months to weeks. A shared view of the development pipeline also increases public transparency, lessens uncertainty, and promotes greater community involvement in the review process. source
The narrative will tell the historical role of the designer craftsmen throughout history, drawing upon a contemporary debate among archeologists over whether traveling craftsmen of the bronze age were free agents or employees of wealthy persons based on the prevalence of prestige objects, tracing the history of feudalism, the pre-Industrial Revolution cottage industries, and the suburbs as a response to Industrial Revolution overcrowding, and the corporate state that emerged in the seventies to centrally manage the economy. It will conclude with a projection of where we are going and how the future might alternately evolve through decentralized regionalism.
The data will be derived from the grassroots to create unique local visualization, in the global context of this moment in history.
Whether or not designer craftsmen and small entrepreneurs are invited to participate in the State-run plans, my purpose is to build a movement representing small entrepreneurs and designer craftsmen’s interests and to raise public attention about why the needs and contributions of the small maker matter, In short, to become an equal part of the public conversation.
This project is coordinated with my projects as described in my profile on The Field. Specific deliverables include the creation of a database for the designer craftsmen and related small entrepreneurial communities that will strengthen the community identity of an unrepresented or networked faction of the economy.
END OF SUMMARY
I need two or more references for the grant, I also need to develop a team. If you are interested in providing a reference or becoming actively involved in this project, let me know via this form: You can also make a tax-deductible contribution to my project on The Field.