DIP 033: Cross-pollination

Plus, size-inclusive footwear, tarot-inspired cooking, and the new Nutribullet

👋 Hi. I started writing this in February but it fell to the wayside after I adopted a dog. We’ve both now settled into a routine, for which I am grateful. I’ve also been stuck on something Roxane Gay said on a recent episode of Brené Brown’s “Unlocking Us” podcast. Speaking about the challenges of managing expectations as a creator, she said: “I hope in the next few years … to be able to do more of the creating and less of the hamster in the wheel of sustaining visibility.” That concept — the hamster wheel of visibility — has been ping-ponging around in my brain for weeks. Visibility and recognition matter, but doing something for oneself regardless of how it might be received matters so much more. As always, reply with questions, comments, or thoughts about anything you read here.

This issue features 26 brands. Forty-six percent are white-led, 15 percent are Black-led, and 31 percent are led by non-Black people of color. You can find the complete Chips + Dips inclusion index here.

The Chips 🔮

  • Warmth sells vintage lighters.

  • On the first of each month, Savoy drops a nine-item collection of vintage housewares.

  • Marly makes products for nourishing houseplants.

  • Loquesea is making gender- and size-inclusive footwear.

  • Witzig is a dachshund-specific pet care company owned by Mars, while Occam specializes in whippets and Italian greyhounds.

  • Adding a Merve Kahraman armchair to my list of living room grails.

  • 50Hertz makes Sichuan peppercorn oils.

  • Another day, another well-curated marketplace. Meet Your Other Left Ear.

  • I love what Tadka Tarot, a deck of cards designed to foster intuitive cooking, stands for.

  • Keep an eye on Dynasty George.

  • Dendwell is a directory of vintage furniture dealers.

  • Alula is a digital community for people living with cancer.

  • Lota makes clothing from discarded fabric.

  • Brooklyn bar Ode To Babel is bottling its house gin.

  • Nutribullet’s founder made a Nutribullet competitor.

The Dip 💎

For all the “it’s time to build”-type chatter we saw at this time last year, it’s surprising how little has changed. For those who are privileged enough to work from home, the projects we work on and the processes through which we operate are largely the same. Tech-backed grocery solutions are still deeply flawed. Educational systems have stayed the same, if not gotten worse. Logistics solutions, specifically returns, are still clunky as ever. It got me thinking about what it takes to catalyze real, out-of-the-box change.

Art and Technology, 1971

From 1967 through 1971, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) facilitated what was known as the Art and Technology Program, pairing up-and-coming artists with companies like IBM, Disney, and Lockheed Aircraft. The program was intended to culminate in an exhibition, but few collaborations actually yielded tangible artworks. In spite of this, Art and Technology had a lasting effect — for many artists, the concepts they were exposed to during their collaborations would shape their thinking in the decades to come. 

James Turrell and Robert Irwin, both artists whose long careers have centered around perceptual phenomena, were paired with Edward Wortz, a physiological psychologist who studied ergonomics at NASA. Their project focused on sensory deprivation in the form of anechoic chambers and Ganzfelds, or visual fields that induce a loss of depth perception. Ganzfelds are now one of the categories of art for which Turrell is best known. Irwin, too, employs human perception as a medium in his art and has called Wortz one of the most important people in his life. 

During the ‘60s and ‘70s, California was a manufacturing hub. Resins and plastics and seemingly infinite new materials were being developed for industrial purposes, and were equally well-suited to art-making. While corporate constraints and resource cuts were the primary cause of Art and Technology’s failure, the concept of pairing right-brained individuals with left-brained individuals and encouraging collaboration across industries, simply for the sake of collaborating, was brilliant.

One x One, 2020

I previously wrote about collaborations in DIP 015, focusing on ways in which brands pair like with like. Most collaborations are enacted for acquisition purposes. Art and Technology sought innovation, and Slow Factory’s One x One applies a similar line of thinking to circular design. The program pairs scientists and designers with the intent of creating new, more sustainable, more equitable ways of working.

Phillip Lim worked with researcher Charlotte McCurdy to create a sequin dress made from carbon neutral, algae-based bioplastic. Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School worked with materials scientist Theanne Schiros to create sneakers that leverage waste as a resource, growing fake leather from microbes. Mara Hoffman and Ngozi Okaro of Custom Collaborative created an equity-centered, non-patriarchal training program for low-income and immigrant women that strives for economic empowerment and independence.

Knowing that the fashion industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global wastewater, there’s a need to create new and better systems. One x One allowed designers to run wild in that regard, working with experts in their respective fields to imagine the future of fashion. And while none of the One x One projects is scalable yet — the materials are currently too time- and resource-intensive to produce en masse — they each validate an idea and prove what’s possible.

Companies like MycoWorks, Bolt Threads, Werewool, and Evrnu are developing sustainable materials solutions. Yet real change won’t happen in a vacuum; in order to be proven out, those materials need to be applied to tangible, sellable products — something MycoWorks and Bolt Threads are already doing. In a similar vein, I've posited that Allbirds has the potential to turn itself into a materials company, having already made its SweetFoam material open source.

Buddy up

Knowledge is siloed. Digital communities tend to be echo chambers. Slow Factory’s One x One program makes me eager for more out-of-the-box collaboration — partnerships enacted not for acquisition or hype, but progress and betterment.

The problem is that they’re slow and expensive, and businesses today want to see money, fast. But change can’t and won’t come naturally, and it won’t happen without thinking outside of the box. What might it look like for companies to set aside resources for solving actual problems? Along the lines of Google’s famed 80/20 policy, but for company-wide initiatives that look toward the future — and not just the next quarter, but the next decade.

Still hungry?
  • If you want to dig into LACMA’s Art and Technology Program, the original exhibition catalog is here.

  • The New York Times dug into the nerdy side of sustainable fashion

  • The Phillip Lim x Charlotte McCurdy collaboration made me wonder what Glossier’s now-defunct Glitter Gelée could have been had the company partnered with a materials scientist to create its own bio-glitter.

Real Dip 💡

Sqirl-inspired creamed greens.

Heat a chopped onion, a pinch of salt, and some olive oil in a pot. When the onion starts to soften, add about a cup of coconut milk (or equal parts coconut cream and water) and simmer gently until the liquid starts to reduce. Cut the heat, add two large handfuls of spinach, and stir to let it wilt.

On the side, add one bunch of de-stemmed kale to a food processor and pulse it to get things moving. Add the onion-coconut-spinach combo to the food processor and blitz it until everything is combined but not fully puréed.

Taste and see what’s missing. You might want garlic powder, paprika, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, or lots of salt and pepper.

Pairs well with fried eggs, roasted potatoes, and onion jam.

Thanks for snacking,

— Emily ⚙️

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