We’re constantly being told that, as a country, we don’t make anything anymore. All you hear is that Brazil is going bananas, India is growing by leaps and bounds, and the Chinese are eating our lunch (which we also didn’t make). With globalization, the U.S. economy has been forced to make room on the capitalist stage for new players. And that can be disruptive. But if you zoom in and take a closer look, especially in Cincinnati, you might be surprised to discover how much cool stuff—everything from new gadgetry to useful staples like shoes and chairs and tables—is still made here. And not just made but crafted.
A few years ago, my wife and I were on the hunt for something to contain my slowly metastasizing record collection. We cruised showrooms from Home Depot to Ikea trying to find something (a space-age shelving device, a series of compartments, a large vibrating egg…) hefty enough to contain the groaning weight of all that vinyl yet pleasing enough not to be banished to the garage. One day we were at the Contemporary Arts Center, just sitting around looking at the art, when I had a eureka moment: The wooden box I was slouching on (five sides of sleek birch plywood with the sixth side open for storage) was exactly what we needed. Strong and solid, with clean lines, it was the perfect union of utility and subtle sophistication. We contacted the CAC and found out it had been made in-house by a local artist named Chris Vorhees. Chris, it turned out, loved working with wood and was totally willing to modulate his design and build us a long, low, boxy wood shelf (on wheels!). Weeks later, when he pulled up with the shelf in the bed of his pickup, I had two reactions: Hosannah! I’ve found my holy grail! And: Holy crap! There is no way we will ever get that leviathan upstairs. (A few months later, it took five guys from a moving company to hoist it—ingeniously—up to the third floor, where it resides today. Every night at bedtime, I pray that it doesn’t fall through the ceiling and crush me.)
OK, so we’re not talking about building electric cars (for that you’ve got to go to Amp Electric Vehicles in Loveland, which we featured in November 2012). But what we are talking about in our “Made in Cincinnati” package (page 50) is the growing brain trust of artisans, craftsman, jewelers, cobblers, woodworkers, printers, industrial designers and more who are creating a rich and inventive new eco- (as in economic) system all over town.
Stay crafty, Cincinnati.