I have devoted several posts to Branch in the past week. Over the winter, we designed and made a catalog detailing all of the products we made. I had the idea to introduce our made in America ornament for the garden to a broader audience. I felt we were ready. The past 10 years has had its successes, and most certainly setbacks and failures. Bringing a hand made object to market takes a lot of time. There are mistakes made every step of the way. Solving problems creatively is not about minutes. It is about months, and years. As Seth Godin said, “all boats leak”. No matter the best of intentions, it takes time and effort to hone a design and a manufacturing process such that your product stays afloat, the majority of the time.
We were a new company that needed time to get our house in order. Given that we are just about at 10 years sorting out who we are, and who we hope to be, I think we are ready to introduce ourselves to other people, in other places, who love the garden. Most of that introduction via our print catalogue is visual. But we printed a few paragraphs about who we are, and where we come from. Much of that commentary had to do with where we are from-the rust belt.
Our work in steel is grounded our history and experience. I grew up in Detroit. I rode my bike to JL Hudson’s downtown, now and again, for a chocolate soda, when I was 12. And again when I was 14, 15, and 17. The gritty city-everything about that bustling urban downtown enchanted me. I biked it. This means I was on the ground floor whizzing by every factory and shop for 22 miles from my home. Those experiences made a big impression. There are many many things I cannot remember, but I do remember the city. So much to see. So much energy. The growing I could see every place I turned-loved that.
I so admire and appreciate the sculpture produced by the automobile industry. There was a time when Detroit made the issue of transportation an art. I am not such a fan of horsepower and speed as Buck is. I like the shapes. I love that the design is beautiful, functional, and made to last. Manufacturing is an idea that not only interests me, it is part of that music that plays in the background no matter what I am doing. Buck grew up in Texas. His grandfather was a carpenter. His father was a riveter at General Dynamics in Texas, in his earlier years. He became head of production some years later, until his retirement. If you are not familiar with General Dynamics, they were and are a huge defense contractor. They built the F-111, and the F-16 fighter jets. His Dad supervised the building of jets. Buck comes from a long line of makers, whose work involved steel and wood, and whose work involved great precision and exacting standards of construction.
The music in one’s background-what is that? Simply stated, every person comes with an attitude, instincts, a history, a point of view, a skill set, a mind set, an aura that that makes for a particular music that plays in the background while they work. The fabrication of the Branch boxes, Italian style vases, pergolas, and fountains are infused with the music playing in Buck’s background.
This pergola involved making very thick steel tubing conform to a round shape. The accumulation of a lifetime of fabricating skills, and a love of both geometry and industry is evident in all of the work he produces. His spheres are riveted. His pergolas are bolted together, so they can be broken down and shipped. They also have that industrial aura about them that recalls the history of structural steel buildings and bridges.
The moment I became aware of the Runwell watch, being manufactured in Detroit, by Shinola, I knew I had found the perfect birthday present for Buck. Everything about their philosophy, mission, and devotion to quality I knew would really appeal to him. But most of all, the watch is a very precisely and beautifully handcrafted instrument-made by a company in Detroit. http://www.shinola.com/
Precision made, by hand, in Detroit. This is music to my ears.