Saturday night was one of the rare nights when I had my babysitter come and we had no plans, no movie that we were wanting to see, no civilized dinner to attend. We use these rare nights, Craig and I, to re-live, for a few hours, some semblance of those lazy, pre-child saturday afternoons, consisting of bookstores, coffee shops, matinees, leisurely dinners and long walks. We got in the car and just began to drive, kind of on autopilot towards one of our favorite remaining neighborhood LA bookstores, Skylight Books in Los Feliz. We started off in the art books annex, where I jetted over to the design section, scouring for anything involving textile arts, as I often do, my eyes glazing over some oft seen titles – until I landed on a small, unfamiliar orange spine that read Material Change: Design Thinking and the Social Entrepreneurship Movement by Eve Blossom.
Before I get into the book, can we discuss this title? There is a lot here that drew me in. I am, as we speak, directly in the center of a business building process (read more about it here) using materials from all over the world, constantly seeking to understand and prove to myself that good design is important, why it matters. I studied Literature when I was in school, and went on to work with inner-city at-risk youth, so I am seeking to incorporate these two sides of my nature – to create and craft beautiful items, and to at the same time help those in need. I dream of one day taking my new company global, incorporating hand-crafted indigenous textiles into my work that I purchase directly through relationships with artisans – along the lines of the work of Lauren Aviva. So here it is: design, material, change, social entrepreneurship…Was this book written for me?
As I took the book off the shelf, I noticed the “Signed Copy” sticker on the cover and immediately flipped to the inscription on the title page:
On first look, the book is filled with long pages of text alongside amazingly beautiful photography. Photos of South Asian artisans at various stages of the weaving process, sitting at the loom, harvesting, preparing dyes – vibrant, colorful fabrics being sold at market alongside fresh local fruits and vegetables.
Blossom interweaves stories of her own journey through South Asia, one that led to the 2004 creation of her company Lulan Artisans whose mission is to “join high design with traditional weaving techniques while honoring the artisans’ social and cultural heritage. Lulan is a for-profit social venture that designs, produces and markets contemporary textiles through partnerships with artisans through Southeast Asia.” Lulan provides economic options for areas heavily affected by human trafficking, in turn providing more stability and systemic social change. Blossom asserts that true sustainability has six key components:Ecological, Economic, Social, Cultural, Communal and Personal.
Blossom also shares stories of other Disruptive Entrepreneurs – people who understand viscerally that the way people have lived and produced for the past century cannot continue. Such behavior is not sustainable.
Blossom’s work is not idealistic, it is rooted in the idea that a successful business must make money to survive. Seeking to find balance between what she calls various “threads” – social, cultural, financial, etc – that this is the future of business, and the future of design.
As I set out to create my own small disruptive movement, I am constantly thinking about a few things over and over again. My need to make money so that I can sustain my own family and my desire to see, to know where my fabrics are coming from. It weighs on me that I don’t always know where the fabrics I use are coming from, or who has made them. I keep telling myself that Rome was not built in a day, and that it is important to have goals, to have ideals to work towards, and that I will get there. Because it matters. It really matters.
I don’t ever speak too much about the name of this blog – I feel like it’s fairly self-explanatory, but I think this idea, this disruptive entrepreneurship is a great example of an idea that fills the blank spaces, one that has a reach far deeper than the products it creates, or the money it makes. A business that doesn’t let anything fall into the spaces in between. Lucky me that I stumbled upon this book. Watch Eve Blossom give a TED talk below – what have you disrupted today?
Eve Blossom is an architect, a TED contributor and Material Change is her first book.