I live in a Safe Place. How many people can say that? Not many in the world. I’m sure people in my district, my town, my state, my country even my street probably cannot say they live in a Safe place. Victims and witnesses of domestic violence can’t say that. Gravely sick people don’t live in a safe place. People of color can’t say they are safe every single where they go, many know safety rarely. Huge areas of our nation are being torn apart with gang violence, places where people hear gunshots daily. Across the world for combatants and witnesses, war is their reality. So many of us know peace, yet we create our own discord. We fight with our loved ones or focus on our problems, hurt our bodies, put ourselves down, and take clear skies and smiling eyes for granted.
I have Space around me. Houses and streets and acres and acres of woods, streams, meadows and trails. People in New York City for example have to be very clever or spend serious money on the hour to have even 100 yards of unoccupied space around their bodies. Here I am in a house with three rooms and a basement all to myself and a kid and a cat, with grass on all sides and a forest in the back yard and beyond. It slopes downward in the middle so I can see across a quarter mile to the trees on the other side. All covered in kudzu. I can look out there and see a couple backyards, but no other people. Imagine that in Hong Kong, if you can. I expect most livable parts on this planet are not as empty and beautiful as this. And I expect there will be fewer all the time.
Even the plants cannot say they live in safe and spacious places. We are harming their safe space to create our own. Invasive species of plants and animals attack their eco systems. We tear them down and dispose of our waste in their space. The plant’s sacred space is so peaceful, of course we want to horn in on those vibes they’ve created. They do so well despite us, and are so forgiving of us.
There is a small circuit of people who know about and go to the safe and beautiful spaces we have claimed on the earth. Money and privilege certainly could describe the majority of people who occupy these spaces, white is another term that can be used profusely when describing the people one sees in the beautiful places one goes to as a white american. But money and privilege and skin color or even gender are no longer needed to access these parts of society, you just need to know where to go and how to get there. It is the knowledge that we pass down to our own kin that is our main privilege, a knowledge we can share with peaceful folk of different origins as well.
These safe and spacious places are Physical Spaces to live in and be in, as well as Industries to work in and people to be surrounded with. Construction and permitting for example is an area that white men specifically are largely in-the-know about. Not out of malice but simply out of inheritance, the knowledge of how our bureaucracy works has been taught to and learned from white men who built the buildings. This means generations of relationships as well as ways of speaking and dressing.
In order for more people to be involved in the building of buildings, white men need to go out of their way to teach their daughters and friends of minorities the Ways of the Industry, and they need to adapt to the changes new faces will bring. Every person and every industry could benefit from teaching as well as learning from someone with a completely different background. The ways we do things would improve as well.
"Time" really doesn't happen in a linear way even though we think it does. Our brains can't handle it but our bodies do. We are such a makeup of our ancestors, all their strengths and weaknesses and feelings and habits. Global changes seem to come out of nowhere- maybe they come from the "future". The "past" continues to effect the present, for instance how styles and trends are repeated often based in the past. Even the past's science fiction and ideas of the future dictate how we modernize.
I really just think everything is happening all at once and consciousness could be so much more than it is. Maybe we just have to evolve to experience it.
Give everyone a voice, seek first to understand. We can talk to our friends who mostly agree with us and try to change each other’s minds, or we can inform ourselves of what people who we don’t agree with are thinking. Disagreeing with someone's opinion doesn’t make them wrong, and it doesn’t make them go away. So why not save some breathe and just listen to what they are saying? I know we are good at letting the tv talk, so how about we don’t overpower or demean someone we share oxygen with just because we don’t want to hear what they will say next. Be brave! We are so afraid of each other and the actions one another’s ideologies may insight. Let us face our fear, and find out what those ideologies are before we start expecting the worst of each other. Ask questions of the person you are talking to and find common ground, or else secretly take note of all the terrible stuff they are admitting to, and figure out how to do something about it.
It’s not strange to feel uncomfortable in the presence of the unknown. It isn’t weird to be afraid of people or things that make you feel uncomfortable. It isn’t odd to become aggressive when you feel afraid. It’s not out of the ordinary to cause harm when you feel aggressive. It’s not unusual to feel in control by causing harm. It isn’t freakish to feel powerful when you’re in control. It’s not bizarre to want to do something with that feeling of power.
It’s not surprising when conflicts appear from discomfort. It’s normal when conflict leads to war.
What we are experiencing in the US right now is completely ordinary.
It was a long slow process leading to the decision to close the Rhetorical Factory Flagship store. At first all I knew was that I didn't want my vision and hard work to go toward making my landlords money leaving me stressed out whether I had earned enough or not. On the surface they are nice guys but when it comes to business they will pull all kinds of tricks to get what they are after. I understand them and I don't blame them for being a product of the system they are trying to succeed in. I just take a little pleasure in pointing out the truth. I'm not a fan of it, but then that's why I'm not there any more. If I was still there I wouldn't have much to complain about, would I? Most people don't realize that just opening the store in the first place was like winning a war.
After finding a great place to move close to but out of town I gave myself time. A year of No Expectations. I didn't know if maybe I would continue selling clothes, make other things, open another store, sell the brand or what.
The more space I got the more I realized that the clothing didn't hold passion for me any more. I felt like more of a salesman than an artist. I decided I would rather live the life of a true artist which to me means spending days creating something out of every opportunity. It also means being free and knowing that the universe has a much more exciting plan for me than I could create. I let the question mark take over, and that's where I still am!
This year I invested myself in curiosity. I spent a lot of time with plants, learning their unique personalities and values and how to make medicine with them. I got way into fermentation and have several colonies of various types I love to share. I played a lot more music, specifically Old Time. For work I have been incredibly honored in helping to raise a baby human. She was only a month when we met, and now she is one! I've spent some time consulting with artists, business and individuals and helping them with specific projects or just solving problems. I took over 6 weeks off over the year to visit family and friends. Seeing my family means traveling so I bet you can imagine how long it had been since that happened!
I've been able to slow the pace of life back down and get a little perspective. I'm really lucky to have some great working gigs, beautiful people in my life, and all these experiences. Now that 2016 is over I feel the call again, to something. To the unknown.
I can totally believe it has been a year since we opened. Every day has blossomed in it's own way, teaching me so much. I must say, compared to the year before it felt like the longest year of my life. Not in a bad way at all.
Rhetorical Factory is just about the perfect place for me to create art and process all these awesome clothes. It has become so through extra efforts on top of running the store. My friend Phil Cheney has been a big part of that, helping me build the space in a way that works for it's purpose. We work a little at a time.
With the experience of the past 11 months behind RF and I, I feel sure we can top it with the next rotation! We now have a pretty great selection of ethically produced items from companies other than Rhetorical Factory. With Spring clothing just about fully stocked, I can get into some new creations and organizations....
Spring is Springing!
Even though at this moment it is cold as can be, there is no denying the direction we are headed.
What would it take to make Rhetorical Factory a success?
Is something people often ask me, and the answer only comes in the form of more questions:
What is Success?
From the moment I set out to create Rhetorical Factory it has been successful. With a three-part mission statement I really have always felt that whatever I am learning and doing here is worth while. I am learning about business, being creative, and making waste into a resource. That has always felt like success, even when that meant sacrificing personal comforts. Possibly even especially then.
What is Financial Success?
Since we opened the flagship store last year, we have re-purposed roughly 1,500 garments. That is so much more than ever before, more than in the entire 4 years spent in the Studio. But the expansion itself came at a high cost, plus we experimented with employees. So while we haven't a profit yet, I feel like we have had financial success and are on track to sell enough recycled clothes to pay the bills year-round.
What about "Blowing Up" "Going Viral" or "Becoming Mainstream"?
Now this is a little difficult to explain so I'll keep it short. Rhetorical Factory is based in a different paradigm., a different world of values. One-of-a-kind clothing is sold to all sorts of people, all seeking something ethical and unique for themselves. That experience is impossible to mass-produce. The awakening that has to happen to someone before they are looking for a store like Rhetorical Factory already takes them out of the "rat race" "keeping up with the Jones'" and the competitive angle that our popular culture feeds on. By the time Rhetorical Factory "blows up" this world will have changed so much that success won't look the same any more.
Rhetorical Factory is a business built on individual conversations, experiences and interactions. The years spent at festivals provided solid ground, and while I now do the same thing from the store every day the work is very similar. Each sale is much more about the question mark that goes out with the shirt than the shirt or the print itself. We need to have the conversations to get people looking for art and authenticity in everything, if those of use who have started business in our futuristic paradigms are to succeed.
So this brings me to a challenge for you: Start the conversation. Share the mission of Rhetorical Factory with someone you know who is still not recycling, putting healthy ideas, food and images into their body. Do it in a positive way, don't point out how they aren't a part of this way of thinking. Encourage them to take an opportunity to support something ethical, local, and artistic. If you bring them into the store I will give you both 25% off and a $10 gift card for your next visit. Just mention this blog post. The idea is that one great experience with a business outside the mainstream could be all it takes to awaken the earth's next advocate.
Feel free to share your questions and your own journey!
For some reason Rhetorical Factory has been referred to by me as "recycled fashion" and hardly ever "upcycled fashion". In this niche industry of re purposed fashion, there is often a lack of terminology, actual words that describe what we do. It takes a conversation and lots of eye contact to turn someone on to the idea of "upcycled". I think that is why I never took on the term, because people know what recycled means and people want to recycle, right? Plus the RE goes with so much re-invent, re-imagine, rhe-torical....
Well as it turns out, I have a feeling, people don't want their fashion to be recycled, unless they already know what upcycling is. Most people, and most people don't know about upcycling, refer to recycled fashion as "consignment".
My friend Alice gifted her 12 year old niece a Rhetorical Factory bike t shirt and when she went to explain, her niece interrupted saying with a finger point "Oh I know, this is UPcycled! I love upcycling."
So why would I shun this term any longer? It obviously works!
Tell your friends about your favorite Upcycled Fashion Store: Rhetorical Factory!
This is the the buying season of the year, remember to support what you believe in with the gifts you buy!
Luckily Asheville as well as the internet is full of ethically crafted clothes, jewelry, tools, and art so it's easy and fun to shop with integrity. Especially the next two weekends.
The thing about this season is we get to pass a little piece of our mindset along to those we love who are often outside this local community. Many of our families don't recycle, they go for quantity of gifts rather than quality, they expect us to eat mystery food and fit into the roles we assume in that family unit.
It makes it difficult to spread enlightenment and encourage positive change coming from the role we were raised in. Calling attention to new developments in one's self can just result in isolation. Remember your first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian? You probably weren't too bothered by the styrofoam plates.Sometimes our families can be the biggest source of opposition when we seek to explore our selves. They keep us in static roles and it's because they love us, are worried about us, want to feel like they know us, are afraid of change and what they don't understand and frankly they don't have the opportunities we do to live in all the same conscious ways.
I wanted to use this post to connect with you on that level- there is an undercurrent of stress that comes from spending time with those people who raised us up to a certain point.
From what I can tell in this world there is only love and fear, two extreme pulls on our human experience. One positive one negative. One light one dark. If you can go to your holidays full of love, that will be the best communication to your family. They can notice your actions- you don't have to point them out. If you behave differently but gracefully in their world on their terms it will ease the resistance they have to learning about your way of life and all the ways this world could change for the better. You don't have to wage a campaign for ethical behavior with anything but your own example and loving interest in understanding them and the changes they are going through. On the other hand, you don't have to take on that old role and zip your lips, you can chose silence instead of agreement on issues you disagree with. Voicing compassion for the victims of violence rather than hatred for the perpetrators could be common ground that all agree on.
What are your family experiences like? Please feel free to comment, I'd love to continue the conversation.
Need some gift ideas? Check out our Gift Guide
December 6th and December 13th are great days to Shop West Asheville, click here to find out more.