Transcript for What Are You Making?

Jim Fleming:  From sauerkraut to glass beads to bowties, we're going through a new Makers Movement, here, in America. Two radio producers set out to collect stories about making. Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson are The Kitchen Sisters and their latest project is called "The Making Of." Here's how it got started.


Nikki Silva: I think with our work, we're always trying to look at what brings people together and what is that creative spark and spirit. There was a call for new stories and new projects, stories within a hundred miles of where we live. We started thinking about making and creativity and innovation and a kind of handmadeness that was sort of defining our region.


Fleming: Do you think that's its homemade that is the key to this? Is that what makes a community?


KS: Not necessarily homemade. I think it's that energy that comes with ideas and innovation. And it's not just about things. I think that was something we found out pretty quickly with this whole project, that the things were important but really, it was kind of the community that was built around doing things like this either in a family or the neighborhood or the larger community. I feel like those kinds of things where people are really putting their mind towards something that they have a passion for whether it's making a jar of jam or, you know, building a 3D printer, it all kind of comes from that same urge to create and to share that creation with others.


Fleming:  It's pretty exciting as a matter of fact, the wide variety of responses you got to your plea. Actually, it would be fun to stop for a second and listen to that call you put out.


KS: That would be great.


[Audio Clip]


We live in a time when fewer and fewer people know how to make the things they want or use or need or how these things are made.


My grandmother began sewing in the '20s. My mother was a costume designer at Diablo Valley College. My sister and I worked for Simplicity Pattern Company. We, as a family of women who sew, carry a great deal of pride with it.


I am making the ninth of the world.


We're searching for stories of artists, inventors, community visionaries, immigrant communities, traditions and new technologies.


[End Audio Clip]


Fleming: It's a really nice way to put the question. At the beginning of that, you're talking, though, about the maker movement. Is there really something called the maker movement, Nikki?


KS: Yes, definitely. We're sitting the midst of it. It's, I think that was one of the things too that propelled the project. There's the huge maker fair here that began in San Mateo in the Silicon Valley and everyplace you look, really. There's a place we just did a story about, actually, we're working on it now, called Tech Shop where they are sort of bringing together old school tools and lathes and woodworking tools with computers. They've got these, you know, geeky guys working with these really old-fashioned guys creating this much larger, much more looking towards the future community. It's happening in so many different directions. Not just tech-wise, but also the food movement and, you know, artisan cheeses and back to the land kinds of things. So, yes, definitely, there is a Makers Movement.


Fleming: So, do you think that it is a desire to make on the part of the people who are in this or is it more that we don't want to just buy things off the shelf. Do I have to make something myself to be happy about it?


KS: No. I think there's a certain pleasure and sort of aesthetic satisfaction when you something that someone has actually handmade and that you haven't seen in 10 other shops. To have someone's heart and soul in the object, I think, is a real lure for people.


Fleming: Some of these things, I think, people have begun to run into no matter where they live around the country. Maybe food is a place to start with that and I was struck by one of the stories, the Kimchi story.


KS: Over in West Oakland is a little hidden restaurant called The FuseBox and Sunim Chang is from Korea, grew up on Guam and his passion is Kimchi.


[Audio Clip]


Kimchi is fermented cabbage, chili pepper, salted pickled shrimp. It's a lot. Each day that it goes, the flavors change. When I started making Kimchi, my mom kind of giggled, 'No, Kimchi is made by women.' Men weren't really allowed to be around. It was a time when the women would gather from the villages. There will be matchmaking and there would be some marriages that came about during the time of Kimchi making. I was always told that if the men started hanging around and touching the Kimchi, it would be bad Kimchi. But I so missed my mom's Kimchi that I just had to make my own. When I eat that, the memories just flood.


[End Audio Clip]


KS: One thing I love about the FuseBox when we went to interview Sunim, this place is just exploding with makers. Right behind the FuseBox is this place where they're making perfume. They have this little hillbilly still that you can actually go out on walks. You'll go through the Big Sur area and smell all the smells and gather plants and they'll make a perfume of your walk right there, right after you walk through the brush.


Fleming: There's another one that I'd like to listen to. And then, we'll carry on. It's not just about crafts, is it? There's a piece you did with Notch. What does he make?


KS: Notch makes hotrods and tiki bars.


Fleming: Let's listen.


[Audio Clip]


When I was working on brand new cars, I wasn't really happy. It was just like I was wasting my artistic time working on new cars and in 10 years, 20 years down the road, it's in a wrecking yard. When I work on these old cars, I know that they're being cherished. They have a family value. We're at my shop, Top Notch Customs. Notch, you know my name, Notch. This is my hotrod. It's a 1935 Ford Pickup. It's got a Model-A frame that's boxed and heavily z'd in the rear and in the front. It's got a Merc-flathead with Kong heads and Kong distributor, fixed-in high-rise intake. It's chopped about seven inches in section six, channeled in the front five. I mean, it's a really radical hotrod, all bare metal.


[End Audio Clip]


Fleming: He loves those things, doesn't he?


KS: He does. The thing that just really struck me about Notch was this community that he had created. He lives in San Jose and his whole neighborhood, there are all these garages and guys in their garages and they kind of do this progressive party where they'll go and look at what each other's doing in each other's garages. And then, the tiki bar thing is big. They built these tiki bars, so they have cocktails at the tiki bars. But it is such a community phenomena. It's really their way of socializing and sharing what they've created.


Fleming: Well, a lot of what seems to be going on is stealing our sense of who we are. This is a way of creating identities, huh?


KS: I think the thing for me is that it's on so many levels. Like, you don't have to be a scientist or, you know, a sophisticated inventor. But, I mean, it's the smallest acts that, you know, when we first put the word out, we asked, you know, we said the making of the Bay Bridge, the making of a jar of jam. You know, I never really thought anyone would call us about the making of a jar of jam 'cuz it just seemed so everyday and so much like what so many people do. We received this call from this woman and she said, 'I just heard the making, you asked for the making of a jar of jam and I had to tell you my story.'  Her story was really about her mother and how she had sort of watched her mother all of her life, you know, make things and make jam. Then, when her mother died, she began paying attention to this tree in her yard where the plums were just dropping and she could hear them at night. She and her husband always felt guilty, but never did a thing about it. They began to make this jam. And suddenly, she made more and more and more jars of jam and drew her to the Berkley Crop Exchange where people come and share and trade what they make. It was just obviously so much bigger than a jar of jam and such a simple thing.


Fleming: One of the things that you haven't said, and I'm glad of it, I guess, I have to say it up front is, this is the best hotrod you'll ever see. This is the best jam that you will ever taste. That's not the point, is it?


KS: Not at all, no. We'd be in big trouble if that was the point because we're not the jury. But I think that, for us, the real telling was how someone told their story in these phone messages and how they communicated what they were doing and why. We always say our microphone is a stethoscope listening to the complicated heart of the nation and this time, the stethoscope was on what people make. One of the stories that's still on the to do list. It's the ultimate Makers Movement.


Fleming: All of these stories are stories that people tell each other and they have such personal elements to them. There was another one that you did about cars. Let's play it and then you can comment on it afterward, if you would.


[Audio Clip]


One day [??] I will give it to the driver and they'll be there in about 10 minutes.


I was having a hair appointment. I was getting my hair blown out at Dina's Glamorama. My friend said, 'Lynnee Breedlove has started Homobile. Call if you need a ride.' And so I told them where I was and I needed a car. They sent, I think it was Musty Chiffon. Yes, it was Musty Chiffon. She showed up and was my driver.


See, what did I tell you? Traffic.


My name is Lynnee Breedlove. I run Homobiles, a community ride service for the LGBT IQQ LMNOPQRST Community in [??] and San Francisco.


You do not have to be a big fat queer to get a ride from Homobiles, but it does help. No, just kidding. But, you know, you need to understand that the real reason that we are here is for people that don't get rides normally from anyone else. And so, if you're putting on all this padding, high heels, a wig and three sets of false eyelashes and a bunch of glitter, you are high priority at Homobiles.


[End Audio Clip]


Fleming: I lost some of the letters in the middle of that. I have to say, it made me smile. You really left the definition of "making" loose, haven't you?


KS: Yeah. Well, the making of a solution in your community. Here was this group of people feeling discriminated against, feeling that they couldn't get rides, feeling if they did get rides, they were harassed. And what did they do? They made a Homobile. It's not just about the jar of jam. It's not just about the hotrod. It's not just about the pie. It's about people making a whole vision, making a project. Making the community the way they want to live in it, but with imagination and humor and style.


Fleming: Well, Davia, Nikki, The Kitchen Sisters, thank you very much.


KS: Thank you so much. It was fun.


Fleming: Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson are The Kitchen Sisters. If you're in the Bay Area May 30th or 31st, they're helping fill the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art with Makers. Why not check them out? And if you're not on the West Coast, you can find links to more making stories on our website,

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