Every presidential candidate is banging on about bringing jobs back to America, but less espoused is the cache of people who are working and producing goods, products, and services in America. These are the people truly making America great again.
For one weekend in September, the American Field Market will transform the Seaport District’s Innovation and Design building into a buzzing hub of American creativity, inginuity, and trade.
The event will feature more than 80 companies filled with innovators from an rekindling creative class, each thinking, designing, and manufacturing in the USA. These vendors range from watch-makers, military sunglass manufacturers, and apparel designers, to pen makers, cutlers, tanners, and just about everything in between. And they all make in the USA.
“The event was started in 2012 with a relatively small group of around 20 to 30 vendors,’’ said Mike Stone, event manager of American Field. “The idea was to get a bunch of folks together who were making cool products and have a day or weekend to celebrate the things each brand was making.’’
The event was conceptualized by Mark Bollman, CEO of local Boston brand Ball and Buck, as a way to connect with fellow American producers.
“Our core mission is to get vendors we know and love the exposure the deserve, and promote the culture of buying American and thoughtful materiality,’’ Stone says.
This past year, American Field has doubled in size, expanding from Boston and Brooklyn to D.C. and Atlanta. The event has also secured sponsorships from GQ Magazine andNarragansett beer – and yes, they will be bringing samples, says Stone.
Previous years saw the event held at the SoWa open market site in the South End, but due to the steady increase in vendors, last year they outgrew the space. Like last year, the American Field Market will be staged at the Innovation and Design building on Drydock Avenue, in Boston’s Seaport District.
This year the event has expanded again, hosting many new companies. One American Field freshamn is Providence-based Greycork.
The company made headlines earlier this year with its American alternative to IKEA. It launched its easy-to-set-up line of furniture in July, and garnered $125,000 in revenue in just four weeks.
“American manufacturing is part of who I am today,’’ said CEO and co-founder John Humphrey. “At age 10 I was working assembly lines and putting goods together.’’
Greycork formed in 2013, noticing a change in its target market’s lifestyle habits. Humphrey thinks the company can provide an alternative to IKEA, and go one better; they can do it in the USA.
“All the wood and metal components are sourced in the USA,’’ Humphrey says. “The wood is from the midwest, and the metals from Massachusetts. We also get our composite wood from the midwest… Once all pieces are machined, they’re shipped to Massachusetts and assembled in Mass.’’
The company has only one hang up with regards to its American manufacturing.
“Currently we have to go abroad for our upholstered parts,’’ said Humphrey. “It’s going to take time in order for [America] to be competitive for manufactured goods, and the reason is it takes more time as to what’s going on in the manufacturing sector of the US. We need to implement manufacturing techniques that are next generation and that will lower overall costs.’’
Slow, quality manufacturing is a traditional hallmark of American manufacturing on a larger scale, with companies focussed on a blend of quality, functionality, and form unique to the States, says Taylor Johnstone, CEO of Gamine, a workwear company exclusively for women.
“We’re a slow moving train,’’ she told Boston.com, “I want to make products made to last, not contribute to the waste pile.’’
While many vendors come to Boston specifically for the field market, Johnston spends a little more time in the city, working as the greenhouse supervisor at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum.
The company and Johnstone’s designs spent two years in development, she says.
“My ancestor was a seamstress, so there’s been a thread of making clothes fit really well in my family, if you’ll pardon the pun,’’ Johnstone said.
She tries to capture some of the spirit of what she believes the American worker to be in her clothes: full of integrity, and hard working.
“We’re not all lazy, or on iPhones all day,’’ she said, “I want an actual operator to weave that into my garment. I think you can feel it when you pick it up.’’
That narrative and authenticity behind American products reverberates across the entire event, says Humphrey.
“It’s unique in what it means to manufacture in the USA,’’ Humphrey said. “It’s about small production in small sleepy towns you never knew were right down the road from you, and something about that really resonates with me.’’
And Stone agreed – while American manufacturing may have its drawbacks, he said it’s worth it.
“When you get to talk with the people who sit and physically craft those products, from the object of product psychology, it adds meaning to what I own,’’ he said. “For me, it means a lot that someone’s crafting something in a workshop that I can really love.’’
American Field may only be for the weekend, but the new Boston Public Market is open year round: