CHRIS BATTAGLIA

Thoughts

Creative Mornings PKX - RISK Takeaways + Notes

In one word, what was the best result of a risk you took? You can comment below, if inspired to answer this simple question.

My answer was ‘Portland.” Just days before this Creative Morning, I shared my thoughts about moving to Portland, ME, with Andrew. He stands as the catalyst for the move itself, the person who corroborated the feelings I maintained for some time beforehand.

People ask “Why did you move to Portland?” But it feels like they have asked with a slight incredulity; if the question were typed it might also include a few more question marks. I think about going from a big city to a smaller city. This sort of change recalibrates the way one thinks about the idea of “the city” and their interaction with its environment. Having downsized from Manhattan to the Portland peninsula, my world shrunk - in a good way. My efforts and interests became focused. It’s harder to be average and just “get by” in a smaller town. You don’t necessarily need to make waves, but everyone seems to have a grasp, either slight or strong, on the pulse of the city and your neighbors who live with you within it.

Living in a smaller city offers its challenges, but it almost creates the subsequent desire to move to an even smaller city. Maybe this isn’t everyone’s experience, but it fits in line with mine at the moment. For me, I moved to Portland, in the state where things are “the way life should be,” to pursue endeavors in wood, photo, and video. Along the way, I’ve taken up pottery, becoming “a regular” somewhere, and continued to learn about new places and people, activities and ways of life.

My aim, when moving to a new city, was to avoid going crazy, as I imagined small town life might cultivate or effect this sort of change. With only one friend to speak of, I sought work and community. Without a beat, once settling into Portland by September, I deliberately chose establishments, groups, and causes that fueled my fire and addressed the themes/work I hoped to continue.

The Portland Gear Hub to acquire new knowledge about bicycles and the ability to repair and maintain my own. I found Ainsley and Tucker and Zach and Brooke and Carmen, among others. In those first few months, I knew I would want to be apart of their community. I don’t know if I’ve met people who are so painfully empathetic and helpful. 

The Open Bench Project is where I found deep connection to this new need for space, to work with my hands, and grow and help. Jake Ryan took me in, I found Jacob Perry and Matt O’Brien along the way, and made one of the best decisions since moving to Maine. One of the large grievances with NYC by the end was its lack of space and opportunity not only in the home environment, but community shop space is prohibitively expensive. I found weekend membership at OBP for $30/month, where I could pursue Avocado Boards, and logistically speaking, be a part of a community. I learned how to weld, saw 3D and laser printers firsthand, and for the first time. I went to a conversation about patents, a focus group about Maine made axes, and witnessed kids build legitimate lightsaber replicas and desktop arcade game cabinets. Almost every day - no, hour - spent at OBP allowed me to talk with people who had something sage to say, or counsel to impart. Admittedly, I am happiest getting lost in this physical work, which certainly hasn’t been without its share of problem-solving throughout.

SPACE gallery is our local community and member supported art space for shows, events, and the like. I look forward to volunteering when I return, because I have seen some incredible work pass through this space. Most recently, SPACE screened City of Gold about Los Angeles food writer Johnathan Gold. There have been unjuried shows, the monthly exhibitions for First Friday Art Walk, and an eye-opening performance by a saxophone quartet, Battle Trance, which led me deeper into the world of experimental music, jazz saxophonists, and the desire to add another instrument to my repertoire.

Along the way, Andrew and I took a wheel throwing pottery class, which, for me, ended up a four month commitment every week at the ceramic studio. He also suggested I nurture this raw craft-oriented day-to-day by checking out the Haystack Mountain School of Craft, in Deer Isle, ME (heaven on Earth, for some).  Because of this, I shot in the dark and applied for a wood studio that would provide the first intensive environment with structured studio time and guidance. I am in, and there for two weeks in June.

He also brought home a SCOBY and young batch of Kombucha. We began brewing the booch, and my appreciation for fermentation, permaculture, and food/drink is taking new directions. For everyone not on the kombucha, we will have a conversation in the near future. No trend bullshit here, simply participating in a nearly effortless, more-than-affordable healthy measure to preserve immunities and health to the body. Humans have been doing this for hundreds - likely thousands - of years, and I hope to share the ease of this habit with you in the near future.

Admittedly, I tried very hard to “make it work.” Anxiety, some paranoia, maybe a little depression and loneliness set in throughout my first year. I overextend myself with work - getting a food service job. Taking a lot of weddings for 2016 - arguably biting off more than I care to chew. I learned what it was like to finally live with a stranger, be in a long-distance relationship, and have to make new friends in a new place. But all of these are the fruits and foibles of taking risks, and seeing them play out.

Mike Teixeira & Duncan Craig spoke in this little town of Kittery, ME, about taking risks, which is what leads me here now. The takeaways on Risk:

Risky Campaigns

Learn the strategies of a successful campaign, and make sure its married with the personal. There is going to be a reaction from people, once you launch any type of campaign - especially a risky on. Be sure to get out there in person, after the launch, and have conversations with people. This is important.

Many could, but did they?

This thought was interesting. The guys spoke of this reaction many naysayers have, saying “I could have done that, and done it better.” Interestingly, though, they didn’t. So without an encouraging or productive form of feedback/criticism, these people immediately prove themselves to be without any value. Don’t be this person, don’t listen to this person.

Be prepared for the reactions to the campaign by learning and adjusting. Honor the wounds and fears of the community - they are valid and important to hear. Put everyone’s feedback into perspective. You most certainly need to delegate tasks and projects, but to whom? Make sure the right people tackle what they’re good at handling. Digital removes risk, which is why you must put yourself out there. It is too easy to hide behind a phone or computer screen, which is why there is too much helpless and artificial noise these days. 

Risk is how humans learn. “Can I push in this area?” The only way to find boundaries, usually, is to push them. What happens when you don’t push boundaries? Nothing. 

They feel there is a lot of promise in this idea, and thus they take it to the next level.

Mike and Duncan then introduce aTinyBitHuge.com, which launches as they share it with the PKX community that morning.

An important tenet they tried to introduce was “Gathering our Audiences,” in order to creat synergy. The problem, or thing to watch out for: in order to do this, you have to get many hands together, all unified under the same belief. This is not easy. But nothing worth doing, ever is.

So they become a nonprofit, a 501c(3). Advocacy and Funding are at the heart of this type of business structure. And so, they go into explaining their long-term vision.

This was their first step, and arguably most important one. When they enumerate to others their goals, their plans to do x, y, and z, palpable is the vulnerability in the air. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, because there will be pushback - always.

In order to be a part of the conversation in which they wanted to participate, they had to contribute something: their vision.

What is tough about this world of introducing ideas, starting a dialogue, through a risky campaign (such as theirs, a rebranding of the city of Portsmouth, NH in order to give a voice to the artist community), is this idea of the “invisible army.” You can’t measure online (yet) all of you who scroll through feeds, walls, and boards, just looking. Not actively doing anything besides wasting everyone’s time,  merely by viewing and consuming without participating. The solution: measure in person

And so, inspired by Mike and Duncan, I think carefully about the long-term vision for things in my own life and career. For nearly four years now, I have been selectively telling people my future goals, long-term plans. (Selectively because the vision and motivation undulates often, without the right energy or people to help spur it and me, along. Not because I don’t like you or respect your opinion.)

So maybe now is a good time to say that all of the random hobbies, interests, travels, debt, relationships, and experiences since 2011 have boiled into one overarching theme, under which I hope to create in the future: conscious consumption. 

Goal: have a bricks and mortar storefront. A multi-use community space, where I can become a resource for my family and neighborhood - building resilience at the personal, household, enterprise, and community levels. 

The ethos guiding this store will be conscious consumption. Hopefully devoid of trendy derivatives, my aim is to create a physical hub for a community to work, learn, engage with one another, and enforce positive values - a greater good.

I envision:

    ▪    a barber (+ chair) to foster the function and utility of grooming, removing the fashion and stewardship of vanity for such a basic human need.
    ▪    workshop/studio space for makers. people working with their hands, offering their knowledge and expertise to teach anyone skills and know-how. empowering others to learn new and valuable things. a place to perform your daily practice, be it leather making, yoga, meditation, computer work, etc.
    ▪    food - to nourish throughout the day, encourage new cuisines and habits, a place for culinary instruction. a neighborhood meal that's affordable, no frills. a place to create and serve new experiences, like Avocado Salads on avocado boards.
    ▪    drink - to provide fuel in the mornings (coffee), and fuel in the evenings (booze).
    ▪    shelter - a place to commune, talk, be in off the street and have a place to warrant conversation, new encounters, the spread and creation of ideas, and socialization
    ▪    clothing - basic, fundamental and interesting garments to clothe you. championing the idea of the “uniform” type of dress where the quality is impeccable, traceable, and laudable. once we stop spending too much time worrying about how you appear outwardly, can we create more rich conversations about what matters inside. There will be retail, but you will be a conscious consumer! Will turn away customers at will, because "The Customer is Not Always Right."
    ▪    neighborhood activism - you can’t live on your phones and in apps, and keep to yourself too much if you live in any type of urban, semi-urban, or suburban environment. you have children, hobbies, activities to attend to, and without the support of your collective “neighbor,” nobody can teach the youth, change things for the better. This means potlucks and working on the weekends to fix up parts of town, get involved with local farmers and families, and live a little closer to the things that make us human.

That is the large chunk of a vision. It will be met with hefty criticism, I’m sure, but with a clear heart and mind about it, I realize that any hands to help actualize this vision are what I need. I don't know where this place will live. Is it scalable? Does it even need to be? No. The goal is attainable, will you be there on the frontline with me? Let’s follow-up in person if you are; take the risk together.

Thank you.