Reading

Made in Baltimore: Reviving Local Manufacturing

Previous Story
Article Image

In Memoriam: Elena Johnston

Next Story
Article Image

BmoreArt Picks: December 19-25

When Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott posted his “Baby Charm” announcement on Instagram last spring, his photo included a cute stuffed elephant, a sonogram photo, and a tiny blue onesie with a round logo that says “Made in Baltimore.” The shape references a bottle cap, a product invented in Baltimore in 1892 by William Painter which transformed the Crown Cork and Seal company into a national manufacturing power- house for the first half of the 20th century.

You’ve probably noticed the Made in Baltimore (MIB) logo while surfing the internet or shopping in real life. The classic design operates as an emblem of authenticity and civic pride, signifying that your purchase is an investment in Baltimore itself, and the growing network of independent makers, manufacturers, and businesses designed to collectively promote one another and foster a creative economy.

“Ten years ago it was rare to spot locally made goods in stores in Baltimore, but now we can see real progress,” says Andy Cook, MIB’s founder and executive director. “More than anything else, we are an organizing platform. We offer support to a community of maker-entrepreneurs, helping them find each other, work together, and build a market for locally made products.”

Cook is a Baltimore native and graduate of Carver Center, Cooper Union, and MIT, with degrees in fine arts and city planning. After a decade spent as a photojournalist in Baltimore and New Orleans, Cook became an environmental planner at the Baltimore Office of Sustainability, where he helped to pilot programs for Baltimore City Recreation and Parks and the Department of Public Works.

Cook’s work there focused on catalyzing the ‘green job’ potential of Baltimore’s vacant industrial spaces, addressing the triple bottom line concept of sustainability: job equity and entrepreneurship that pays a living wage, environmental production that relies less on fossil fuels for shipping and packaging, and economic sustainability to keep wealth circulating locally.

 

L-R: Grant Street Candle, Baltimore Clayworks vase by Camilla Ascher, Local Color Flowers, Salvaged Wood Turning Blank from Camp Small, Candles by Sacred Ashes, Skull from Bazaar, Liquor by Baltimore Spirits Company, Cups by Personal Best and Milkweed Ceramics, Bracelet by Studio JmcG, Ceramic plate by Matt Hyleck of Clayworks, Wooden Credenza by Sandown Furniture
(L-R) Mug by Matthew Hyleck (Clayworks), Bracelets by Studio JmcG, Vitrine from Bazaar, Epoch Reserve Rye Whiskey by Baltimore Spirits Company
Local Color Flowers at Sandtown Furniture Company

In 2015, Cook began working with an independent group of makerspaces called the Industrial Arts Collective. Together they organized the first Made In Baltimore Pop-Up Shop in Baltimore’s Station North Arts and Entertainment District. They featured products by eighty Baltimore-based businesses, with the mission of offering Baltimoreans an easy opportunity to buy locally made products all in one place.

“There were three of us in a leadership role for this project,” says Cook. “Myself, Will Holman, and Sarah Templin. We organized the first pop-up, including vendor recruitment, finding a space, fundraising, and recruiting volunteers. It was very DIY. I still have dents in my truck from all the pallets we hauled to North Avenue to serve as our ‘retail display furniture.’”

From the very first MIB shop, Cook remembers a collaborative effort. “A number of partners provided in-kind support, like the Neighborhood Design Center, who coordinated our design charette, and WYPR, who served as our media sponsor,” he says. “We were also seriously supported by small grants from the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), and the Baltimore Integration Partnership, a group that was advocating for local procurement at our cities anchor institutions.” The shop was so well-received, the organizers knew they needed to build on the momentum.

 

Baltimore Clayworks cups by Samantha Briegel
Earrings by Studio JmcG on a Sandtown Furniture Table with Salvaged Wood Turning Blank from Camp Small
Vase by Clayworks artist Kiran Joan and Shot Tower Gin by Baltimore Spirits Company
Chair and Planter by Sandtown Furniture, Lamp by La Loupe, with Salvaged Wood Turning Blank from Camp Small
MIB’s emphasis on investment into Baltimore’s economy is growing an an audience for locally-made goods and supporting the people who make them.
Cara Ober

A year and a half later, Cook founded The MIB Program at the Baltimore Office of Sustainability. The central feature of the program allowed businesses to use the MIB logo on their product packaging, so shoppers knew they were supporting a Baltimore-based business. This branding helped build public awareness of the importance of buying local, but MIB quickly evolved from a promotional platform into a revenue-generating entity through subsequent markets and pop-up shops. It became a program of the BDC in 2018 to accommodate this change.

The organization is now a robust collaborative structure for members, who come together for pop-up markets, retail opportunities, an online business directory, a biannual “Look Book” publication, and activities that support makers of all kinds—like business development workshops and media campaigns. A well-established entity among Baltimore festivals, markets, and shops, MIB’s emphasis on investment into Baltimore’s economy is growing an an audience for locally-made goods and supporting the people who make them.

“People spend from an emotional place, because it makes them feel good to support their community. We want to make sure our money is not leaving this city, but rather, flowing in,” says Cook. “A lot of our customers buy from MIB companies because they love the products but also it feels good supporting their communities. We are now seeing major contracts between institutions–like universities and hospitals–and our members… It’s a way of reinvesting in the city, spending intentionally.”

 

Bracelets by New Vintage by Sam
Flowers by Local Color, Cake by Taste This Cake
Clayworks artist Matt Hyleck
Rings by Stellarium on Skull from Bazaar
A lot of our customers buy from MIB companies because they love the products but also it feels good supporting their communities.
Andy Cook

To date, MIB has supported over three hundred product-based businesses in Baltimore through retail, business development programs, and media campaigns. Previous sites of MIB shops include the Women’s Industrial Exchange, the former Liam Flynn’s in the North Avenue Market, above Double Dutch boutique in Hampden, and the Hex Superette on York Road near Belvedere Square.

According to Cook, their annual retail concepts have generated over $300,000 in sales revenue for local makers. They are getting ready to launch a new location in David Bramble’s Inner Harbor Pavilions, at the site of the former H&M. The MIB holiday pop-up shop will be there through December, with the possibility of staying longer.

Cook’s goal is to help foster a city where MIB does not need to exist, a thriving local economy that supports makers and entrepreneurs of all kinds where revenues are invested directly into the local economy. “Success means that all these companies are thriving and they don’t need MIB telling them how to do it,” says Cook.

“Not only does shopping locally provide a direct investment in the very character and spirit of Baltimore City, it also circulates more dollars in the local economy, creating economic growth opportunities for small businesses. As these businesses grow, they create living-wage jobs for more Baltimore residents and help re-populate our historic main streets and manufacturing centers.”

Featuring Made in Baltimore Members: Stellarium Jewelry, The Modest Florist, La Loupe Design, Studio JMCG Jewelry, Camp Small, New Vintage by Sam, Bazaar, Local Color Flowers, Baltimore Spirits Company, Taste This Cake, Sacred Ashes, Baltimore Print Studios, Personal Best Ceramics, Milkweed Ceramics, 228 Grant Street Candles, Baltimore Clayworks, and Sandtown Furniture.

 

Milkweed ceramics bowl
Flowers by The Modest Florist
creen Print by Baltimore Print Studios, Ceramic Cups by Personal Best and Milkweed Ceramics
Cutting Board by Sandtown Furniture with Necklaces by Studio JmcG
La Loupe Design lamp and Salvaged Wood Turning Blank from Camp Small
Milkweek ceramics and Sandtown Furniture

Header Image: Skull from Bazaar, Flowers by Modest Florist, Brandy Liqueur by Baltimore Spirits Company, and Salvaged Wood Turning Blank from Camp Small

This story is from Issue 16: Collaboration, available here.

Related Stories
The Perennial Dialogue Among Art Through the Ages at the Walters

The esteemed Baltimore institution shows pertinent new works among its coveted collection of ancient art to reveal eternal truths across world cultures – and that tricky thing called time.

Highlights, Zeitgeists, and Weirdness (Including Shows You Can Still See)

There is no other “must-see” event on the ever-more-esoteric Aztec calendar of art world “can’t miss” events that fills me with as much eager anticipation and simultaneous existential dread.  But the art here makes it all worth it. 

Baltimore news updates from independent & regional media

Navigating book bans at African American Museums, Sandy Williams IV sculpture in DC, Baltimore/Brazil artist exchange, and the Baltimore Sun's decline—with reporting from Baltimore Magazine, Hyperallergic, Baltimore Banner, and other local and independent news sources.

Artists-in-Residence, strikeWare, Hold a Mirror to Loyola University's Past in Unrested, a new exhibit

The artist collective—composed of Mollye Bendell, Christopher Kojzar, and JLS Gangwisch—uses technology and storytelling for a compelling and well-rounded examination of institutional history