Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nicole Blum: What We Make : Putting the “art” in artisan

Storey readers may know Nicole Blum best for Improv Sewing, her book with Debra Immergut. But did you also know that she and her husband are makers of hard cider? Nicole clearly comes from a family of creative innovators, as you’ll discover in her post about an artisanal food/photography collaboration between her sister, Andrea, and brother, Kenny, and the recent coming together of local growers and food producers on Nicole’s Western Massachusetts apple orchard.

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Meet my brother, Kenny Blum, and my sister, Andrea Blum — and meet the RC heli that Kenny uses to fly his zillion dollar camera up into the clouds:

Andrea, Kenny, and the heli
They are collaborating on a project called My American Pantry (MAP) that strives to photographically map the American artisan food & drink landscape…By shooting aerial photos of people and their crafts, MAP will document the exciting array of regional foods produced across the nation. After starting in Northern California earlier this year, they are making stops across the country, gathering stories, recipes, and artisan products along the way — products that represent an emerging food culture in our country and a path to discover the new and the traditional American table.

Last month, my brother and sister brought MAP to Western Massachusetts and organized a photo shoot on our orchard, where my husband and I produce hard cider. It just so happened to be a perfect September day around here and I can’t express well enough the satisfaction and happiness I felt working with my family on this. I could go on and on about the creative minds of my brother and sister, but seeing the work they are doing will give you a pretty good idea. Check out the images from the MAP shoot here in mid-September:
Top left (clockwise): Carr's Ciderhouse, Hosta Hill, Small Ones Farm, Bittersweet Herb Farm, Valley Malt, Chef Myron's, Bug Hill Farm, Ooma Tesoro's Tomato Sauce, and a big bin of cider apples. Photo courtesy of Kenny Blum Photography, 2013.

My husband and I love what we do. We get to work together, work on our farm, use our bodies and brains, and create products that we feel really good about. It is a fully creative endeavor and though really hard sometimes, it is deeply satisfying. After this photo shoot, where we lay talking about our lives with all of the other producers, we felt connected to other artisans in a way we hadn’t before. One producer I bumped into since the shoot, an apple grower in the area, expressed feeling part of a bigger mosaic of artisans, and how surprisingly important that has become to her.  I totally agree.

If you are a person who loves what Storey Publishing has released over the many years, then I am most likely preaching to the choir. So many of us are making our own food, preserving, brewing and fermenting, sewing, knitting, building, and getting resourceful.  Making stuff is profoundly satisfying. Sharing it feels pretty good too either with friends and neighbors or the bigger world. My American Pantry is setting out to create a visual and narrative account of this movement to recreate a real food culture in this country.

Check out My American Pantry online at http://www.myamericanpantry.com and let them know if you have a lively or budding community of food producers in your area. Maybe they will come and do an aerial shot of all of you!

More images from the day (all photos courtesy of Kenny Blum Photography).
Carr's Ciderhouse: http://carrsciderhouse.wordpress.com/

Valley Malt: http://valleymalt.com/

Bittersweet Herb Farm: http://www.bittersweetherbfarm.com/

Hosta Hill: http://hostahill.com/

Chef Myron's: http://www.chefmyrons.com/

Small Ones Farm: http://www.smallonesfarm.com/

Bug Hill Farm: http://www.bughillfarm.org/

Ooma Tesoro's Tomato Sauce: http://www.oomatesoros.com/

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Nicole Blum is an artist, crafter, blogger, sewer, and cider maker. In addition to teaching workshops at Creative Bug, she is a regular contributor to FamilyFun Magazine. She lives in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts and blogs with Debra Immergut at Improv Diary

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