New England Creative Podcast
Hosted by Reed Prescott, the New England Creative Podcast explores the landscape of creative endeavor in New England. Reed has over 45 years of experience as an artist and entrepreneur living in Bristol, Vermont. New episodes monthly.
New England Creative Podcast
Episode One: A State of Innovation
My name is Reed Prescott and I want to introduce you to the very first session of New England Creative. In this session, I'm going to talk a little bit about what my goal is, and what we're going to talk about. I've been making a living as a creative professional, or making money through my creativity, for over 45 years. I was a senior in high school when I brought in my first dollar, and I've done a whole variety of projects since then. I have run gift shops, I have sold wholesale, retail. I've been the manager of a nonprofit art gallery. I have a lot of different varieties of experiences that gives me information, and I pull all that information together to the knowledge that I have.
I also am a fan of history, and a fan of watching people. I really enjoy people watching. And I've watched the careers of many of my local friends and neighbors really become nationwide, well known businesses like that. I want to use this podcast to tell a lot of their stories. I also want to use this podcast to tell the stories of some of my friends and their process, their experience that they've lived through, up to this point in their career.
Another component of this podcast that I'm going to do, we're going to be talking about the business side of art, the side that most people don't get educated on. I can talk about limited use rights for artwork. I can talk about pricing structures. I can talk about some of the tax situations that you should be aware of. Things that you can do to maybe make it to your advantage instead of a giveaway. We'll talk about a whole variety of things.
Now the goal of this podcast is not to give you a turnkey system, a step-by-step instruction on how you too will make a living as a creative professional. In some ways, this is not even just for creative professionals. As we talk about ways to enhance your creativity, a business can get something beneficial from that on different ways to brainstorm.
The town I grew up in is called Bristol, Vermont. It's a very small town, kind of on the edge of the Green Mountains, but not quite in the Green Mountains; on the edge of Chittenden County with Burlington, but not quite in Burlington; kind of on the edge of the county main highway, but not quite. So how does this little village town come up with as much of the innovation and creativity that has come from this town, that has gone all over the world? It's kind of an interesting concept. The way I see it is that people don't come up with a term to describe a region, and then the region becomes that term. That term is actually descriptive of the nature from that region. So, when you think of the term “Yankee ingenuity,” that speaks to the character of this community. We have an ingrown gene, or understanding, or environment, that fosters creativity, and encourages it, and almost insists upon it. And as we exercise that, we find that like a muscle, it actually grows and expands - it gets larger. Now, it's not just the painters and the artists and the musicians who are this way. The farmers, the mechanics, the construction workers, all these people have this creative insight, and I think it comes from our regional nature. You're out in the middle of the field, plowing, and the plow breaks, you know, the parts that you need are not just a few miles away. They might be a 50 mile round trip, and you're in the middle of your workday, you don't want to stop, so you do whatever you can to jury rig and coddle this whole thing back together again so you can finish that day's chores. You know, so you might take an old wrench and some wire and maybe a tree branch and pull it all together just so that you can get through the rest of the field. It's the same with construction people. It's the same with all sorts of individuals in this area. You know, you're out in the middle of South Lincoln, where there's hardly any people around, and your car won't start. You know, you get very creative very, very fast in this environment. So, that is some of the regional dynamic that I think makes this area creative. Another one is that up until just recently, like within the last 20 years, we only had one or two radio stations and TV stations. And because of that, you had to spend your time making things and doing things with your hands. That too lead to creativity. We probably read more. I heard a statistic once that the town of Lincoln that I live in, which has 1200 people, on a per capita basis had more valedictorian and salutatorians in high school than any other town in the state of Vermont. And I had to think, why could that be? And it occurred to me that well, no TV and radio, people would read, and they would do these things, and they would focus on their homework and because of that, there wasn't the distractions.
Now creative individuals that can find that same type of environment, where there isn't a lot of distractions, if you don't want there to be, you can literally go off and isolate. Or you can go to the store and have a great conversation with a neighbor. All of which ends up inspiring, you know, you end up picking up little pieces and nuggets from whatever you're doing wherever you go that all weave the creative outcome that we evolve into, and that we create, that we make. Now like a lot of small New England or small Vermont towns, with winding roads that follow rivers or go up mountain passes, were actually first constructed through horse travels, horse and buggy travels and the such. You know, you would think that this area wouldn't really lend itself to the kind of innovation that it has. Some believe that half of these Vermont towns were started when people who were maybe the less desirables in southern New England, were looking for a place to go and stay, they would be given land, five acres to clear and manipulate and develop, way up in the regions of Vermont, almost as much of a way to kind of get them out of our hair. And it's that kind of spirit that we have here that very independent hands on, “we can make things happen” spirit. And the result of that has been innovation.
See, I think Vermont needs to have the concept of “Vermont: A State of innovation,” because that's what we are. Bristol, Vermont, the town I grew up in, is a town currently of about 3,600 people. In the mid 1800s it had about 1,200 people. It was a typical factory town, it had a mill, had a lot of different blacksmith shops. And you would think that a small town like that wouldn't lend itself to innovation, but a lot of New England and a lot of the East Coast did, and those people eventually would go out west and or south and do quite well for themselves.
There is a Canadian naturalist called E.B. Eddy, industrialist I mean, his name is E.B. Eddy. His father owned the Bristol Inn back in the 1820s. As a kid, he wanted to make a living making strike matches. He tried to make a living in Bristol and couldn't do that. He ended up going off to Burlington, Vermont, which at the time was like it is today - a bigger community. He couldn't make a living there, so he went off to Hull in the southern part of Ottawa and started his match business. He ended up becoming internationally known for not only book matches, but he's given credit for being the very first Canadian to transport goods with a truck versus horse and buggy. He developed certain processes of developing and producing and changing wood pulp into newsprint paper. He developed a lot of processes that ended up being very, very beneficial all around the world. He was known all around the world. When his factories in Hull burnt to the ground in 1903, it made papers all over the world. You can read about it in Phoenix and in Florida and in California, and he was also in the Canadian Parliament. Yet, he came from this very small town. Most people in my small town don't even know his story. Most people in Canada of my age or older, know of his history, they're very aware of E.B. Eddy and the Eddy Match Company. But what they aren't aware of is that he is actually buried in the cemetery at the foot of Stony Hill in Bristol, Vermont. When Canadians hear that, they're surprised. During that same period, there was a guy, last name was Dunshee, he took up photography and ended up, in the 1840s, going to New Bedford, Mass, and learning a new photography process, and developing it, and eventually going into Boston, and had a studio in Boston. Currently in the Concord Museum Library in Concord, Mass, there's a photograph of Henry David Thoreau, which is considered to be the last known living photograph of Henry David Thoreau, taken by Mr. Dunshee, born in Bristol, Vermont. Now that's just one small town that's just a small town that I come from. And there are many stories like that. But it goes beyond that to the next town, and the next town.
Horace Greeley from Abraham Lincoln's cabinet once said to Isaiah Grinnell, “Go west, young man,” and he did. He went west, became very well known, left money for Grinnell College, a city in Iowa was named after him. He was born in New Haven, Vermont, the town right next to Bristol. The town just south of New Haven is Middlebury, Vermont, where John Deere lived and went out west. He saw what the eastern plows were doing in the Midwest, how the clay was just sticking to them, and how every few feet they had to be stopped and scraped off. He realized that he could take an old saw blade and he can actually manufacture it in such a way, and with a very, very polished finish that would be self-cleaning, and thus started the John Deere Company.
There's another guy from Bristol, Vermont as well. I think he was from elsewhere, but he came to Bristol. He holds a patent for the collapsible pruning pole that has the rope with a little clipper on it that you would pull to prune a tree. All these people are from this area of about currently today 37,000 people. It really lends itself to innovation.
Currently, writers like Chris Bohjalian, internationally known bird carvers like Floyd Scholz, naturalist writers like Ron Rood, and even myself have made a name for ourselves from this area. Vermont is full of people like that. The person who started the Cadillac car company is also from Vermont. Every one of these communities has somebody who is connected. The first patent ever issued in the United States was issued to somebody from Vermont. Wells from Wells Fargo is from Vermont. Otis from the Otis Elevator company was born in Vermont. This innovation is just part of our nature. It would be a great reason for any business to show up here and to start a business. Because although there might be some financial downsides, the innovation and the creativity, which will set any business ahead of another business, would make it far worth its while.
Over the years, I've watched businesses like Ben and Jerry's. I used to go to Ben and Jerry's when it was part of a gas station in Burlington and watched it grow into this huge company. I watched Fred and Judi Danforth from Danforth Pewter start out with a little pewter shop out of their house up in Lincoln, and become nationally known as the Danforth Pewter Company. And along the way, I pick up little observations and things, and I would love to bring them in and interview them as part of these podcasts, so you get a chance to hear their story, and maybe it will trigger something with you.
So as part of this learning concept called New England Creative, we're going to be doing monthly workshops, online workshops that you can take at your own pace. And each workshop will have a specific focus. In an episode or two, I might talk about a vision for Vermont, or for this area. One very similar to Nashville, which is obviously a place, if you're going to want to sing and produce country music, you go to Nashville, and the economy around Nashville has thrived because of that. We have the ability, with our regional nature, to create pockets where people can come and create music, create poetry, write, do whatever, where they could be left alone, left to their own creativity, creative ways, their own processes.
So we're going to cover a lot of the different aspects of creativity. We all have a little bit of creativity in us, it's just that some of us have developed it far more than others. A person who is a very skilled bodybuilder who can lift hundreds of pounds in a bench press… just the fact that you can't do that doesn't mean that you don't have those muscles. It just means you haven't developed them, you haven't honed them, and you haven't refined them to the point. And hopefully, there are different things that will be talked about here that will help you to do that. We're all unique individuals, we're one of a kind, there are no two events that have happened at the same time in our life, with all the same previous events before it in a specific order that matches our combination of events. So even two people who live in the same house, a brother and sister, say age four and age six, they witness the same events, but they come away with it with a totally different perspective, a totally different point of view. And that's because of all the past experiences. We want to celebrate that uniqueness. But we want to talk about a lot of different things to consider, so that you can add that to your life experience and use it to grow, and to nurture, and to develop your creative individuality.
Anything you create is your intellectual property. And you have a right to sell it piecemeal, or to keep it for yourself. But we can discuss that and talk about the different advantages and disadvantages to either. We can talk about my four-stage working process, very simple. It's over-commit, cry, pray, and meet your deadline. And you will find yourself going through projects and almost like the four seasons of the year that you have no control over, you will find yourself slowly going through each of those phases. We'll discuss how to make those phases work for you. How to see things from a different perspective that will allow you to move forward and to advance your career. We'll talk about various forms of advertising online; building an Etsy shop. I've had years of experience working retail. I've been on the sales side, I've been the president of a nonprofit art cooperative, so I come from a nonprofit community perspective as well. But I've also made a living at this for the last 30 years, and the first dollar I ever took in as a creative professional was taken in over 40 years ago. I've watched many friends and neighbors also grow their creativity. I've observed them. I've seen things that have worked for them, that don't work for me the same way, but I can take bits and pieces of what they've done, and make it my own unique idea or concept or a way that works for me. So I would encourage you to watch one or two of these and please subscribe. Thank you.