Dispatch 011

A picture of two matsutake mushroom hunters sitting on a log in a forest

I have come to the conclusion that much can be learned about music by devoting oneself to the mushroom.

—John Cage

After a client pressed into our hands a copy of anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s mind-opening book The Mushroom at the End of the World, we’re suddenly seeing fungi everywhere. Tsing’s study of the matsutake mushroom is subtitled On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, and through this seemingly narrow subject she engages with environmental history and despoliation, global commodity production, survival strategies, and much else besides. Should you imagine it dull and scholarly, note that no less a literary figure than Ursula K. Le Guin also touts it.

The photo above is by the talented Seattle photographer Eirik Johnson, who began photographing commercial matsutake hunters in the forests of Oregon and, like Tsing, found a whole world, eventually traveling to Japan to continue his work. View the series here.

You may recall our designer Sarah’s year-end recommendation of a podcast appearance and book by “entrepreneurial mycologist” Paul Stamets. For those with a little less time, here is his TED Talk offering “six ways mushrooms can save the world.”

In 1954, experimental composer John Cage wrote, “I have come to the conclusion that much can be learned about music by devoting oneself to the mushroom.” Now Atelier Editions, the wonderfully eccentric LA-based publisher, has put together a gorgeously designed two-volume anthology devoted to Cage’s exploration of the subject.

Lastly, an article by Ian Fletcher: “Climate change is the greatest design problem of our time. Mushrooms to the rescue?” It focuses on mycelium as a construction material, but note the links to stories fashion, toxic-spill cleanups, and more.

At Frontier

We’ve enjoyed a busy start to the year. The new issue of Live Magazine has made it out into the world and has been spotted as far afield as Oslo and the Swiss Alps. We have published several of its articles online.

Click here to read senior designer Tristan Marantos on how we manage ourselves and our process as designers: “Many people share the belief that design’s intangible qualities cannot be duplicated by robots. So why do we treat the design process so mechanically?”

Or click here to read writer and critic Tatum Dooley on designers’ side hustles becoming standalone businesses, with insights from Standards Manual, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Adam J. Kurtz, Lauren Hom, and others.

We’ve also added a number of case studies to our website. Click to see our collaborations with the Canadian National ExhibitionNature UnitedBrightwater, and Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Until next time: don’t forget to look down.