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Triumph of the Artisan by Jesse Bluma

Triumph of the Artisan

The revival of piece work and artisan products is exciting.  We can point to baked goods by local bakers, vintage products, and custom furniture items.  It is remarkable to see the craftsmanship, the work ethic, and entrepreneurship across the globe.  A look at farmers’ markets, online stores, trade shows, business networks, events, food trucks, and pop-ups demonstrate a renewed interest and appreciation for the homemade, the need, and desire to economically progress.  Etsy, for instance, “is a marketplace for handmade goods, vintage items, and supplies for making. Our community is made up of independent creative businesses from around the globe.”

The flourishing market of artisans and piece work is not new.  Networks of trade and manufactured goods is centuries old, from Africa to Asia, to Europe, to the Americas.  Money is an important theme in this story.  Jean-Baptiste Colbert, finance minister in France during the 1600s, sought to create more trade.  His ideas and policies supported monopolies, promoted manufacturing, and mercantilism.  This centralized the economy with close government oversight and expanded trade oversees with exports to India, North America, and the West Indies.  

Contemporary artisans and small business owners also parallel some other movements throughout time.  Adam Smith promulgated what is called “free enterprise” during the 1700s.  This system centers upon individual freedom to conduct business.  Workers, investors, owners, and consumers benefit from the laws of supply and demand.  This system was a shift for many away from mercantilism.  Smith promoted self-regulation, self-interest, and sympathy “for the help of brethren” in The Wealth of Nations.   Smith’s view is in keeping with the “natural laws” of competition.  

There are several challenges and influences artisans, craftsmen, and business owners have always faced.  Profit, power, and religion are further themes in this story.  In England for example, religious persecution, growing numbers of wealthy, and risk makers spurred on migration to the New World.  Thousands of people immigrated to New England, forever planting European cultures, religions, laws, and commercialism in the New World.

As the The Ottoman Empire declined in the 1600s, European expansion and progress was in gear.  Commercial and financial expansion to lands overseas outpaced that of the Ottomans.  This historical tale demonstrates the power of money coffers and the making the governments and leaders as significant stakeholders in the world.  In contemporary times and times past we see economic expansion affects, influences, improves, and can decimate the lives of artisans.  The eternal spirit of great artisans is a triumph.  

Population growth, decline, risk-making, and pure sweat equity are also key in this story.  The amalgamation of freedom, great participation by the populace, big and little actions, and excitement lead to synergy within trades, professions, and businesses.  We are left with much to ponder.  What forces are important to us?  How should and do artisans and craftsmen respond?   National identities, securities, insecurities, developments, and alliances are forged through dramatic events like imperialism and expansion.

Other factors include human tendencies toward violence, curiosity, competition, power, and security, and superiority.  For example, discoveries and exploration for gold, spices, and other goods were made possible by enhancement in ships and navigation.  The Portuguese made a name for themselves in ship building, designs that allowed them to sail the globe.  These advancements helped traders from Portugal compete with the Ottomans.  Today craftsmen utilize computers, websites, and various applications to meet demand and become sustainable.

Great cooks, tinkerers, designers, and engineers rely on education and training.  The current excitement around local businesses would not be possible if something did not occur before production, distribution, and marketing.  Throughout time and time to come education is key.  Etsy, social networking, apprenticeships, schooling, independent practice, and formal training is needed to become an authority and develop skills.  Etsy and other networks provide a guild system, offering classes and authorities to improve mastery of skills.  Similar to the guilds and divisions of labor popular throughout Europe in the 1500s.  These private associations of merchants, such as butchers, goldsmiths, vintners, and plumbers, provided instruction, legal aid, and standards.  

We see many reasons contemporary artisans and craft makers enter the marketplace.  For some, it is the expression of their personality and art that drives them to work.  For others it is the expression of their personality preferences and desire for economic freedom.  Necessity is also a key factor.  One must work for survival.  Still others have a calling.  For those such as Martin Luther, work is a form of service.  For those such as John Calvin, work is the will of God.

This Protestant Work Ethic, this work with a calling, enhances and elevates vocations and provides a dignity and equality of value.  The break from traditional work, doing as your parents did, as supported by Calvin and others spawned more interest in other fields and capitalistic endeavors.  From ancient to modern times it is these desires from a multitude of backgrounds, values, and ideas that forge new relationships and inspire others.  As Milton Friedman explained, “The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together is through the free market”.

We must also understand relationships to better understand our story of contemporary artisans.  For instance, European expansion ignited internal and external changes within the continent and across the Atlantic, into China, and Japan.  A major consequence was the intertwining of economies, politics, interests, and personal lives.  Interactions varied and led to different results.  Accordingly, Japan was more isolated than other civilizations.  This geographical characteristic reflected their response to those that landed on their shores.  From Myron in ancient Greece to Michelangelo in Italy, Talbot and photography, to Thomas Keller in the culinary world, relationships, struggles, interests, and culture have shaped and been shaped by the artisan. 

The contemporary and historical story of artisans is one of change, triumphs, strategy, disasters, migration, society, priorities, resources, and security.  The breadth and depth of the topic leaves us with an immense amount to think about.  An interesting cast of characters is always in the mix, from the elite, to non-elite, kings, and queens, peasants, Pilgrims, bakers, jewelers, and gadget makers.

It is exciting to see spirited business owners of all forms be at their best and work on becoming their best despite the obstacles.  Over time, with internal and external challenges, power shifts, and various perceptions, we see concepts such as collaboratives, capitalism, market economies, socialism, cottage industries, mercantilism take shape, be reshaped, and rise and fall out of favor.  Never going extinct.  Only melding and shifting locations.  There is always an international mix, a context, for artisans and skilled masters to overcome and enjoy.

Ultimately, as Robert Putnam explained in Bowling Alone, “[t]o build bridging social capital requires that we transcend our social and political and professional identities to connect with people unlike ourselves”.  Great artists, workers, and professionals are key to building that social capital.  Those rich benefits that can only be supported through education, farmers’ markets, online stores such as Etsy, trade shows, business networks, food trucks, and pop-ups.  The good of those in business, their patrons, and supporters is fundamental to continuing the legacy of the arts, crafts, trades, and financial health of everyone.  This revival of piece work and artisan products is compelling.

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Ecco Pizzeria and Bar Review by Jesse Bluma

Ecco Pizzeria and Bar Review

“A passion for soulful Italian food and an obsession with true Neapolitan pizza.  Ecco serves fresh yet soulful Italian cuisine using locally farmed ingredients, traditional and modern cooking techniques delivered in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.  To serve simple, Italian-inspired dishes that bring out the best of what nature has already put in – nothing experimental or overworked; just pure, flavorful ingredients with an emphasis on organically grown and locally sourced ingredients delivered to your table.”  

Ecco is open late night making it perfect for after the movies, drinks, or travel.  Pizzas are made in their wood fire oven and the menu at Ecco changes depending upon the season and availability of ingredients.  Pizzas are created Neapolitan style, when baked have a thin and crusty crust.  

Ecco is owned and managed by Gilad Ganish of Blackwood Real Estate, Brett Lawrence of Element night club, Loni Hayes president of The Beau Monde Group, Mike Smith of Locale Magazine, and Daniel Reyes of the former Hush Restaurant.

My Recommendations

1.  Ecco is located at 2937 Bristol Street, A103 Costa Mesa, California 92626 in The Camp, a small hub of shops, eateries, and special events.  If parking is a concern, you may wish park on and to take a short walk from Randolph Avenue and Baker Street.

2.  Peak times occur during weekdays and nights, especially weekend nights.  You may wish to visit for brunch or lunch as soon as they open on a weekend.  It is always good to keep in mind restauranteurs work hard and it can be challenging at peak hours.  

3.  I enjoyed the bistro seating between the bar area and table seats.  

4.  The menu has a good variety and flavorful sounding dishes.  The pizza stood out to me.  

Sausage Pizza – crushed San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, caramelized onions, olives, oregano (San Marzano tomatoes have a thinner skin and originated in the America, making their way from Peru to Naples.)

5.  The booze menu also has an excellent selection of cocktails, brews, and drinks, such as Negroni, Templeton Rye, and blood orange mimosa.  

The Moscow Mule, served in a copper mug, is refreshing and a must for me.  I am glad to see after so long of ordering these drinks more and more establishments know what they are and how to make them. 

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Ecco Pizzeria & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 


A Deep Dish Cookie Event by Jesse Bluma

Enjoy these ample size cookies with the ones you love for holidays, your celebrations, and events.  These artisanal goods are lightly sweetened and natural ingredients are utilized, with inspiration from California, Central, and South America.  My cookie recipes utilize quality ingredients, organics, and flavorful combinations--chocolate, caramel, raspberry, and more.

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The Spotlight Campaign: Great Wisdom by Jesse Bluma

The Spotlight Campaign:  Great Wisdom


Our ideas, our creations, our spirit, and our great actions have always been key.  I know what it’s like to create something, the hard work it takes to accomplish goals, and to stand with others.  I know with my readers we share an elevated approach to food, information, and inspiration.  Liberating food and taste is the mission.  It is a holistic approach to living well and freeing our taste in food and much more.  Pointe Viven reflects my spirit and its clients.  It is a dynamic community of liberating food and taste.

 Over the years it has been terrific to meet, spotlight, and feature creators, doers, and inspirational figures.  I know no matter where I am, where I visit, and with whom I meet I will learn something and be re-energized by their endeavors.  Each month join me in spotlighting the famous, the not so famous, the local celebrities, and those you believe have earned a thank you, a congratulations, and the recognition.

Each month a new theme will be chosen, so be thinking of those people you know exhibit the traits.  Often the trait is something not so measurable, rather it is shown through the mundane, certain instances, and moments that surprise you.  This is your opportunity to join me and take part in the campaign.

In May we celebrated courageous individuals.  Those that exhibit a strong heart, inner strength, and zeal to stand with others.  Individuals making great strides in liberating their lives and the lives of others through courage.  

June:  This month we are spotlighting wisdom.  We are looking for those that exhibit bold thinking, those that seek the best way to accomplish a task, those that meditate and think twice before acting, those that make great observations, and those that associate with others with the same desire.  We are looking for models in families, socially, politically, charitably, in business, and other fields that are demonstrating powerful decision making.    

The meaning of the word wisdom is rooted in knowledge, learning, experience, discretion, and foresight.  

As Cicero noted, “History truly bears witness to the passage of time, sheds light upon the truth, and breaths life into the power of memory, provides instruction for daily life, and carries a message of ancient days.”  A hallmark of wisdom is humility.  The understanding that the present is no better or smarter than the past.  The present is only more wise if we study and do better than our ancient past, world history, and our own personal diaries.

Wisdom is something Pastor Gene Scott explained as a dependent process.  We do not simply acquire wisdom by standing in a void.  “The light illuminates me; I stand here-’that I might be made right for my faith.’”  We are dependent upon that light to see and be wise.

In The Road Less Traveled M. Scott Peck described wisdom as a characteristic that is created.  “And since life poses an endless series of problems, life is always difficult and is full of pain as well as joy.  Yet it is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually.”   

This month let us celebrate those individuals making great strides in liberating their lives and the lives of others through wisdom.  Tell us the person you wish to spotlight and why.

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How to Create a Mystery Review Game by Jesse Bluma

Engage the attention of students, children, employees, and other learners with this puzzling review game.

Choose a topic and/or concept, such as The Reformation, Culinary Skills, or Physical Education Techniques.   

Choose a mystery word related to the overall topic of your mystery review game, such as reformer for The Reformation, julienne for culinary skills, or kicking for a physical education review.  

Assign each correct answer a letter within your related word.  If a player chooses all the correct answers they will be able to spell out reformer, julienne, kicking, or whatever mystery word you choose.

Please share your versions of this game and other great activities.

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Toxic Culture of Education: A Review of Joshua Katz's TEDTalk by Jesse Bluma

Toxic Culture of Education: Joshua Katz's TEDTalk

The issue with most of our stances is illustrated in the “The Blind Men and the Elephant.”  The story goes...two blind men were able to touch one body part of the same elephant.  Yet, they drew conflicting ideas about what is an elephant.  Each blind man believed himself to be true and correct, despite lacking the full picture.  The first blind man touched only the floppy ear of the elephant and stated that the elephant is similar to a fan.  The other blind man felt the elephant’s leg and decided the elephant is similar to a tree.  Then the blind men got into a silly disagreement.  This story of overgeneralization signifies what happens often when discussing education and many topics for that matter.

Take a moment to view Josh Katz's "Toxic Culture of Education" and listen to his awesome description of the entire elephant in the classroom.

"Our Toxic Culture began with a classic Super Villain Archetype.  Recall any Super Villain, I focus on Syndrome from The Incredibles.  The villain’s plan is to unleash a doom onto the world, and the villain is the only one that can stop it.  Thus gaining all the desired power.

This is exactly what began before the 1980’s and culminated in No Child Left Behind.  Private companies realized they could utilize the education system (at the time a $750 billion industry) to create a nearly endless stream of taxpayer funds.  They channeled millions of dollars into lobbying efforts in order to create two buzzwords that put everything in its place:  'Accountability' and 'Rigor'. State statutes were passed, district rules were put into place, and No Child Left Behind was finally passed.  But don’t get me wrong about politics, these efforts were underway long before they were passed, and both parties can take full credit for their disastrous results.

We illogically attempt to compare education to business, we ignore the impact of poverty and hunger, we pay no attention the non cognitive factors that are realistic predictors and measures of student success, and that way, we can place the blame on the teachers and schools.  And because we have a Toxic Culture of Education, policies, teachers, and schools have accepted accountability for students, including all THOSE students.  We take the blame for a student that has no moral compass.  We take the blame for a student that cannot focus because he hasn’t eaten since yesterday’s lunch.  We take the blame for a student that cannot stay awake in class because she spends her nights on a different couch, depending on which friend takes her in.  When those students don’t “score well”, we get blamed.  And we take it.  We accept it.  Because we love the kids.  We are the only ones protecting them from this Toxic Culture of Education."

Joshua Katz is a math teacher in Orange County Public Schools in Florida, U.S.A.  Was the Assistant Director of Student Involvement at the University of Central Florida.  Attended the University of Central Florida (M. A. Educational Leadership) and the University of Central Florida (B.S. Mathematics Education).  

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