We do handmade wooden kitchen utensils differently
What has become Oak and Jay has been a long time coming in my head. I have had a passion for designing and building ever since I was old enough to handle tools. There was plenty of scrap wood to be turned into whatever my sister and I could imagine while growing up on an aging horse ranch. Finishing a project always gave me the same bewildering feeling: an awe that I could build something useful with only my hands and tools. That was the beginning, but it wasn’t until much later that the philosophy of Oak and Jay, and the importance that I place on transparency and sustainability, became as influential as the joy of creating handmade wooden spoons and kitchen utensils.
At a young age I realized I needed to start making my own money, so I turned my joy of creating toward a path that could also produce a healthy income: graphic design. It was four years before I found myself working for an advertising agency in downtown Seattle, creating websites, videos, and ads for many of the companies I most looked up to. I thought that design was going to be my lifelong career, but I recognized after a few years that the companies I had so desperately wanted to work for were actually ethical cowards. I had expected companies like Microsoft and Amazon to want to change the world for good, not just for profit, but that was a naïve hope.
After a couple of years I began to feel an underlying unfulfillment, and then gradually I began to understand why I felt so glum walking into work every day. It is difficult to know without first hand experience, but the people who run these corporate behemoths truly believe that they are making the world a better place. They either don’t recognize, or don’t care about, the destruction of our ecosystems and the rising income inequality caused by their greed and ignorance. But the most worrying realization was that the mid-level employees like me were just as complacent as their leaders, because they were getting paid just enough to look the other way, and because they feared for their jobs if they spoke up.
After six years in the world’s largest advertising agency, I realized that my KPIs (business jargon for “key performance indicators”) were much too different than those of the people who were leading my company, and the companies I was supporting. I had to do something drastically different in order to prove to all of the burnouts like me that there is a different way of doing business. You don’t have to put profit and shareholders above the work-life balance of your employees or the carbon footprint of your company in order to be successful. In a finite world, infinite growth is not just a fantasy, it is insanity. So, after years of being part of the problem, hoping I could change things from the inside (to no avail), I realized that the only way the world was going to change was by the small, every day actions of all of us, refusing to accept that this is the fairest the world is ever going to get.
Oak and Jay is both my passion to create and my refusal to comply. Through radical transparency and ecologically regenerative practices, I hope to show at least a few people that we desperately need to change the way we think about business, and that it is entirely possible if we can just let go of the ignorant systems that have been drilled into our heads throughout our lives. We can live stress free without exploiting the resources that sustain us, and we can have healthy, honest relationships between the people who buy and the people who create.
While you are here, I hope that you take a moment to think about the massive effects you can have through small actions such as buying one of our spoons rather than ten from IKEA, or choosing to walk to your local bookshop rather than supporting Amazon. And I hope that you will eventually be able to see the even bigger effects we will have on our world when we all realize that cultural change comes from the small, every day actions of a few, who, through strength and determination, eventually become the many.
The greatest transitions in our world have not happened because someone on the inside convinced the most powerful to change their ways. They have happened because one person chose to refuse the system altogether, planted the seeds of knowledge in those who were fed up with the way things were, and then refusal grew into global revolution.
Supporting Oak and Jay or your local small business is both a small step, and the most important one you can take. Together, we can slowly change the world into what we want and need it to be.