Friend (and heroine) Makalé Faber-Cullen is a storyteller and anthropologist who has worked with the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Festival of American Folklife, for which we collaborated on some t-shirts with Makalé a few years ago. She served as the first U.S. Director of Programs for Slow Food, where she co-launched and directed Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT), a coalition of seven of the most prominent non-profit food, agriculture, conservation, and education organizations dedicated to rescuing America’s diverse foods and food traditions. She also served on the Board of Directors for the Southern Foodways Alliance, where she helped produce The Global South and The Cultivated South symposiums. Her current project, Wilderness of Wish, gives context to unusual and out-of-place objects in the course of our daily lives. In Makalé’s words:
“I founded the Wilderness of Wish in 2010 to excite an interest in the artful presentation of contemporary ethnography and material culture. With carefully chosen client-partners we showcase the people, places and goods that give our lives meaning and our communities value. I enjoy merging anthropology, commerce and art for the public good. I’m particularly interested in occupational culture and the role of objects in our relationships — to ourselves and with each other, hence my company’s retail arm.”
Wilderness of Wish is an online store where the goods for sale are both art and product. Items as seemingly disconnected as a tin of cuttlefish ink from Basque country, Spain, and a bundle of 100 Wish tickets make perfect sense once you’ve read the story behind each. A beautifully curated collection of soft toned images dress the webpage, suggesting each object might come from the same treasure chest. And in a way, they have. Makalé’s eye for the intriguing draws a distinct parallel between story and memory and inanimate possessions. The Tinta de Calamar (tin of cuttlefish ink) evokes for her a first meal of arroz negra, or black rice, which she shared with friends in Valencia, Spain, almost twenty years ago. While that story is specific, one is tempted to purchase a tin with the hope of creating your own narrative.
Then there is artist and Tennessee peach farmer Roger Smith’s peach pit carving of a fisherman, hand-whittled, hand-painted, and sitting upon a peach pit rock. It looks at first like a roadside tourist trinket. But Roger has been creating these keepsakes for over 40 years, each one an expression of his imagination. As Makalé writes in the product description, “we’re reminded of William Blake who told us we could ‘see a world in a grain of sand.’”
There are long, svelte wooden pitcher spoons and little green tins of bag balm meant for softening udders and the rough hands that milk them. There’s a 1943 copy of The Sea Scout Manual and a CD titled The Sounds of Camp, a compilation of soundtracks depicting children participating in various summer camp activities. What we love most about Makalé’s gallery of gifts and treasures, is their relevance. In the way a hand-stitched Alabama Chanin garment carries meaning, loved thread and all, so many objects in our lives play integral roles in how we view the day and interact with our surroundings. And, of course, we especially love her inclusion of pantry supplies. Food, community, and story are front and center.
Visit Wilderness of Wish, acquire a new treasure, or submit a project query:
“Our creative, agile, and experienced production team collects, creates and curates narratives, verité film, original artwork, and writing to describe the people and places that produce our goods and anchor our traditions. We specialize in foodways, occupational folklife, tourism and hospitality but we welcome all R&D queries: those on reality’s hard ground and the other fantastical floating ones.”
Visit Wilderness of Wish to purchase Alabama Chanin + Folkways hand-stitched T-Shirts.
All images are courtesy of Wilderness of Wish and photographed by founder, Makalé Faber-Cullen.