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BMCT - Black Creek Mercantile & Trading Co.

Joshua Vogel majored in anthropology and art history and spent much of his youth traveling Australia, Haiti, Europe, and, finally, the American West. The influences are palpable in his work, which spans sculpture and furniture design and an array of different materials. After two decade in New York City, Joshua ultimately chose the country life and established BCMT&Co. in Kingston, NY. Their clients can be hundreds of miles away, but the workshop is a meager fifteen minutes from my own second home. A visit was long overdue!

What is something that I would be surprised to find in your space?
I think you might be surprised to find my daughter here. I feel very lucky in that respect! Having her around has been crucial, almost, keeping  together as a family... But it has to give her a good idea of work ethic too! Where things come from, what you are supposed to do with your life, what you can do. I hope it gives her an idea of how to find adventures, because they can be everywhere.

Oh, there’s also a caboose outback you might be surprised to find – the end of the train, the caboose car! We’ve got an in-ground trampoline, and a caboose. Just for fun, a folly, more than anything…

Describe your ideal workspace in three words…
Natural light… Please!

What's the best advice you've been given?
I think one of the best – I don’t even know where it came from, but I use this all the time – is: “just because you can, does not mean you should.” I find, in life, that that’s a great way to question if I’m doing the right thing, or to pause before I take action. In design, I think it’s a kind of reductive question – do I, should I do that? Or should I restrain myself? What am I trying to find?

Where did you find the courage to follow your own path?
I feel in many ways I didn’t have a choice about it. But I was also raised in a very practical family with an idea that if you didn’t like your situation, you should do something about it! That just because you were poor, it didn’t mean you needed to live like a slop, that you could get out and change your environment. I think that that had a lot to do with where I am today. Though I’m very stubborn too…

What is the most productive practical tip you could impart to a fellow creative?
Somebody at one point told me: “quit watching TV, if you wanna be creative, stop it, just do other things.” I think of telling my daughter that – she doesn’t really even know what TV is, it’s like the computer, the phone, there’s some other differentiation. But I think my advice would be to limit screen time. There’s a whole other world out there!

I guess I think about this question the other way round: if I don’t take care of myself, my body falls apart, my thumbs, my fingers, hands, all of it! If I keep the abuse up, my body lets me know it, and the older I get, the worse of a response that is. So, a good sleep is hugely important for me, and I try to keep a good diet. Recently, after completely destroying my back, pilates and gyrotonic have also helped a lot.

But swimming is probably my favorite activity of all. Something about being in the water that’s just fantastic... We try to take time off, at least once or twice a week – my partner and I.

When I look at the world, the communities we grew up in are all under assault somehow. If I go back to my hometown, I don’t recognize it; if I go back to Brooklyn, where I lived twenty years ago, I don’t even recognize that. Urban renewal, urban decay, something is happening physically, but I think something is happening, the last fifteen years, with the internet and how connected we are as well. You ask yourself what kind of community you exist in, and it’s more complicated than just your little neighborhood anymore. For instance: our business relies on outreach beyond Kingston; we sell things all over the place. It’s not an enormous online community that we have, it’s a small group of people, but it’s spread out all over. So, what does that community look like? I think it’s a very interesting current issue. What community do you live in? What community do you want to live in?

The work community, or the shop community, or the art community has always been more about the pieces, I think – the work itself, as the unifying factor, people loving what they do, and that being shared with the larger world out there. It’s a kind of devotion. When you make something, and put your heart into it, that translates, people can feel that, and that’s probably a great analogy for a community, whether a larger one or the immediate one. It ties back to that other topic: “if you don’t like it, change it.” You can always make it better!


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