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Patrick Trujillo talks about the formation of Not Made in China and how it became Homemade

025 Patrick Trujillo / Not Made in China / Co-founder Homemade


Patrick Trujillo works on his potter's wheel while telling us the story of Not Made in China and how that evolved into the amazing vision of the nonprofit organization, Homemade.


Learn more about Not Made in China




Katie, “So tell me about Not Made in China.”
Patrick, “Not Made in China. So, what would you like to know about it? How long we been open, that kind of stuff?”
Katie, “What’s the story behind you getting started? What gave you the idea and the inspiration, how did it come into being?”
Patrick, “Well, so, it’s kind of like a story of circumstance. So Not Made in China came from my lady and I losing our jobs in a pottery studio. And once you’ve been accustomed to having access to a pottery studio you start thinking well okay I just do pottery now. And once we lost that job, and basically everything that went with it including our ability to go to school and all that kind of stuff, pay our rent, we wanted to keep doing pottery. But in order to be able to do that, it costs hundreds of dollars. And of course, we didn’t know that because we took for granted how awesome it was having access. But when we ended up in this nice little location down on 8th street, the only thing that we really had left was a Potter’s Wheel, this wheel that we’re sitting on right now.”

Katie, “Oh wow.”

Patrick, “Yeah. In fact, just about everything else had been taken from us by a vindictive landlord which is another story for another day, not necessarily important for the creation of the thing. Other than the fact that it got us to move into our first location which was a live-work situation directly next door.”

Katie, “How did you guys go from working and just doing pottery for yourselves to scaling, how did you scale it up?”

Patrick, “Ah, good question. That’s the nice thing about not really necessarily having the privilege to decide. You know I’ve always been a person that believes that we have very little choice in this world. And sometimes it’s better if you understand that and are able to move with the current. I find that I do a lot of water analogies because I’m a potter. And I find that we’re like droplets in a river believing that we’re choosing our destiny to get to the ocean. You know what I mean? But I don’t necessarily think that that type of agency is something that we can all have some kind of control over. So, when the pottery studio started building we kind of just went with it, even though it might not have been necessarily what we were planning. Originally it was the idea that we’ll just teach some lessons on the side while we finish our degrees. Right? That’s what we were going to school for, we were working for the university it was all about going to school. For me, it was my lifelong dream of getting a PHD in Philosophy. And my lady’s was just about done with her Chemical Engineering degree before all this crazy stuff happened. But, not being one to necessarily feel I have complete control over my destiny, I just went with it, and I believe she did too. And that leads us to where we are right now.”

Katie, “So you were both in school for how many years? Along?”

Patrick, “We were on our last year.”

Katie, “So you were getting a bachelors?”

Patrick, “First bachelors yep, in philosophy and her in Chemical Engineering or engineering degree. So the first would have been in chemistry and then on to the engineering program. So over the last year, we’ve developed and pushed forward in our nonprofit, now we’re a nonprofit and so everything is transitioning into the nonprofit. That nonprofit is called Homemade. And Homemade’s bedrock is access to infrastructure. So it’s basically what we’ve been doing this entire time but finally under the right structure, which is to give people access to the infrastructure to be able to do things. At a rate that is incredibly reasonable and basically at-cost, so that they don’t have to invest in their own infrastructure in order to be artists. That’s the idea. And you know working with other nonprofits and hopefully, with the city we’re going to be moving forward on that a lot quicker as soon as I’m done with this first portion of my grad school.”

Katie, “So you’re still in school?”

Patrick, “I finally got back in. So, over a period of 13 years thanks to this business and the City of Albuquerque, I was able to get my degree in Philosophy. I only needed about a year, but as things progressed, classes change and they make you take different classes and more classes, classes aren’t worth it anymore. It took me altogether I think 13 years to get my first bachelors from when I first began, and in the meantime built the business.

Katie, “That’s some dedication.”

Patrick, “That was in 2016 is when I graduated with my first bachelor.”

Katie, “So you were going to school and running a business at the same time.”

Patrick, “Still am.”

Katie, “Still am. Wow. You are a busy man.”

Patrick, “Yeah, I mean there’s no reason to slow down.”

Katie, “No reason to slow down! I like it!”

Patrick, “I mean we’re working right now, right? Both of us.”

Katie, “True. Yeah.”

Patrick, “You know the whole relaxing thing, I think that’s an illusion for the most part. You’ve just got to keep working because that can be a type of relaxing as well.”

Katie, “Yeah, that’s true your work can be relaxing. Oh, that’s a beautiful analogy to pottery.”

Patrick, “Yeah, exactly. This is what we call production leisure. So I teach my students to get to the point where they are no longer really active participants on the pottery wheel. They’ve given their body the entire confidence it needs to produce the objects that it needs to produce based on our intention. And so at some point, you’re really just aren’t even there. You’re kind of just having this conversation about your history and what’s going on in pottery, and how you started and things are just coming off the wheel because you’ve already created that mode. That intent mode, right?”

Katie, “Yeah.”

Patrick, “I’m sure you know as an artist, that feeling. Where it’s like you’re not even paying attention. The art is just unfolding right before your eyes.”

Katie, “The art is just happening and you’re in the flow. We call it The Flow I think. I don’t work in the flow very often.”

Patrick, “Not very often, right?”

Katie, “No. I would like to do it more. It’s kind of a feeling or a lack thereof that you crave all the time.

Patrick, “Exactly.”

Katie, “It would be nice if we could always be in the flow.”

Patrick, “And so that’s how I kind of teach my students to be good at pottery. Unfortunately, I wish I could say it was mostly teaching them pottery, but that’s not my karma, right? So I mostly am teaching them an understanding of reality that so happens to fit into doing pottery.”

Katie, “Okay.”

Patrick, “Sometimes, I make fun and I say I trick them into coming in for a philosophy lesson.”

Katie, “Yeah!”

Patrick, “Right? Because that’s really my passion, and the pottery is just how I’ve gotten there. And because I’ve been in front of me and all around me the whole time I’ve gotten really dang good at it. But the idea is that, it all came from a passion in Philosophy first.”

Katie, “Wow. It’s amazing.”

Patrick, “I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s definitely fun.”

Katie, “So how did Philosophy get you into pottery?”

Patrick, “Well, it’s kind of the other way around. I was originally involved in Electrical Engineering and Physics in my youth. That’s what I wanted to do, with quotations around it. But that was just a pervasive illusion that I originally was expected to believe about myself. Right? We’re all growing up with these illusions that people tell you you would be good at this and suddenly you associate these types of understandings with your own ego. And that’s what happened to me. I was obsessed with this idea that I was going to be working in Electrical Engineering and Physics, I was going to be a Roboticist. But nobody ever explains to you what that truly means or how you’re actually going to actively participate. So I very quickly understood that going to school that I’d be working for the military doing something involving the death of people or you know, some kind of a waste of human life involving the oil industry or something like that. Robotics is primarily used for those right now. You know and I didn’t want to be involved in the consumer culture either, which is the other way robotics is being pushed. So I kind of went crazy and went hitchhiking. I came back and started getting into things like philosophy. But it wasn’t until I really got in-depth into pottery that I started to get that quiet of mind that allowed me to even pursue philosophy in the first place.”

Katie, “When was the first time you got your hands in the clay?”

Patrick, “I was at New Mexico Tech, and somebody took me to a pottery studio in open hours. And they had me put my hand into a bucket of glaze, and it was probably the most visceral experience that I had had up to that point. And I just knew that I wanted to find out what it would be like to do that thing. And it all came from there. One time. And I’m sure that can be understood by just about anybody in the arts, one moment where you say to yourself, you know what wouldn't’ it be dang interesting to find out what that’s about?”

Katie, “Yeah. I remember having the realization that all my favorite paintings happened to be oil paintings. And I was always intimidated by oils. And I remember the first time I was about to squeeze the paint out of the tube and the paint is so expensive that I was terrified of squeezing the paint out. So my instructor came over and he was like, “Squeeze it out of the tube-like this.” And he started squeezing the paint out and it was just like you know if you’re getting a piercing, that moment where they pop it through. It was at that moment. And then I remember the moment that I learned how the oil paint worked, and the feeling of it getting onto the brush, and then transferring it from the brush to the canvas the way it was just like butter. It was, I fell in love.”

Patrick, “And how you can spread it into the oil compounds.”

Katie, “The way you can blend.”

Patrick, “And it’s not actually as expensive as you thought.”

Katie, “Right a little goes a long way.”

Patrick, “A little goes a long way.”

Katie, “Yeah.”

Patrick, “You learn how to be conservative and understand your medium. And then the medium itself teaches you.”

Katie, “Yes!”

Patrick, “And you simply follow.”

Katie, “I think it’s amazing that you’ve managed to build up this wonderful business, maintain a beautiful partnership with your wife-”

Patrick, “Holy heck yeah, I’m so lucky to have been able to have done that.”

Katie, “-and pursue your education.”

Patrick, “Yeah life is filled with hurdles. It’s an illusion to believe that we have to respond a certain way to them. A lot of times we let them get us down, you know what I mean?”

Katie, “Yeah.”

Patrick, “But hurdles are hurdles and nothing more. They have no way to be able to decide your future. You know that sometimes I talk to people about how we have no way to be able to understand the nature of this universe or the nature of causality. You know what we think might be a negative thing that’s happened to us it’s just an illusion based off of our own attachment to how we would prefer things to have gone. But what if that negative thing is what causes us to be able to have the most wonderful life that ever could have happened therefore after if we would just understand that it’s all just part of an endless flow that we have no control over. It’s so silly I think to understand our lives in a way that is negatively because that’s going to make you want to take the wrong action when you need to act. You know? Acting out of fear. That’s never a way that I’ve been able to justify acting. And so I’ve been able to really just push back some pretty brutal hardships. Because the pottery wheel told me that if I react and I go with the clay because I believe that that clay is acting in one way or another, I’ll just fall under the illusion. The clay wasn’t moving back and forth it was just me, and I’ll show you that right now.”

Katie, “This should be a video.”

Patrick, “One day. Now one of the hard parts about the videos for Facebook and things is I rarely talk because there’s nobody around you know what I mean? It’s usually super quiet.”

Katie, “Yeah I used to record myself painting. I’d set the camera up so I’d get a different angle on the canvas and I realized you know what? Watching me paint is like watching the grass grow. It’s just too boring.”

Patrick, “Or amazing, geez.”

Katie, “Well you can speed it up now and stuff but-”

Patrick, “It depends on if you’re interested in grass or not.”

Katie, “Yeah I guess so. So how did you figure out the business side of all this and do it-”

Patrick, “So, like I said when we first started we initially intended that it would be a nonprofit. However, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to start a nonprofit.”

Katie, “Ah, yes.”

Patrick, “But it is substantially expensive for somebody whose always been used to a certain poverty standard of living.”

Katie, “Oh yeah.“

Patrick, “And so the idea that I had to pay to be able to start a nonprofit. And have all these different types of accounting paperwork, it’s a good $600 to $700 dollar endeavor. And that’s assuming that you get approved and can operate with a fiscal sponsor. Which is a whole nother thing. You have to have a fiscal sponsor until you get approved and if you don’t you’re going to get into some kind of trouble. So I did all that kind of research. But, so originally it just started as a sole proprietorship so I could be like, well I’m actually making enough money where I have to start claiming something. Because when I first started it was just like pay the bills, survive. You know because you have no idea where the next dollar is going to come from. That’s - You gotta pay the bills.”

Katie, “So when did that moment happen when you realized you were making enough to be part of the economy officially?”

Patrick, “When my landlord completely evicted us out of no notice and stole half of our life. We said you know what? This is the time. We could say you know what this is a negative experience or we can just now look for a live workspace and move into a live workspace where we can get a business do the business plan do all that stuff and have a place where we can actually do business legally. Which people actually take for granted that is a thing that you should think about is am I actually able to do business in this location? Because a lot of people start their lives out and then suddenly somebody gets wind, you know, inspector or whatever and they suddenly have to change and if they choose to be negative about it it can ruin their entire career. Do you know what I mean? But it’s not - it doesn’t have to be that way. And so we just moved on and decided that if we’re going to have to move on and this seems like how we’re able to make money at the moment, we don’t have any real choice. Let’s fuckin make it happen. And so we did. And we were lucky enough to find an awesome live-work situation which I suggest for all artists who are starting out. Oh my gosh. If you’re paying for a separate location or worst-case scenario you’re doing toxic things in your home. You should really consider it’s not too much more, you know you can find a good live-work loft, studio, garage, warehouse-type situation for under a thousand dollars, they’re out there. And there’s a lot of cool people willing to even work with you on different types of things like improving their homes, improving their warehouses in exchange for partial rent. Because artists are so valuable despite you know being undervalued by the general capitalistic economy.”

Katie, “Isn’t that the truth.”

Patrick, “Yeah. They’ll say you know I’ll buy that painting for $25 dollars and then they’ll pay a landscaping company like $10,000 dollars to put up a little town ?. Give me a break you know what I mean? But it’s a way that they can keep people that don’t settle for this version of reality away by putting them in poverty and discounting their contributions. That’s why back in the day things weren’t like this.”

Katie, “Do you guys have plans for the future?”

Patrick, “That’s all we have. There’s nothing else right? I don’t have plans for the past, the presents already here I just gotta make it happen, right? So I only think about the future. So right now we have several things. The nonprofits going crazy. We’re in the process of looking for a better location. Something more along like the central corridor working with the city, to that end, and hopefully that will work out. Of course, trying to purchase a building that would be ideal because that’s the only way we really build wealth in this world right? Is at the bottom? We have to put some kind of equity into our life or else we’re just going to keep spending every cent forever.”

Katie, “Yeah.”

Patrick, “And so buying a building that’s going to be a nice first step. But in the meantime, we’re purchasing a 27-acre property on the mountain. And we harvest clay there.

Katie, “Oh wow!”

Patrick, “Right behind you, all these buckets. These are all clay that we’ve harvested from the hillside on our mountain property. We’ve got maybe 13 acres of easy access clay veins and 17 acres of forest that we’re going to use to burn our clay. And even, we also work in Bonsai. SO we take people out and we search for Bonsai trees. And transplant them and we have different workshops to that end. And we’re in the works of finishing my first graduate degree and my lady’s going to start her first and we’re going to start moving and traveling and teaching English for a living while we set up these businesses everywhere overseas.”

Katie, “Oh wow! That’s amazing!”

Patrick, “That’s the idea, we’ll see about that. Like you said, plan for the future. Who knows, but if I can just create the right thing you know kind of like those droplets in the river, you can’t necessarily decide where that river’s going but you know sometimes if you see a nice little sunny part of the bank and you wouldn’t mind jumping out at the right moment when it hits the rock, you know you can make things happen. Not necessarily in a way that is one hundred percent your choice but in a way that’s pretty dang favorable. So right now my graduate degree is in education. I never realized that there was actually a graduate school for doing what I wanted to do from day one of understanding that it wasn’t for me to be able to be a roboticist. Day one, get a degree so I can teach English abroad, or even research and find out how I can do it without a degree. But I ended up going the degree root. Well it turns out there’s a dang degree for getting an even better salary when you’re traveling and teaching abroad and that’s this getting a certificate through the graduate education department in, it’s called TESL, Teaching English as a Second Language, and it’s part of the Master’s program as a certificate. And so when I’m done there, it’s you know you can teach just about anywhere in the world with a bachelor, but this is the actual degree to be able to get those jobs.”

Katie, “Nice.”

Patrick, “You know what I mean? So now we have that access, so now we can go set up these little small nonprofit you know continuation of Homemade in just about any country or city we move towards. Because it would only take about six months to set it up. And you don’t need a whole lot to be able to create. I’m sure you know, every artist knows, it doesn’t take a whole lot to be able to create a real working studio. Sometimes all it is is a space. Right? A space, some running water, some electricity, and you’re good. But with a nonprofit actually supporting these people and paying wages for somebody to keep it running, we can really make some big difference. So we’re planning on just globe-trotting and setting these little tiny nonprofits up all around the world and making it so that local communities aren’t losing their heritage. That’s really what it’s coming down to for us, is this idea of culturally important heritage arts, and providing the infrastructure necessary to continue those things. Outside of the cost of each individual. Because it’s not going to be continued the way in our modern system, if somebody isn’t there taking the benefit from our modern system and providing those access to infrastructure because we’ve seen time and time again businesses that have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years and families producing arts for hundreds and hundreds of years are being swept up in this new world where everything is being replaced by mass consumerism and there ain’t no room left for the everyday person to be able to say you know what? I feel like creating something for a living. But there would be if there was enough infrastructure.”

Katie, “True.”

Patrick, “And that’s the goal.”

Katie, “I recently had an interview with a painter. And he mentioned that--we were talking about his business plan, and he was saying, you know it’s not really a good business plan to while away hours, hours, hours making the painting as good as you can possibly make it, doing your absolute best, because then you can never charge what you put into it. You’ll never get that time out of the price that people are willing to pay for the work.”

Patrick, “Not today.”

Katie, “Not yet. But to get that you have to be so very famous or have just the right connections.”

Patrick, “This is where time is a super funny part about being an artist right? You might say to yourself well how could you ever get back the value of how much time you put into something. Especially if you never actually make it big where you’re selling for big dollars? Right? But once again, what is value? I mean, once again it happens to be an attachment to ourselves right?

Katie, “sure”

Patrick, “Because the only reason you’re worried is because you want that money while you’re alive.”

Katie, “Right. Or because you want at least some of that money so you can create the next painting.”

Patrick, “Exactly. Exactly. Now, I have always been incredibly fascinated with that concept. Because for instance, many, many of our greatest artists have died in squalor right?”

Katie, “Oh yeah.”

Patrick, “And yet their pieces continue to raise in value amongst the human collective conscious. And so although they didn’t get to experience it, the value of their art continues to grow. And it’s not necessarily a happy thing that people want to really think about but it is a true thing that we must at least admit. Now I definitely think about those things because one I’m in philosophy and two the things I make last for thousands of years, right? So we have to think about, you know I might not be getting more than twenty dollars per bowl at the farmer’s market. But, if people take care of this bowl, and especially with all the time, it took for me to learn to make this type of bowl that’s, if you ask me, a superior bowl, very strong, right? Now, it’s going to get thousands and thousands and probably millions of hours of use. Right and every single hour of use that it gains, that’s a true value, not an illusory value. You know what I mean? Not this BS about what value is in the modern world, the true value of how it can be used and utilized for generations to come.”

Katie, “Yeah. And I think sometimes that’s harder to see when your art isn’t particularly useful.”

Patrick, “I can see that. But it depends on what it’s use is to you. Sometimes a use can be, you know what, this painting makes me feel a certain way and every time that I feel that way I want to do good things for the world. You know what I mean? And having it in my presence makes me feel as though I can do that every single day. And that person can make real change in the real world.”

Katie, “Yeah.”

Patrick, “You know but we just don’t think that way because that’s just not the type of value that we’ve been told to believe is valuable.”

Katie, “Yeah, we almost need a different word for monetary value versus true value.”

Patrick, “Yeah, an unfortunate circumstance where you know economy has really co-opted many of our words in order to be able to change our version of reality. So many of the things that we believe are based off of some television show whose main purpose was generating ad revenue, right? And sometimes generating ad revenue means taking part in the most base of society. And so people learn how to be able to become the most base possible way in order to gain the most social capital and it’s created some pretty immense changes in our entire planet. We’ve given up on almost all forms of community. Yeah, crazy place. So Not Made in China is around just to basically say you know what? That’s not necessarily cool, and now Homemade’s going to be around to say here’s what we should do instead.”

Katie, “That’s fantastic.”

Patrick, “And Not Made in China will just continue to be my personal production line, I’ll keep that voice alive or whatever. But the entire infrastructure model is going to be moving into Homemade.”

Katie, “So are you a co-founder of Homemade?”

Patrick, “mmhmm. Still learning all about it, I have no clue. Just like when we started Not Made in China, it’s a learning process.”

Katie, “learning as you go, just do it.”

Patrick, “ But with Homemade, which is awesome, we have all that learning from Not Made in China. So those of you interested in moving forward in business, I would say first thing is get yourself a very, very good reliable trustworthy accountant. And using that accountant understand what is possible. Understand what needs to be paid for and what needs to be paid for directly through the business. Make sure that you keep track of every single cent or else nobody will ever lend to you. And also make sure that you invest into real items and real infrastructure that provides equity. You don’t want to just waste every little cent that you get trying to enjoy your life at a certain level if you want to move forward. You got to reinvest in yourself or else nobody else will. I’ve been in business for about twelve years and I’ve never really been able to access any infrastructure as far as capital ever. I’ve been turned down for almost every business loan and the max that we’ve ever been able to receive in any kind of business loan capacity is ten thousand dollars. At our level, that’s practically nothing. So because of our unwillingness to pay ourselves. And to do it properly through taxes, and what I mean by that is to give ourselves an actual income that wasn’t something that was just like hey what bill do we have to pay next? But rather say, you know what, here is the exact income that I’m going to pay myself, this is what I’m worth this is what my business can afford. And keep that as a steady every week, every two-week paycheck. Because if you don’t show that you’re investing in yourself, the banks will not show that you can invest in business."