While adorable dogs, the magical smell of beeswax candles, and oodles of gorgeous glassware are pretty darn nice, the thing that REALLY makes The Foundry feel like home is our family. Ours is a chosen family and, honestly, we've never valued the beautiful, steadfast presence of our small-and-mighty Foundry Team (and community!) more than in this wild moment in our collective histories.
Like all chosen families, we often marvel when the oftentimes secret-seeming interconnectedness of our relationships reveal themselves over time (is there a word for this feeling in another language? when, after finding yourself cosmically aligned with another human in a present moment a realization dawns on you both that it just so happened that you lived on the same block 100 years ago or were both at THAT concert or you got your dogs from the same shelter in the same week?). That is often how it feels with our Foundry Family—as though we were all drawn into a star-crossed orbit by the gravitational pull of some sort of Alpha Canis Majoris, Ruby the lodestar.
That's how it is for our newest Foundry Family member, Dakota, who came to us this past fall (to help Will helm "The Ship", our small-but-mighty shipping operation that makes its humble home in a sliver of office across the street from "The Shop" and, during this wild season has been the complete nexus of bulk parcels and beeswax delivery) through a series of tumbling-block-style happenings set into motion at The Soap Factory about a decade ago. We sat down with Dakota—at a distance—to talk about secret radio stations, dismantling museums, and the transformative power of biking with a soundtrack.
The Foundry Home Goods: Where are you right now?
Dakota: I'm sitting in the front shop window, watching the world go by, and spending some good time with the plants. Lillian brought over some houseplants of various sizes to enjoy the light here. One is a ZZ and it's doing so great.
TFHG: Ha! Love how you said that, like you're buds.
D: Oh yeah. ZZ and I are on a first name basis. I water, I dust the leaves. I am definitely a plant person and I've gotten better at it since I've had some time this year.
TFHG: Do you have a favorite plant?
D: Let me think about it....I've got an elephant ear that my best friend gave me. It was an impulsive house warming present and I didn't think it would make it because it's a big tropical plant and I live in an un-tropical apartment. But, basically, as long as it just gets some indirect light bright light it's super happy. I love that about plants. I'm learning all new things about them all the time and also constantly hoping things survive. That's also kind of my thing at "The Ship", like, I've never done shipping before, but I really enjoy this sort of "figuring out solutions in real-time"—how to fit things in the box, what goes where, how every order is like a little collection—every one is like a puzzle. Will and I also kind of tag in and out with shifts because of distancing and it's fun to see how he does things and sometimes we'll hand things off to the other one based on our strengths. I'm a real organizer and love putting the orders together and he's amazing at getting the most complicated orders packed and wrangled. Sometimes we won't even see each other for weeks at a time but it's sort of like we're communicating through how we leave our shared workspaces. I really enjoy what I do here, even though it's quite simple and quiet, it's a great time to think, listen to music, and wave to my co-workers across the street in the Shop.
TFHG: What do you listen to when you're working in the Ship/Shop?
D: Working by yourself is so interesting. There's a meditative aspect, but it's also a little lonely so I definitely like to have something entertaining. I like podcasts, right now I'm into one called "Things You're Wrong About". I also love listening to music. Spotify is amazing in that it gives you everything sort of at your fingertips but it isn't a great tool for expanding your musical tastes. The algorithms just give you what it knows you'll like (and it's usually right), but I like to discover new things to like! I've been into a radio station called NTS Radio based in the UK which has all sorts of music. Afro cuban music, rave music, sometimes it's random jazz from some place. I'll hear something I love and add it to my Spotify which then opens the door to something new that I DO like.
TFHG: Tell us about yourself, where are you from, how did you end up in Minneapolis?
D: I am originally from Eagle Butte, South Dakota. It's in the middle of the state, kind of literally in the middle of nowhere. I moved to MPLS for college and left, moved around a bit, and then this year I came back. As of quarantine, I came back in June and all of my friends are here. I've lived in Canada, in Phoenix, and in North Dakota and Minneapolis is just very stable and a very good landing place to come back to. I'll be going to DC soon, but that's still a little up in the air.
TFHG: And how did you find your way to The Foundry?
TFHG: We do, but tell us about it in case people don't.
D: The Soap Factory was this amazing artist's collective in a big old industrial warehouse that used to be a soap factory. It was this amazing experiential art space with a lot of things always going on and Lillian was kind of the manager of the whole thing (or at least that's how I think of her). It had artist studios on the top floors, galleries on the ground floor, and then a giant basement that was the whole footprint of the big building. That's where the magic happened.
TFHG: What do you mean?
D: Well, every year for Halloween they'd spend months before having artists creating bizarre and beautiful and strange installations to turn it into "The Haunted Basement". It was sort of an avant garde take on a Haunted House. They'd bring in "actors" and you'd have to sign a form to go through like: "By signing you acknowledge that this might be shocking and a little scary, a little more unconventional... you might pee your pants...but nothing harmful!"... that sort of thing. We used to call ourselves "The Haunted Basement Creeps", we were the actors down there getting weird.
A few good creeps.
TFHG: Please tell us you have pictures of Lillian!?
D: Ha! No...Lillian never did any acting (not her gig), but I did work a few rooms with Will, Lillian would bring us beer and pizza and we'd hang out together afterwards. I think back on it and it's just a magical time. Because it was an artist space, there were always beautiful, interesting, creative things coming through, and it also opened the door to what Minneapolis would be for me.
TFHG: You mentioned you were also hopefully going to DC, can you tell us about that?
D: It's a little up in the air right now so it's strange to talk about it, but I have a position with the Smithsonian working in my field that was supposed to start around this time last year but it's still sort of "on pause". I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
TFHG: What is your field?
D: I do historical research around indigenous communities and repatriation: returning items that museums have back to tribes. Obviously the museums did a lot of stealing and the Smithsonian specifically has a lot of stolen goods, and they want to give it back. Unfortunately the system makes it more complicated than just "here's your stuff" and it will be my job to thoughtfully connect the right people to the correct channels to get everything back where it should be.
TFHG: That is amazing. How did you get into that?
D: Well, I came at it from a few different directions. I attended Augsburg, and while I was there I realized I really don't like being around a lot of people, I like being around books, around libraries. I found a fellowship through a historical society in St. Paul that was doing a lot of work with first-person narrative archives. I did a lot of research looking at historical places in Minnesota and I loved looking at older documents and telling the older stories. It was another puzzle: in what ways can I take that older information, the voices of people that weren't often valued, aren't often prioritized, and bring that story to people who need to hear it?
TFHG: Like what kind of stories?
D: Well the first ones that really spoke to me were the stories of Dakota women and their work to maintain their culture in Minnesota. The reason that the entire culture wasn't completely lost after all of the genocides is because of the work of these women...and we don't really hear anything about them or that story. Working to maintain the thread of their oral histories and get their stories told it was like: I want to be a part of this.
I'm also from a tribe in South Dakota. I am Lakota and it really resonated with me: how can I be of help? How can I do that work returning sacred items and getting them out quicker? The process is realllly slow, the historical society is working on that and the Smithsonian is working on that but, like, I can do that work. I wrote a paper that basically said "museums should be dismantled!" and, shockingly, the Smithsonian was like "Come on in!". They are really working towards that but, since they are a larger institution it moves at a glacial pace. Since the work I'll be doing is super hands on and requires working closely with people and objects we're sort of in a holding pattern.
TFHG: Wait, so we know you love dinosaurs...when that comes to pass will you be working in the dinosaur part of the museum?!
D: Ha! Nope. I'll be working with the Native American museum, specifically interacting with tribal groups in Canada and North America. What happens is that tribes often petition the Smithsonian for their items, but then they have to have a space for those items, prove that they have a museum caliber way to display it, show that the item will be safe once back in their hands. It's complicated. It's like: there are sacred things that should have never been brought out of the earth and now they're on display as if they were art works "for artists to be inspired by" and it's just not appropriate. So I'll be finding ways to bridge those cultural differences, like: hey, yes, this is a cool thing that you don't want to just disappear BUT this is also a sacred thing that doesn't belong to you. Because my lineage is white and native I feel like I can approach this in a way that I can smooth some of the cultural bumps and get an outcome that feels right. This is actually something the historical society does really well. They commission modern artists that are currently making to re-make the objects, so that the tribes can have their actual objects back but the museums have something appropriate that speaks to the historical value of the object. Obviously stuff like body parts (scalps etc)...they should never have had those. But like moccasins, you should return those they weren't given freely and let us create solutions that speak to the whole narrative. Also some of the items are very, very expensive so there are some institutional issues with security and black market value... so that's a thing. And also some tribes don't exist anymore, so how do we return items that are part of lost and shared histories in ways that feels good for everyone?
As an aside, I DO love dinosaurs. They're my fun hobby and I have five dinosaur tattoos with no end in sight. The repatriation work is the work I want to be doing right now but if a similar position opens up in a dinosaur museum, I'm on it.
TFHG: What's your Foundry go-to favorite thing you own?
D: I've gotten a few things that I really, really like. I recently got some of the big down pillows with the french linen covers, two pinstripe covers... my couch was OK before, but you add the pillows on and then all of a sudden the couch is FANTASTIC. They're HUGE too. I love them but they're also one of the hardest things to ship.
TFHG: Oh, that's such a funny perspective! How do you ship a giant pillow?
D: Will taught me! He's a wizard. You have to fold them in half, put them in a bag, sit on the bag, tie them with a string, maybe tie them with another string. It's definitely one of those things that really makes you appreciate/miss the proximity of another person. Like: this would be SO MUCH easier if there was someone else here. But, alas, we figured it out!
But I am shocked at how much I like those pillows. I've become a Foundry person. I'm just leaning on a giant gorgeous pillow, drinking rose out of a roli poli glass, surrounded by beeswax candles. And it's great.
Oh wait! Actually the most surprising thing that I have and love is the face brush! I've had a few friends over (safely!) for visits and they see it in the bathroom and are like "What's that brush for?" and I'm like "Isn't it CUTE!? It's for your FACE!".
TFHG: What are you currently coveting at The Foundry?
D: Those cast iron pans from Crane. I just moved into a smaller studio space by myself and everything in the kitchen is a little smaller and there's not much room for multiple things...so I think one amazing Cast Iron Casserole could get any job done.
TFHG: What do you always have on your person?
D: I ride my bicycle most places and my favorite thing is my little bluetooth speaker so I can play music while I'm biking. I don't like to wear headphones when I bike, for safety, so I have a bag that has a spot to clip the speaker on and I just play my phone through it.
TFHG: Wait, doesn't Will also have a special bike speaker?
D: Yes, Will also has a speaker, but his is way bigger. Mine is more like my personal biking soundtrack and sometimes other people get to enjoy hearing it as I breeze by. I have specific biking music. Some are seasonal biking playlists but I also have some that I made both for mood and by distance. Like: the place I'm going is a 20 minute bike and I'm feeling springy so I'll put on my "20 minute spring biking playlist". I've also been making a point to only listen to female artists or non-binary artists and rid my listening zone of men. It can be hard to source but I've found a few DJ's on NTS I like and I follow them on Instagram and they'll post their playlists and I'll make a bike playlist from that.
TFHG: And finally: Are you more of a Ruby or a Turnip?
D: I'm actually more of a Valentine! We vibe. We both love those pillows, Valentine doesn't mind being picked up, he's nice to hold and very soft, and he likes to wear little outfits...we're buds.
Thank you so much, Dakota! We are beyond thrilled (until you are whisked away to do the crucial work of indigenous repatriation) to have you here in our Family!