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Fall Two Years Ago: The Thing Quarterly

Errol DavisComment

Since we lost a lot of our old blog posts when our website went down, and just because #nostalgia, I'm going to write about an interesting moment in Metaphor history. In Fall 2013 we partnered with The Thing Quarterly to concoct an experimental herbal salve. The Thing Quarterly is a subscription service that sends out an art object four times a year in place of, say, a zine. Along with The Thing staff, an artist and a maker collaborate on each issue. For our part, we worked with writer Ben Marcus on the concept of a "thinking salve," in other words some sort of unguent infused with  herbs and supplements designed to trans-dermally boost one's brain power.  

For simplicity, we decided on a salve vs. a cream (no water) to eliminate the need for emulsifiers, preservatives, and a lot of mixing. This cut down the list of possible herbs to only those with oil-soluble active compounds. In the end, a mixture of sunflower oil, gotu kola, gingko biloba, bacopa monniera, and a few supplements ended up macerating in a black 20-gallon garbage in the half-acre garden lot next to my apartment building. The drought wasn't quite so bad that year, and Oakland did get a couple storms. I remember lying awake at night listening to the wind and hoping the garbage can would not tip over!

Production day was a smashing success and also a kick in the pants! To cut costs, The Thing staff volunteered as the production crew. Having that much human power at our disposal is a rare luxury for Metaphor. For several hours, we heated pails of beeswax and herbal oil, and ran them to pouring stations where steady hands would fill a line of 20 tins at a time. After 3/4 of the work was done, we took a break to eat at nearby Little Star Pizza. At the end of the day we filled around 650 tins, a record production run for Metaphor.