Midland makers: Three stories of craftsmanship on the rise

Along with being a place ripe with quality schools, parks, amenities and outdoor activities, it's no surprise that Midland has long hailed as the gold standard for mid-century architecture. While the big names in design will be familiar to locals and visitors alike, there is a culture of craftsmanship in Midland on a smaller scale as well.

From homebrewing, woodworking and florals, the city is diverse and evolving. Below are three examples of duos and individuals that highlight a few new instances of craftsmanship in action that you may not know about — yet.

Craft Beer
It’s not just established breweries crafting the most unique cold ones in town. Local homebrewers David Thomas and Mike Vagnini started their home-brew beer production in September 2013 for fun, and have been creating diverse offerings from pale ales to funky blackberry sours aged for over a year ever since. Chicago natives, they credit their obsession and commitment to the craft to the inspiration from the wide variety of brews available at their fingertips in the Windy City.

Creating a quality home brew is no simple feat. As a chemist, Vagnini explains that the water composition and pH balance in the original mash bill directly affects whether or not the end result is fantastically mouth-watering, or undrinkable. IPA’s, stouts, porters and sours are among the team of beers the duo produces every year.

Thomas and Vagnini's successful hit Grimmace

Beyond technicality, the heart and mind of the creation process according to Vagnini stems from this question, “How we can both focus on a beer that is technically great with a solid process, and also give it a personality of its own, with a story that makes it more enjoyable to share and drink with others?”

Thomas echoes, “It’s the combination of science and art; the ability to create; taking something familiar and changing it up — that is the essence of what we’re doing.”

Walking into their brewing lab, also known as their basement, is like walking into a museum of craft beer. There are eclectic cans and bottles represented on every wall hailing souvenirs from breweries from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon and everything in between. They have a vivid story to tag along with each one of them, as well as their personal favorite quality of the brew. The duo’s knowledge and passion for the industry is obvious and it shows in the uniqueness of beer they produce.

Thomas and Vagnini cheers in the duo's tasting room

The pair got the most notoriety last year as well as caught the eye of a few big time brewers with a special holiday brew they made for friends called Grimmace. After a few turns of luck and posts on Instagram, the pair received some notoriety from Brooklyn-based Grimm Artisan Ales — the brewery behind the inspiration for their beer. It’s a great story and you can read about the details of the pair on Good Beer Hunting’s feature.

While their passion for the craft marches onward, next steps for the pair are uncertain. To experience the variety in their production, the natural expectation is a fresh brewery in Midland’s future. When asked about this potential endeavor, Thomas comments, “The initial financial risk is huge. Something we’ve committed to is making this process fun, and we are not going to bend on that. We’re not sure the area has a large enough market for this niche given the financial investment required. We would need to get very creative to break the mold.”

Beyond informal meetings and personal gatherings, the brewing duo have supplied beer for weddings and other special events. They’ve shipped select bottles across the country for special requests. For now, they are focusing continuing to create unique, quality brews with a story behind every bottle and most importantly having fun in the process.

Josh Hescott, of Hescott Design Co
Driven by legacy and creating custom designs, Josh Hescott founded Hescott Design Co, a specialty woodworking design company in Midland in August 2017. Hescott started his journey with humble roots years ago, crafting his first piece of furniture for his own home.

Josh Hescott of Hescott Design Co in his workshop

“I knew I could make a quality piece of furniture for myself for cheaper than I found on the market,” says Hescott. “My wife wanted something specific and people really liked the pieces I made for her. At the time, we lived in Hawaii, and I got into a couple of art galleries working with local wood. I advanced my skill set and started making plans for what I could do when we moved back to Midland.”

A short six months into this exciting venture, he says he loves his craft because of the effort that goes into it, and the long-lasting endurance of each piece. While he works on a table project for a young couple today, Hescott is inspired by the thought that it could be passed down to grandchildren in future generations. For this reason, he strives to keep his designs timeless and appealing, yet unique to the individual.

Hescott refines finishing details for a piece

“I like to make pieces that are unique. There aren’t many places in the area to get your hands on custom pieces. To bring larger scale opportunities for residents to have variety in their choices of furniture is really cool. Midland homes have mid-century modern vibes, and people tend to appreciate that type of furniture, especially if they can’t get the same one anywhere else.” Hescott also loves that before working with him, residents can see his work. They can come into Hescott Design’s location to feel the quality of the physical product, explain their vision and see other work he’s done. He wants to integrate this experience into the community.

Catalyst Midland isn't Hescott's biggest feature — he recently caught the eye of actress Angela Kinsey from The Office. Kinsey and Hescott connected over social media and a few of Hescott's cutting boards will be featured on Kinsey's Instagram and an upcoming YouTube show she hosts with her husband called "Baking with Josh and Ange."

Cutting boards made for The Office star Angela Kinsey

To move the business forward, Hescott's would like to have a retail space within the next two years. Beyond having all his pieces in one place that’s open to the public, he’s excited for the opportunity to build a community around the trade of woodworking. For now, you'll soon find some of Hescott's creations at the newly opened Midland Furniture Garage, like a version of this live edge table, which is going through finishing details as you read this.

A live edge table in progress from Hescott Design, the top will be finished with glass inlay

He further explains, “Everything I’ve learned is through trial and error. I want to create a shop where people can see the process from start to finish if they are interested and possibly it inspires them to learn something new. It’s a good thing to learn trades. Working with your hands and learning to do something is as valuable as a degree if it fits with what someone wants to do. You can build a career out of it.”

Meredith Myers of Allora Floral Design
Meredith Myers is a Midland native creating waves in the Midland floral community. She laughs as she recalls her days getting started, “It definitely wasn’t a straight path to where I am today. I couldn’t even keep a houseplant alive back then!”

With a knack for arranging, she took on the bold challenge of creating the floral arrangements for her own wedding. Turns out, that was just the push she needed to get her craft off the ground. From then on, people around the community started asking her to put together arrangements for baby showers, weddings, and special events.

Meredith Myers of Allora Floral Design

As hype around her arrangements increased, she wanted to become certified. Over the course of just a few months she became certified from the Floral Design Institute in Portland, OR. At the institute she learned about design principles and ways to keep products healthy. While arranging has always felt more intuitive to her, she wants to be able to pay this information forward to the community and clients she works with in the future.

This aspect of her work inspires her the most. She says, “I like to talk to people about what feeling they want to have for their event. It’s nice to know color, but more importantly the vibe, feeling, and aesthetic they’re going for. One of the things I want to do is celebrate the joy of flowers. They’re an aspect of your event, amongst the craziness that you can enjoy right now. They bring you into the present moment.”

When it comes to her craft, she says, “When you talk to people who are in the zone, I always feel like that when I’m working with flowers. I go into this zen state. It’s very peaceful and calm.” It makes sense why Myers has seen early success with her arrangements, and is just months away from opening the doors to her first brick and mortar location in Midland's Center City.

Flower placement with Allora Floral Design

Beyond her retail space, when asked what’s next for her and Allora Floral Design, she candidly explains, “I would love to be able to do workshops and classes where people can learn about flowers, design, and care of flowers. Education has been huge in my own process and experience. I have seen that everyone in this community that has knowledge is eager to give it back to the community. I want to do that too.”

From ales to arrangements, to armchairs, 2018 will be home to diverse growth for Midland and the craftsmen and women who live here!
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