Paul Rene Insights
Very difficult if I was not among like-minded rule-breaking creatives. We stayed on the 17th floor of a tired Holiday Inn. I think we had the floor to ourselves, reminding me of The Shining with Jack Nicholson. Due to strict covid precautions, our key cards were taken. We were to stay isolated in our rooms except during filming. To ensure compliance, we had hallway police. If we wanted a cup of coffee, they escorted us down 17 floors and back. After one night, the creatives were having no more of that – day 2, we started planning our escape. Paranoid that mics and cameras were secretly embedded, a few of us flipped over a mattress, disassembled a room phone, and took down a few vent covers to ensure our plans or need for social contact were not being listened to. Nothing found, so nightly masked parties began in the fire escape stairwell. Not sure how it was done, but party stuff got smuggled up and past the hall police. It was the nightly storytelling and peeks into the other contestants’ backgrounds and design philosophies that got us thru long days in front of cameras on cold sets with milquetoast lunches.
$15 minimum wage; a deficit of empathy? Wealth does not sustain a nation, so history teaches. It is steadfast adherence to natural law and higher values that keep individuals and nations aloft. Income inequality on a day-to-day basis, for millions of Americans in the richest country on earth, means the lack of food and shelter. I grew up in the church being taught the 10 Commandments – those great universal moral laws. Off Later in life, I learned about natural law, which is instinctual – not taught. Natural law, the highest of which is self-preservation is a stronger force than moral law. When one is desperate for food and among those with plenty, he or she will take from others – forced to act immorally – if required to survive. History again is full of examples. I know what it feels like to be food and shelter insecure with a wife and children. I experienced that for 16 years. Therefore at Paul Rene, we pay all of our artisans who handcraft our works of art a livable wage. $15 is not a livable wage.
We are like trees. The tree eats carbon dioxide and returns to us the very breath and energy of life – oxygen. The cracks tell the story of what it has endured to give us life. It has been tried, but it didn’t break. Those cracks enhance its beauty and therefore, its value. As I see it, you and I are like trees, with limbs, born with a purpose. We too have to endure hard trials so that we may give oxygen to others – the lessons and insights gained throughout our life’s journey.
We couldn't find protective masks for our team, so we partnered with a local fashion designer to manufacture our own. With a single social media post, orders poured in from across the country. Some bought to donate to the most vulnerable. In addition to hiring a few sewists, a couple of bored teenagers unable to attend school received training to assist in the effort. It's beautiful to experience what ordinary Americans can do when our backs are up against the wall.
Pumping gas on May 2, 2019, when a brother just released after 5 years in prison, asks for $25 to buy a shirt for a job interview and a hotel room to shower. My mood was unpleasant so I was trying to ignore him. However, he kept on and soon I became empathetic. Attempting to inspire hope, I gave him one of our furniture brochures, while saying that it wasn't that long ago that I was in a similar situation. When he saw my picture on the brochure, his eyes lit up as he said, "I know you, I know you! I saw you in a magazine, while in prison. I put your picture on my cell wall. One day my cellmate asked, "why do you have that man's picture on the wall?" I said, "because I want to be just like him one day." This experience recharged me by reminding me of the impact that our work is having on others and the necessity to continue, despite the obstacles.
Inner cities all across America have been deindustrialized and the government apparently has no will to lift these neglected communities up, despite decades of promises. Those of us who live in these graveyards are left to conclude that we'll have to rebuild our communities ourselves. Paul Rene accepts the challenge to do its part.
American labor has been sold out. The trades are no longer taught to high schoolers. Neither do we see artisan or craftsmen on the big or little screen. Making things, the foundation of the American middle class is just not cool too far too many Americans. So what does this mean for the country? Just as the saying goes; idol hands are the devil's workshop. Paul Rene's work has young people excited. Our vision is to grow to finance our own woodworking training and apprenticeship program at the old George Washington Carver High School in downtown Phoenix.
There are generally two types of designers - those that take risks by pushing aesthetic boundaries and those who work within trends or, as known in the design world, those that design variations of a trend. Apple Innovates. Samsung offers a good variation of Apple’s innovations. Innovators can do both - push the boundaries and dial back to the trend. The other will struggle to offer a choice. Paul Rene innovates.
We can't take all the credit for the creativity in our work. Our designs express ideas that comes from collaborating with an engaged customer. When the consultation conversation is made safe from judgement of our thoughts, ideas flow one after the other - each refining the last, until a remarkable design comes into view.
As social entrepreneurs, we find the argument for sustainability lacking THE compelling point. Yes, we are concerned about the ever-increasing intensity of destructive weather. However, the human dimension of this crisis is a greater concern to us. What good does it do to restore the earth and leave its inhabitants to overheat in anger, frustration, and insecurity due to job loss or a lack of means to adequately sustain ourselves and our families? Until were made to see ourselves as the object of the sustainability crisis, instead of the sprouting trees that we often see in advertisements and other forms of public communications, the planet doesn’t have a chance.