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If ever there were a mushroom mansion, it would probably look a lot like North Spore. We're surrounded by literal tons of mushroom mycelium, gnarly antlers of Reishi poke out from the most unexpected of places, and the language of mycology is spoken fluently. It often feels like our corner of the New England textile mill we inhabit is our own universe where everybody lives and breathes mushrooms...
It's easy to forget that we share this building with a number of incredible businesses and people.
There's nothing like a pandemic to bring folks together (while keeping distant).
North Spore has been working in collaboration with one of those businesses in the mill, Rosa Unearthly Goods, to design and launch a unique t-shirt design.
While the shirts were being printed I had the opportunity to talk with Dave Flynn, founder of Rosa, about his inspiration for the shirts.
You can purchase the shirts from Rosa's website. They are a single run shirt, once they've sold they are gone for good.
Matt: Can you talk a little about yourself, your background with design, and founding Rosa Unearthly Goods? What led you to Maine?
Dave: I’m from Upstate, NY. I’ve lived in every corner of New York before I moved to Maine 2 years ago. I grew up with family in Damariscotta and spent a lot of time in Southern Maine. Having lived in NYC a few years, I didn’t want to go full rural, but I didn’t want another huge, inescapable metropolitan terrain - Portland was the perfect size with a cool creative community.
I have a BFA in painting & Masters in furniture design. Before moving to Maine, I co-owned a design studio in Rochester, NY called Hey, Porter. We specialized in furniture, interior and graphic design. My Maine move was a fresh-start maneuver. I started painting again to fill that creative void after the design studio. I love painting, but I wanted to find a medium that was more universally approachable, easily understood, affordable……something with more effective communication, a wider audience. The graphic t-shirt seemed like the right direction. My first shirt was pulled from a collage series I was developing……I figure I’d “brand” it just in case I wanted to keep it going. I wanted a name that was simple, memorable, had strong symbolism, was visually appealing…..something that could be interpreted in different ways by different people………something ambiguous.
Matt: Where do you find inspiration?
Dave: Lately I’ve been drawn to countercultures, subcultures, movements, music and vibes from the 60s & 70s. Jazz culture, psychedelic rock, eastern mysticism, skateboard culture, different art movements, environmental ideas, weird films, punk culture, etc. A lot of the graphics and ideas in the Rosa shirts are based on research and curiosity about different subjects that I’m interested in. I learn by doing.
Matt: What about your experience with mushrooms. Are you an avid mushroom eater, have you ever tried to forage for mushrooms or find them in the wild? What drew you into working with North Spore?
Dave: Love me some mushrooms. I’m not a vegetarian…..but I kind of eat like one and don’t eat a lot of meat on a weekly basis - mushrooms are a great centerpiece for meals. Tons of ways to prepare them. I love the idea of foraging, but I’m too afraid to do it without an expert alongside. Too much room for error.
I love the North Spore products. As a member of the Portland food & beverage industry (and a “foodie”), I love seeing their mushrooms on local menus. Top quality primo. Currently addicted to lion’s mane mushrooms.
Matt: let's break down this shirt and what inspired the different elements. Can you talk about designing the front of the shirt?
Dave: Well - I go through consistent phases of Grateful Dead tunnel-vision-listening……and I’m currently in one now. When I was starting the design, I had Terrapin Station Medley on repeat…….a lot of the initial inspiration came from the storytelling in that song. I chose to borrow some of the lyrics on the front to suggest a story element with the idea of “Mushroom Mansion” as a fictional place. The vibe fit perfectly.
Matt: The 'pioneers' are also super interesting. Other than Elias Magnus Fries, the scientist who developed mushroom taxonomy in the 1800s, all the others on the shirt were famous for non-mycological achievements that nonetheless made an impact on the field. How did you find and choose these figures? John Cage was an avant-guard musical theorist, artist, and philosopher, Walter 'Wally' Snell played major league baseball, and Beatrix Potter is a famous writer of children's books.
Dave: Elias Fries was an obvious choice - a pivotal player in the mushroom world. I thought it would be interesting to include well-known figures from other fields that were also strong mycologists and offered advancement in the field of mycology in different ways. Cage helped establish the NY Mycological Society in 1962 and taught courses in mushroom identification at the New School in NYC. Wally Snell was a catcher for the Boston Red Sox in 1913 and became a professor of mycology at Brown. Potter made illustration of mushrooms and was the first person to propose that lichens are the marriage of an alga and at least one fungus. These were all super interesting to me - different connections.
Matt: What have you personally learned about mushrooms while working on this project?
Dave: That I could eat them everyday and would totally love to propagate my own in the future. Overall, I built a foundation of knowledge on the history of the field of Mycology. Incredibly intriguing. I also learned that the word “mushroom” recedes “music” in dictionaries, thanks John Cage.
Matt: Is there anything else you'd like to share with The Black Trumpet readers?
Dave: Open your mind to all the different varieties of mushrooms. I hope you like the collab shirt and connect with it in different ways. Don’t eat the red ones with white dots.
Matt: Thanks for chatting Dave!