Creative doesn’t begin to describe the thoughtful, unique, and often playful products that Department of Everyday churns out. Their innovative seed bombs have long been a Neighborly favorite, and it’s no wonder why. Michael Stout, of Department of Everyday, strives to “create meaningful places and community experiences,” whether it be in a garden window box in a city apartment or helping to restore the many ecosystems in the Calumet Region, like in the project pictured above (more on that here). Below, we find out more about the research and development that bring Department of Everyday’s products from idea to reality.
How did the idea of “seed bombs” come to be?
The history of seed bombs is filled with mystery and intrigue. It is believed that ancient nomadic cultures used a similar method for storing and sowing seeds as they moved across the landscape. It offers an easy, low maintenance way to sow seeds that are protected from birds and insects while they germinate. More recently and a direct inspiration for us is the guerrilla gardeners of 1970s New York. With large scale disinvestment, people were inclined to restore beauty and habitat to vacant lots and the modern day seed bomb was born.
For me, it came as a synthesis of years spent as a graffiti artist, graphic designer, and student of urban planning in the Midwest. I made a batch as a response to my environment and then packaged them as an experiment.
Walk us through the life of a seed bomb. What are the materials and how did you decide on them? How does the final product come to be?
The life of a seed bomb begins with an initial idea of where they will end up. We’ve always had a regional focus with our wildflower seed bombs. More recently we’ve been focused on the types of habitat that need restoration and which benefits certain plants offer the larger ecosystem. Once we have a series of seeds that respond to the environment, we mix and shape the seed bombs from clay and worm castings in our studio in Indianapolis. Then we organize them by type and the date that we made them.
After being packaged in our hand screen-printed pouches, they are shipped throughout the country to stores in neighborhoods not unlike the ones that inspired their creation in the first place. They find their way to people’s yards and window boxes (for apartment folks) who are reinvesting, beautifying, and restoring the natural, social, and economic ecosystems of our communities.
What new work and products do you hope to explore with Department of Everyday?
The story of the seed bombs, the way in which they were inspired from a place and have been relevant in the transition of those kinds of places is what drives the ideas of Department of Everyday. It is not about what people might buy from us, it’s about what they will create with the items we sell. We’re excited to explore products that will give people reasons to help create meaningful places and community experiences.
We’re really excited about some upcoming partnerships exploring food and cooking. The state of the food system really demands that we change our habits and promote new ways of producing and sharing food. This is one of the reasons that we’re expanding our garden line to offer seed sharing packets. There are so many great models for how food can be meaningful, healthy, and community-driven.
We’re also offering more items that are just little reminders to pay attention in our daily life, whether it be recording memories with our Magical Memory cards or just appreciating the wise words of the forefathers of rap music with our Hip-Hop Quotables prints.
What inspires you about the Midwest, and why did you choose to start and keep your business here?
The Midwest offers so much! It is increasingly diverse and dynamic and offers unparalleled potential for experimentation, whether in business or creative pursuits. Friends, family, and affordability keep my heart in the midwest. It also enables a great basecamp for exploring the rest of the country and is a great place to call home.
Where is your favorite place to road trip within the Midwest?
I love driving along the state highways of Indiana. Some of them I’ve been down before and always notice something new, and there are others that I have never been down before but they feel so familiar. Most recently I’ve been exploring out-of-the-way fishing holes on backcountry roads. It transports me to my inner child and appeals to my sense of discovery and exploration.
What are your favorite ways to use the “crop” of seed bombs?
The studio has a pile of rejected seed bombs that don’t make it past quality control. Last spring these made their way into our flower bed as typographic explorations. That was my favorite use of seed bombs to date. To see the seeds sprout in the shape of letters and then watch as a wide variety of flowers bloomed over the summer was about as nerdy a seed bomb crop as I can imagine.
Thanks so much, Michael!
Seed bombs for your spring garden are in stock now at Neighborly! Seed bombs also make the perfect gift or favor – ask us about ordering custom seed bombs for your event or wedding.