Let's maintain America's progressive stride by making work that builds confidence and excitement in a healthy, connected future.
The VGoT is something that Joe Wirtheim in Portland, Oregon just kinda made up. For ten years, since 2008, he has been making posters and other neat stuff for the VGoT brand and like-minded folks all over the USA.
The VGoT Story: Making a Future for Americans
by Joe Wirtheim
I love things that speak to me, that conjure my imagination and memory. Making and collecting poster prints from the “Victory Garden of Tomorrow” can do just that.
The future is an unknowable place where we can cast our imaginations, as well as our hopes and fears. The VGoT is an effort to tell a story of America, grounding it, and relating it to the modern era. A project like this should be attractive, fun and have a voice we can recognize. To find the right voice, I reached back in time looking for a real American story that would inspire us, and married that story to the domestic demands and hopes of the 21st Century.
Old “Victory Garden” posters from the ‘40’s, or other social good posters from the WPA ‘30’s, are wonderful to look at. There’s a sensible earnestness and urgency in the posters’ voice that is endearing. But I loved the way they demanded the viewer’s involvement.
Through posters, we see things iconically. Issues are brought to their basic essence instantly. I wanted to see work that is about reclaiming an American home life—a life that is actively in touch with what we consume and has fun doing it. That is why I made the first VGoT poster prints back in 2007.
As a boy growing up just outside Dayton, Ohio, my father collected old Life magazines, and I would spend hours paging through America’s history. It was a “neat” story, and the power of the printed page was impressed onto me. Both my father and mother were also makers; my dad a furniture maker and construction worker; while my mom was often sewing clothes or working at a frame shop. I helped take care of the backyard vegetable garden, and mom made dinner nearly every night. Nothing fancy; spaghetti, roast beef, baked chicken, usually with canned vegetables if the garden was out of season. And almost always, my sister and I ate seated at a table we had set.
Its a simple thing, laying out plates and flatware, but I believe this small ritual has a big influence on me today. There’s a peacefulness that we get when we sit at a table together. Sharing and being together is what my wife and I value most.
Everyone who eats should have a relationship with their kitchen. The most satisfying meals are those you, or someone you love, craft at home. Setting a table, sitting down together, these are the essential core ingredients of civil society. We should have more meals together, and share more recipes.
I also believe people, especially young ones, benefit from having a relationship with plants, and even animals, that they eat. It is an education to know plants and animals, especially ones that provide for us. There is a peaceful grounding that happens when you visit with your vegetables, and a tremendous amount of knowledge about care and patience is conveyed.
I've come to realize that eating fresh foods that we prepare will never go out of style. In fact, I believe it will be a crucial part of our future. My posters speak to a vision for the future that will not simply arrive on its own, but rather is one that we plant today and water and care for through to the next generation. I want Americans to grasp the possibilities of the 21st Century without loosing our identity as practical people.
I enjoy daring a glimpse into the future, imaginging its possibilities, while considering an essential truth: that wherever humanity goes, so does a farm-garden. Off earth, it will be clear that we are fragile, complex creatures, who live best when we have a realtionship with what we consume.
Grow More in 2044!
Feel free to Contact me with questions or comments.
I'm Joe Wirtheim and here at my design studio, I love what I do: draw, think, make and do. It's my passion to communicate graphically and put creative ideas into action that drives me. I use illustration, type, color and layout to excite the viewer's imagination. I turn these graphic ideas into quality goods, which, I'm proud to say, are made here in the USA.
My design work has been recognized by Martha Stewart Living Magazine, by Organic Gardening Magazine, by the Portland Art Museum, the Design Museum Boston, among others, and our goods can be found in fine shops and homes across the United States.
This project is something I craft, in collaboration with others, at my tiny design studio in Portland, Oregon. I collaborate frequently with community groups, such as The Queen Anne Farmers Market in Seattle, the Just Food Conference in NYC, or the Funky Chicken Coop Tour in Austin. My posters do service for and are inspired by folks like these.
More Bio on Joe
I'm originally from a working-class suburb of Dayton, Ohio. In high school, I took lots of industrial arts classes, wood shop and drafting. I also worked as a grocery store cashier after school, and a bicycle shop in the summers. A scholarship took me to Sinclair Community College where I eagerly studied industrial engineering, and enabling work in manufacturing tooling—automotive mostly. Then a lucky connection brought me in contact with a pipe organ maker in Columbus, Ohio. The craft and novelty of the operation, with its many facets, both charmed and interested me for several years. It was at this time that I became interested in photography and printing, not to mention zine-making and the arts in general. I was 26 when I quit the job and struck off on my own—back to school earning an AAS in graphic communication from Columbus State Community College. I painted houses and worked at a food co-op to make it happen. By 2007 I had begun screenprinting posters that were retro yet modern and spoke to an alternative narrative for Americans. The food co-op experience just caused me to see consumption differently and I wanted to enjoy making something positive, hence food posters. A move to Portland, Oregon enabled more school: a B.S. in Communication, with further studies in urban development and journalism from Portland State University. The key experience at PSU, for me, was editing a student-run magazine, where we rebuilt the publication from the ground up to create a successful local glossy magazine full of original news and opinion (not to mention great design and photography). Leaping out of the school experience, I had the lucky break of a small feature in an issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, which really marked the founding of my own design studio. J. Wirtheim Design is where I work today, turning neat ideas into action.
I currently live in SE Portland with my lovely wife, Taylor who is an elementary school teacher.
The Places We've Been
2017, Food by Design: Sustaining the Future, exhibit at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). Director Laura Flusche, PhD
2014, Feast and Famine exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon. Curated by Mary Weaver Chapin, PhD
2014, Medium and the Message exhibit at the Prague Design Center, Prague, Czech Republic.
2014, Green Patriot Posters exhibit at the Design Museum Boston, Boston, Massachusetts.
2013 - May, custom cover illustraiton for Organic Gardening Magazine
2013 - Graphic Advocacy exhibit at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA. Curated by Elizabeth Resnick, Phd
2013 August, Horticult, blog feature article and interview http://thehorticult.com/yield-strength-victory-garden-of-tomorrow-founder-on-urban-farms-and-plant-based-propaganda/
2012 December, custom cover illustration of 1859 Oregon Magazine and feature article and interview
2012 November, These Salty Oats, blog feature article https://thesesaltyoats.com/posts/food_culture_and_politics/the_victory_garden_of_tomorrow
2012 Spring issue, Folk Magazine, feature article and interview
2011 April, feature in Martha Stewart Living Magazine and product appearance on Martha Stewart Living television program
2010 May, feature in Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine