Let's ignite America's progressive streak by making work that builds confidence and excitement in a healthy, connected future. This original series of prints and merchandise, with its passion for empowerment and doing, make for great gifts to those Americans young and old who strive for health and progress.
The posters of the V.G.o.T. are inspired by my life in Portland, Oregon—and the American story of progress. The joy and hopeful vision of a World’s Fair meets the practical nature of America’s old Victory Garden movement. I call it The Victory Garden of Tomorrow, and for ten years, since 2008, I have been making posters and other neat stuff to inspire better gardens, better food and better cities.
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 a practical, livable vision for the modern era. A project like that 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 war-eras, or other social good posters from the WPA 1930’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.
Sitting down at the table: 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.
That's how I realized 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. Even to astronauts, off Earth, it is clear we are fragile, complex creatures, who live best when we have a realtionship with what we consume.
Feel free to Contact me with questions or comments.
I'm Joe Wirtheim and here at my design studio, I love what I do: think, draw, 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, NBA Portland Trail Blazers, appeared in The New York Times, 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.
The Places We've Been
2017-18, Green Games Poster Series, commemorative game-day posters for the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. Five original posters
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