Re Made Co.

Re Made Co. is a multimedia artistic intervention satirizing the brand narrative of Best Made Co., a New York City-based company that sells hand-painted designer axes. Instead of selling axes, Re Made Co. specializes in artisanal toilet plungers. Re Made’s sustained and evolving parody satirizes Best Made to reveal how the company’s marketing campaign hijacks the idea of “labor” from the realm of manual work and transforms tools of labor into objects of consumption and display, trophies of “work” for an affluent, white-collar consumer base. The work reveals and parodies Best Made Co. brand themes that are reliant upon images and narratives centered on masculinity, aggression, the ability to conquer nature, the glorification of America’s pioneer past, and adventure.


The Re Made Co. work has multiple parts, including:


Best Made’s “American Felling Axe” brand video presents Best Made founder Peter Buchanan-Smith describing the axe as “embedded in our DNA” and “a tool that builds America.” The video’s images and rhetoric provide a complex inventory of masculinity, from manly competence and conquest, and a commentary on the positioning of “craft” and “design” as tools to elevate the elite. My goal in recreating the video, the first action of the Re Made work, was to use Buchanan-Smith’s own words to reveal the farce of his claims.


The Re Made Co. Facebook page provides an opportunity for further study of Best Made’s archive of images, to deepen the parody, and to extend the boundaries of the work by allowing response from browsers. The hundreds of Re Made Co. Facebook images start to reveal categories, characters, and stylistic approaches in Best Made’s brand messaging.


Re Made Co. recreates published reviews of the Best Made store and products, with minor substitutions, such as “plunger” for “axe.” These fictional articles use the authoritative language of the mainstream media to critique their own failures: the glorifying of a group of white upper-middle-class men sharpening their axes, without any discussion of race, class, gender, and the cultural appropriation of labor. These stories are available within the “Our Story” page of the Re Made website.


Best Made has posted a series of “Adventures,” starring products such as the $188 Work Shirt. In their “Summer in Hoisingon, Kansas” adventure, Best Made photographed farmers and oil drillers, splattered in mud and oil, and dressed in the Work Shirt, alongside scenes of founder Peter Buchanan-Smith hanging out in local settings. To create the Re Made Co. “Adventure,” local farmers and well drillers in Hamilton County, Nebraska collaboratively restaged the Best Made Kansas Adventure in order to critique Best Made’s Plain State’s romanticism.


Eight months after Re Made Co.’s launch, Best Made Co.’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter claiming that I had stolen Best Made’s “work.” Attorneys from the University of Michigan’s Office of General Counsel championed the Re Made artwork and my first amendment rights. Their support and the protection of Fair Use enabled the work to stay online. If Re Made Co. itself points to the economic and social contradictions that lie beneath Best Made Co.’s branding, the cease and desist document humorously re-creates this work (extensively comparing axes and plungers) and overtly displays the aggression that’s at the heart of Best Made. The cease and desist document is only viewable on this website.


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