Reflections on Our North American Heritage and Influences

Our focus since founding the Emporium over 40 years ago has never wavered. Many of us are familiar today with the notion of identity. Our aim has been to discover identifiable commonalities evident in our received heritage, especially our built environment, observing the ways we furnish and decorate our homes, both in the past and today, extracting from our observations a clearly identifiable North American aesthetic.

 

There is no denying that by far the majority of people living in North America today have ancestry from Western Europe. Our ancestors came in waves beginning more than 500 years ago. Some people brought furnishings with them – a domestic aesthetic; carpets, furniture, lamps, fabrics, and decorative objects.

Ecclesiastical requirements especially among the Spanish and French speaking Catholics dictated a formal aesthetic suitable for reminding one of life's higher purpose; altar pieces, candlesticks, brocade, pews, and furniture specifically made to suit that particular need.

Longing for home spurred the manufacturing of home reminding objects. And today we appreciate that native North America people had much more of an influence on the settlers lives than was appreciated at the time. Many items made after settling down were crude copies of things remembered from home. Some makers equaled and in some cases exceeded their influencers.

European influence washed across North America in waves. These influences were modified, adapted, simplified, changed, improved and reimagined gradually, inexorably becoming something uniquely North American. Regional peculiarities abounded and still do but there's is no mistaking their antecedents. Our shared North American aesthetic is there. It is authentic, having been forged over half a millennium.

It seems important, we feel at home, rather than alienated and estranged. Novelty seeking is somewhat like a dog chasing its tail. Filling our homes with stuff made from highly manufactured ersatz ingredients, unrelated to our lived experiences without evidence of man's hand or of anything truly real or authentic, comfortable or practical, or having any possibility of lasting – cannot possibly engage memory or create social value.