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quirky Archives | Made in Museums


MiM 006 – Museum of Design Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia

Confession:  I love product design.

As a product manager, my world revolves around products and how they’re designed.  When I tell people that my day job is a product manager, the usual response is, “What is that?”  I’m not even sure my family completely understands it.  A product manager’s job is to figure out what customers want and then work with the engineering team to develop new products and launch them into the market.  However, there is a huge gulf of understanding (or misunderstanding) between concept, launch, and ultimately whether a product is successful.

What is “good” design?  And how does design affect us in our daily lives?  And how can there be a museum about something as subjective as design?  What is the difference between design and art?

On this episode I sit down with Laura Flusche, Executive Director, of the Museum of Design Atlanta — which you’ll also hear referenced as MODA.  Located in Atlanta, Georgia, MODA is a museum dedicated to the world of design.  Laura defines design as, “a creative process that inspires change, transforms lives and makes the world a better place.”  I love the idea of exploring the abstract concept of what design is and then the reality of how we interpret and interact with design every day.

Front of the MODA building

Front of the MODA building

Inside the lobby at MODA

Inside the lobby at MODA. Who wants one of those chairs in their house?









Museum Highlights:

Normally, this is where I include images from the museum’s collection, but we’re changing the format this time.  Why the deviation?  Reflecting the fluidity of what design is, MODA is unique in that it doesn’t have a permanent collection, but rotates a different exhibit every 3-4 months.  So the exhibit they had on display when I visited – Craftivism – closed the week after I was there.  The next exhibit Design for Good:  Architecture for Everyone will be on display when this episode airs, but if you’re listening to this in the future, there will be an entirely different exhibit on display then.   In that spirit, below are some images of the museum and a few from the Craftivism exhibit to give you an idea of the space, but when you visit the Craftivism exhibit will be gone and a new one in its place.

Actually this constant change reflects the larger, overarching mission of the museum — how design impacts the world and inspires change.  That story flows through the museum regardless of the specific exhibit on display.  In this podcast episode you’ll hear Laura share the stories about the impact of many different exhibits – past, present and future – and how design affects people’s lives.  

Vintage purses with statements like me too, vote, nevertheless she persisted and girl power

Vintage purses make a statement in more than one way

Michele Pred – utilizing vintage purses, artist Michele Pred inscribes words and phrases with electroluminescent wire on this iconic female symbol.  










Ehren Tool – a Marine veteran of the Gulf War, Ehren Tool makes ceramic cups that reflect his military experiences.  According to Tool, “whether you are for or against a particular war, the point is to look at what is actually going on and not look away.”

Ceramic cups feature imagery reflecting the artist's military experiences

Ceramic cups feature imagery reflecting the artist’s military experiences

Close-up of the ceramic cups featuring the artist's military experiences

Close-up of the ceramic cups featuring the artist’s military experiences


Lauri Lynnxe Murphy – reminiscent of lace doilies that you might see on the back of your grandmother’s chair, this artist takes this decorative, homemaker art and gives it a new perspective by cutting out images of Chernobyl, Fukushima, Deep Water Horizon and Three Mile Island reminding us of the fragile balance that sustains our existence.

Paper doilies combine an everyday household item with modern environmental disasters

Paper doilies combine an everyday household item with modern environmental disasters

Doily depicting Three Mile Island

Doily depicting Three Mile Island




Scraps of fabric with text from social media tweets and posts

Exploring whether we are truly engaged if we tweet, post, or like on social media

Jeana Eve Klein – this piece makes a statement about the passivity of social media as an activist tool and whether we are taking real action or just the illusion of it when we send a tweet, like a post, or add an emoji.







Image of Welcome Blankets hung on the wall welcoming immigrants and letting them know that someone cares

Welcome Blanket project welcoming immigrants and letting them know that someone cares

Tag from one of the Welcome Blankets hung on the wall

Tag from one of the Welcome Blankets hung on the wall

Welcome Blanket Project – as part of their community outreach with the Craftivism exhibit, the Welcome Blanket project asked individuals to sew, quilt, crochet or knit 40 inch x 40 inch blankets and then add their own immigration, migration or relocation story.   At the end of the exhibition, all of the blankets received at MODA will be distributed to immigrants and refugees along with the notes of welcome written by their makers.  The Welcome Blanket project will continue beyond the MODA exhibition.  For more information and how to donate a blanket, check out their website.







Lifesize magnetic poetry on the wall of the women's bathroom

Probably one of the coolest museum bathrooms I’ve been in

MODA Bathroom – if you visit, and you’re female, you need to check out the women’s bathroom in the museum.  Where else but a design museum would you have a giant magnetic poetry kit on the wall? (By the way, I believe this bathroom was also featured in a movie.  Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what movie it was!)









The Museum of Design Atlanta gives us a behind-the-scenes look at design, how it affects every person every day, and explores both the functional and aesthetic sides of design.  Transforming the intangible, creative world of design into tangible processes and products is incredibly hard, but is so valuable.  Understanding the thought process behind design allows us to appreciate what is involved in developing a product, and why some products work and some don’t.  The next time you use a product and wonder, “what were they thinking?” – good or bad – well, you’ll have a better answer to that question after listening to this podcast episode and/or visiting MODA.  I am so thankful that I found this museum and was able to share their stories with you.

If you’re a museum nerd like me, then add this museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.


Museum of Design Atlanta website 

Classes and Workshops – if you’re in the Atlanta area, MODA offers a variety of classes, workshops as well as a dedicated workspace with hands-on activities tied to the current exhibit.  Professional lectures are also scheduled throughout the year.

In the episode, Laura referenced the next exhibit, Architecture for Good, and the companion book Design for Good:  A New Era of Architecture for Everyone by John Cary.  If you can’t make it to the museum, but still want to check out the book, here is a link to find out more information.  

Want to learn more about how design works?  Check out the excellent 99% Invisible podcast.

MiM 001 – Introduction

Confession:  I am a HUGE museum nerd!

Welcome to the first episode of my podcast Made in Museums!  I’m your guide, Sandy DeWald.  On this podcast we’ll explore the world of independent museums that were started because of someone’s passion for a very, very specific subject.

Museum Tourism Sign

Museum Tourism Sign

Have you ever seen one of those brown – or sometimes blue or green — tourism signs along the highway or on some city street and thought, “Now, why would there be museum about that?” then this is the podcast for you.  I mean, who hasn’t wondered — why is there a National Bird Dog Museum, or an International Towing Museum, or a barbed wire museum?

I love traveling to off-the-beaten path, odd, or quirky places.  If it’s some place only the locals know about, then that’s where I want to go.  And if I can learn something new or it makes me think by opening up an entirely new world I never knew existed – bonus!   I am wholeheartedly in!

Who is this podcast for?  Well, let me ask you this:

  • Are you the type of person that reads every label in a museum?
  • Do you casually drop such scintillating conversational tidbits at a friend’s party like, “You know, there are more than 530 registered patents for barbed wire resulting in over 2500 different types of barbed wire?” (yep – totally true)
  • How about this one?  When you go on vacation, do you research all of the local museums ahead of time, and then plan an intricate route to see how many you can visit?
  • OR…have you ever negotiated with your family that, yes, you’ll agree to visit the 27,000 touristy things they want to do if they’ll, please, please, please, let you go to the museum featuring jewelry made from human hair or a psychiatric museum or a museum with glow-in-the-dark rocks>?

Does any of this sound like you?  Then embrace your inner museum nerd and join me on this really interesting, curious, and sometimes crazy, journey!

Each episode will highlight one specific museum, and we’ll talk with someone connected to that museum.  It could be the founder, a curator, a tour guide – really just about anyone – and we’ll discuss how the museum got started and why.  We’ll uncover the stories connecting that person to the museum, the backstories of different objects found in the museum, and then how the museum connects with their community.

Over the years I’ve visited many small, independent museums. Museums make us think — exposing us to new ideas that transform how we view ourselves and our relationships to the objects around us.  Museums make us who we are.

Sometimes they may be creepy (seriously, side confession, doll museums have always kind of freaked me out).  Some focus on mundane household items like quilts, teapots, or cookie cutters.  Others feature traditionally beautiful objects such as minerals, airplanes, and silk tapestries, while others might just be more than a little macabre like lunatic asylums, medical museums, or former prisons.

There are over 35,000 museums in the United States.  My goal is to highlight the smaller museums that you may have never heard of, but have truly fascinating collections and fantastic stories.  I want to share the stories behind the labels, highlight the “must-see” items, and then give you the information to plan your own trip to these incredibly interesting places.

Museums aren’t stodgy relics that focus on the past, but are vibrant, odd, challenging places that spark curiosity.  So let’s give a voice to museums, let’s get out there and visit these places, and together let’s answer the question, “Now, why is there a museum about that?”

In the show notes for each episode you’ll find bonus material for each museum visited – including a downloadable travel guide. You can also find Made in Museums on Facebook and Twitter. And if you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email at sandy@madeinmuseums.com.