You may not know the name Homer Laughlin, a china factory in Newell, W. Va., but you’ll likely recognize — or have eaten off of — its most famous product: brightly colored, informal pottery called Fiesta.

While most of America’s china factories have closed, unable to compete with “made in China” or Japan or Mexico, Homer Laughlin, which set up shop on the banks of the Ohio River in 1873, is still going strong. It employs about 1,000 people.

Linda Wertheimer takes us into the depths of the factory — which feels like a relic from a different time — to show us how Fiesta has kept this company going.

Photos/GIFs by Ross Mantle for NPR


You haven’t experienced “BIG” until you are in a dry dock with a finished aircraft carrier. One year ago, Newport News Shipbuilding was getting ready to flood the dry dock where Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) was constructed. Here are eight previously unpublished photos of the ship right before the flooding of the dry dock on Oct. 11, 2013. [Photos by John Whalen and Chris Oxley]


Several years ago, South Carolina had a problem: a shortage of skilled workers and no good way to train young people for the workforce. So at a time when apprenticeship programs were in decline in the U.S., the state started a program called Apprenticeship Carolina.

"We were really, really squarely well-positioned at the bottom," says Brad Neese, the program’s director.

From the beginning, South Carolina took apprenticeship beyond the building trades — that’s the traditional route for apprentices — to fields like nursing, pharmacy and IT. As the number of apprenticeship programs has fallen nationwide, it has taken off in South Carolina.

In South Carolina, A Program That Makes Apprenticeships Work

Photo credit: Mike Belleme for NPR

How to Make Rubber


Vulcanization is the process by which natural rubber, tapped from trees, is transformed into a malleable product that is more durable and flexible. Vulcanization itself is named after the Roman fire god, Vulcan, which correctly suggests that the main bulk of this process heating. However, since heating the rubber itself is not sufficient, curatives and/or accelerators are needed to further change the chemical properties.

Natural rubber (isoprene) is not the best for molding products because its primary (linear) hydrocarbon structure gives the rubber limited mobility. Chances are, if you bend it the wrong way, it will break! We solve this problem by adding curatives like sulphur molecules, allowing the linear structures to bond together and form a much larger and flexible molecule. Specifically, cross-linking sulphur molecules creates disulphide bonds between the carbon molecules of two or more rubber structures in multiple areas, forming a tertiary structure: polyisoprene.

Another property gained through this process is the ability to stop the linear structures from moving independently, so that when the rubber changes shape, it can reverse back to its original shape.


[Image source]

The one issue with this process is its speed. While heating the rubber does increase the surrounding energy so that the sulphur can bond, the heat added isn’t quite enough for this process to be fast. This is where accelerators come in. Example of accelerators include catalysts like zinc oxide or stearic acid. Remember, all reactions require a certain amount of energy to perform. By using a catalyst, the amount of energy needed is lowered, which means less energy is used for the same reaction. This makes the process more efficient as more bonds can be formed with the same amount of energy. Accelerators are able to change the chemical bonds of the rubber to speed up the process and make it more efficient without affecting the outcome.

Plastics undergo a similar process in order to produce all the different shapes imaginable. For example, thanks to this process, polyurethane can come in many forms, ranging from tennis grips to wheels, woodwork glue, or foam bedding. Because of its flexible properties, polyurethane paint is also widely popular. Both water and oil based, it is used for busy indoor environments such as kitchen tops and bookshelves. The plastic aspect allows for durable use and abrasion-resistant properties. However, polyurethane paint should not be used in places that will be exposed to the outside environment, because it is temperature-sensitive, especially if exposed for long periods of time.




By Asta M., Staff Writer

Edited by Peggy K. 


Kinematics Dress by Nervous System - 3D Printed by Shapeways

Wired has a neat feature about a 3D-printed dress made from tiny interlocking bricks of plastic (2,279 unique triangular panels interconnected by 3,316 hinges), that move and sway like real fabric - designed by Nervous System and printed by Shapeways. The dress was just acquired by the Museum of Modern Art for their permanent collection along with the software that created it. Snip from Youtube:

Nervous System has created the first dress with Kinematics, their unique 4D printing system that creates complex, foldable forms composed of articulated modules. Composed of thousands of interlocking components, the dress was 3D printed as a single folded piece at the Shapeways factory in New York City and required no assembly. This was made possible by Nervous Systems’ Kinematics system which combines design generation, customization, and simulation to enable the production of large flexible structures by 3D printing.

Kinematics combines computational geometry techniques with rigid body physics and customization. Kinematics allows to take large objects and compress them down for 3D printing through simulation.

With this technique they can make complex structures larger than a 3D printer that unfold into their intended shape. Here’s another video that shows a black dress in motion:

Pleasant sounds and movements. The fit, flexibility and pattern of the dress is entirely customizable using the Kinematics Cloth web app.

[read more on wired] [Nervous Systems]


the manufacturing and staging processes of the leica m9-p hermes edition camera as shown here are utterly hypnotic

FCKH8's clothes are made by American Apparel, A4 and Bella + Canvas

This information was in response to a direct inquiry about where their clothes are made:


((We know it is impossible to only buy/consume products that don’t contribute to exploitative labor and poor working conditions (“ethical consumer”) etc somewhere along the line. This information is shared because it has been requested by followers and is not readily available elsewhere.))

American Apparel:


  • There are lots of ‘A4’ companies that deal in apparel, we’re not sure which one is associated with FCKH8.

Bella + Canvas:

  • Bella prides themselves on eco-friendly manufacturing, but we cringed to find their social responsibility page doesn’t state them as having any interest in making sure the people who makes their clothes are paid or treated fairly: