Creating funding for non-commercial artist practices has always been a creative endevour in and of itself. With this goal in mind, founding partners Pati Hertling and Thymaya Payne (who both have years of experience in the art and film worlds) have created Material Vodka as an initiative to support radical, non-commercial artist practices through grants, residencies, and production support. The vodka, distilled in California’s Lost Coast, is hand filtered with virgin coconut carbon, promising a clean finish, on the rocks or mixed. Document catches up with Pati Hertling to discuss capitalism, artist grants, and her favorite fall cocktails.
How did Material come about? Its a refreshingly simple idea: using capitalism against itself. Is there anything else like this?
A couple of years ago we were sitting around a bit frustrated by the lack of “free” space for artists to make things outside of the conventional market. We thought maybe we should make a non-commercial space or a foundation to support alternative arts. Thymaya had just gotten back from making a film in Africa where he had sort of been turned off by a lot of the NGO’s (not all) that sort of live off constant crisis in that part of the world. We discussed the non-profit path and realized that although admirable we were more interested in subverting from within. So we thought it would be interesting to try and do something within and see if we could harness the incredible energy of the market to do something fun and interesting and also along the way give jobs to talented people. Vodka was perfect as it’s this stable product that does well in good times and bad, and we thought if we could get this going it could be like a base foundation for the people taking risks and pushing our culture forward. Plus we like to drink and love a good vodka! I think there are plenty of companies that have a mandate to do good. We almost think it’s the new norm, like of course you have to be positive in your community. We live in a taking society, we really are inspired by the idea of creating something that also gives instead of just taking.
What types of grants are you looking to provide in the short term and long term, and how will they be awarded?
We give out four awards to artists we think are challenging the status quo and working in fields that are not traditionally commercial. The grants are humble as we are just starting out but as we grow they will grow and we can give out more and more substantial amounts. If we had a small percentage of the US vodka market we could be one of the largest art funders in the country and have a real impact. So it’s simple, for every bottle sold about a dollar goes to this fund. And in the future we would like to set up meaningful residencies in CA, NY and maybe one day Mexico.
What fall vodka cocktail should we be drinking?
The Material Negroni: Material Vodka, Salers, Cocchi Americano and Grapefruit Twist.
Where can we buy Material, and is it available online?
We just started a great relationship with this very cool store in Tribeca called Broadway Spirits. We will be collaborating with them soon on a totally unique Material pop-up shop in their store. You can order it online from that store and they deliver in Lower Manhattan. We are working on getting more stores in Brooklyn and uptown. We’ve only been open for a month so baby steps. Our website has a list of all of our stores/bars in NY and LA. If your local store or bar does not have us ask for us. Best way to get into stores is through customer word of mouth. Photograph by TM Davy.