When you’re bequeathed several vintage gumball machines, the gift comes with a mandate to do something creative. But what? That was the dilemma...
When you’re bequeathed several vintage gumball machines, the gift comes with a mandate to do something creative. But what? That was the dilemma recently facing Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud of Los Angeles’s Commonstudio design firm. “A family member had a vending machine hobby for years, and we we're lucky enough to inherit a handful of them,” Phillips says. “[But] it didn’t feel right to just fill them up with candy.” Then they lit upon a new version of an old idea: seed-bombs. Originally conceived in the 1970s by an activist group in New York, these “bombs” are essentially seed packets bundled for optimal urban deployment: Toss one in a vacant lot, and soon you’ll see flowers growing.
Of course, few people are likely to concoct these on their own. But what if they could simply drop some coins in a slot and pocket a seed-bomb for the road, then wing some beautification at the next blight they saw? That’s where the candy machines came in. With proliferation in mind, Phillips and Karlsrud decided to try designing seedbombs that would fit in the old machines. “We came up with our own recipe, scaled these down to the size of a gumballs... and it worked!” Phillips recalls. They suddenly had an instant dispenser of urban improvement.
Since placing their first seed-bomb vending machine in Los Angeles’s Chinatown neighborhood, the pair have added approximately 20 outposts to the initiative they call Greenaid, mainly around West L.A., and they have funding for 12 more in other locations. (Nearly needless to say, they customize their wildflower blends for regional accuracy.) But the project is less about total plantings than making it extremely easy to make cities slightly better.
Photos courtesy of Common Studio