Meet a Sandbox Member: Brian W. JonesNovember 24th, 2009 by Sara Usinger
Sandbox member Brian W. Jones is currently living in Greensboro, Alabama where he helped start PieLab, a welcoming community space focused on civic engagement, economic revitalization, and job training. He describes himself as a designer, “trying to redefine what that means and the role I play in business”.
What is your latest project?
I’m working on a few things right now, but a recent project getting a lot of notice is PieLab—an idea developed at a Project M session last spring with a group of 14 designers. I showed up as an advisor, but ended up leaving as a participant, really believing in this idea. But, to make the project really happen, someone needed to act. So in just a few weeks, three others and myself moved to Alabama and began building what would become PieLab.
PieLab is a welcoming community space focused on civic engagement, economic revitalization, and job training in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. It also operates as a design studio working on community development projects and small business incubation. The initial plan was to open a pop-up shop for the summer, but after receiving a few small grants and being well received by the community, we opened a permanent location on Maine Street earlier this month.
What are you doing and how did you get there?
I’m no longer involved in the daily routines of PieLab, but I take part in meetings, volunteer on weekends, and continue to run my own studio from the back of the shop. Project M—a program started by John Bielenberg that inspires young designers to prove their work can have a positive and significant impact on the world—has played a large role in where I am now, as well as a number of the places I’ve been in the past. John is a good friend and colleague who I continue to collaborate with on various endeavors.
Tell us about the biggest successes and failures in your life. What worked, what didn’t, and what did you learn?
The day PieLab opened may have been one of the most successful of my life. To see something so large, conceived of and brought to life in less than two months—with just $600—had a profound impact on what I view as possible. I haven’t really had a major failure, but I’m still young, give me time. One thing I continually learn from everything I do is that there will always be people doing nothing, who will criticize everything you do—ignore them and don’t give up.
What do you want to achieve in the next week, the next year, the next 10 years?
This week I’ll be in New York, so I’d like to meet a few Sandboxers in real life and continue to grow the relationships I’ve begun virtually. In the next year, I hope to start grad school at Yale or live overseas. There’s a lot to be learned from European culture and business that I think will be imperative to future success in the U.S. In the next ten, I’d like to start a profitable business that’s just as engaged in the community as a non-profit one.
What was your most inspring moment during the last two weeks?
A delicious bowl of mushroom risotto. Great food is a tangible example of creativity at its best.