Friday, September 26, 2008

When times are tight, we buy less and make more

So I've been thinking about the moral/social/aesthetic value of making things by hand. There seems to be a renaissance of hand-craft in mainstream culture happening right now; perhaps a confluence of hippy-, hacker- and artistic-aesthetic. I like making things. I like the things that others make by hand. And it feels as if it is more than a mere preference. It feels like there is something spiritual about the act of making something; resisting entropy; carving a niche in the world of chaos; saying "no" to destruction.

It is clear that here in America — and in much of the world now too, our spending-power is dropping. And with market-instability many of us fear that it could begin to drop precipitously. As we look back at our 20th century history, it's clear that in response to the Great Depression and the rationing of World War II, ingenuity spiked with truck patches, victory gardens and the boom of the DIY industry. You can make stuff from relatively inexpensive — even second-hand, elements and save money while engaging in a higher pursuit.

So these ideas are rolling around in my head on a pretty constant basis these days. It happens that one of the blogs I read is the MAKE: magazine blog. It collects lots of cool articles on various fabrication methods from all over the net. But just today, it has two links that aren't about bending a synth-toy or building homes out of styrofoam. They're kind of reflective, philosophical and along these lines that I've been thinking. So here, I'll just point you to them:

An editorial about how the maker aesthetic can make a better world.

And a piece about the reality of self-reliance in a makerly and recession-proof way.

We've really gotten away from making stuff over the past hundred+ years as we embraced large-scale industry and automation. We buy stuff made all over the world. We go out for dinner. And most of us no longer have a lot of skills that would have once been taken for granted. If you accept that the world is made better when more things of care and beauty exist, then making things — nice things, helps to make the world a better place for all of us. Let's assume that you're not among the world's most handy 1% and already making stuff every day.

You don't have to be. Learn a skill. Do it today. Anything. Weave a place-mat, learn to cook, start working with electronics simulators, sew a blouse, make jewelry from pop cans — or anything.

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