I was all set to compose a riveting post (pun intended) about the creative work of Invo designer Sarah Kaiser, who sits next to me, makes me tea, and amazes me several times a day with her magical skills. While thinking about how to frame this little story, I did some quick research into Maker culture, which seemed to be the right context. I discovered that the theory of constructivism that I had studied so long ago in college, is a foundational value of Makers. Venturing over to Pinterest opened a whole new world of time-sink bliss with links to education, science, school libraries, learning, DIY, projects, and—yes!!—design.
But then I happened to open Facebook (note to self: no FB before homework is done). A literary academic friend had posted a link to a scathing article that very nearly burst my artisanal, plant-dyed, spun-local-organic cane sugar balloon: Keywords for the Age of Austerity 12: DIY (Do It Your [Damn] Self). Here I sat in my cozy little home studio, surrounded by my craft library and supplies (yes, some rescued from the trash) and read this political rant against an admittedly appalling suggestion that poor residents of government housing learn to make their own repairs. It was the trashing of middle-class do-it-yourselfers (hey, that’s me!), along with the reference to “the apolitical hubris that ... fatally compromise[d] the Arts and Crafts and 60s ‘maker’ movements” that bothered me. Yes, I understood his points about lack of significant economic reforms in the context of those historical movements. And that the DIY trends of the 1950s and 60s and even now were and are heavily gender-biased. In my childhood years it was my oldest brother who subscribed to Popular Mechanics and built Healthkit radio sets. He once bottled his own root beer and we spent summer nights listening to the caps blow off the bottles in the basement. My mom made many of my clothes and I was sewing by the time I was 8 or so, we made grape jelly and pie from scratch and never used gravy from a can or a bottle. My dad, a doctor, wasn’t “handy” but, when my sister tore her ACL in a childhood fall, he splinted her leg with cedar shakes and sanitary pads wrapped with Ace™ bandages.