Sunday, March 30, 2014

Making It

We made our own wedding invitations.  Matt's mother, Sharon, is a downright wiz with cards.  My mother has a pretty good hand in that department, too.  Matt and I, well, we know nothing, but are receptive students.

Sharon, Matt, and I got together and figured out what the invitations would look one Saturday afternoon earlier this year.  We then set a date to make them all--assembly line style.  My mom said she was so happy to have Matt help with making the invitations.  She said most men don't seem to be into stamping and crafting like that and would just leave it to us women-folk.  I am glad about it too, frankly, but not surprised.  I told her Matt just likes to make stuff.  He's not going to take up card-making as a hobby or anything, but if cards need made he would gladly help make them himself rather than go purchase something mass-produced and generic.  That is the way he is.  That is the way we are.  We are do-it-yourselfers.  We are creators.  We are builders.  We are artisans.  We are makers.
Building raised beds in the garden with our windfall of free lumber.
I went to a session at a library conference in February about "makers" and "makerspaces" in libraries--which is apparently a growing trend.  Prior to the conference my only exposure to this movement had been through a magazine we subscribe to at the library called Make.  The magazine mostly focuses on the high-tech end of things and as a result was only marginally interesting to me.  Turns out, that is just the tip of the maker iceberg.
Baking grandma's wacky cake for my cousin's birthday.
A little background information is probably in order.  Makers are just that--people who like to make things.  Makerspaces are just spaces designated for making things with the necessary tools and equipment--usually public, shared spaces which enable collaboration and shared learning.
Mending an old favorite canvas bag.
The item that is made in the space varies widely--it can be primitive crafts such as weaving grass baskets or high-tech such as programming robots.  During the session we heard from a few institutions in Montana that were actively cultivating and providing space for a maker culture.  And it was really cool.  I was quite impressed.
Pointing out a particularly vigorous cabbage seedling.
One of the institutions was a private college in northwestern Montana.  They had done research with employers in their area and found that there were qualities lacking in the incoming workforce.  These notably included poor critical thinking skills, poor problem solving ability, and a low ability to work together, collaboratively, as part of a team.  Naturally, low performance in these areas has far-reaching impact on the employer, the community, and ultimately the whole world.
Serving a homemade trifecta:  seed crackers, cashew cheese, and pepper-garlic jelly.
Makers, in general, excel at these things.  So, the idea is that if we--as libraries, universities, schools, individuals, and communities--encourage more people to build, craft, construct, wire, draft, glue, paint, program, etc, then we will have a population who are better equipped to solve problems and think critically as part of a team.  Clearly a population like that that would benefit us all.
Making postcards out of seed packets.
I think its pretty brilliant.
Making music with friends.
There are at least two libraries in Montana that are offering dedicated spaces for making things--Great Falls Public and Missoula Public--though there may be more.  At these libraries users can check out a book or learn how to use scrap-booking tools.  They can use the internet or they can wire and program a catbot. They can attend storytime or build a birdhouse at the construction station.   They can print a resume on the laser printer or they can make a working ukulele at the 3D printer.  I think its a pretty great way for the library to serve the community.  Apparently the State Library has created a traveling kit of maker supplies that can be hosted by libraries around the state for designated periods of time.  I think we're going to try to bring it to our library.  I think it would be fun and educational--and I love that.
Knitting with my niece in her homemade tie-dye get-up.
It seems to me that nearly everyone gains pride and satisfaction when they make or build something from scratch--even, and possibly especially, when they don't do it very often.  And I don't think it really matter what sort of making it we're talking about--whether it is to stamp cards, bake cakes, fix old cars, sew quilts, build computers, carve wood,  grow flowers, or whatever.  That part isn't the important bit.  The important part is just to make something.  To stretch the brain.  To expand the world.  To put the hands to work.  To have fun.  To learn new skills.  To test what is possible.  And to watch something come into existence through the process.
Cutting spinach pasta.
For me, making things is infinitely more interesting and rewarding than buying them.  The end products are more unique, more customized, and of greater immaterial value.  And if I must buy things, say honey or yarn or other items that I do not yet have the capability of making myself, I like to know the person who made them, like the rancher and Thackery.  Makers trading with makers.  That's a community philosophy that I hope continues to spread throughout the world.
Picking herbs in the rain.
Hooray for making it.  By the way, there is a great "radical home-ec" book out there called Making It that is totally awesome.  I highly recommend it.
Sewing a new dress.
My newest project is to learn how to make is soap.  Matt's is to build a greenhouse.  One step after another has taken me so very far.  I think this is the next step in the journey.


  1. I love this post. I love making things. It's so fulfilling. :)

    1. Yay for makers like you!! I am so glad to know we're out there!

  2. Me too, I love this post and making things! I have a friend who runs a group called "the making place" whereby folk meet weekly to make and chat. I take part in another venture of hers on a once a month basis, called "make and cake", the eating part is just as valid as the making part!

    Our local home ed community also has access to a community workshop where the kids can throw a pot, work on a woodturning lathe or have a go at all things techie with a raspberry pi!

    Let us know how you get on with the soap making!

    San x

    1. Wow. That sounds like a really, really cool group--and homeschool community. Very cool. I've been kicking around the idea of starting something like that here. I'd love to know more people like me locally (rather than in the blogosphere). I am sure it would be a challenge and a lot of work at first, but oh, it would be wonderful. I now have all my soap supplies and will get to it this week. I will, undoubtedly, post about my experience.

  3. That new dress you're making is gorgeous!! My next little step is learning how to sew :)

    1. I cannot believe how far I've come with my sewing. I bet you'd be a natural at it--or at least a quick study! I'd like to say I'm here if you ever have any questions or anything, but I know I've sure learned the most muddling through on my own. But, you know, if I could be of help I'd be glad to. I finished the dress, but haven't gotten around to taking decent photos of it yet. But, soon!

  4. Beth, I love this post! I realized I'm a maker! Our library is discussing a renovation and I was at first annoyed to hear them talking about including making spaces. The library is always short of money, so I thought it made sense to stick to traditional library turf. But you explained how logical it is to encourage people to make things via the library, a shared community space. Wow. Thank you.

    1. I am so pleasantly surprised and pleased to be able to help you appreciate more the new directions your library is taking! I can see the concern about losing traditional library services, but I can see this as a very valuable new service for our communities! Of course, balance is key. And you are 100%, totally a maker. And a great one at that!

  5. My favorite thing to "make" is art via photography :) Cooking is SLOWLY becoming an interest as well. My BF recently asked if I can plant flowers.. so we'll see about that lol.

    1. You never know what your next undertaking might result in!! You take wonderful photos, but if I recall correctly this is something you've learned in the last handful of years. Anything is possible as long as we try and I know that you do!

  6. I love this post! I've made soap for years, you'll be a natural! I think i'm going to grab my husbands drill and figure out how to put up a raised bed! This kind of learning gets my blood pumping. Knowledge is power!

    1. Amen to that! I wish you happy drilling!! Do you have a soap recipe you've found to be tried and true?


Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!