Those of Us Who Can Make

June 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

One of the zillion DIY/shelter/crafting blogs I read ( in this case) had a post the other day about replicating some nice baby blankets from a fancy baby store, because “the price is still pretty steep, especially for those of us who can make.” I loved that. Not “those of us who can make blankets” or “those of us who can sew things” or cook food or plant gardens. Just the verb: those of us who can make.

I always wanted, in an envious way, to be an artist. My grandmother was, and I inherited her love of art supplies but not her talent to use them. I thought that creativity was about taking the most basic elements like brushstrokes on a canvas and making something entirely new and never before composed out of them, or taking words and creating a novel (not just any novel, but a novel novel), or even coming up with new questions and the ways to answer them in a scientific laboratory. It took me a long time to realize that my own creativity just came in different forms, maybe with different or less-raw raw materials or a product that was grounded in some more direct purpose. I am no good at painting, but I can take beads and put them together to make some pretty great jewelry, and I wear my own jewelry all the time. I don’t write fiction, but I’m good at reflective essays that communicate something important I’ve learned or experienced. And I may never call myself an artist, or even a craftsperson in the sense of someone who refines and refines their skill to its height, but I think I can be a maker: one of those of us who can make.

That idea means a few things. One, the drive is first and foremost the verb, not the object: I am driven to make, whether it’s dinner, or jam, or a quilt, or a strawberry patch. In middle school I read a sci-fi/fantasy series about “Alvin Maker,” an ordinary hero who battles the entropic dark forces of the universe by constantly making something, anything, even a little basket woven of grass. I may not be battling the dark forces of the universe but I am driven nonetheless to be able to say that, at the end of the day, at least I made something. My job can at times be pretty thankless, especially the level I’m at right now, and it’s easy to lose sight of the point of it, or to feel like a whole day or week or month went by without accomplishing much. But if I can take a few hours a week and make… then at least I made something. I am also making in a way that many, many people have made before me: mostly women, and some men, who made because they had to in order to care for their households or to make their lives a little nicer or more beautiful. Making used to be expected, and so maybe it was taken for granted, and cooking or crafting or “women’s work” was undervalued. Now, I have the luxury of choosing to work in a job that does not directly require making, that uses my brain far more than my hands, and that historically has not been open to women. But I can also choose to make in my spare time as a way to connect myself to those women, to that tradition, and to the authenticity that comes from doing something with my own hands.

Two, being “one of those of us who can make” means I am part of a community of people who feel that same drive: the obsessive quilters, the prolific paper crafters, the punk domestics, the DIY nesters. It is from all of them, from the weird incredible thing that is the Internet, that I learned how to sew and how to can and how to garden. I owe them so much gratitude, both for the collective knowledge and for the passion and the attitude that say “this is what I make, and it’s what I love, and you can make it too.” With their help, I have become someone who can make… a quilt, or a jam, or a repainted cabinet. It is with that spirit that I am restarting this blog as a more active chronicle of our life here in the little blue cottage in the shire, with the hopes that I can contribute some recipes or tutorials that I couldn’t find on the Internet when I was searching for them, or some lessons learned as I pick up new skills. When I came back from a trip to San Francisco obsessed with the pickled carrots from Tartine, I Googled “Tartine carrot recipe” and found out I definitely wasn’t the only one looking. Those of us who can make, who feel the drive to make, are out there and I hope we can recreate amazing pickled carrots together. I’ll let you know what I learn along the way.


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