Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Let's make something.

Remember back when you were a kid and you made stuff? Depending on what era you're from, you used wood scraps, or Lincoln Logs, or an Erector set, or Legos.  But you made things.  When's the last time you made something?

A hundred years ago, most countries were rural places, where the main occupation was farming.  Farmers with a shortage of money but ample ingenuity often made their own furniture, or their own tools, or whatever they needed around the house. 

But cultures urbanized when people moved to cities, and cheap imported good became common.  Schools stopped teaching shop classes in favor of teaching standardized tests, and soon we had a lot of people who never thought of making anything.

That's changing.

In the United States, I see growing evidence of people returning to the idea that when you need something, you can make it yourself.  I hope it's happening in other countries, too.

It's not just the tough economy, although I think that's a factor.  When money is tight, you don't sell your old car or motorcycle, you fix it and keep it running.  And fixing things is great.  But there is also the joy of making something, whether it's something practical that you need or just something that you want.  Making it yourself means the object is customized to exactly what you want, plus there is the pride of creation.

A few examples of this movement are the Instructables website and the Maker Faire.  Instructables is an online community where people can upload instructions of something they've made and how they made it.  Then others can rate these projects and comment on them, and modify them for their own use.  Categories include Food, Living, Outside, Play, Technology and Workshop.  Big categories break into smaller ones.  For example, the Outside section includes subcategories on Survival, Camping, Knots, Bikes, Water, Snow, etc.  You can make everything from a plush toy for your kids (or yourself) to an inexpensive bicycle lock.  The keys are that people share what they've learned, and you're making something yourself.

Maker Faire is a festival that started in California in 2006, and has since spread to other states.  It celebrates the DIY (do-it-yourself) spirit of invention and creativity.  And it's a format for thousands of people to come together and exchange ideas.  If you've watched the show Mythbusters and marveled at the devices they build, you won't be surprised to see Adam Savage interviewed at one of the Maker Faires.

Every day we all face needs and wants, and find innovative ways to deal with them.  I suspect we all do more making, often in small ways, than we think we do.  But if you haven't picked up a tool in a while and made something, take a look at these sites and others around the Internet...and then go make something.

(The tool pic is from:

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