When I was 14 I read an article in Seventeen Magazine that shared how some everyday household items could double as hair care products. Among them, mayonnaise. Mayonnaise (I found out) works also as a conditioner, so I had to try it out. I don’t remember if it worked any better than the Herbal Essences I used to use then, but I was so excited about this innovation that I kept mayo in the shower for almost two weeks before my poor parents realized what was going on.
I share this gross story because the DIY innovations, and tips and tricks that I see today aren’t all that revolutionary when you’re just giving your money to Kraft (now Mondelez International as of Oct 2012) rather than Procter & Gamble. DIY for novelty’s sake doesn’t forward anything, doesn’t actually teach us anything, and perpetuates consumption for consumptions sake.
I admit that I’ve been browsing the interwebs, gawking and loving up hundreds of crafty blogs and websites each offering tutorials, features of other websites, and glimpses into the writers’ lives. They are each unique in their own way: urban farmers in love with their chickens, mother of three working to live as frugally as possible, chef turned to jewelry maker… each is unique and has a step forward into the DIY world that is blossoming more than ever through these online venues. But I am calling myself out, and I invite everyone in the crafting webmosphere to step up. There’s times when I wake up from my scrolling and see myself as starved for consumption, wanting to find the next big thing, wanting some cool new gadget, some neat new trick, some handy tool, wanting wanting wanting….
It’s no secret that the industrial revolution in the United States pushed domestic workers into factories, men and women (and children) alike. Families living in urban areas got caught into the machines and corporations grew exponentially because of that near slave labor. In the 1950’s, the iconoclastic housewife was left as the last remaining member in the home. The dominant culture of that time was propelled by commercial interests and the White middle class housewife was the target for most advertising campaigns. She spent her days preparing for and hosting gatherings at the home, kept the children clean and fed, and tidied the house or depended on people of color to do these services for her.
Why do I bring this up? Because I feel like history is repeating. We are still obsessing over hosting parties, and making sure that the turkey is cooked just so. We are obsessing over decor and trading secrets for upholstery care. Heck, just look at my Pinterest boards. We are still turning a blind eye to the labor, environmental destruction, and privilege that we are wasting by doing this. Overall, I am scared that we are spending our time consuming and spinning ourselves into circles. We’re not really creating anything here. Crafting is becoming more of a means to consume, than to create and empower.
Now, I’m loving the slow and steady trend that is climbing for bringing homesteading techniques back into our memory and upcycling techniques for turning trash to usable items… but painting a chalkboard onto a silver platter for cute decor, or painting plastic animals isn’t really forwarding anything (and I’m calling myself out on this too!) There are injustices happening under our feet because we waste our time and don’t look up. We are promoting below living standards for retail workers across the globe and the international outsourcing of jobs and production when we shop at Walmart, Michaels, and Target. In this capitalist country, we are voting for the practices of these mega stores (and impossibly mega owners) by shopping there. We are continuing this blind consumption from the 50’s and it’s not all that cute to me when women are living into the “housewife” concept.
Crafts aren’t meant to be cheap for the sake of saving pennies, to go buy more crafting materials. Buying at mega stores or online (and again, I’m totally calling myself out on this) is contributing to outsourced jobs, cheaply made biohazardous production made with disposable workers often people of color, in excruciatingly toxic packaging that is immediately thrown into our trash cans.
Crafts aren’t meant to simply fill time or make you feel good about being able to point to something in the room and say, “You like that pillow? I made it from a pattern on Pinterest!” Crafts to me are the gateway to personal independence from corporations. Crafting to me means that I can learn to make my own plates, spool my own yarn, make my own soap. Crafting means that I can limit my waste and hold everything that I own as sacred. I am not condoning making things beautiful. I am calling myself out for making things that waste far more than my eyes can actually see for something that is purely for decor reasons, or is temporary. The kind of crafting that I am committed to brings me back to the simplicities of living in community and sharing with people around me. When my neighbor’s tomato plant went crazy he brought me a basket of tomatoes. In return I brought him tomato jam. To me, crafting is asking for help from a neighbor on learning to fix my bike basket instead of opting to buy another one. It’s about getting more intimate with my food and challenging myself to only eat from our garden or the farmers market. Crafting means that I get to limit paying taxes to a government feeding war and destruction, spoiled by these all-powerful international corporations. Crafting means that I get to give money to people I love directly, or trade what I make for their expertise in body and health care. Crafting is about local economies, reclaiming independence, and slowing the war machine. I am calling myself out and I am taking a stand. I am committed to crafting truly creating something.
Mayo Trick credited to Centsational Girl
Retro craft projects brought to you by Kitschy Kitschy Koo
Diaper cake is credited to Moody Girl in Style
Clothes pin tea wreath is credited to Kojo Designs
Seeds are credited to one of my favorite urban farming sites, Heavy Petal