This post started as an exposition of recent gifts I made for dear friends of mine. I felt proud of some crocheting techniques I learned myself. I wanted to share how fulfilling it feels to give something handmade to someone you love…
Fulfilling or not, writing this post made me realise why DIY or crafting has become such a big part of my life. This realisation is a story that felt never clear nor worth sharing. Partly because DIY often feels so futile, partly because it is in basis a story about world views and politics. And how on earth do politics and frivolous creativity meet?
My interest for DIY and crafting arose in a time when I felt stuck with my consumeristic behaviour.
I followed a course on Alain Badiou and Antonio Negri. Two thinkers and activists from the Marxist tradition, whose thinking touched upon problems with the Neoclassic and Neoliberal traditions. Reading their thoughts I learned that the Neo-classicist paradigm I grow up in, is just one of the possible paradigms. The system I grew up in was created and is not the only possible system. There could be other social economical systems, with other benefits. Only it is not easy to calculate what benefits outweigh others, and what prices outweigh others.
Beyond the lectures, I started to encounter the world around me in a different way. What struck me most was my rising awareness of my geographical privilege within the neoclassic paradigm I lived in. I am born in a country – the Netherlands – where many people belong to the 1% most rich people in the world (that is an income above €50.000 a year). Of course I am very grateful for the life I am living with all its security and opportunities. Nevertheless this awareness caused me to feel a ‘so-called’ privilege guilt and a sense of shame; I have been taken my way of living for granted for so long. Before my encounter with Badiou and Negri, I had never really opened my eyes for living conditions in other parts of the world.
It is a very modest way and does not go far enough, but my way of dealing with this issue for now, is largely to understand where things around me come from. I follow this path of thinking: I can’t change the system I live in, but I can change my attitude towards my consumption. Through educating myself, I challenge my consumeristic behaviour and try to understand the processes by which we consume. By reading articles, following actualities in other parts of the world, watching documentaries, going to lectures, and – most importantly – talking to others about it, this kind of education can take place.
As a consequence of this educational attitude, I also embraced the world of DIY. Like most people around me I bought (and often still buy) carelessly, without considering consequences for people on the other side of the world. Mainly because it is simply hard to track all the sources and resources, and it is hard to stand all the temptation. When making your own things or buying things that are crafted by someone (through Etsy for example), these two problems are more absent. Another benefit is that you start to realise better what certain things in your life are worth. The real value of things; the time and energy it causes to create something.. the amount of supplies used.. where products come from.. how they can be reused and recycled..
Like the Arts and Crafts movement around 1900, the DIY movement can be understood as a reaction to global injustice in the creation of products we consume. It can even be understood as a form of activism, like Betsy Greer’s idea of craftivism. Betsy explains how craft can be a cheerful form of activism in which you fight ‘against useless materialism or making items for charity’ and simultaneously connect to the world and others around you. The more I think about it, the more I belief I might have a little craftivist inside me as well. DIY has value far beyond the pleasure of creating through craft. The beauty of it, is that the more you explore, the more you learn, the more you experiment, the more you create, the more joy it will bring you, and the more joy it can bring others.
If I would schematise this process it would follow these 4 steps:
1) Try expand and open up your worldview by challenging it.
2) Learn from this challenge and increase your knowledge about it.
3) Grow by finding beautiful solutions to deal and live with it.
4) And last but not least: If you find yourself in the same place as me, try the world of DIY. It can increase a continuous awareness and the more you grow the more you can give in return (like amazing gifts for your loved ones).
So, that is why I DIY! What do you think about this approach to DIY? And could you relate to this idea of craftivism?