self reliance and consumerism, where’s the balance?

I don’t know what everyone’s childhood experience is like but I can speak from my own personal experience. As a child, everything we ever needed could be found at Walmart or Walgreens or the local mall. When I wanted to buy new clothes, I got a summer job, worked, saved up the money, and then went to the mall and spent all my money.

At no point growing up did the concept of creating the things you need cross my mind. I don’t think my experience in this is isolated but rather a product of our generation and the very close relationship our culture has with consumerism. If you can dream it, you can purchase it if you have the money or the credit cards.

When I met my friend Mandy last August and she told me she made her own handmade soaps, VeVe’s Handmade, for both her own use and for sale, I had to ask why or how someone starts to do that. I could not tell you what she told me then, it was 3am at a party with lots of people and conversations surrounding us.

But I do recall the impression it left on me as a person. I remember her talking about her daughter Ve and how her daughter inspired her to do it in some ways. I remember thinking that it was such a cool and proper thing to be independent of a job and have your own business and be an intelligent woman and not answer to anyone, and I remember being impressed and thinking about what a great influence this would be on cute little Ve.

Coming up to the one year anniversary of meeting Mandy and my views have changed. It’s not that my opinion about it has changed, but there’s been an addition to my perspective about what she does. And to give credit where it is due, my friend Ed has also taught me a lot about the concept of making and creating your own things. Ed blows glass and has made some really interesting things.

So here I am, gaining an appreciation for things that are handmade without any recollection of ever making something for myself with some few exceptions. I remember learning to sew for girl scouts, but I cannot recall what I made with that and I have a clear recollection of the fact that I did it for girl scouts, for a badge, and not for my own personal use.

Anything else I have ever created include creative writing, graphic arts, websites, photography, and other artistic projects. But all those things lack a physical feel and an everyday use that I can appreciate. Yes, my old creative writing wasn’t good quality but I still gained something from the experience but in a personal and internal way.

After reading about the Make movement and having discussion with people, you begin to look back and wonder what it would be like to be self-sustainable and no longer rely on a corporation to produce products for you. The sci-fi nerd in me looks to the future and sees things like THX1138 as an actual possibility. Will there be a day when we no longer have any creative output into the world and only exist to consume?

So I started to research online and think about what daily things I could make on my own and probably found more than I could have possibly expected and given the right amount of time, the instructions were fairly easy and achievable. Now if I could invent a time machine to give myself the time to do all these things, life would be great.

But I thought that just because I have two jobs and classes starting soon, that doesn’t mean I should give up on all the ideas I’ve collected in my research and ponderings. So my blog here is my way of keeping these ideas somewhere safe so that I can return to them when the opportunities arise that I can actually follow through.

1. Strawberry Jam. Yes, I love this shit. I eat peanut butter and jelly like it’s going out of style and I’m still a college student so I’m allowed to not ever cook and eat real meals. My mom spoiled me in this department and made so many of her own jams that I got very snobby about the jams and jelly’s I’ll use. I don’t think my mom has made any recently but now I hate the jelly I buy from the store and the consumption of peanut and jelly sandwiches is at an all time low.

2. With my photography comes the picture frames. This is mainly inspired by the fact that I am struggling to figure out which pictures from my recent travels to be framed and put up on the walls. It would be interesting to create my own picture frames and base their design on the pictures that go into it. This would add another element to the picture itself.

3. Purses. I was thinking about making my own handbags and purses, maybe even with printed fabric using my photography.

4. Candles and Incense.

5. Halloween Costume. Even though I haven’t learned how to sew, I think I’d like to try making my own and sewing it together with my own fabrics. I have, in the past, usually put together my own costume but with clothes already in my closet.

I will continue to add new ideas to the list as I think of more things and please feel free to send any ideas my way or join me in creating any of these things. I have a lot going on right now, but by next summer, I definitely want to make Jams and start doing more fun projects like this.