We Don’t Make Stuff Anymore?

We hear it a lot lately.  Americans buy stuff, sell stuff, outsource, perform services, hedge, swap and speculate, but whatever happened to Made In America? 

People have been making stuff since people became people–making stuff with our hands, using our brains, it’s what we do.  It’s what makes us human.  It also makes us happy. 

Have you heard of the “maker movement,” Make magazine (makezine.com), and Maker Faire?  I saw a piece on TV a couple of months ago about Maker Faire, which started in the SF Bay area just a few years ago, held there in May.  Apparently they’re popping up all over the country now.  They’re all about people making things and showing them off at the faire.  It’s DIY with a flair.  Here’s a 2 minute delight, all moving pictures and music, a celebration of human creativity:

Doesn’t that make you smile?  Sort of revives your faith in human nature (if for some reason it was flagging).  My 2nd grade granddaughter’s animal project—displayed last week in the annual 2nd grade animal project fair—will take up space on the dining room table for the next, I don’t know, few months at least.  We worked on it together, but she didn’t let me do much.  She didn’t invent anything new, but she made stuff with her hands.  Whales in their little oceanic habitat.  In 7th grade she’ll have to invent something new.  I know because we’re on the 3d generation in our household.  Her dad and his sibs had their projects.  Her dad never kept a gadget in tact very long.  Couldn’t wait to take it apart and turn it into something else.  Inherited that gene from his dad, the cowboy.  The cowboy is the original jack of all trades.  If you can’t do it yourself you don’t need it. 


This is a homemade computer from the Make Faire.  I remember when William Weasel made a much simpler-looking one back when we were sophomores in high school—beat me out of first place in our science fair.  All it did was emit one or two puffs of air—binary something or other—and produce answers to a few little tiny math problems.  But at that time no one had a PC or a hand-held calculator.  Computers were big mainframe jobs.  My second-place clay models of the heads of our prehistoric ancestors, while artistic, were ancient history.


Isn’t this cool?  “Lily pad” pool warmers made from hula hoops and sheets of plastic.  Make magazine.

You Never Can Tell - 3

We Riders are makers in our own write.  We make books.  Well, we make the stories.  We’re quite the job creators, too.  Publishers like Bell Bridge Books make the actual books—YOU NEVER CAN TELL (sequel to THE LAST GOOD MAN) will be out mid-June—and after that there’s a whole series of jobs to be done to get the books into various formats which will finally reach readers’ hands. 

But everyone makes things, and getting paid for it isn’t the be-all and end-all.  There’s curiosity and creativity to be exercised, frustration and light bulb moments to be experienced.  And there’s the joy in the finished product.  The whole idea of a Maker Faire really rings my chimes.  I hope to attend one sometime, along with my kids, my grandkids, and my cowboy.

What do you make?  How do you display it, share it, celebrate it and use it?


About Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen Eagle is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty novels.
This entry was posted in books, creativity, invention, Maker Faire, making things, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to We Don’t Make Stuff Anymore?

  1. Linda says:

    I would have to agree with you that most people don’t make things anymore. I am always on the look out for a person who can sew- I do a horrible job of sewing when it is not an animate thing. I have also come to realize most people don’t cook from scratch any more. That is something that I do though. I cook as much from scratch as possible. In my job there are time that I have to make things because the animal is to small for the ready made items. This usually involves splints. When it is a 1 pound dog or cat a regular splint would weigh more then the animal. So those of some of the things that I still make.

    • Ah, Linda, you have the makings of a cowboy. I need a detail for a scene, I go back in my head to the days when we were ranching–I use “we” loosely–and I’d be the doubter when Clyde would come up with a Mouse Trap Game solution to a problem. “You have to use what you’ve got,” he’d say. More often than not it worked.

  2. Leanne says:

    Kathleen, I love this blog and I love hearing about your granddaughters’ adventures in school. I hate to confess it, but I wasn’t very good at Science. My family, though, is good at jerry rigging things that are broken or need some repair. For example, I found a small hole in the upholstery on the back of my dark navy sofa. White stuffing was showing through,so I thought I needed to pay to get it repaired. She said, “Why don’t you just buy a small piece of dark navy material and put it in that tiny hole? No one will know the difference.” She was right!lol

    • Leanne says:

      Oops, just checked. I used the wrong term. Jury rig is proper.:)

      • I had to look that one up once, too. I think it’s one of those evolving terms. Clyde’s always talking about “jerry-rigging.”

        Funny! He’s just coming in the door–went to fix an outside spigot for a neighbor. I wonder if he used baling wire.

  3. bellwriter says:

    Holy moley, what an inspiring post, Kathleen. I kind of was in the duldrums today over the job market report. You reignited my confidence. I loved the American flags on the pin ball machine and that lily pad warmer in the swimming pool makes me want to dive right in. But most of all I love the cover of your book and can’t wait to read it. I feel like I’ve been given a gentle slap upside my head. Thanks, I needed that!!!

  4. Eve Gaddy says:

    Great post, Kathleen. Loved the video. I think my fave was the dragon see-saw:)

  5. Lisa Scott says:

    I wonder if we lose our need to make things as we get older. My 8 year old daughter literally has hundreds of stuffed animals, yet she delights in crafting her own out of felt. She has tons of toys, but loves to make dollhouses out of cardboard boxes. (I’m sure you can imagine the clutter in our house!) But I really love when she staples sheets of white paper together and makes her own books. Can’t wait to show her my first Bell book when it comes out this November. Thanks for the inspiring post. (Wish I had a pool to put some hula hoop lily pads in!)

    • Oh, Lisa, I hear you! My granddaughters had been acquiring fairy stuff set by set a couple of years ago, but they we sure the fairies would come Christmas Eve if they made them a house out of a cardboard box and fashioned tiny cardboard furniture, added upholstery, bedding, curtains made from all kinds of remnants. They said it was cozier than plastic and showed their love. The fairies couldn’t be seen with the naked eye the next morning, but somebody left pixie dust.

      What are we going to do with all these projects, Lisa? They’ll be willing to put them in the recycling bin before I am.

      • Lisa Scott says:

        So funny. (sounds like my daughter would like your granddaughters!) We have several gallon milk jugs that have been crafted into fairy homes that are now kicking around the house. The day they don’t have the time or inclination to make them will be a sad day. My son is 11 and used to make his own books and other projects. Now he’s a busy pre-teen dude who likes video games and movies instead.

  6. katmagendie says:

    I wish I were handy and patient enough to create things – but I can create books, too -thank you BB! 😀

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