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.
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?