Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Making vs. Consuming

Our Library Supervisor sent us an article today discussing the President's support of makerspaces in schools, and the National Maker Week that will happen again in June. I've participated in two maker faires myself, and I fully support the initiative behind them which is to provide community access to new technologies and new ideas while inspiring people to try making their own versions of what they see.

The article included a quote that we need to be encouraging our students to make instead of consume.

YES! This idea is so simple, and yet it doesn't always occur to students, or to teachers and parents either. One reason is because consuming isn't always expensive, and it's easier to justify spending a little bit of money if it saves you alot of time and work. Stores like the Christmas Tree Shop offer all kinds of interior decorations that appeal to different tastes. That cute wall plaque that appears to be a weathered piece of wood, with Beach printed on it might only set you back $12.99 seemingly a great deal, but what the low price actually indicates is that it was easy to produce.

This sign from is actually priced at $28.99 (plus shipping!)

There was nothing special involved in making it. The machine did not lovingly pick up the project day after day, working towards perfection. Even if it was a person who produced it, the person only spent the minimal time necessary to complete that particular sign until he/she picked up the next one in the assembly line.

Makerfaires are great because they remind us of what we are capable of when we feed our creativity, but they also often involve some consumption.

For example, a big trend now at makerfaires is to exhibit 3D printers. 3D printers are really cool, and watching them produce a three dimensional object out of plastic filament, not randomly but because they have been programmed to do so, is a wonderful example of how science/technology and art intersect. However, unless you're  Macgyver, you can't make a 3D printer out of the random buttons and paper clips you find in your couch cushions. You need to purchase the printer. You need to purchase the plastic filament.  You need to be willing to invest in this purchase because at some point it's going to require maintenance, so you might need to pay someone to fix it, and you might need to pay for replacement parts. That's an awful lot of consumption for something that's often attributed to making.

Right now in the Maine town I work in, the local grocery stores have stopped using plastic bags, and customers are encouraged to purchase reusable shopping bags. A win for environmentalism, right?! Sure. BUT, instead of spending money to buy bags that were produced by machines in a factory, isn't it even greener to make your own shopping bag out of an old t-shirt? You simply cut off the sleeves to make the handles, cut off the collar to make the opening wider, and hem the bottom to close it up. You can use a sewing machine or you can stitch by hand. Minimal consumption. And if using a needle and thread is still too much for you, there's a no sew option which just involves cutting the bottom portion into strips and knotting them together. The end result is a very Bohemian look.

I see alot of ideas on Pinterest for making your own decor using canvases: like the melted crayon designs and designs that use kids' handprints. Great! I am all for making your own decor , and if you really want to be more of a maker than a consumer, then you can use an old canvas (either a failed project of your own, or buy one at a thrift store). If you coat it with gesso first, you can cover the old paint and provide a solid foundation for the new paint you'll apply.

This canvas, that I started working on last year, was purchased at a thrift store. I spraypainted over it, with dark blue and then tried the melted art Pinterest thing- it didn't turn out well. So, I spray painted over it again with silver, and then started this composition.

Obviously, it's not like I handcrafted all of the glass marbles and used a jigsaw to cut the wooden lettering, but it was just one way to minimize the consumption involved as I made something.

I think that the maker mindset, the ability to step back from something we like and ask ourselves "How can I make my version of that?" instead of just asking how much it costs or where we can find it, is the most important component in this maker revolution. The technology parts, and the craft supplies, are important tools and sometimes access to them in necessary to create the desired end product, but before we act like makers (which may involve some consuming), we need to THINK like makers.

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