Growing up in a home with four children and parents on a tight budget, my siblings and I quickly learned that if we wanted something, we’d have to figure out how to make it ourselves. Our bedtime stories consisted of books like Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Little House on the Prairie, and Tom Sawyer. Whether they had a home in a treehouse or a raft for adventure, the heroes in these books made what they needed. So when, as a twelve-year-old, I wanted a sword, I found a book on DIY blacksmithing at the library and built my own forge on our concrete patio, using my mom’s old hairdryer, drain pipes, cinder blocks, and a car’s leaf spring.
Why Is DIY Important?
If you’ve walked into a modern design furniture store lately, there’s a good chance that you suffered from serious sticker shock. With prices running into the hundreds for a single chair, it might feel as if beautiful, modern design is only available to the select few with pockets deep enough to afford it. The low-price furniture options are usually made with inferior materials with compromises in manufacturing ethics, and there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. So what’s a design-minded, budget-conscious individual to do?
Setting Expectations: I’m Not a Craftsperson!
The Japanese have a philosophy called wabi-sabi, which is in essence the art of finding beauty in imperfection. There’s no direct translation in English, but the philosophy involves valuing authenticity over perfection. While most of the skills associated with woodworking and furniture involve some precision, the more we appreciate the asymmetrical idiosyncrasies of the handmade object, the happier we’ll be with our final result.
Your DIY projects won’t save the world, but they can greatly reduce your impact on it, and if everything does go to hell, it will be nice to have some handy skills during the zombie apocalypse. I’m not the most militant pursuer of sustainability, but it feels good to try. Connecting even a small portion of your consumption with your responsibility to the planet is a good thing. We should at least try to make things that are a little bit better than their most common alternatives.