Crafting something unique can mean so much more than simply buying.
The joy of crafting something unique and handmade can mean so much more than simply buying.
The other day I had a bit of a revelation that, in this day and age, seems up there with splitting the atom and the lunar landings. Inspired by our feature on The Photocopy Club – a photography exhibition concept where photographers photocopy some of their favourite shots and sell them for a few quid – I actually printed out some of the random photos I had taken on my phone over the past few months. In true Photocopy Club style, I printed them out black and white on basic printer paper. Not exactly suitable to hang at theNational Portrait Gallery, but for my kitchen it seems to work.
This may be a very small gesture but it seems to be the perfect antidote to how disposable photography has become nowadays. People must take hundreds of photos a month but how long do they take to actually look at and appreciate them before sticking them up on Facebook, getting a few likes and LOLs, and then leaving them to sit on Mark Zuckerberg‘s hard drive for the rest of eternity for him to do with them as he wishes? *Evil chuckle* But by printing it out – you know, like photos used to be before digital cameras and Instagram – actually helps you take a step back and enjoy them on a whole new level, from fleeting glances to full-on, chin-stroking scrutiny.
And totally un-coincidentally, HUCK#032 is all about exploring the appeal of creating ‘real’ things like this, from handcrafted wooden sea and snow sticks in New England to political activists sewing handkerchiefs to affect change. But it recently struck me that we are revering creative skills like needle work and carpentry as novelty and groundbreaking when a generation ago, they were mainstream. A few decades ago when you wanted a jumper, you bought a pattern, a ball of wool and knitted it. You wanted a kitchen table? You went to the forest, chopped down an oak tree, dragged it home and whittled the fuck out of it! But nowadays, thanks to the growth of global flow of capital, nice big companies just find people in less developed countries they don’t have to pay much to make them for us all. Happy days!
But apart from the many ethical questions that this capitalist trend raises, it seems that this separation from the process of creation and ownership is leaving people somehow unfulfilled. It’s easy to see why. The things we consume are often only an infinitely duplicated collection of noughts and ones – music, films, apps, video games, magazines – or, if they are actually ‘real’, have been spun, woven and moulded in far away lands with the intention of being thrown away in a few months time when a shinier version comes along. And as the laws of economics dictate, the more abundant things are, the less value they’re perceived to have. Think about it, now you can access more music than you could listen to in your whole lifetime from your mobile phone, what does ‘owning’ your favourite album mean to you?
Therefore, when people actually get their hands dirty and put the time in to create something unique, it really resonates with them. They value and treasure it so much more. Come to think of it, one of my favourite ‘objects’ is a cardboard model of MF Doom that I cut out of myself with a scalpel accompanied by lots of angry screams of frustration – I’m not very good at such tasks. It’s the identification with the process of making it and the investment of your own time that’s so much more fulfilling than clicking on a website and waiting for it to download or the postman to arrive.
That’s not to say that the modern industrial means of production don’t have their benefits. The mass production of things like food, clothing and medicine have helped billions around the world achieve a better standard of living, and stopped a lot of people from dying. But it has also churned out plenty of shiny little precious things that, after the initial flurry of excitement from purchasing, are utterly devoid of meaning or use, or both, to the owner.
Ok, the world would be a pretty grim, utilitarian place if we did away with these things entirely, but maybe next time you’re contemplating ‘consuming’ something like this, why not try and make it yourself instead of just picking something up from the worldwide production line?
Don’t worry, you can always Google how…