These days, if you can imagine an item, someone somewhere is probably selling it online… so why do we DIY-hard makers and crafters opt to create our own? The exact list of reasons varies from maker to maker, but here’s a few of my own personal motivations for making a mess in my creative studio:
I want to discover how things work
I’m generally a curious person, and I’ve rarely met a rabbit-hole I couldn’t trip and fall down when my interest in a topic is piqued. If I need or want The Thing, why not sneak in a little bonus hands-on learning while I’m at it?
I’m a bit of a control freak
The closer I can get to “from scratch”, the more I can control elements of a item’s journey that are otherwise often mysterious or sketchy when they come to me as a finished product. For example, when I cook meals from whole (or better yet, homegrown) ingredients, I can be confident that I know everything that goes into them and how it was prepared; when I make my own clothes, I’m less beholden to other people’s choices about labour conditions and supply chains.
I need something really specific
It can be tough to just grab something off the shelf when you’ve got a relatively niche need, like a body type or size that’s mostly ignored by your local mall, or inconvenient food intolerances, or tearing away your pants dramatically at exactly the right beat of the music.
A creative outlet improves my mental health
A glue gun certainly doesn’t cure chronic depression or anxiety, but oh damn do I ever notice it getting worse whenever I’m stuck going any length of time without making things. An engaging hands-on project provides my brain with something creative to obsess over, rather than a never-ending catalogue of ways that I suck.
I like the idea of being (relatively) self-sufficient
I like to joke that I want to be able to throw a post-apocalyptic wine and cheese party. I mean, sure, I’m not exactly equipped for total self-sufficiency in the event of the zombie uprising, but it’s nice to know that I have some basic taking-care-of-Maslow’s-hierarchy skills.
OK, this one… do recall, I said “motivation”, not “realistic outcome”. I grew up without a lot of financial resources, so doing it myself with whatever I had access to was often the clearest path to getting something I wanted (go-go boots) or needed (dinner). Sometimes this approach really does work out, especially when:
- I can use up or recycle materials that I already have on hand;
- I already have access to any tools and equipment I need; and/or,
- my time is more plentiful than my income.
On the other hand, sometimes I end up buying multiple power tools to build a “free” table out of salvaged wood. So… y’know.
There’s also the matter of what my point of reference is: if I just need a bra, any bra, to cover my nipples so that Instagram doesn’t ban me, I can almost certainly pick up something from a fast-fashion emporium for less than the cost of materials to make my own; on the other hand, if I’m comparing my hand-made, custom fit, one-of-a-kind upcycled silk lingerie to similarly “artisan” products, I’m probably coming out ahead. And that’s not even counting…