For the last several weeks, I’ve been on a quest to find a philosophical identity. Today, I found a name for the dream. I’m a Maker.
There’s actually a Maker movement, and there are Maker Faires around the country. There’s Make Magazine, which celebrates and explores everything from making things using 3D copiers (WOW) to festooning a car with singing fish and naming it the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir.
You can see from these examples that being a Maker is not always something practical, or productive, or marketable. Sometimes it is, but just as often it’s just about the joy of picturing something in the mind’s eye and then translating the picture into a physical thing. That car with the singing fish was designed and constructed by a physicist. Probably he has weightier considerations occupying some of his time, but he’s also willing to let it go long enough to build a car covered with animated singing fish.
Either way, being a Maker is practice, and it’s critically important practice.
The thing that Makers have in common is they love what they make. They might be amateurs, they might be artists, they might be geeks or entrepreneurs. Regardless of their specialty, they are passionate.
The other thing they have in common is a commitment to define themselves as more than consumers. And that’s the part that speaks most deeply to me.
In a world where our value as individuals often seems to be measured by how much we are willing and able to consume, we can get to feeling like we’re only worth some sort of numeric value. It’s a formula based on how much we earn, plus how marketable we are, plus our credit score, plus the number of credit cards we have in circulation. These are the indicators that suggest our individual consumption index. Not consuming to the max sometimes seems weird or even counterculture in some way.
Being a Maker is a way to be more than a consumer. Sure, Makers still buy stuff, and we still consume it. But we do it not from acquisitiveness, but from curiosity. What can I make out of this? It’s kind of cool by itself, but what if I turned it upside down and added a widget to it? What if I painted it a different color? What if I put four legs on it and used it for a coffee table?
Beyond the personal satisfaction of being a Maker is the very real contribution that Makers represent for the future economy. Knowing how to do things with one’s own hands – how to invent and innovate, how to solve physical problems in the real world, how to assemble raw materials into a finished product – this is a constellation of skills that has largely been lost to automation and outsourcing.
Being a Maker is also a mindset.
Let’s face it. Many of us are overly dependent on others, because we have forgotten how to do things ourselves. We’ve lost the concrete practically of knowing how to tune up a car, program a thermostat, or make macaroni and cheese from scratch. Worse, we’ve lost the reasons why knowing how to do these things is important.
I call myself a Maker.
I’m a Maker of socks and hand-knit sweaters.
I’m a Maker of home-canned tomatoes and spicy pickled vegetables, and of cured olives and hard cider from my own trees.
I’m a Maker of the daily bread. Well, at least some of the time.
I’m a Maker of my children’s rather free-form education.
Today, I named my Dream: I’m a Maker.