Monday, August 16, 2010

Things Made...

I realized this morning that I've been posting far more about shopping/consumerism dilemmas than I have about stuff I'm making. In an effort to remedy that, here are a few pics of stuff I've made in the last two weeks.

Just a plain white tea that I stenciled on.

More button earrings and a weird sculptural string barrette. It looks a lot better on than it does in the pic. 

I needed a messenger bag for my laptop. This was made entirely of scrap fabrics. A year ago-ish, I made a mei tai baby carrier for a co-worker (example) and had a fair bit of leftover fabric. There's tons of super convenient pockets and it's lined with a cute green print. Unfortunately, I really don't like this bag. It's just not my style. Luckily my roommate (who happens to have a sweet blog) likes it, so it's hers now! I'm planning on making a new one sometime before school starts from old cargo pants. 

I'm experimenting with making up my own cheap-o frames that can be taped to the wall because the new house has some very unmanageable plaster making it really difficult to hang pictures with actual frames. I actually like how these turned out but I may try something else next. 

Finally, a pic of the current design on the chalkboard wall in our rec room. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The problem with compliments.

   In my last post I wrote about my conflicting thoughts and feelings regarding purchase parties, as I've been calling them - those parties in which you are invited to someone's home and then they sell you something, jewelry, makeup, etc. This past week, my house-mate and I had maybe the opposite sort of party, a swap night. Swap nights, just as the name implies, are get togethers in which the guests all bring items that they feel may be useful to others but are no longer useful to them. Often, it's a clothing swap. Our guests were invited to bring anything they'd like. I didn't have a lot of clothing to swap so most of what I had to offer were a plethora of dishtowels and some other kitchen odds and ends. Perhaps I shouldn't call this sort of party the "opposite" of the purchase parties since I'm still going to them or hosting them with the intent to receive items. In any event, it went well. I had a lot of fun and to my surprise people actually wanted my dishtowels. The few friends that came were generous enough to bring a lot of food and after we were done digging through each other's cast offs we settled in to some great snacks and some fun discussions regarding small scale revolutions.
  The only hitch in the evening, and I'm not really sure hitch is the right word here, was due to an exchange I had with my mom who stopped by near the end of the get together. She pulled out a small box that I recognized as being from the previous week's jewelry party and gave it to me. When I asked her what it was she told me she got me one of the necklaces that I liked from the catalog at the party. I opened it and sure enough, I did remember pointing it out. It was really nice of my mom to get me this necklace. She loves me and knows I love jewelry and that I don't have a lot of disposable income - so from her perspective this was a sweet gift. There are a lot of reasons that I don't want products from parties like the one I mentioned in the last post - I don't know where the materials came from, if they were produced ethically, and I'd rather support local artists, to name a few. Yet, I ended up with one of these necklaces because 1) I wasn't clear with my mom or others about my thoughts and 2) I expressed some sort of desire for something that I didn't really want.
   This gift reminded me of a conversation I had a couple months ago. I was teaching a program on DIY culture and crafting at a camp and I shared with the campers that I often have reservations about complimenting people on things such as new shoes, clothes, and bags. I feel weird about these compliments for a couple reasons. Often, these compliments are reflexive for me - I will have noticed something new and automatically spit out my approval. It has occurred to me that the compliment often has more to do with the newness of the item rather than some sort of aesthetic value. If I've seen one new pair of brightly colored Nike's, I've seen them all so why say, "Oh! I like your new shoes"? Anytime I am speaking without intention I think it is a good opportunity for me to pause and figure out why. Beyond the verbal reflex problem though, is the fact that I really don't like those new items 95% of the time. I know many of the products I'm complimenting are manufactured in ways that I find unethical and would rather not support. But when I compliment them, I support them - it's just with my words and not my money. And in the case of the necklace, I ended up supporting the company selling it through both my words and my mom's money.
   So, here's where I'm landing on this for now: I will be working on being more intentional with my words (an ongoing and long process) and I will compliment things that I really do find beautiful, both because of there aesthetic value and because they came to my eyes through good ethical processes.