Makers to the Rescue

Makers, Dreamers, Builders, and Inventors, Unite:

reflections on saving our world

“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things. And it is by no means certain that a man’s business is the most important thing that he has to do”  Robert Louis Stevenson.


Humans are, by nature, makers of things.  That’s how we deal with the world…  or did, until the Industrial Revolution tore us away from our connection with the earth.  Somebody is still making all the stuff, of course, its just outsourced and corporatized,  repackaged, and branded.  Strangely, the stuff that should last, like clothes, housing, or tools are generally poorly made and often unfixable while the junk that should be disposable is made from plastics that will endure for a geologic age or poison our descendents.  But maybe, with a little effort, it doesn’t have to be this way.


Today, instead of procuring our needs directly or through someone we know, we trudge off into an abstract man-made environment to be treated as children and told to perform an obtuse task or two or twenty.  And in exchange for giving up our time, we get slips of paper (or more likely, digits only readable to a computer on a plastic card) that confirm that we have performed our work and are now in a position to gather food, shelter, clothing, heat, etc. from a middle-man where profits are almost never seen by the makers.

Hand Crafted Apron from THOSE WHO MAKE.

Creating things like fire, rope, or cutting tools, not to mention shoes or housing will baffle most modern people.  Weaving a blanket, sewing a shirt, or butchering an animal are simply out of the question for most of us in the western world.  Many of these activities will get you strange looks at best or a call to the authorities at worst.  This mindset means that most of us can’t feed or cloth ourselves any longer even if we really want to.

tailorMakers are the hope.  We’re out there.  Doing things and making stuff.  Fending for ourselves in an hostile but lethargic world of expected and nearly enforced consumerism. Once you realize the machine doesn’t work, you can realize it doesn’t really exist.

Most of my adult life, I’ve noticed an interesting paradox.  Typical wage-slaves who proudly give 50 hours per week to a faceless and unappreciative mechanism are convinced that the dreamers and the creators are just a bunch idlers and flâneurs when it’s, in fact the lifestyle that they really envy.  If it isn’t recognized as drudgery, somehow it’s not real work.  But how much do we really need to be happy?


As a side note, many modern philosophers trace this thinking directly to the Protestant Reformation when, as they claim, much of the fun was beaten out of life and holidays were things to be frowned upon.  But here I digress.

The internet actually gives me hope, especially seeing the wonderful documentaries of real craftsmen and makers around the world that are emerging from obscurity.  Maybe to many, Makers are just a novelty.  Something to be ogled at.  But knowing there are others out there looking for a deeper purpose and a better existence makes me feel a little better about humanity.

Repairing something is a first step toward making something.

Let’s be realistic; most modern folks wouldn’t opt to live as hunter gatherers as their ancestors did, but maybe we can reach a better balance with our lives than to adopt the imposed role as absolute consumers.  And hopefully conscience people can do some good things along the way.  Maybe by thinking outside the consumer mindset and choosing to build our homes, make our own socks and shirts, ride a bike, and hunt our meat we can make a difference by both our action and our inaction.

In the words of Samuel Johnson, “To do nothing is within everyone’s power.”


Remember: “An idle mind is a questioning, skeptical mind. Hence it is a mind not too bound up with ephemeral things, as the minds of workers are. The idler, then, is somebody who separates himself from his occupation: there are many people scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation”

Robert Louis Stevenson, idler extraordinaire.

stillWhy not go make something?  Your great grandparents did.

P.S. Pardon the Friday late night ramblings.  My disdain for the modern world is heightened at the end of a ridiculous week at work.

9 thoughts on “Makers to the Rescue

  1. Ah! I am more than a bohemian now, an Idler, and flaneur ! Excellent progress. I am working on a 5# coffee roaster, towed by bicycles. For “bicycle coffee” here in Oakland. They deliver all their coffee by bike. I joined the Oakland, and the Urban Manufacturing Association, recently.Their national conveening, is at the Crucible, here in oakland, oct. 2. I am working on a apprentice stipend plan, I would like to speak with you about that. could you send your email address?

  2. As soon as I was allowed to handle a scissor and needle I have made my own dolls/toys etc. As an artist I have often been looked down on because I never earned enough to support myself due to bad health problems; here we come at the base of the problem: not Protestant thinking(I am a Christian and have so been thought to respect other people and nature and in our church recycling and helping others who have less is important so saying that is too easy for me) not beliefs: but the eternal urge to earn more and more money (and in doing that gaining power over people by making them dependant of money and putting them in a taxcontrolled environment)in a shorter time has made western people blind to a lot of things.
    Of course there are always people who call themselves believers who don’t really live up to it which gives the rest a bad name.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I hope you didn’t think that was an attack on christians themselves. It was merely intended as an historical observation on the effects of Calvinism and changes in attitude toward idleness.

  3. This is a great post. My dos centos:

    The reformation brought with it tremendous levels of violence. Christians slaughtered each other with, pardon the pun, religious zeal for centuries, in much the same way Shia and Sunni Muslims, who have had no reformation to date, do today. Christians also slaughtered and persecuted the very people who gave them the very idea of a single God, ie, the Jews. All that being said, I quite like the new Pope. He seems almost, gasp, Christian.

    I’m a surgoen, veterinary to be precise. For a living I remove animals reproductive organs in the name of reducing the overpopulation of pets, currently an endemic problem in English speaking countries. I’m well paid for this work in bits of digital currency, but long for some other form of renumeration. I do relief spay/neuter work in Mexico, where no money exchanges hands, it is intenesely satisfying, but I can’t do that “for a living”. I admire people who give up money all together, like Suello of Moab, but if you look closely at his lifestyle he still relies on the money economy, prinicaplly taxes and people who work giving him bits of of their digital currency in the form of food.

    The conclusion I have come to is that work is unavoidable, as is money. My goal is to be as Mustachian (google it) as possibly, ie, be as frugal as possible, so that someday I don’t need to stand at a surgery table for eight hours and put up with crazy non profit people telling me how to do my job faster and faster and faster.

  4. Hi Paleotool,

    I just found your website via a picture in this post, and so happy that I did.

    Really enjoyed this article and recognized many things in my own quest/reads from the last decade.

    I work with mechanical stuff for a couple of decades now and find it evermore exciting to work with older technologies, crafts and antique tools.

    Man I would love to have a conversation with you.

    Question: do you mind if I were to use some of your texts (the less personal-more generic interesting ones)?

    Thank you in advance and best regards!

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