I just finished bottling my first batch of homemade beer. It’s not the concentrated kind you make from a can. I cooked the grains. I strained them. I boiled the liquid and added the hops, let it ferment, and put it in bottles. Seems like a lot of trouble to go through when you can just go to the store, hand the clerk $10, and walk out with a six pack (heck, if you’re not picky, it could be a 12-pack for the same $10). What’s worse, I did all this for a gallon of beer (5-gallon batches are standard, but I don’t have the room). Why bother? The short answer: to make something.
I guess being a bit of a do-it-yourselfer is in my DNA, but I think it’s a bit deeper than that. For a long time now, our society has focused on specialization. As mentioned above, it’s more efficient. Making beer takes hours, and hours of my time is (theoretically) worth more than the $10 I’d spend buying beer someone else made. The more recent development however, is that our economy is becoming ever more focused on providing services rather than building things. The tradeoff, I think, is that we have lost a little something. We may do our jobs, and do them well. We may do things that are truly useful, but I can’t really point at something in the course of my “real” work day and say “I made that.” A professor of mine who used to work for the electric company said that he knew of no one more prideful in their work that the workers who built high-tension towers, as they could easily show friends, family and anyone else what they had made.
I may be alone in this sentiment, but I don’t think so. There are cable networks dedicated to this sort of thing. An army of celebrity chefs teaches us to create in the kitchen. Entire stores are stocked from floor to ceiling with scrapbooking supplies. Martha Stewart built a media empire teaching people how to completely transform an entire room using nothing but crepe paper and throw pillows. The evidence seems to suggest that droves of people are looking for a creative outlet.
In a way, it reminds me of the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s been said that this too was a response to the replacement of the craftsman by industrialization brought about in the Victorian era. The Arts & Crafts movement is no longer with us (though thankfully, the furniture style is still going strong), but that creative drive within us remains.
So I guess this is my long-winded way of inspiring you to go out and make something. Simple or complex, find something that interests you and build it. Don’t get crazy and try to make handcrafted soap… We’ve got you covered there, and you wouldn’t want to spoil Shannon’s creative outlet, would you? But go buy yourself a book and get started, and let us know how it goes; or tell us what you've already made. We'd love to hear about it.