The "do it yourself" (DIY) movement is sometimes talked about as a new or emerging phenomenon, but when you reduce it to its essence - "people creating or repairing things for themselves without the aid of paid professionals" - it's clear that DIY is just a new label for a way of living that is as old as human existence itself.
Our culture likes to take the old and repackage it as the new so it's more exciting and engaging. I don't have any problem with that per se - there can be something creative and innovative in finding different ways to present ideas, world-views, ways of living so that they're more accessible to more people. We all go through different kinds of personal discovery about what we're capable of, so why not have a "new movement" that helps support and nurture that for folks who are in that place right now?
This is what I thought I was being pitched when I got an invitation to subscribe to Ready Made magazine, which presents itself as "the only do-it-yourself (DIY)/lifestyle magazine for young people. It entertains and informs through DIY projects for fast-evolving lifestyles." It sounded like a good support resource for learning more about self-sufficient living. I showed the invite to Anna Lisa and we both agreed that it looked like it would be useful, AND that we were excited such a publication existed at all. But when the first issue arrived, it only took me a few hours before I knew we'd be canceling the subscription. Here's why:
Despite a couple of useful articles, the issue of Ready Made that we received (Oct/Nov 2008) seemed to be a thinly veiled handbook for excelling in the consumerist, image-obsessed culture of which the DIY movement (as I understand it) is inherently critical.
The publication itself is very glossy and polished, full of flashy ads and artwork, airbrushed models, and beautiful photos that set the bar super high for even the most dedicated do-it-yourselfer. It feels like an issue of "Teen Better Homes and Gardens," not a rag that is all about making the most of sufficiency in resources. I can see how this style would engage a younger audience used to the glitz, and I won't begrudge them their success if indeed the approach works, but I found it to be an unfortunate mental disconnect between the message and the presentation.
The DIY projects that they cover range from the somewhat practical (various pumpkin recipes, how to give an effective presentation, building a loft bed, storing your bicycle on the ceiling) to fun and quirky (various pet furniture, bamboo drum brushes) to the outright gratuitous (designer miniaturist models?). And in the end, many articles were just an introduction to more products you can buy...a $54 cushion to hold your produce on your kitchen counter-top, a $179 work table, a $200 gadget holder. And that's in addition to the various free-standing ads for cars, beauty products, alcohol and bottled water.
Again, I'm not saying this kind of publication won't be interesting or useful to someone out there...it's just about expectations. If I'd picked up a standard home improvement magazine and seen some of this stuff I would have been thrilled about it, but when I was expecting a publication to capture the DIY ethic and got Ready Made instead, I was disappointed. I have enough troubling or misleading marketing images hitting me every day that I don't need to pay for a subscription to a magazine that unnecessarily glamorizes the otherwise moderately useful bits of information.
Ready Made magazine might be a great introduction to the concept and practice of DIY for a high-school or college-aged person who is otherwise thoroughly engrossed in the culture of "when you need something or something breaks, you go shopping." But for someone who's already used to doing it themselves, I'd suggest you skip the magazine subscription, use their online project archive as needed, and move on to other, more authentic DIY resources instead.