A sign outside the door won’t cut it any more.

Back in the days before the internet, this time did exist I promise, if you were someone who enjoyed the art of creating something whether it be art, clothes, food, or any other handmade talents, your options for selling them were limited. You basically had three options, a sign at the front door, markets/ fairs and selling to a shop to sell on. Well today you can still do all of those and you should, but the big player in the Makers Revolution is the internet. You can sell your jam from Joyford in January to Jim in Jamaica if you feel like it. The fantastic thing in hindsight is that there are enough people in Joyford that want to buy your jam. Jim in Jamaica, although he has heard of your fantastic jam, would love it if Jill just around the corner would make her Jamaican jam again so he could buy from his friend. So that’s the internet out then! I don’t think so! The internet lets us connect with people before having to knock on the door. You can discover the people that put a sign outside the front door, but you’d never pass to see it! If you put a sign on the internet a lot more of your community, family and friends will see what you are creating.

 

The fire triangle for the Makers Revolution

If you are not familiar with the fire triangle its quite simple, to make fire you need three things, fuel, air, and heat. With all of them present you can make fire. The same is happening in craft, handmade products, homegrown goods, and art.

The fire triangle of the makers revolution: Income, health benefits and a lousy alternative. It works like this, side 1 of the Makers Revolution triangle. Income, start earning money from a pastime you like doing. Also, people are starting to create to make a bit more money in their spare time. Side 2, health benefits. With the hectic lives that we all lead, creating something with your hands and mind has been proven to make you calmer and helps relieve your stress levels. It is even used with helping people with their mental health recovery.  Side 3: The lousy alternative. This is the bad side of our triangle but it is helping to drive the Positive Makers revolution. There are two parts to this, the people that are as you read, working in terrible conditions, in sweat shops or work camps to make us goods that we pay high prices for and they get paid so little to make. The second part to this is the “handmade feel” goods that are mass produced and sold to us under false pretences.

With all three sides of the Makers revolution triangle taking effect and the internet connecting us all with a click, I can see the fire burning, moving swiftly towards one of the more positive aspects of our time. We can get to know our community a bit better and get involved in a positive side of community life.

 

Side one of the Makers Revolution triangle: Income.

This is probably the first step we have taken or will take in the Handmade world. You probably have a hobby that you fancy making a bit of money with, or you have a bit of time and would like to do something you enjoy and make some money.

I have seen this side of the hand-made movement, it is championed by parents and grandparents. They have sacrificed their job or some of their job time to look after the kids and complete the tasks that keep your household and family going. Inevitably you have some time where you feel you could do something in your day you would enjoy a bit more. You start a hobby like knitting. After a bit of practice, you post your work on social media, a couple of friends like your work and ask to buy one of your creations. The next thing you know you have a micro business. Well done!

There are a few different versions of this story. You might start making to get the kids involved, or you are retired, and you can now focus on that hobby you always loved but didn’t have time to do. Even start making as a second job after work, just because you love what you do and people always want to buy your work! Either way your happy and making some extra cash, it’s a win win situation.

 

Side two of the Makers Revolution Triangle: Health Benefits.

I don’t need to explain this to anyone that has felt that warm glow inside and the stress dropping away when making something. That feeling like all life’s stress is melting away with each thought and each step completed. This is a natural reaction and experienced by people worldwide. It is believed to be a trait handed down from our cave man ancestors. It helps unlock our creative side and lets us forget about the day’s problems. It has had such a positive effect on people suffering from all kinds of mental issues like stress and anxiety. There are experts from many different disciplines prescribing hand-made pastimes as a part of getting better. We have all felt the effect of this, and it is quite often the answer to destressing after a day you wish you never had or taking your mind off something you have to start but are feeling anxious about. It seems it can provide the balance we need in the stressful lives we live today. Making can also add a bit more meaning to our social lives, with our conversation moving from the negative to our new pastime and the positive side of life.

 

Side three of the Makers Revolution Triangle: A lousy alternative.

There are two sections to this. The cheap labour making products for us and the big company’s imitating handmade or local products. Both are dishonest and have a negative impact on the world as a whole and our local communities.

My wife and I were in a well-known reputable homeware shop, having a look around, and my wife spotted this beautiful thick wool knitted throw. It looked amazing, I looked at the price and was shocked because it was £260. But I thought to myself, OK a hand knitted wool throw like that would take some time and money to make, so that’s not all that bad. As I looked a bit closer and the label read 100% synthetic, made in Taiwan. I was gobsmacked. On further inspection, it turned out they weren’t even handmade. They weren’t the only one on this scam, lots of well-known retailers are at it. They are selling things like hand-painted pictures which are printed by machine, then some poor kid has to paint on a couple of splashes of colour to thousands of pictures each day. This lets them class it as “hand-made” or “hand-painted”, and we buy them at a high price whilst thinking its hand painted or hand printed. The hand-made imitation industry to the western world is a big money maker.

The other side to this is the masking and imitation of products labelled as hand-made, farm, local market, artisan, rustic and much more. The food industry does this because they know people will pay more for local, hand-made products. The one that jumps to my mind is a certain low cost supermarket.  As a beekeeper, I don’t buy much honey but I still like to have a look what the supermarkets are selling.  This company sells their “local farm honey” for twice the price of the budget honey which is sugar syrup given to bees that they store in hives. This honey has never seen a flower in its life. The local farm honey is packaged on a farm in the UK, that’s it. It’s not UK honey it’s mostly non-EU honey, the same stuff in the cheap honey jar next to it. They are lying to you and me, and it turns out not many of the big retail companies are sin free when it comes to this sort of thing. In the end, it hurts the people that are making the high quality local products. People are buying the knock-off instead of the real thing that someone has spent time on and enjoyed making.

The tide is changing on this being acceptable. With the internet showing us that people are making amazing things and they are probably down the road from us. The makers are starting to establish their own ground in the marketplace.

 

Becoming an active community and helping our environment.

With all three of the aspects in play, a community and lifestyle is starting to come to life. I call it the makers revolution. It’s not a new concept, in fact, it’s one of the oldest ways of life. Make something and swap or sell it to your friends and neighbours. The problem up until recently was the world had become a place where you wouldn’t want to just knock on someone’s door even if there is a sign saying its ok to do so, or you don’t fancy putting a sign outside your door inviting anyone to call at any time. But the internet and social media are in full flow giving us the ability to knock that problem into oblivion. This is leading to younger people learning new skills and then becoming part of a community, going to craft fairs and local markets. When the new generation starts interacting with the older generation of makers it creates a vibrant community with a future. The benefits don’t stop there. The makers revolution is looking to its community to supply them with material and goods to create their products. If everyone in the chain buys local a couple of things happen. If you only use material and labour from the closest place to you, this makes the product sustainable and dramatically reduces carbon footprint compared to something that has been shipped around the world. When you sell to people in your community you are keeping money in your area and not heading to the bankers or the big shop’s bank accounts. You and your community is winning and flourishing. I like to use the example of wool.  Jill, not Jill from Jamaica, Jill from wales, knits jumpers. There are sheep just up the road belonging to Arthur, the farmer. The sheep are sheared, and Arthur sells the fleece to Emily’s wool mill, Emily’s wool mill sells the wool to Hollie’s wool, a local wool shop, Jill buys the wool and makes an epic jumper and sells it to me! I had Makers revolution knitted in to it. Jill buys some eggs off of Pete with the money from the jumper. Pete uses his egg money to buy some honey from Derek. Then Derek goes to his local butcher David and with his honey money buys some lamb, and you may have guessed it, David the butcher gets his supply of lamb from Arthur, the farmer. The money stays in our community, working for everyone. I am not saying we need to burn down Tesco. I will still be going to my local supermarket and getting what I need. Where we can all make a difference is doing our best to get what we can from the community we live in. Even if you’re just a consumer of local goods, you are helping your community grow and become stronger.

I honestly think the Makers revolution is gaining traction. With fantastic programs like the Great British bake off and all Kirsty Allsopp’s craft and handmade tv shows, people are looking to get involved more and more and can see the value of a handmade gift. The revolution is coming, and its looking good!

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