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Monday, November 29, 2010

Made by Hand by Mark Frauenfelder

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World
As you may have noticed, I'm a big fan of handmade gifts and things for myself. As such, I thought that I'd really enjoy Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World by Mark Frauenfelder. I read an excellent review of it on Journey of 1000 Stitches and when I saw it at my library I snatched it up. Sadly, it wasn't what I thought it would be and I found the author to be a little snobby about his version of handmade.

Frauenfelder is the editor of MADE, so he has some background in doing things himself. During the course of the book he tackles several projects that he could have outsourced in order to examine the possibilities of doing things for himself. He starts a beehive and a chicken coop, he kills his lawn in favor of a garden, he builds cigar box guitars and carves wooden spoons.  Frauenfelder is successful in his personal quest to get meaning out of using his hands. He learns to accept mistakes and imperfections and to enjoy what he is able to accomplish.

While I appreciate his efforts, and find the book to mostly be enjoyable. I think he also missed the point a bit, or perhaps his life is just so different from mine that I couldn't completely relate. If you've read my blog for any length of time you know that I'm a huge fan of handmade. I have an Etsy shop! I recently read an entire book about a garden! But something about the author's projects in this one struck me as just a little bit snobby. He clearly doesn't HAVE to make things himself and does it for the enjoyment of it, but I found it a little off-putting. For example, there is an entire chapter devoted to his tweaking of his $500 home espresso maker. It is certainly impressive that he could make the changes he wanted himself, but my version of handmade doesn't start with a $500 machine!

I'm sure everyone's line on what is a meaningful handmade item is different. I expected the book to be more about how to repurpose, reuse and make your own items from a more frugal perspective.  Instead, I found myself annoyed at how easy it was for him to do his thing, with the money to buy whatever he needed. Regardless, it was still very interesting to see him learn to be satisfied, and even happy, making things himself instead of just replacing whatever he needed. The process of building a chicken coop and learning to raise chickens was still interesting, even if it wasn't in my definition of something handmade, ya know?

Overall, recommended, but not highly, and it may not be the handmade book you're expecting.

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World
Mark Frauenfelder
231 pages

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  1. I'm not sure that's for me. I love handmade gifts that are from the heart.

  2. Thanks, Lisa. This is a fair review. My approach is my own, and many of the projects I pursue require an considerable outlay of cash. Others, like making sauerkraut and kombucha, cost pennies. Good luck in your own DIY endeavors!

  3. I don't have any other information about this book apart from your review, but I thought it was really great review. Your criticism of it was nicely balanced with examples of where it went wrong for you.


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