Thoughts from the peeler: What am I?

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Not even this curious obsession of mine. The artisans of the 16th century were part of a larger society and so too am I one cog in a 21st century gear.

I’m not a big fan of most modern labels, but one that I rather like is “Maker”. It’s incredibly general and yet incredibly specific at the same time. It’s a person and a movement. A maker is one who has joined with others in stepping back from the mass-produced and plastic, disposable world that says: “Hands off! If it’s broken, throw it away. Don’t make things, we’re here to do that for you. We can do it incredibly cheaply and out of sight in factories overseas, under conditions we don’t like to cop to.

Makers stared at the tamper-resistant screws on the back of a device and wondered what’s so special under that lid. Makers felt the inexorable pull of the workbench, or the kitchen, or the garage.

“The Maker Movement.” It’s not often you can encapsulate such a disparate group of artisans into one category like that and have almost all of them nod and say “Yeah, that’s cool, that’s me.

It seems too general, on the face of it, but artisan is no less general, and no less co-opted by society at large. When you say ‘artisanal’ it draws images of tattooed foodies in Seattle or Portland, making weird beers, and odd sausages, and stinky cheeses that only a very few taste buds can tolerate. I feel a kinship with these oddballs and their obsessions, and I never lack something to talk about when I step into their atelier or welcome them to mine.

We’re all similarly obsessed. As happy to learn as we are to teach, and eternal apprentices all. Even if I don’t understand their particular Thing or they mine, we are kin. Because who cares? We’re not doing it for each other, we’re doing it for ourselves. We’re sharing it with Those Who Understand.

As long as you are willing to do instead of being done for, and to teach as much as you learn, you are in the fraternity of makers.

Walk through any modern Maker Fair and you will see no fewer subcategories than you see in our project list here. There are certainly areas of the Maker Fairs where I would be very very lost. Despite the robots of my fictional worlds, I’m no friend to electricity. Microcontrollers and circuit boards rarely grace my bench except accidentally and often tragically.

If it’s a question of taxonomy should we create our own taxonomic paradigm? Are you Homo sapien maker cooper? Or are you homo sapien maker roboticist?  Maybe not. Maybe that would be too confining and imply walls where none exist and stifle cross-pollination.

And down the rabbit hole we go and I find myself back where I started, looking askance at modern labels. So in the greater framework of modern society, am I a maker or an artisan? Do I really need to choose?

Maybe I am happier unlabeled except as the Eternal Apprentice. Student to all, master to no one. Under that title, you will find me in every corner of the internet’s Maker Fair from Tested.com to Modern Woodworking. Poking, reading, asking questions, watching, learning.

No matter what is happening in my life, no matter how fraught my circumstance, one thing always remains true: I will compulsively gravitate to the nearest pile of raw materials and begin turning them into something else.

If it’s a pile of cloth, I will make clothing.
If it’s lumber, I will make furniture.
If it’s leather, I will make shoes.
If it’s metal, I will probably fail in hilarious and epic fashion to make another thimble.
If it’s yarn… I will give it to my wife because I really don’t like knitting.
And if left alone in a dark room, I will pull words from the aether and I will make stories.
Because a writer is never without raw materials.

– Scott

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