Making a Life: My thoughts about a handmade life

I’m so pleased to introduce you to Making a Life: Working by Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant To Live, a book due out next Tuesday by Melanie Falick. I’ve been looking forward to its release for a few years now because Melanie somehow chose me as one of the featured makers in the series and I’ve been interviewed by her for years–she’s done a remarkably thorough job!

I’m confident in my artistic abilities and pumped up about my mission in life and here at Lars (more on that later), but I say “somehow she chose me” not as a humble formality, but because this book features a collection of artists and makers who I idolize–I wouldn’t put myself in their echelon at all. Many of them have lived longer lives and have the spaces and work to show for it. They feel more lived in, more settled, more more sure of themselves. Again, I don’t mean to downplay the work we do here at Lars, but I still feel like I’m in my artistic infancy. I’m still trying to figure out how to do my job and do it well. And these makers are people who I aspire to be.

Why do I make?

Part of the problem is that I never imagined myself doing this job in the first place. Though I had an artistic mother who came from an artistic family, I never knew that an artistic career in the crafts could be a reality. (You can read more about my experience in her book). But here we are, 11 years after starting The House That Lars Built, and I make a living (along with my wonderful business partner and awesome team) showing you, dear readers, how to make projects and create a more artful life.

Social Media is not the mission

To be fully transparent, I go through waves of “is this how I want to be spending my time?” or “is there something else I should be doing with my life?” or even “do people even want to see the things we make?” or “are they going to want to make this?”. With all the games that social media plays on us and the direct effect that it has on our business, I know I’m not alone in this feeling. What once worked on Instagram 4 years ago no longer applies and it’s a circus to figure out how to get it to work for you. It’s moments like these that I have to remind myself, “is social media why I’m here?” And you know what? It can’t be. And shouldn’t be. I’ve had to dig deeper into what my job is and what my mission is.

The problem

Really, the heart of The House That Lars Built, and where my heart comes back to every time I have those thoughts, is to encourage you to get inside yourself to create something. And to create it beautifully. And that’s where Making a Life speaks to me. Maybe it’s because I knew this book was coming out for so long or because I’ve been feeling the inklings to dig deeper into WHY we as humans make things and WHY we need to be making things. In fact, I’ve been wanting to write this post for years but I kept on pushing it off for some reason. Maybe because there are clients to work with and posts to publish and…and…and….

The reality is that I spend WAY more time on my phone and computer than I do tapping into my heart and soul. You too? Yes, it’s the nature of having a job, providing for my family, having an active social life, etc. That said, I’ve come to believe that the more time we spend on our phones or whatever other distractions it is, the further we pull away from our heart and soul.

Humans need to make

Melanie interviews scholar Ellen Dissanayake, who has written about why we as humans need art and to be making with our hands. Her Q & A with her answered a lot of questions and thoughts I’ve had over the years such as how we need to make things as a way of “satisfying the basic emotional needs that were laid down in the way of life of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.” She even mentions that “the psychological losses of not artifying [her term for making things one cares about special] can be likened to a vitamin deficiency. You may not know that you have it, but once you learn that you do and rectify it, you feel so much better.”

As a society, we’ve lessened the value of the handmade, mostly because we no longer “need” to make our own clothes or grow our food. Much of what ties us to our role as a human with the ability to create is relegated to the digital world now, which is also very needed, though it’s my hope that the DIY renaissance, that Melanie speaks of (you know, the Etsy age, etc) is not a trend, but a way of life. My goal here at Lars is to provide a destination for you to come and see what some of those possibilities are.

A creative outlet for every person

In my years of encouraging people to make things I’ve come across a number of people who say “but I’m not creative” or “I’m not crafty” or “I could never make that”, etc or “I don’t have the time for that”. While we all take on different interests and skillsets, I’m determined that there IS a handmade outlet for everyone in some shape or form. I was thrilled when the coloring for adults trend took off because here was something that ANYONE can do. That’s why I jumped on it and decided to create some. Now I see embroidery taking off (once again!), paper flower making, punch needling, macrame, weaving, quilting, etc.. This resurgence of the arts and crafts is back because we all find different forms of creating satisfying.

For example, I am NOT a knitter. I don’t know if the day will ever come that I will be, but I’ve tried it many times in many circumstances taught by many people and ultimately, I just don’t like the idea of repeating something over and over with exact precision. But maybe you do? Or maybe you don’t as well! And you know what, there are SO many other things that you can do to work with your hands.

Here at Lars we tend to focus on a lot of paper crafting or party ideas, but the idea is that there is a skillset, investment of time and money for everyone. Because we need it! I promise you do, though, like Ellen Dissanayake said, you may not realize it. We’ve even gone to great lengths to bring our creative world to YOU through our shop so you can easily gather our templates and printables. And for those of you who don’t feel like you have the full time or ability to make, you can purchase and easily assemble.

As the creative director of The House That Lars Built, my job has become more removed from hand making. It’s basically overseeing all of the creative. I love doing it! Sammy, our designer and maker, is the one who mostly makes our projects for the site at this point, though sometimes I do some things when time and scope allow. Together, we work on developing the ideas, she might make a mock up, I might inform the color palette or material, but then she goes to town on it. For this reason, I’ve felt more and more removed from the heart of our company. We’ve become much more streamlined in our processes and systems, thanks in part to my Mary, our business director, but I’ve been aching to bring that handmade element back into my job so I can more accurately reflect what I believe we should all do.

The new plan

Here’s what I’ve come up with–I’m going to try out something new where once a week for a few hours I’m going to dedicate to personally working on a project and show my progress either through a Facebook or Instagram Live–still working out the actual specifics. Then I will invite YOU to show ME what you’re working on too! How does that sound?

I know what you may be thinking…”who has the time”? Or sometimes, “who has the money?” or “how do I find something I’m interested in?” or “but I’m realllllly not creative, what do I do?” In addition to taking the time to hand make each week, we will be sharing more essays here on Lars that address these topics.

Why do you make?

Like I mentioned, social media has become a game, but it’s also a wonderful community that I hope to gather more into so we can support each other’s handmaking quests. So, I’d love to hear from YOU 1) Why do you make? and 2) What questions would you like to see us address that can help support you in your creative life?

Read more from Melanie’s book here

You can read more essays below:

Our mission here
On Community
How to identify your style


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