Knit That Man a Sweater

Al Gore Stencil He deserves it more than your boyfriend, and you don’t have to worry about the dreaded break-up curse.

Al Gore has been all over the airwaves recently proposing a challenge for America to eradicate the use of fossil fuels by 2018.  I’m picking up what he’s putting down. It’s like dealing with that friend who’s always late by telling them to meet you 15 minutes earlier than when you plan to arrive.

Alternative energy is the top priority of the environmental agenda, and rightly so. It slightly dwarfs the significance of making snow globes out of baby food jars. However, after we all start driving electric cars and installing affordable solar panels on our roofs, more intense focus will turn to how stuff is made, and I think green crafting is worthy of a slide or two on Mr. Gore’s next Power Point presentation. That is, if we can get his attention.

Handmade is often coined as a superior alternative to mass production. The Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th century had the same aspirations while the Industrial Revolution was merely in its infancy, and they promoted it with much more ferocity than us. Still, artisans could not compete with technology, nor win over the hearts of consumers, and eventually stepped out of the way.  The current craft movement, in comparison, embraces technology. Yet, the same idolatry remains, and torments the psyche of so many crafters I have spoken to. Many who sell their items feel there is merit to cottage industry, but are conflicted by the awareness that consumerism, in general, has consequences for our planet.

Look, mass production is insurmountable at this point. If you can’t beat ’em,  join ’em.

I’m asking you to consider the creative input we could provide to the big corporations we generally rebel against without sacrificing our individuality. This concept is called crowdsourcing, and it’s already being utilized successfully in a growing number of industries. The convenience of disposable products and the almost infinite availability of cheap goods has perpetuated a society that is obliviously wasteful.  Efforts to promote recycling over the years has been successful, but restrictive. The resourcefulness of green crafters is part of the solution. We can help bring awareness to the entire life cycle of everyday products where the only limitation is our imaginations.

Let’s go back to snow globes. I would love to see any number of the suggestions given in Skye’s post printed on baby food jar labels. Would it be so far fetched for Gerber to host a contest for this? What if they even made parts to turn the jars into chandeliers or something? What if you bought a shirt at the store, and it came with simple instructions to turn it into a reusable shopping bag? How about a blurb on #6 plastic take out boxes suggesting you can use it to make shrinky dinks?

Mr. Gore, which Yearn Worthy Yarn would you like your sweater knitted from? Maybe a vest would more appropriate… global warming and all. More importantly, you should know that innovative sustainability isn’t pioneered in corporate board rooms. It’s happening in the makeshift studios and garage workshops of average citizens.

Image Credit: Steve Rhodes on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Written by Autumn Wiggins

This 2008 interview pretty much sums it up:

1. How would you describe yourself?
An oddly situated performer of thought experiments

2. Do you have any anecdotes about your work (how you got started, frustrating moments, or funny stories)?
At this year's Maker Faire in San Mateo, I gave a presentation on how the trend of green crafting can ultimately address the problem of consumption and waste. Dale Dougherty,the publisher of Make and Craft, later had a gift delivered to me, a staple bound book of poetry: Music Like Dirt by Frank Bidart. This is the last thing one would expect to take home from an event so focused on renegade technology. To my surprise, it was an existential reflection on the human need to make things that I now find myself going back to whenever I need some inspiration to look beyond the materials and processes of crafting.

3. What kinds of things do you do for fun?
In my spare time I enjoy amateur astronomy, outdoor adventures, collecting domain names, and hanging out at coffee shops.

4. What interesting projects are you working on right now?
I'm working to organize community involvement in upcycling, and have a few top-secret website projects up my sleeves!

5. Where do you live? Kids, pets, spouse, occupation?
O'Fallon, IL, a suburb (and I mean a totally typical suburb) of St. Louis, MO. Rather than moving to the more culture friendly urban environment, I am staying put and annoying the heck out of Wal-Mart by throwing a massive indie craft show(Strange Folk) in their backyard. I have a husband, Doug, and two sons: a 7 year old mad scientist named Jack, and 6 year old Max, who we think is an aspiring tattoo artist since he's so fond of drawing all over himself with markers. To pay the bills, I do freelance writing, mural painting, and website design, sell my handmade crafts, teach art classes for kids, and work part -time at a local coffee shop.

6. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
The concept known as "Cradle-to-Cradle" is a blueprint for sustainability that states everything we manufacture should be either biodegrable, infinitely recyclable, or intended to be upcycled. This is the basis for many of my ideas of how the crafting community can be more widely involved in solving the environmental crisis.

7. What is your favorite food/color/tool?
granola/green/sewing machine!

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