Festival of Books: DIYers, it's time to rise up!
Let’s say you want to start a revolution, a home-based, do-it-yourself revolution.
In the panel titled “DIY Revolution” on Sunday, moderator Alissa Walker (named a USC/Annenberg Journalism fellow in 2010) spoke with authors Erik Knutzen, Mark Frauenfelder and David Rees about conquering home projects.
The authors, who have tackled everything from urban homesteading to exploring the under-appreciated art of pencil-sharpening, mused on subjects such as the personality traits found in do-it-yourselfers, the meaning of the in-vogue term “artisanal” and what it means to actually do for yourself.
Knutzen, co-author of “The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City" and “Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World,” spoke about the need for DIY-ers to not be afraid to go out and try something: If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning. “This is the Freedom to Fail Panel,” he joked.
Frauenfelder, co-editor of the wildly popular Boing Boing site and editor in chief of MAKE magazine, shared Knutzen’s thoughts, remarking that one characteristic DIYers share is that they aren’t afraid to fail. They learn from mistakes.
Rees, who came to fame with the George W. Bush-era comic strip “Get Your War On,” is the author of “How to Sharpen Pencils,” which explores every possible aspect of the art of pencil-sharpening (the chapter on mechanical pencils consists of a single line, ending in an expletive: “Mechanical pencils are ... ”).
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Rees said that when considering DIY projects, he thinks beyond the single person undertaking a project. You can’t really DIY, he argued, because you need people. DIY is really about group networks and support.
Frauenfelder agreed, remarking that “DIY is almost a misnomer” and should rather be “Do It Together.”
Of the term “artisanal,” Rees remarked that the subtext to the word is really a class issue. It’s really an issue of how we learn to do something. Some people might grow up gardening or making their own products and would never consider what they do artisanal.
“If you call your product artisanal,” he argues, it may be “because you are new to it. You’re making a deliberate choice to do it.”
The authors stressed the “quest for happiness” that comes from undertaking DIY projects and the epiphany that comes from making and doing things for yourself. While it might be easier to “buy” a solution -– whether buying a particular good or service, even calling in a plumber for a repair –- there is a self-confidence, and a basic happiness, that comes from doing something for yourself.
-- Noelle Carter
Photo: Authors and DIY die-hards Erik Knutzen, left, and Mark Frauenfelder. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times