How to start making things

How to chill productively? is what someone asked me a while ago. Even though it feels quite millenial first world problems high pressure society, it is exactly what activated me to start making things. Here’s an article filled with clichés which are nevertheless worth writing about.

Bread, patches on clothes, earphones, a spoon, a table, drawings, music. You can make anything. Nothing new of course. I am slowly integrating into my life how to make things myself. I find it very fulfilling and it makes me “sleep in peace when day is done” as Nina Simone sang.

Many people might not have this first world problem of sometimes being fed up with binge-watching another Netflix episode and searching for an evening activity that is both relaxing and wholesome. But I hear it often around me. A friend started to learn to play guitar. Another decided she wanted to learn how to fix things, starting with her Iphone earphones. Yet another friend makes great art…….And I failed at making things. I mean, I tried, learning from Youtube or friends. But the result is usually: flat bread, a wobbly table, a way too big butter knife, fixed holes that break within a day and mouldy peanut butter. Amongst other fails. Fail forward is the advice that many people gave us in the SureButHow interviews about changing bigger or smaller things.

Failed attempts can still feel quite exiting. It is definitely worth just doing it and enjoying the making process. When I write songs, usually most of them sound the next day like a fart that’s not worth listening to. But still it’s fun to do. As Sven wrote earlier in an article about activism, many so-called failed actions of movements provided fruitful ground for later successful movements.

Another obvious benefit of making things yourself is that it’s more sustainable. I currently live in a collective in Stockholm where I’m constantly getting inspired by people making things around me. If we believe the Scandinavian stereotype, Swedish culture has better preserved the tradition of making things from basics than Dutch culture. Not surprising in a climate that allows limited agriculture and limited movement to the supermarket when it’s -13 C outside. For long, people had to preserve food to get through winter. A culture of preservation was formed and this influenced the current Swedish image of sustainable and basic living. (This book gives more background info about this)

For all of you who are wondering where this article is going…I don’t know it either, but here’s a manual for how to carve your own traditional Swedish butter knife from wood:

1. Take a log or some leftover wood

 

2. Use an axe to chop a piece of the length. Without the bark.

 

3. Use a hammer to have more control with the axe and to not chop your hands off.

 

4. Hold the axe close to the iron head to slowly carve along the lines of the spoon/knife that you draw with a pencil on the wood. A spoon or knife is easiest to start with.

 

5. Do it a bit more until you feel that you can no longer carve precisely with the axe.

 

6. Then use a wood carving knife. Here are some cutting techniques. Always follow the direction of the wood lines, downwards. Never carve against the wood lines.

 

7. The idea is that, after a lot of carving and a final layer of oil, you end up with this butter knife:

 

8. But I didn’t get further than this. A fantastic beautiful fail.