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Design: The Maker Movement: Another visible sign that Americans are embracing RightSIZE UP!

A new lifestyle trend finally hit print this month. It’s one that’s right on track with the RightSIZE UP movement’s timeline as we continue to make strides in putting quality of life first. It’s called The Maker Movement.

While The Maker Movement is new to us right now, it’s the same one that swept the nation before. The first time was during the industrial age, at the turn of the century. The movement hit again (to a smaller extent) in the 60’s. The early 19 hundreds were a time where new technology in manufacturing innovations spurred on a huge consumer appetite for all things machine made. In fact it had become such a craze that it literally saturated the culture. Designs became precise, exact, uniform and abundant by virtue of mass assembly. Soon, the festooning and somewhat fussy details of the Victorian era quickly evaporated. Suddenly anything handmade was considered too sentimental and unsophisticated as, wood, ribbons, buttons and bows gave way to, iron, rivets, gears and sprockets.

Finally as a revolt to the impersonal industrialization of design, those within the first Maker Movement uprising said “enough!” Worried that the art of “handcraft” might completely vanish, artists and designers began to weave back the raw elements of nature into a new design now counterpointed with the rawer machine elements of industry.

Mass-produced jars now got filled with layers of decorative fruits vegetables and preserved flowers. Loaves of bread were baked, not to be eaten, but to be used as decorative accessories, tucked into bookcases along with real birds nests, and other natural forest finds. Branches were suspended from ceilings and decorated with hand made bobbles tied on with ribbons. Elaborate topiaries made from dried natural elements like stacked stones mixed with herbs, filled industrial-made urns. It became a visual statement declaring that both handmade and industry could live together in harmony. In the 60’s, another breakthrough in technology, the Maker Movement reappeared in the mists of the hippy culture and could be seen in things like psychedelic tie dying and in the cultures iconic peace daisy.

While a bit esoteric for this day and age, the Maker Movement has, nevertheless returned, but this time as a revolt to our overly saturated digital culture.

Its current incarnation began with the renewed interest in the flea market craze which recently morphed into The Industrial Farm House look (the Americana equivalent of the French Shabby Chic) along with a dash of Route 66 Nostalgia and a dose of Steam Punk.

It has resulted in the recent glut of distressed galvanized tin, chicken wired and enamel products along with a wide range of rusty hardware reproductions, which ironically are mass-produced to simulate metal decay. The stuff is currently piled high on the shelves of places as ubiquitous as Hobby Lobby and even Walmart.

Needless to say, the age of “pretend distressed” has hit harder than ever. “Big time” is an understatement. Is it a fad? To a certain extent it is. There’s only so much of that stuff and environment can take. Is it also a trend too? The short answer is yes. By virtue of the fact that it’s being labeled (by the global design press) as “the full blown return of the Maker Movement” means it’s connected to a far bigger cultural movement too. That’s code for big mass conscientiousness shift.

Whether you groove on the look or not, isn’t as important as the fact that our culture seems hungry, once again, for anything old or handmade even if it’s just manufactured to look like it. Where once (in the early 90s) I scavenged barns looking for old wooden fruit boxes or took a rusty rake and used it as a wineglass holder on my show, now these things are actually being manufactured new because no one has the time to forage nor the money to pay “antique” prices. It’s also why the consignment and thrift shop movement is now in full swing perhaps as an antidote to years of Ikea, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and Pier 1 interiors LOL. Mind you each of these vendors have just recently begun using the influence of the Maker Movement too.

As I see it, this is proof-positive that we’re trying to take the incremental baby-steps to somehow get back to core values, which seem so blurry these days. Reading the design tea leaves, I see it as visual confirmation that we’re struggling to re-find a kind of simplicity that could possibly reawaken the spiritual underpins that once made us feel more uniquely human. I think that’s a good thing.

Are we somehow trying to move forward by looking back? Do we hope that tactile chalk based paint, manufactured rust, or machine-distressed galvanized tin might get us there quicker? Will it trigger a sense of things maybe a bit more gentle…kinder, simpler if you will? I don’t know. What I do know is that this kind of social shift is very much within the predicted RightSIZE UP timeline. Why else would manufacturers be tooling up to supply the shear volume of these products at mass market if the sudden demand from millions of consumers wasn’t there?

So, whether it’s a deep universal sense-memory of something that’s laid dormant in our emotional DNA or simply a need to find calm in the chaos, it’s all pointing in the same direction. It’ proof that we all seem to be waking up at the same time and what we see modeled around us is perhaps no longer acceptable.

All I know is that mass design movements never lie. Having been in thousands of homes, I’ve come to know how alarmingly true it is, that beneath the physical design (or lack of) always lives a far deeper emotional motivation. It’s why our homes and how we live should be taken more seriously as a telltale road map. It’s also why it should be in total sync with who we really are or who we truly hope to be.

By changing the physical interior through careful curation, deliberate and intentional new thinking we can, in fact create positive and lasting change.



Below is a trailer on a recent documentary on the Maker Movement.

Since many Maker Movement images are copyrighted, you can start by viewing examples on Google.

There are more examples on Pinterest:

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