made with love

The author is visiting a select team of designers working in the crafts department at Martha Stewart Living headquarters in New York City.

And yet i still feel a great sense of of commonality with these women. I ask them if they think the world divides into people who don’t make stuff and people who do. They answer diplomatically, like social workers, saying how everyone has their own special creativity.

They think that I’m trying to catch them out in some snobbery, to claim membership in in some exclusive group. But I’m talking about something as value neutral as double-jointedness. The inability to look at something without wanting to somehow make it into something else, a compulsion completely separate from aesthetics or talent.

I try a different tactic. I ask if they’ve ever passed by the garbage of Duggal Photo, a processing lab in the Flatiron district. The trash at Duggal almost always has something good: pristine black cardboard, which would cost a lot to buy in a store, or some very nice acetate or clean foam core. Suddenly they know exactly what I’m talking about. Just thinking about it makes their eyes light up like the Cratchett children on Christmas morning.

Actually, there is a much clearer marker by which to divide the population: between the people who make things, and the people who receive the things we make. Staying up late exploring one’s obsession of the moment is one thing, foisting the product of those obsessions upon friends and loved ones is something else entirely.

Giving someone an art project might appear very generous on the surface, but in another sense it’s an act of bullying. More than a store-bought gift, it’s an attempt to curate someone else’s taste. You’re also consigning them to the task of having to take care of your work. It’s a bit like leaving a baby on their doorstep. After the initial amazement at its profound beauty, it simply becomes a liability. I have made and given away easily twenty years’ worth of things. Some of the recipients have moved almost that many times. Others have died, gotten divorced, or been widowed. I have made things out of food — polyurethaned food, but food nonetheless.

“I was doing a lot of mushroom prints, and everyone got one for their birthday that year,” muses one of the women. “Actually, you know, come to think of it, I haven’t seen a lot of those up. I wonder what happened to them.”

Rakoff, David. Don’t Get Too Comfortable : the indignities of coach class, the torments of low thread count, the never-ending quest for artisanal olive oil, and other first world problems. New York: Broadway Books, 2005.


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