256pp., Portfolio Hardcover, 2010, $25.95.
Mark Frauenfelder, editor-in-chief of Make Magazine and writer/editor of the popular boingboing.net blog recently published a very self-reflective book entitled: Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World. This book is part memoir, part do-it-yourself trials, tribulations and successes, but entirely comedic, didactic and ultimately a fun addition to the Maker movement lexicon.
Frauenfelder writes about his journey from HAP (hire a professional) to DIY in multiple areas of his life. He begins this journey, as perhaps some would be self-sufficients do, with the thought that if he lived in an area where the people were self sufficient then he would become so too. He packs his young family up and moves to Rarotonga, an island in the Cook Islands. As is often the case, though one's location may change unless the individual makes a concentrated effort to change himself he is simply the same person living in a new place. He finds himself moving away from his idyllic island lifestyle and returning to the states with a whole new approach to achieving sustainability.
After moving himself and his family to the west coast of the United States, Frauenfelder develops a ravenous appetite for all things self reliant. His projects are as widely varied as killing his lawn, starting an organic garden, whittling spoons, raising chickens and bees and retrofitting his espresso maker to make the perfect cup of coffee. Though they range from the very practical to the slightly silly (how many readers will spend several hundred dollars to ensure the perfect cup of coffee?) all his efforts work toward one main goal of self sufficiency and the ultimate desire to regain control of his own life and his family's future.
In his quest for independence, Frauenfelder finds that often DIY projects are not as easy as they would first appear, but learns to accept his mistakes. Though some errors mean more to his life than others, such as in retrospect realizing he should have hired a tutor to help his daughter prepare for a math placement test, he embraces them as part of the path to learning. He discusses how consumer culture has created an environment where individuals no longer understand where their provisions are coming from and possibly do not care to know as long as they're there when wanted. Frauenfelder tries to move his family away from this type of thinking and creates instances where his children are very much a part of his DIY lifestyle.
Frauenfelder's meditations are not really instructional, how-to stories regarding the projects he undertakes so much as they are philosophical in nature. He discusses in great detail why he decided to live a more sustainable lifestyle and how it has changed him. This book is highly enjoyable and entertaining.