DDIY: Don’t do it yourself?


I read recently an article in the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest by Lisa Anne Auerbach called “d.d.i.y. Don’t Do It Yourself:”

D.I.Y. used to mean grabbing a Sharpieâ„¢ and starting one’s own revolution through words and actions. Now it means going into debt at mega-stores, consuming more and more materials manufactured overseas, raping the earth, destroying forests, creating garbage, and mucking up our lives with badly fixed toilets, leaking tile floors, ill-fitting sweaters, bowing floorboards, crooked walls, and ugly mosaics. We are bankrupting competent carpenters. We are destroying the careers of electricians and hvac crews. Our d.i.y. travesties of home improvement leave us with closets full of under-used tools and sheds full of extra wood and steel wool and toxic chemicals and mastic and caulk. These closets don’t really even shut correctly; our hinges aren’t straight and we brashly scrape the undersides of our doors with a plane, hoping that two crookeds will combine into one straight. Our D.I.Y. adventures in making our own clothes, clutter our homes with extra fabric, yarn, and sewing supplies. The clothes we manufacture are good for a couple times out and about, but our learning curve is steep and the seams don’t always stay together. Our D.I.Y. exuberance for cooking unfamiliar cuisines fills our cabinets with jars of exotic spices, specialized contraptions, bamboo steamers, Moroccan tangines, the requisite fondue set; all items that will flood thrift stores shortly after whichever particular cooking trend is succeeded by the next. Guests to our homes smile and swallow appreciatively; does this really mean our cooking adventures are successful? We are constantly experimenting with something new, with no time to perfect anything before our next project looms on the horizon, bringing with it a new supply of gadgets and raw materials.

The trickery of advertisers makes us feel like human beings, while in reality we are, in the minds of the global mega-companies who have us all on a short leash, slavish consumers. D.I.Y. has become just another tactic to rip away our humanity, turning us into operators of cash machines and credit cards. We exist to be ripped-off and profited from. D.I.Y. panders to our beliefs, while at the same time ripping us a new asshole and sending our hard earned money straight to hell. We are stewing in our own fat. Our utopia is on layaway, with an option for 1.5% cash back if we sign up for the right credit card. We have become hungry monsters, drooling to take back production for ourselves, whatever the cost. Our ethos has been gift wrapped and sold back to us. Our revolution has been pilfered.

Her point in the end seems to veer back toward the positive, community-based makerdom that we see here on our site and many others every day. She calls for us to share our expertise with others in a bartering system. For me, most of the fun in making comes from learning new skills and tools, although I can see her point about amassing garages full of supplies and tools you never use. What are your thoughts about the article? Post them in the comments.


Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

View more articles by Becky Stern