The evolution of humankind is characterised by our ability to imagine, design, make and use tools.
From hunting and farming, to building shelters, crafting things to cook and eat with, making clothes and shoes, humans had the ingenuity to develop tools from whatever was readily available to make the things they needed.
These valuable problem-solving skills needed tenacity, cooperation and a willingness to experiment.
Every development built on what had gone before – a stone makes a perfectly acceptable ‘hammer’ but it’s much more effective, and you’re much less likely to injure yourself, if it has a handle!
Making things was fundamental not only to surviving but also to thriving as individuals and as a species.
Of course, the history of human development in the creation and use of tools is long and complex but, at every stage, it was an activity that combined both mental and physical effort. This holistic way of living is one that many of us have lost as we’ve become deskilled by technology.
Nowadays many of us have lost touch with the ‘maker’ side of our natures. Our consumerist way of life means that we can easily buy the things we need or want, in the shops or, increasingly, online. And, when things become broken or worn, they can easily be replaced. In this throw-away society, many still useable items end up in landfill because we don’t have the tools or the knowledge or the skills to repair or repurpose them. The closest many of us come to making anything is putting together mass-produced flat-packed furniture with the result that our homes become homogenised – the cookie cutter vision of those big businesses who want our hard-earned money.
Remake was established in 2011 to reduce the quantity of useful items ending up in landfill and now, with the development of the new Tool Library and Repair Cafés, we will be able to support local people with equipment and skills and knowledge to cultivate their creativity.
As well as reducing waste and saving money, there are well documented mental health benefits associated with the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from making and repairing
Another potential benefit could come from reframing the idea of DIY to DIWO (do it with others). Sharing ideas, skills and knowledge builds friendships and community – just think of the Amish tradition of barn-raising where the whole community turned out to help their neighbours and it became a social occasion as well as work.
Finally, making and repairing can become a political act. Following the lockdown, we are being urged to return to our old shopping habits to support the economy. But who really gains from growing the economy? We know that the way we were living before was destroying the environment and was unsustainable in the long term. This is an opportunity to make changes to way we live, to decrease our negative impact on our world and to foster good relationships with ourselves and our neighbours.