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The urge to repurpose.


Yesterday’s New York Times contained a feature on Ikea hackers, creative consumers who see Ikea’s “flat pack” products as raw materials, using them to build objects that serve newly imagined purposes. Illustrating the article are, among other items, a dress sewn from shower curtains and a guitar made from a tabletop. This interest in adaptive reuse of objects is not restricted to Ikea products alone, and the DIY magazine ReadyMade regularly features ideas for reusing old or everyday objects in new ways. Shoshana Berger, editor in chief of ReadyMade, explained this urge to repurpose in the Times article: “We are no longer a tactile culture, so there is this yearning for things that are hands-on and handmade.”

The NYPL has multiple copies of Berger’s book available for checkout Readymade: How to Make (Almost) Everything: A Do-It-Yourself Primer. The book complements the magazine. And don’t be put off by the fact that there are power tools involved in some of the projects–it’s interesting and inspiring.

And here’s a second book suggestion, with my thanks to the Times for reminding me that the process of object hacking is also called “upcycling,” a term coined by authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Their book is Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, and you can read it at NYPL’s Science Industry and Business Library.

So…I’d like to use the Times article’s lighthearted coverage as a starting point for a conversation on how everyday folks have shaped their world through what they have made/remade by hand. NYPL has plenty in its collections that will keep me busily posting news, discoveries, and comments on all things hand-made, both from the past and the present. Return to read about hand-made books and letterpress printing, the rise of the home sewing machine, the development of home ec classes, charitable knitting, and more.


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