On Making Happiness

With the winter coming to a close, I am about to finish with my “Year of the Maker”.

For those new to the concept, here’s the background: I made ceramics in high school. Liked it, but knew I wasn’t meant to be a professional artist. I once drew state maps for my roommates. I never had considered myself someone who likes to cook, though I follow directions well. I generally consider myself a curious person. And I have siblings that can make almost anything, it seems, so my life is rife with inspiration.

The idea of “Year of the Maker” started in the depths of 2015, at the Fort Mason West Coast Craft fair. It had me dreaming. Rows and rows of beautiful work. Clean and professional. And I wanted to buy most of it, if not for the pricing.

Most of all, it looked do-able. Don’t get me wrong: it certainly takes a heightened level of talent to get artwork to the standards of that fair. But generally the concepts looked doable. The difference between those artists and me was intention.

So I left with my own intention: that I would return in 2016 with either: (1) the ability to make, or (2) the knowledge how to make (and the distinct decision not to), ¾ of the products in the craft show.

The year that followed has transformed the way I will learn, purchase, and create for the rest of my life.

Here’s a list of what I’ve made since December, 2015:

Ceramics

  • 30+ mugs
  • 20+ bowls
  • 1 teapot
  • 2 plates
  • 8 vases
  • 2 (accidental) planters

Leather

  • Two belts
  • Two leather engagement bracelet (huzzah!)

Drinks

  • 30 bottles of kombucha (strawberry flavored is most definitely the winner)
  • 1 jar of elderberry shrub

Foods

  • Homemade pho broth
  • Blackberry, peach, cardamom jam
  • 8+ ice creams
  • 10+ jars of pickles
  • Beef jerky
  • Granola bars (semi-success)

Drawing

  • 3 large state maps (Costa Rica, Haiti, India)

Wood

  • Two string-on-wood creations
  • 5 crates-turned-bookshelves

Rope

  • One semi-failed hammock/seat for Brian for Christmas

Games

  • Shark-o-polo

Structures

  • One Hexayurt

Business

  • One business prototype!

The trick? I changed my mindset.

You see, most of this work doesn’t require genius. It requires varying levels of time and intention.

So:

#1: I carved out time for it. I started with little things: I picked up nails and string when I was near the ACE Hardware, and wood the next time I was remotely near a Home Depot. I made the string map simply: no fancy work. Saved that for later. For my foods, I worked on a Sunday. Foggy days give you amply reason to stay inside, and if you have a friend join you then it’s social, too.

(Lesson learned: don’t get bogged down on making the perfect thing. Just get something out there. If you’re missing a small ingredient of the wood isn’t perfect, move on. Build.)

#2: I asked myself “Could I make this?”. It’s a simple question, but changed the way I looked at products. A quick YouTube search or closer inspection could demonstrate how — and from there I could make the decision of if I would proceed.

Lesson learned: Set an intention to ask yourself if you can make whatever it is you are looking at. Over time, you will retrain your brain to constantly ask that question.

I reframed the way I saw the world and nurtured my curiosity, and in doing so I built a habit.

To any of you considering your own years, here’s how I would sum it up: this year will teach you how to make your own happiness and how to make your own fun. Each creation you make on your own is a chance for you to uniquely alter it, adapting it to better fit your needs. It’s a chance to build something from its elemental components, and take pride in what your hands have made. It’s a divorce from relying on others to produce things for you, and a mindset that encourages you to make on your own. And it is building potential that you will recognize throughout the many years to come.