Sunday 22 November 2009

Make Do and Shift

Although this blog largely provides evidence to the contrary, I am actually aware that there are other people out there who make and do interesting things. There are so many awesome sites, blogs and bloggers out there who are committed to discovering and reporting on them in intelligent and humorous ways who catch on a thousand times quicker than I do, that generally I let them get on with it.

However, one such person who makes and does interesting things that I really would like to discuss is Vancouver based Natalie Purschwitz: designer/maker of a small clothing line called Hunt & Gather, and more importantly for the purposes of this post, the creator of a quite frankly fascinating project called Makeshift, which is best described in her own words:

"MakeShift is an art and research project that examines the relationships between 'making', 'clothing' and 'living'. The basic premise for the project is that for a period of one year starting on September 1st, 2009, I will only wear things that I have made myself. Initially this may seem like a reasonable task, but it will include all of my clothes, socks, shoes, underwear, coats, jackets, hats, bathing suits, accessories and anything else I might need to protect my body from the elements while trying to lead a fulfilling life."

Arguably it could be viewed as ‘I see your Wardrobe Refashion pledge, match it and raise you actually making EVERYTHING from scratch’! But where the Makeshift project differs from WR, is that it seems to be grounded in an art based investigation of culture and personal development. She explains “I hope to gain some understanding of the limitations of clothing and how they affect the development of ideology. Ultimately, I would like to examine the role of clothing as a form of cultural production”.

It is not a community project like WR, Makeshift is a personal “attempt to take responsibility for one of the three basic human needs - food, clothing and shelter”, but I’ll be very surprised if she doesn’t inspire others to attempt something similar. WR’s focus is largely to reuse what has already been produced, thus keeping it out of the landfill AND not adding to the demand for more environmentally damaging (and often sweatshop produced) clothing. Although reusing materials is not Makeshift’s primary concern, she does address the issue thus:

“I am trying to use materials that I already have (I have a lot) as well as re-purposed materials, found materials and materials that people have given to me (my favourite). I am conscientious about my materials and am considering where they come from as part of my larger agenda of critically questioning the roles of clothing and being clothed. I hope you will also view this as valid approach to materials”

AMEN! For ages now I’ve struggled with whether it’s ok or not to buy new fabric and I think her approach is the most balanced and a good manifesto for home sewing.
Natalie decided to do the Makeshift project in first place since “I noticed that I was often wearing at least one thing that I'd made myself. It made me wonder....hmmmm.... Could I??? Would I???”. As time passes and my wardrobe’s mass manufactured garments slowly become replaced with handmade items, like Natalie I too increasingly find myself out and about in homemade togs. So the natural question is: could I personally follow such rules as she? I must admit the challenge and ‘extremity’ does appeal. It would be such a massive learning curve in terms of skill acquisition. The production of underwear, knitwear, outerwear and in particular footwear interests, thrills and terrifies me, but these are achievements and discoveries I want to take my time over. Also, putting aside mass-manufactured garments I already own from ‘before’ seems a little pointless if attempting to adopt these rules for anything more than an experiment existing within a limited time frame.

I am enthralled to hear Natalie’s further thoughts and revelations as she continues this experiment. Already she has begun to consider her wardrobe almost like a survival kit, and as she determines new requirements and produces them, her 'kit' continues to grow. Makeshift highlights so many thoughts, contemplations and debates for everyone disposed to questioning their consumption, and in further ways, for those who choose to produce or make additions to their wardrobe using their own fair hands. For me, one of the most interesting elements of this experiment is how her thoughts and practices will have altered, or not, once the year is up, and I do hope she continues to record these online to contribute further to these debates.


natalie p said...

Hi Zoe,

I'm really glad you like the project and have taken the time to write about it. I think that unless you are a 'maker' (like you yourself are) it can be hard to grasp how much time and work goes into something like this so I appreciate your comments all the more!


Veronica Darling... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Veronica Darling... said...

Sorry typo! I really like your write up on this! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Max California said...

wow. I've always wanted to try to wear everything head to toe in my own things ((although shoes might seem tricky, but from those photos, looks like it's not completely impossible!))((except. I really REALLY love my killer heels :( )) and I'd like to do the same for my husband and little baby.

I try really hard to make everything I can instead of buying it, but this is some really good inspiration, and you're very wise! You know how to put things into words to make me think!


Zoe said...

Thanks! Natalie is really inspirational, and I'm really glad I was able to pass on some of that inspiration via my blog post. It's so exciting that there are so many creative people out there striving to avoid buying mass produce things and prevent extra landfill fodder by upcycling. Happy sewing everyone! x

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