Consider these things: Baking, knitting, growing vegetables, making clothes, rag-rugging, brewing, decorating, embroidery, growing fruit and making jam, paper making… it’s not an exhaustive list. If you do these things privately for the benefit of home, family and/or immediate tribe, you have what will be understood socially, to be a hobby. Only if someone else pays for your output, is it serious and worth calling ‘work’.
This could use thinking about. All of the activities listed above, and everything akin to them, results (once you’re good at it) in good quality, entirely original things for less than it would cost to buy new. Many of the above give you an option on recycling materials, upcycling, re-using and generally being a bit greener. But these are ‘hobbies’ and not to be taken too seriously. They are not generally viewed as an economic option, or a way of life. We are to view them as amusing and perhaps a little self indulgent and not very practical when compared to buying something readymade off the shelf. Paying for something someone else has made, is convenient – that’s the story. We may be encouraged to think it will also be better than anything we could do for ourselves.
Well, when we start out as independent craftspeople mastering a new skill, the first few projects may be less than perfect. This is fine – this is the necessary investment in learning your craft. With time and practice you get better, and the more you do, the better you get. The bread I make costs about half as much as regular sliced supermarket bread, but is much superior in terms of quality, keeps better, creates less packaging to recycle and has no troubling added ingredients. All the same things can be said of my cakes, pickles, and the meals I cook on a daily basis.
These days it is normal to pay someone else to sort out the basics for us. It is normal for a person to have a very narrow skills base, and be paid for those narrow skills, and have to pay everyone else for their skills in return. Most of us do not know how to do most of the things that we find necessary for day to day living, and as we get ever more technological, specialist and complex, we become less able to fend for ourselves. It’s not a robust system. This makes for very fragile structures that cannot flex easily in face of dramatic change or challenge. And yet our wider culture refers to this as ‘progress’.
The Transition movement, by contrast, is all about re-skilling, and learning the essential things that help us fend for ourselves. It’s not a case of knowing where the candles are in case of a power cut, it’s knowing how to make the candles.
If we were more interested in what makes life good, what adds value and comfort, what truly enriches and pleases us, then we might be more interested in being able to make things of use and beauty for ourselves and our friends, and less interested in making money for other people.