Saturday, May 22, 2010

Diffusing the Crafting Innovation; MMM-L 20-22

Have you heard of the theory of diffusion of innovation? Basically it posits that there is a pattern to how new ideas, trends, technology ... innovations, in essence ... are spread. In public health we'd call this "social norms" and "changing the discourse around social norms." [OK, I call it this. I like to make up my own jargon.] But the basic idea is that there are some people at the very edge of a new innovation, the ones leading the charge, coming up with new ideas, etc., and they're the innovators. The earliest people to catch on to the new idea are the early adopters, followed by the early majority, etc. People who study this claim that if you can get ~18% of the population to catch on to an innovation [i.e. somewhere between the early adopters and the early majority], then it will eventually filter out to the rest of the population. It's the tipping point, but in social science, not Malcolm Gladwell, terms.

I've been thinking about this recently because I'm wondering what it would take for DIY and crafting to "go mainstream." Hit that tipping point. And trying to figure out where we currently are on this curve. I mean, wouldn't it be cool if DIY and crafting and handmade returned to hold a role in everyday life? It could be a pipe dream, but maybe not - I mean, look at where the sustainable agriculture, organic food, local food, slow food, local business movement is! Ten years ago you'd say "Michael who?" if Michael Pollan's name came up. So how can we get more people on board with this? Do you think we're currently innovators, or have we moved out to the early adopter phase?

One difference between food and crafting, of course, is that crafting can be more involved. Well, debatable. Cooking certainly is an involved process, but people can also support the movement by buying organic or going to farmers markets. But crafters have something similar in Etsy and indie/handmade fashion labels, no? They give people a way to participate in the handmade movement without having to make things by hand themselves, although ideally I'd love to see a general return to the "make do," improvised, fix it don't trash it, mentality of times past.

I'm guessing that the first step in my own life would be to talk about the value of handmade, starting with every time I get a compliment on a piece of clothing or bag that I've made. Most of the time I don't even tell people I made it! I don't know why I don't say anything, I think I'm a little shy and hate to draw more attention to myself. But maybe if I really want to get more people on board with the DIY culture, it's time to step out of that shell a bit.

Enough of that. On to the outfits, lady!

Day 20.

Handmade dress. Since it wasn't quite warm enough to wear the dress on its own, I improvised. When I make something new, I like to wear it all the time, unless it really doesn't work for me, in which case it never gets worn and is eventually repurposed or donated.

Day 21.

Handmade skirt. It's funny, even though I find this skirt hard to match because of the difference in value between the deep blue denim and the white background of the pockets, I somehow wind up wearing it all the time. I think that's because it's an in-between seasons skirt that can stretch from early spring to early summer and then early fall into warm-ish winter days, and I don't have very many of those. Note to self: wardrobe gap!

Day 22.

Handmade scarf and underwear. Sigh, I hate to admit this ... but I miss my RTW clothing! Which is really funny because some of my favorite skirts are my handmade summer skirts ... and yet ... and yet? I guess I don't like living off them entirely, like I get bored? Or maybe I feel like wearing a lot of dresses and have only made myself 3 of those? Or maybe I haven't outgrown my teenage rebellious ways? Or maybe photographing my outfits each day has pointed out a certain ... sameness ... to them, like proportion and cut, which is pushing me to want to mix it up except I can't because most of my handmade clothing looks, well, a little bit the same. A-line skirts and all.

Had a really nice, relaxing afternoon in the park. I sat on a bench and called my good friend in CA and she caught me up on all the gossip in our circle of friends [we went to high school together, although Kat and I also did college together and then lived ~1 mile apart in SF for 2 years]. I watched a group of students about my age throw a football around, a group of 3 males play whiffle ball in the baseball diamond and it cracked me up to see the "outfielder" on his cell phone, trying to make one-handed catches. And then I lay in the grass and started Peter Hessler's River Town. I wish I had read this before I did my year in China. At the time I had heard of it but refrained because I was jealous -- who was this foreigner writing about China to such acclaim? But 2 pages into the book it is very clear that authoring such a book has nothing to do with whether you are a foreigner or not, but rather whether you have an open heart, a watchful eye, and a willingness to ask questions. They say envy points you to the directions that you want to grow, and I certainly wish I could write about China the way he does. But, you know, mine is a different story to tell. Right now I'm just absorbing it, dissecting it, gaining inspiration, and letting it all percolate ...


Zonnah said...

I really like the skirt in day 21!

Sigrid said...

I have been thinking the same thing about food and clothing lately-- maybe there will be a "slow clothes" movement? ? ?

Tasia said...

Cute outfits! And I love your thoughts on sewing and spreading the word..I try and talk about sewing to anyone I think might be interested. It's awesome to be able to share my passion with friends and family! Just think, if each of us gets two friends excited about sewing or knitting, then the crafting community will triple in size...
The internet has shown me just how many people are excited about sewing. I never knew there were so many other people as excited by sewing and other creative pursuits, until I started blogging!

Zoe said...

SUCH a good post! I love your musings on the proliferation of trends and how they relate to sewing. I wish more people who wanted to support the 'slow-fashion' movement but didn't want to get into sewing themselves would support independent labels more. Maybe that's a lack of knowledge about how and where to purchase such things. It amazes me how few people outside of the crafting community have heard of Etsy for example. I tell people about it all the time and many seem shocked that such a thing exists.

I massively agree with your conclusion about the proliferation of our DIY ideals. I think talking and writing about these topics is the only way the ideas will slowly emanate.

Thanks for a fantastic thought provoking post.
Zoe xxx

Amy said...

This is a really interesting post! Do movements have a typical life-span? Why I'm asking is because crafts were really popular in the 70's. When I was a child, almost all of my clothes were homemade. It's hard for me to think of this as a new movement because of that; however, crafts weren't all that popular in the 80's and 90's. I was teased a lot for knitting during those years--people called me "grandma..." People don't seem to have those sorts of hang-ups anymore, though. Hurrah!

Amy said...

My comment above wasn't expressed very well. What I'm trying to get at is how is this slow-clothes movement different from what has been done in the past? The commercial (etsy) aspect? Sorry for being so dense!

Also, love your outfits! I can't believe I didn't mention that. Need more coffee...