Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Exploring the Urban Craft Fad: Introduction

What is the point of the urban craft fad? As a twenty-something living in Chicago, I am constantly meeting people who scrap for ways to re-involve themselves with processes that machines have been handling just fine for several decades now. I find myself surrounded by idealists who for some reason think that it is worth the trouble to roast your own coffee beans, brew your own beer, grow your own vegetables, fix your own bike, make your own yoghurt, keep your own bees, and even raise your own hens on the back half of a city lot.

Off the top of my head, I can think of friends and acquaintances who are involved in all of these things. In addition, I know someone who sought out a job at a riding stable so that he could learn about horses, someone who got a woodworking kit for Christmas so that he can start building his own furniture, someone who gets natural milk delivered from a farm in Indiana, and someone who works at a market that gets all of its products from local growers in a 200-mile radius.

Of course, it is easy to overstate the tides of cultural trends, especially for those caught up in them. So far, all I have actually asserted is that I hang out with a certain crowd. This is not the first time a green wave rolled over a portion of the young generation. I only need to look at college pictures of my parents and their friends to remember that very short cut-off jeans, mustaches, and “earthiness” were all cool at least once before. In addition, there are plenty of people outside my small world of the young, urban, middle-class. These folks often embody the kind of authenticity that we seek, and ironically they do not give a damn about sustainable methods, environmental awareness, or cage-free eggs. For them, trying to grow your own vegetables on a porch railing planter is nothing but an emasculating waste of time. Fair enough.

Still, I cannot help but to be intrigued by this openness toward the authentic that I see in many of my peers and that I feel in myself. In the same spirit as an eight year old boy who peeks in the closet to gaze at his father’s rifle, we find ourselves drawn to anything with a close connection to the natural and to simple human labor. The next few posts will set forth a few ideas about what it is within my generation that the urban craft fad points to.