Saturday, July 21, 2012

easy as 1, 2 or 3?

Home Depot has come to the realization that things need to be simplified, or dumbed down, or that contractors need to be available, or they'll lose sales... As once would have been All-American fix-it DIY types are falling from of the woodwork into a new cultural abyss, we ask. "Skills? What skills?" We don't seem to have hem anymore. This link is to the New York Times. A Nation that's losing its toolbox.
Ask the administration or the Republicans or most academics why America needs more manufacturing, and they respond that manufacturing spawns innovation, brings down the trade deficit, strengthens the dollar, generates jobs, arms the military and kindles a recovery from recession. But rarely, if ever, do they publicly take the argument a step further, asserting that a growing manufacturing sector encourages craftsmanship and that craftsmanship is, if not a birthright, then a vital ingredient of the American self-image as a can-do, inventive, we-can-make-anything people.

That self-image is deteriorating. And the symptoms go far beyond Home Depot.
As we become a nation of well entertained nincompoops, many may never know the pleasure of having made something beautiful and useful of their own design with their own hands. I can't think that would be a very good thing. In fact, shameful, me thinks. Thanks, John for the link.

I am preparing for a week long class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, building small cabinets. Starts Monday.

Make, fix and create...

5 comments:

John Grossbohlin said...

Doug,

Another part of this problem is that when someone with skill goes to stores looking for traditional materials, tools, or repair parts they cannot buy them. It had gotten really frustrating going to multiple stores and finding they all carry the same thing but not the right thing for the job. It's gotten to the point where I frequently find myself ordering things off the internet as the first step. This as I know I cannot buy it locally and if I can they have to special order it. In purely economic terms, why make two trips to the store, incurring time and travel expenses, long explanations when I can have it show up at my door? The stores will not stock the items in the future anyway if they "special order" something as they wouldn't turn it over fast enough.

How to end this downward spiral is a huge challenge...

John

Doug Stowe said...

John,
The local hardware store knew that they needed to be responsive to what people needed. The local big box store thinks it only needs to be responsive to what it can sell in volume. When they came in and sold the things that could be sold at volume at discount, that left the local hardware stores holding only those things that folks needed on rare occasions, with their more commonly needed profit items at too high a price.

At one time Berryville and Eureka Springs both had 5 @ 10 cent stores where fabrics and notions were sold. Then Walmart put in a large craft supply section that sold fabrics and the like. They then decided that department wouldn't be profitable enough because it required skilled labor, but this decision came after they had decimated the competition. They turned instead to selling party junk and kid crafts that they can sell without having anyone knowledgeable onsite.

The gist of this is that stores will only sell high profit items, not the occasional things you might need if you are a creative individual. The upside is the creation of small internet specialty businesses, and the creative opportunity for the craftsman to figure out how to do without... I ran into a problem with small brass lid supports for small boxes... manufacturers stopped making them because you could hardly sell them for more than 79 cents, and not in large quantities. But I found that making my own lid supports could become one more way of being expressive and creative.

I'm not sure how to end the downward spiral, but human beings are wired to be creative. I'm in the process of fixing an external hard drive that ceased to be recognized by my computer. I had read online (my local internet guru knew nothing about this) that freezing it in the freezer would help it to work and be recognized long enough to download its contents. It worked. No one seems to know why. I saved the photos and other content to another drive. Now I've ordered a new internal drive to replace the one in the enclosure and will use it for extra back up. It is truly amazing what we can learn online, whereas at one time, I would have stood in line at the local hardware store for information on something or other. So while we are in a spiral, and some are going downward, there are also some interesting things happening that aren't quite so bad.

Mario Núñez said...

Unless it's absolutely necessary to do otherwise, I will shop at the locally owned hardware store rather than the big box stores. I may pay a bit more, but the advice they give me is worth that extra money. And they will flat out not sell me something if they feel it wouldn't be what I need. The store is a True Value franchise owned by a couple who were bit time corporate types until they found that life pretty empty. As the old Polish saying goes, may they live a hundred years.

Mario

Doug Stowe said...

At my local hardware store, I can still go in and buy a single screw or a machine bolt either in standard or metric. Need a cap screw, or a finish washer? You won't find those at Wally World. Small hardware stores like your True Value and my local Ace are true values to our communities.

Mario Núñez said...

I just had the same experience at the local sailors' supply store where you tap into the collective knowledge and experience of people who have been at it for a very long time. The national chains can only compete on price, and not always.

Mario