Be a Maker

A guest blog written by Jonathan Kahn

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Before we get started, I have a riddle for you. What is both hand-made and fabricated by a machine? Read on for the answer.

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Did the holidays run roughshod over you… again? Do your Christmas memories consist of old specials on TV, bad traffic, and all-out panic? Year upon year, do you vow to start your Christmas shopping in August, only to find yourself staring at end-caps of pre-wrapped $9.99 gifts at 11:30 on Christmas Eve? Don’t be afraid to admit it; there will be no judgment here. In fact, this was me only a few years ago.

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I have mixed feelings about the commercial nature of Christmas. I like the way malls, stores and even cities decorate for Christmas, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t if not for the commercial appeal. But I very strongly dislike the way everyone is urged to buy gifts. The operative word in the last sentence is buy. I do like giving gifts, and I would love it if the gifts people gave each other showed thought and effort.

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Ideally, gifts that are made do this quite nicely. We all know someone who is skilled at carpentry or pottery – making tangible things with their hands. If you’re not one of those people, you’re in the right place – I’m not one, either. But I am good at other things. A few years ago I recorded a couple of classical piano pieces, put them up on Facebook, and burned a few CDs. That was my gift to family and friends. It may sound cheesy, but it was something I made with my own hands.

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This year, I published a collection of short stories. Yes, self-publishing is frowned upon in some elite circles. But like my classical piano recording, my little book is something that I made. It may not be a custom-built spice rack for the foodie in my life, but it’s not another $9.99 set of monogrammed handkerchiefs given in haste to someone who never wears a suit, either.

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Technology gets blamed a lot for making humans more isolated, but it’s really just an enabler (for good and bad behaviors). Technology enabled my two projects, by making them economically feasible for a guy who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them. Recording software meant I didn’t have to buy expensive studio and mastering time. On-demand publishing and e-publishing meant I didn’t have to commit to printing a thousand copies of my book.

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So now that we’re just past Christmas, turn that annual get-started-by-August vow into a plan for making your gifts next year. Stick by Robin’s blog, and you’ll surely get a few cool ideas. Oh, and in case you’re interested, my book is called Vanity Plate Tales. It’s available here.
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Do you make your own gifts? What do you make? If you don’t, what kinds of gifts would you like to make for your loved ones in 2014? Let us know in the comments.

Start now. You’ve got plenty of time until Christmas. 🙂

The artwork in this post is courtesy of Marcus McAllister. Visit him by clicking here or on any of the pieces above. You can find Jonathan Kahn on Facebook.

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