Mass customization vs DIY?


Today I quickly stopped by Holy Shit Shopping, a medium-sized design and crafts fair that has been held in Berlin annually in the Christmas time for the last three or four years. The stuff I saw made me think a little, so here’s a few thoughts. (disclaimer: unfiltered and straight from the train.)

First of all, a few of the things I saw made me smile, in a way that reminded me of the first time I went to this market: A usb stick in concrete. a breakfast egg holder made from concrete but looking like a cushion. A kit to build lamps from used light bulbs. A lot of artsy and baby stuff that was pretty neat even though I’m not in the market for that.

But there was another feeling creeping up on me. Where I used to marvel at micro label apparel and wallets made from old bike tube rubber, I felt somewhat over-fed on most of this. Between dozens of silk screening tshirt labels and absolutely everything made from rubber (or its more recent offspring, firehose tube), the products lost their special appeal.

Now there’s two things to put this into perspective: where zu many small labels are clustered like this, perception changes, of course. In a different context their wares would still be more appealing. And also, I’ve been reading Cory Doctorow’s Makers, in which he also draws a picture of what mass customization and DIY might look like once the current (almost fetish-like) fascination wears off and we get more used to it all.

It feels like we’re in a transition period in which it’s being figured out what the rules and boundaries are in respect to maker culture, mass customization, home fabrication and (simple but creative) re-use of materials.

Or maybe I’m just making this up. You tell me.