Aug 14, 2016

DIY 2.0: Just Do It Yourself!

Léa Liabastre
DIY 2.0: Just Do It Yourself!

Immersion in the craft universe during a workshop at La Nouvelle Fabrique

Associated with a nascent anti-consumerist vision of the 1970s, the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) philosophy grew from a comprehensive subculture that encompassed all types of productive activity, imagining a dynamic where people are not just spectators or consumers. More than a system of tinkering or problem-solving, DIY and manual skills today embody new creative interests, as well as recreational and community dimensions - and they include everyday practices such as cooking, sewing, and cultivating vegetable gardens, to name just a few.

In a world faced with mass industrialization, the craze today for craftsmanship and the unique object is part of an anchoring and democratization of DIY in contemporary society. Reclaiming the making of objects appears to cause joy and bring pleasure, sometimes of therapeutic value, to manual work.

Rather marginal in its infancy, DIY grew in influence and now manifests in several ways across our notions of sharing and the transfer of expertise. It is individual as well as collective activity: a growing number of workshops open their doors to DIYers, offering technical training accessible to all. One example is ceramists Cécile Gasc and Dominique Thomas, located in the heart of the Black Mountain in southern France, who each devote time and effort to coaching and workshops dedicated to the discovery and practice of ceramics.

Cécile Gasc at her working table. At the same table, children and adults take place to attend ceramic courses.

They also allow consumers to have an awareness of manufacturing processes and the knowledge required for the construction of any object. The happiness of the Ikea furniture buyer comes from experimenting - sometimes at his expense - and experiencing the time for building objects. In these moments, assembly time sometimes exceeds manufacturing time, making the ingenuity and complexity of the design objects that populate our daily lives more tangible.

Centered on the principles of openness and collaboration, fab labs cater to entrepreneurs, artists, designers, handymen and students wishing to make their own products and prototypes using machine tools, often driven by computer. These automated processes make it more accessible and easier to handle certain production steps heretofore restricted to the handwork of craftsmen and thus requiring a certain experience and dexterity.

Wiki House, Nouvelle Fabrique. House and open source build system

This is the case at Nouvelle Fabrique in Pantin, an urban micro-factory introducing the public to the latest techniques (3D printing, laser cutting, etc.) as well as to the more traditional (carpentry, leather work, etc.). This new style of workspace, open to amateur and professional creators in search of self-production, looks for new solutions for collaboration and production across contexts. Nouvelle Fabrique, in the spirit of contemporary DIY, revalues work and calls for a return to the spirit of the Arts & Crafts movement, as aptly formulated by British artist John Ruskin (1819-1900): "The supreme reward of work is not what you can earn, but what you can become."

This new valuation of gesture and handwork for all also manifests through social integration workshops. Generating community links through manual activities that meet collective needs is the daily work of the such groups as the Paris-Centre Board, a direct neighbor of Made in Town, that provides employment for people in difficult situations. The board develops a set of activities across the country that strengthen the links between people with diverse life experiences.

Sewing machine PFAFF "hobby" and sewing kit for workshops offered by the district board of Paris-Centre​

Aside from the creation of a collective vegetable garden on the grounds of the Musée des Arts et Métiers, which allows residents to cultivate the joys of gardening, and contributes to the re-flourishing of proximity as a social link, the Paris-Centre Board is also responsible for the creation of a weekly sewing workshop, held under the leadership of designer Mamadou Bamba. A native of the Ivory Coast and trained in sewing, Mamadou has been passionate about fabrics and color since a young age. After arriving in France at the age of 18, Bamba first made clothes for professional stylists before opening an eponymous shop five years later. Noticed by the famous African stylist Alphadi, Bamba was twice invited to present at the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA) in 2000 and 2003 before winning the 2004 Paris Grand Prize for Creation.


Sewing Workshop in Paris-Centre

Nouvelle Fabrique

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Léa Liabastre

Léa Liabastre

Made in Nantes. Graduated in fashion and textile design, Lea explores the bridges between traditional technics and contemporary design. For a year in the moroccan south, she supports a network of weavers in the development of a cooperative specialized in a local textile art. Her career led her then to Burkina Faso. Artistic coordinator of a residency in 2016, she mixes knowledge of refugees touareg craftsmen and young designers in order to manufacture a collection for the project Design for Peace. Her approach: perpetuate ancestral know-how by initiating ethical and creative partnerships on local and international scale. 

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