Friday, 18 September 2009

Amazing, inspiring, recycled houses

You must take a look at this photo collection from the New York Times featuring the houses made by Texas builder, Dan Phillips. His firm, Phoenix Commotion, builds low income housing from entirely recycled materials. Dan builds the homes on donated plots using 80% salvaged materials, including wine bottle corks, old sidings, cattle bones, and shards of glass, mostly saved from refuse or found abandoned at the roadside.

Dan requires the future owner of each home to help with its construction. We love this idea, as not only will they have a huge emotional stake in their home, but helping to create it boosts an individual's sense of pride, purpose, self-esteem and self-efficacy. This can be particularly important for people struggling financially. Dan Phillips says:
"I think mobile homes are a blight on the planet. Attractive, affordable housing is possible and I'm out to prove it."
Please take a look as it is a great source of ideas and inspiration.
>> New York Times photo slideshow

Clare F

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Lakeland adds product demos

Little by little, lovely Lakeland seems to be improving how it markets itself online. It has at last added video to its website and now has a number of product demonstrations available. >> Here's the video section

As so many of their products are one-offs (and some even a bit bizarre - see my post of a few months ago >> Lakeland - Love it or hate it?) it makes eminent and overdue sense to exploit the medium of video. I just watched one for their Flame Grill and was tempted to order one on the spot. I think it was the sight of the bacon and eggs cooking - you don't get that in the catalogue!

While some of the Lakeland products seem indulgences more appropriate to the slightly barmy Innovations Catalogue, the bulk of their stuff is absolutely cracking - they seem to have the perfect tool for every job.

>> For much more making and mending ideas and inspiration, visit our main website

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Help innocent help old people

In the UK, 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 are malnourished. If you'd like to help, smoothie maker innocent is joining forces with with supermarket group Sainsbury’s to raise over £250,000 to support charities Age Concern and Help the Aged with healthy eating and healthy living projects during the winter.

They want as many people as possible to knit 'bottle hats'. For every behatted smoothie sold, innocent and Sainsbury’s will give 35p to Age Concern and Help the Aged. The monies raised will then be used to fund projects and advice centres offering information on healthy eating as well as cooking clubs and get-togethers where older people can sit down and enjoy a meal and company.

>> For knitting tips, patterns and pictures go to

And when you’re done knitting, just send finished hats to:

The innocent Big Knit, Fruit Towers, 1 The Goldhawk Estate, Brackenbury Road, London W6 0BA, including your name, address and number of hats you've knitted.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Has drinking replaced hobbies?

I was talking to a friend who's living in Manila and he was telling me that the drinking culture there is even more dramatic than in the UK. Incredibly cheap "drink as much as you can before 9pm" offers abound and all everyone seems to do is hit the bars and drink themselves silly.

I'd just been telling him about what we're trying to do with Make it and Mend it and how our intent is not just to help people combat recession and live more thriftily, but to share and encourage the more positive psychological aspects of making stuff and mending it (see our blog post below on the difference between making and mending and making do and mending )

He then pointed out that the growth in drinking over recent years has been accompanied by a decline in hobbies. It's almost as though drinking has become the new hobby for millions of people (and I'm not ruling myself out !). That hadn't occurred to me before, but I think he has a point.

Once upon a time everyone had hobbies and it was a normal thing to ask "What are your hobbies?", when you met someone rather than "What do you do?". Then it became a bit of a no-no as an expression, conjuring up visions of saddos with no mates bent over an Airfix kit and a stamp collection - or dashing off to Girl Guides to earn a badge in brass rubbing.

But why did we get so cynical about hobbies? Were they swept aside in Thatcher's Britain with the 80's emphasis on career and money? Indeed the received wisdom used to be not to put too much on the interest section of your CV in case a prospective employer might wonder whether you were reluctant to offer less than your whole soul to their company. On the other hand, going out and getting bladdered after a long day's cutting and thrusting on the corporate battlefield was seen as suitably macho, especially in the City.

At the other end of the economic scale, the growing underclass and disaffected leave school with nothing much more than an endless capacity for boredom and no means of sating it except through a bottle or even a needle.

The recent increase in the uptake of crafts such as knitting and the burgeoning passion for vegetable growing have been heralded as reactions to recession. That may be true but maybe they are also signs of a reawakening of interest in hobbies for their own sake and hopefully an erosion of the cynicism about them and about clubs and societies. The Scouts and Brownies are supposed to be on the up, as is the Women's Institute. I've never been one for joining things myself - but I certainly don't feel cynical and sneery about those who do - even though I'm ashamed to say I once used to be!

Maybe if more of us had hobbies we wouldn't all feel we had to drink so much? If our kids did too it might set them on a path to a more interesting and fulfilling life. What do you think?

Clare F