BY DAN WOODS
The Value of a Good
Editor and Publisher Dale Dougherty came
by my desk the other day pointing at a
Newsweek folded back to a chart that ranked
retail winners and losers for the past quarter.
“Look what came in right behind gasoline stations
on the high-growth list,” he said, pointing to the
circled chart. “Hobby, toy, and game stores.” No
one who owns a car will be surprised to see that
gas stations top the growth chart, but hobby and
game stores? We’re in the midst of some gray
economic times, and folks generally think of
hobbies and games as discretionary pursuits, no?
Dale and I were intrigued by the chart because
it mapped so closely to our own Maker Shed
experience — a pronounced upswing in interest
in kits. To be sure, part of our success is the result
of a team of smart editors and staffers who’ve
uncovered beautiful kits and projects that really
resonate with our audience of inquisitive makers
and science enthusiasts. However, I think the
underlying data is telling us something important
about ourselves and the kind of value we derive
from a good hands-on project.
Perhaps it’s the constructive distraction of
focusing ourselves on something other than the
recession, something where we have a reasonable
chance of controlling the outcome. Maybe it’s
the satisfaction of picking up a new skill, dusting
off an old one, or simply learning how something
works (or doesn’t). Maybe it’s the memories that
live long after the project is done.
And there’s definitely something intrinsically
satisfying about passing along skills — even the
simplest of skills — to a younger maker. What
kid doesn’t enjoy a workbench, a few tools, and
a good project on a rainy day?
Even though many of us are nixing the vacation
we’d thought about, driving that funky clunker of
a car for another year, or putting the bathroom
remodel on hold, the basements, garages, and
backyards of this planet are coming alive with
experiments, tinkering, and the making spirit.
So this holiday season, whether you provision a
project from recycled materials and repurposed
The chart mapped so
closely to our own
experience: a pronounced
upswing in interest in kits.
hardware lying around the house, or decide to buy
a project kit from the Maker Shed (
or somewhere else, give yourself and someone you
care about the gift of making something together.
And if you’re in a position and the spirit moves
you, consider giving the gift of a science kit to a
deserving school or teacher. They need your help
more than ever before.
Photography by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
Dan Woods is associate publisher of MAKE and CRAFT