Remake It Home
Interview with Henrietta Thompson
How did the idea for Remake It Home
first come about?
Funnily enough it was actually before the recession was even looming that we had the idea.
I think it was actually just that boomtime ‘buy buy buy’ mentality had got a bit boring that triggered it. I’d actually been interested in reappropriation in design for a long long time, and then one day it just clicked that it was actually a really relevant idea. Hacking, customising, getting creative and being resourceful were suddenly all very appealing and different ideas at a time when every magazine headline was on at you to shop more and newness stopped being special. Meanwhile Neal [illustrator] – we’ve been friends for a while – was always making these lovely things, and it was so inspiring.
The concept of 'make do and mend' has a long and illustrious history – why does it fall in and out of fashion, and what do you think has brought about its current resurgence?
There’s obviously the economic climate, but I think people were leaning towards a more make-do-and-mend lifestyle before the recession hit, as I said. Partly this had to do with the environment, and partly the urge to own things which had more meaning and history than the constant stream of stuff coming off some hideous production line staffed by underpaid children halfway across the world. This was: you know what you’re getting, you know where it’s come from (to a point), and you can make it work for you because you’ve nothing to lose by adapting it.
Tell me a little bit about the process of researching this book. Where did the
ideas for the projects come from?
Ideally I would have been able to travel the world researching this book – as I’m sure there are so many ingenious projects in far-flung communities that would have been so relevant – but in the end it had to come down to word of mouth and the internet. Neal and I asked pretty much everyone we knew for ideas, and I’m still getting letters and emails with tea towel stories from so-and-so’s grandma in Nova Scotia ... It’s brilliant. There’s also lots of great websites dedicated to DIY and craft.
How did you come to collaborate with illustrator Neal Whittington, and how did the process of illustration unfold?
Neal and I used to work together and he seemed the perfect person to illustrate a book like this. We did everything together from the initial proposal to T&H, to stressing in the pub over the practical uses for pom-poms.
There's hundreds of projects, but could you highlight one of the weirdest and one of the most wonderful?
The first one I wrote was the Hay Box, which is something I really love – it’s an idea that most people of a certain generation will be so familiar with, but that we’ve completely forgotten today. One of the weirdest is using an old tennis ball to remove scuff marks on the floor, or an old shoe when you’ve lost the bathplug – but people do.
What are your five most-visited websites for design and remaking inspiration?
instructables.com – because it’s got everything on there, from recipes to really odd things that you can’t imagine anyone would ever actually do, but they have ... And it makes the most of the internet as a community to improve and adapt projects infinitely.
superuse.org – for a good mix of design and architecture, this was one of the first sites that seemed to be thinking along the same lines as Remake It.
etsy.com – a marketplace to buy and sell handmade things. It’s more crafty than design, but it’s such a great idea. Plus it’s got the same name as me, which is just spooky.
readymade.com – the website of the magazine, it’s got a really down-to-earth tone of voice and loads of great ideas for reusing things.
presentandcorrect.com – because that’s where Neal lives and it rocks
Click the cover to see the book page