When Michele and I headed to Maker Faire in May, we had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Tremayne and her partner Mikey Sklar. We had just entered a large tent filled with people getting their craft on with scrap fabrics. There were tables piled with once-forsaken clothes that were being given a second life through screenprinting, reconstruction, and repurposing by fair attendees all around us. And sitting on a funky couch in the corner, in front of a sign reading “Swap-O-Rama-Rama” made from old fabric and doilies woven into a metal fence frame, was Wendy, the brain behind it all. Speaking to a captivated audience that ranged from age 8 to 68, she talked about the “decommodified” life that she and her partner Mikey are striving to create for themselves and share with others.
In her new book, The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living, Wendy tells her own story and shares a wealth of information to inspire people who may want to embark on their own path of discovery. A former creative director for a marketing firm in NYC, Wendy left her job in the Spring of 2001 in search of a more meaningful life. After quite a bit of traveling and soul searching, acquiring skills at every stop, she and Mikey landed in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico where they’ve lived a sustainable lifestyle since 2006. You can read more about their adventures on their blog: Holy Scrap. While Wendy acknowledges that her lifestyle is not for everyone, this book really manages to demystify some overwhelming elements of a sustainable lifestyle. She and Mikey constructed their homestead from scrap and a papercrete mixture they made themselves, they use medicines found in nature, and they even make their own toothpaste.
“Our story is likely different from yours. But perhaps it offers something useful to people who are on the brink of changing their own lives. Fundamental to all our stories is that lives are imagined before they come into being. We hope you will imagine something beautiful. If we make the best of this time, perhaps history will call it the start of a renaissance. We are the first people alive to witness the condition of the entire world being for sale. If we become makers of things, we become the revolutionaries of our age.”
This book is right up our Made + Remade alley because while most of us don’t live a completely sustainable lifestyle and drive cars that are powered with biofuel, we are all interested in becoming more self-sufficient and living more harmoniously with nature. On that note, here are a few takeaways that really stood out to me.
1. “Waste is a design flaw.” -Kate Krebs
2. Think of nature as an active player in your life.
Nature is considered a perfect system with little waste. Getting in tune with its cycles and realizing everything the earth has to offer can change your world view and your shopping list drastically.
3. Be a conscious consumer.
What are you buying? Where did it come from? Who made it? What were the conditions under which it was made? I think as makers, we have an advantage of being more in tune with this idea, so my question then becomes, “What type of consumerism am I showing to the world around me?”
4. Remember to find value in people and not in things.
Wendy talks a lot about the idea of a “gift economy” in which everyone is creative and has something to share with others. By teaching people what you know and sharing what you have, a community is built and everyone’s quality of life is increased. That’s really one of the main drivers behind Made + Remade.
5. Learning new skills offers a unique freedom.
Wendy and Mikey have truly created their own world. They have built their shelter and then made, planted, or procured exactly what they need and desire to fill it. By learning to make so many things, they are able to tailor everything to themselves. They also have acquired enough skills to be more informed consumers.
Nothing is ever perfect. You will never have all the skills you think you need. The point is just to get started and try something new. Learn a new skill and then share it with others!