DIY: sometimes deeply satisfying, sometimes useless

Shelby Niehaus, Columnist

A few weeks ago, I made a base for an old lamp. It was a desk lamp that was designed to clamp onto a flat surface, and while it was a great lamp, its original clamp was missing. I was only having so much luck with store-bought C clamps, so I figured I would make a more permanent solution.

At first, I brainstormed what tactics I could use to make a permanent base. I knew that the base would have to be heavy, but would have to incorporate the fairly small original clamp base.

Finally, I settled on clear cast resin with natural stones and raw gems as weight and decoration. I arranged the stones around the lamp base in a small plastic tub and carefully poured in the resin.

After about two days of drying, the lamp stand was finally ready, and it looked rather pretty for my first shot at resin casting. Excited, I cracked the plastic mold away and went to test the lamp out.

While the base dried, the pig iron holding the switch to the lamp’s head broke. The lamp no longer switched on.

Currently that lamp is languishing until I can get the lighting element fixed, but I am still very proud of my work on the base. The completed job, in that case, was still satisfying even though the project fell through.

Before recently, I was not much of a crafty person, but lately I have found a good deal of comfort in making new items and improving old ones. I think it is yet another one of my temporary fixations, but it is at least one that helps me build skills I did not have before.

For instance, I just started sewing a dress a few days ago. The going is slow, and the stitches will certainly turn out uneven, but by the end I will understand how to read a sewing pattern. All those cute vintage dresses in the antique store, the ones that will never fit me? I need not drool over them. I can make my own, and if I want to, they can be floral patterned or fish patterned or Chicago Cubs patterned. The fashion industry from 60 years ago has nothing to do with it anymore.

Soon I will need a new bag, but finding a shoulder bag that fits my laptop is a hassle. If I make one though, it can be as strong as I want and as wide as I need. I can add a separate pocket specifically for my favorite pen. There could be an exterior pocket sized for my thermos. Or, alternately, I could make a bag that is much longer than it is wide. It could be a gift for my least favorite person, this most useless of purses.

DIY is a special kind of head trip. To make something for yourself, you have to walk a very strange line between God complex and inferiority complex. Sure, I can make an extremely tall, narrow purse as a spite gift, but can I make it strong enough to be insulting for years to come? And yes, I could make a Cubs dress in a vintage cut, but will it fit me well? My skill is the only limit, and building that skill while the ideas keep rolling in is a challenge.

But for now, I will force myself to stick to more conventional DIY. At least, until my skill catches up. At that point, watch yourself around Christmas season, lest you get an insultingly long and narrow, useless purse from me.

Shelby Niehaus is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].