People ask funny questions when you do something that is unexpected. The “norm” is so strong, that any behavior, hobby, or activity that falls outside of what people think you are supposed to be doing is met with, at least, some curiosity. I, for example, am a person who sets these kind of alarm bells off with nearly everybody that is considered “normal” by polite society. It’s fun to watch them try and make sense of me. I have lots of tattoos and a large vocabulary. I look relatively “tough” but I enjoy knitting. I’m in a rock and roll band and also a ukulele orchestra. I look like I can really party, but I don’t drink, eat meat, or consume any processed sugar. The list goes on. In short, I end up challenging a lot of assumptions just by showing up and confusing people. What’s more, I like it.
When I started my blog, DudeCraft, a while back, I knew that it would raise some of these same types of questions from people who hold the belief that crafting is an inherently female activity and, sure enough, it happened. “How does it feel to be crafty and to be a guy?” they ask. “Well, it feels a lot like being a crafty guy.” Say I. Hell, I don’t know. I don’t plan on challenging stereotypes, I just do stuff that I enjoy. I don’t think about what group, race or religion is most often associated with the activity I’m involved in and where I fit into that history. I just get excited about stuff and then I do it, most of the time without a concrete plan. And I wish you would too. Really.
When I was a High School teacher, I saw a lot of tragic things. Kids have an incredible amount of challenges in front of them in today’s school system and, sometimes, at home as well. There are kids who are on drugs, kids who don’t eat breakfast because they can’t afford it, kids who should have counseling but don’t, kids who are abused, the list goes on forever. The most tragic though, was not any of these circumstantial things I’ve mentioned; it was to see a kid get really, genuinely excited about learning something and then stop themselves because that thing didn’t immediately fit into the same box that society had put them in. That is really tragic, because that is a habit that’s going to stay with them unless someone gives them permission to try things that aren’t “normal”. At school, I tried to be that guy, everyday. If I succeeded at nothing else, I was determined to be the “permission giver”. And, mostly, it worked. I taught a lot of boys how to sew, knit, and paint decorative finishes, and I taught a lot of girls how to pound nails, use a table saw, and tie a trucker’s hitch. Permission is like magic.
Even though I left the school system last year for another job, I am still the “permission giver”. The whole idea behind DudeCraft is based around the same thing. It’s not just kids that need permission, it’s the majority of adults as well. People need to be told that it’s ok to attempt anything that interests them and that DudeCraft is here to say: “Hey man, if you want to make a lace doily or sew your own clothes or knit a hat, you should definitely do that, and we will support it wholeheartedly.”
Paul Overton is the creator of the daily blog DudeCraft