Just Ask

Before it is too late…

ASKI just read one of those “paid by the column-inch” web articles that proliferate the internet. I linked the column-inch term as many readers (the one or two) of this blog may not be familiar with the term. The articles are usually very trivial as the author is getting paid by the inch to fill the space available.

Here is the core of that story. Time changes peoples views and scope of what has meaning to them. The articles topic was. “Why there is no big interest in family heirlooms and hand-me-downs.” Precious old items old folks hang on to thinking “the next generation will want this”.

That “next generation” usually doesn’t share that vision.

Most of the article I could see was very true. I have had to close down homes full of possessions of parents and close relatives after they have passed. Nothing but small personal items ( perhaps a ring or a cookie jar) was all of which I was interested.

“Collectables” is the one big fallacy. Some folks spend their lives and fortunes on creating a “valuable collection”. Dolls, model trains, toy soldiers, old cars. You get the idea. No family member or museum has the funds or the space to maintain the “collection” most end up at auction and broken up for sale. The very rare item may fetch a good price. Most items are sold for a penny on the dollar of the cost to acquire. 

Turns out the act of collecting was the hobby. The person enjoyed his/her passion. The physical collection becomes a burden for a future generation. There is an entire TV series on this subject of inheritance of collections. Jamie Colby’s “Strange Inheritance”.

My spouse once had a “collection” of cheap flat wood sawn out hand painted historic houses. Maybe 50 or more. “These will be worth something some day”: was the excuse. Nope, gone now, No value. Same goes for Precious Moments and other ceramic mass produced “collectables”. 

There is a small collection of Lennox metal toy trucks in my workshop. No big inheritance there.

Not going into the details of the article. But it did slap me in the face and make me start crying. Real tears. I saw myself creating what I thought was important as future heirlooms. The truth is very little of what I have will live forever.

I am a maker, not a collector. But I do have small collections of what I like to make. I give a lot away and sell a few. The truth is do and make what most interest me at this time. I have no control of what future generations may consider valuable heirlooms. Collecting with that in mind is not good strategy

Moved away from machining because I thought no future family member would be interested in small steam engines and gas motors and the mechanical things that interested me. 

Switched to making jewelry and woodworking. Doesn’t mean I don’t like making steam engines and gas motors. Or that I don’t like making jewelry and woodworking. I want to do it all!

Discovered three dimensional “additive manufacturing” AKA three dimensional printing. I very soon realized most of the plastic “stuff” I was making was of no collectable future value. I called it Junque as a fancy word for junk.

Some useful and purposeful items have been made with plastic 3D printing, but they remain a very non-heirloom value plastic junk. It’s fun to design. The making is all automated.

Now realize my “legacy” thoughts and some of my present actions are totally erroneous. I think too much about creating precious heirlooms for future generations. A few of my silver jewelry items may be on that tract to the future. That is good. Most of what I posses will eventually be sold at auction or trashed.

Making things of my personal interest for the enjoyment of the creation is the best goal. The results of these actions may or may not have enough value to live beyond my existence. 

The tears came because I realized a lot of my justification has been to “create a legacy” of my craft items. That was my goal. Limit what I create to items having lasting family value to someone other than myself. 

The article revealed I need to do mostly what interest me not because I think it has future value. The future is far too fickle about value. After I am gone, I will never know what passes the test.

I do what I like. Always have. But I see that what I thought was selfish indulgence in crafts and hobbies that don’t include tangible “legacy” for my heirs, is incorrect. It’s not being selfish. No-one can really know what will retain value after I am gone. It’s actually OK to just enjoy the workshop experience.

Many if not most hobbies have no tangible heirloom results. No workshop. Golf, sports, travel, collecting string,,, you know, all personal fun-to-do stuff. There isn’t a tangible product leave-behind like a pyramid to last through eons of time.

Time to change my thinking. What I make and do, won’t change much. But I decided I have put too much concern on what other people may find valuable. 

Retirement is all about enjoying the time I have left. 

Note to present friends and family. If you see something I have created and want to have it, just ask while I am still alive. It was always yours. I can enjoy making another if I want.

{cue-in tears of joy here…}