I once walked into an IKEA store to purchase a reading table and was fascinated by the idea of going back home with a carton filled with the separate wooden pieces alongside a booklet with instructions on how to assemble the parts to create my table. It was quite like a jigsaw puzzle, and in my mind I considered it a challenge. I knew I would have a smug “Aha!” moment when my task was complete.
I’ll admit that there were a few hits and misses along the way, at one point it even seemed as though my table would only serve as a wall decoration. At first, I couldn’t get it to stand on its own feet without leaning shakily against the wall for support. Well, after a few un-screws and re-screws, a sturdy reading table emerged and I was more grateful than smug.
The Do-it-yourself (DIY) ethic promotes self-sufficiency and it is sometimes borne out of necessity. I’ve noticed that having access to affordable services could remove the need for self-reliance. Take for instance; a Nigerian living in Europe would most likely first consider doing a simple home improvement task by theirself rather than hire a technician, regardless of if they could afford to, because artisan services are quite costly in that part of the world.
On the other hand, a Nigerian living in Nigeria may not even consider undertaking the same simple task on their own, simply because they have the neighborhood handyman at their beck and call who charges quite minimally. Now, I do realize that some people are naturally good with their hands compared to others, but the thing is DIY-ism removes the mindset that manual or skilled crafts are demeaning rather it champions the individuals who choose to acquire such skills.
Most people have a tailor disaster story or two tucked away in their indelible memory bank, I actually have a wonderful memory of the day my tailor impressed me with her expertise. I watched her work deftly from start to finish and my garment was ready in three hours. She turned a near-disappointment into a happy ending and I was able to wear the dress to an occasion the following day.
What she did and the way that she did it made me realize that sewing wasn’t rocket science at all and that most skills are learnable if only one decides to learn. I was inspired to learn to how to sew, so I enrolled in a pattern drafting and dressmaking course. I continuously improve my sewing techniques by learning from books and online tutorials, practice does make perfect.
Clothes are pretty much like the jigsawed IKEA table. A basic dress for example, comprises of a bodice (waist-up), skirt (waist-down) and sleeves. The design and shape of these components are influenced by fashion trends or the wearer’s personal style. Sewing skills simply enable one to put these pieces together tidily.
I particularly like how DIY ethic inspires an entrepreneurial spirit. I have observed with immense delight that there’s a new and growing breed of young Nigerian entrepreneurs who have been dubbed- “The Creatives”. One example is the DIY hair care enthusiasts who have smartly made the transition from passion to thriving hair products and services businesses. Another example is those whose “point-and-shoot” hobbies have evolved nicely into well-paid photography businesses.
One wouldn’t be any less of an intellectual if they knew how to sew or paint the wall in their soon-to-arrive baby’s nursery or make a beaded necklace; rather it’s an added advantage to one’s skill set. I wave the DIY flag very proudly, because while it is easy to jokingly label DIY-ism as “Ijebu-ism”, you would agree that the coincidentally saved Nairas and Kobos are rather nice perks. Financial intelligence is always a plus.
There’s wisdom in perfecting or acquiring hand-work skills in the areas that one is passionate about, because you never know, a crafty hobby could evolve into a side hustle that could either be pursued alongside one’s Nine-to-Five grind or even blossom into a venture that’s lucrative enough to be the main hustle one day.