Lebanon · Musings · Print Media

ReadyMade, you’ve let me down

When I was 17 I would drive to the local bookstore and gaze longingly at the DIY magazine section. I would read as much of ReadyMade as the shopkeeper would allow, always taking a subscription card in hopes that I could get the $26 together to have a subscription of my own. In one of my mother’s “I can buy her happiness, right?” attempts, she purchased a subscription for me and accidentally renewed it . . . until 2013. I thought this was awesome because what better magazine to get for seven years, right? Well, it would have been ideal had they stuck to the same structure and goals they had when I first became an avid reader.

Circa 2005: Why yes, I do live in a shoebox!

In 2006 the magazine included album reviews, book reviews, DIY tips, how-to guides (for anything from mixed-drinks, to buiding your own hide-a-record-shelf-chair), and my favorite feature, “How’d You Get That Fucking Awesome Job?”.  In the golden age of the DIY revolution it was about saving money, innovating, and at heart, looking cool. Looking back at my old issues (yes, I’ve kept all of them) every early issue discussed organization and small-space living. Now, it’s about being green in the most elaborate and expensive ways possible so you can brag to your friends over cocktails in your candle-lit garden about how small your carbon footprint is (and everyone knows this is directly proportional to how big your dick is).
The most recent issue features a 13 page spread about making a meal truly from scratch. By this they mean the usual making your own bread, rolling pasta (a little more difficult), foraging for mushrooms (wait, it gets sillier), keeping honeybees, and raising hens for eggs. Because ReadyMade’s former audience can totally do all that out of their efficiency apartments and parents’ basements*.
Today’s ReadyMade has shifted its target audience from poor 20-somethings with the drive to create and look cool on a budget to 30-something families living in prairie boathouse-turned-bungalows in which they have the time and wealth to keep bees, raise hens for the eggs, and host movie screenings out of their home theatres. They’ve removed all practicality from their design and message, leaving the average reader (and I assume that even with those aforementioned bungalow-dwellers, we poor schmucks are the majority) high and dry, uninspired, and feeling a little poorer than when we started reading.

I am not complaining because ReadyMade no longer speaks to me, although it’s true that it does not. I’m okay with that. I’m complaining because it whispers to a niche market and those envious of that market; the kids who want to someday run a successful internet business while teaching typography at an East coast university will look at the kitchen cabinets made from old wooden wine crates and dream about the day when their landlords let them put so much as a hole in the wall. And good for them.

For those of us with less lofty dreams and even less in our pocketbooks, we’ll just have to stick to the internet as a source for project ideas and motivation.

The new ReadyMade

*That is unless you have some ostrich eggs laying around, in which case you can complete the project on page 77.

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11 thoughts on “ReadyMade, you’ve let me down

  1. I liked this post a lot. Good for you! But I had to laugh at the note about ostrich eggs, because I *do* happen to have some around.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write about ReadyMade. It is truly appreciated though I must say I’m a little confused by much of the criticism – namely the idea that we are all about “being green” or geared only toward wealthy people. ReadyMade has always been about being environmentally friendly and in fact that is one of the premises it was founded on. And I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “being green in the most elaborate and expensive ways.” ReadyMade is about looking at the world a bit differently and the fact is, you could make your own honey, raise chickens, and forage for mushrooms despite where you live and with very little money. Every project we featured could be completed with extremely low cash outlay and relatively little working knowledge of design or construction. And yes, I’m even speaking of the Ostrich Eggs…they are readily available at almost any super market. You just have to look…

    We do a small space issue every year and in fact have a dedicated “small space” section every issue (this time it was the apartment featuring the wine crate project which you didn’t like). I’m curious about your niche market comment and would love to hear more. Again, despite your less than enthusiastic response to our efforts, our readers’ critiques are the only way that we are able to move forward so again, your words are greatly appreciated. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any more thoughts, comments, or criticisms…

  3. “I would read as much of ReadyMade as the shopkeeper would allow, always taking a subscription card in hopes that I could get the $26 together to have a subscription of my own.”

    And I would argue, yes, maybe you are right in some respect. ReadyMade has evolved to cater to a different audience. But that’s because people like you aren’t supporting the magazine industry–and we all know more magazines are folding every day.

    Instead of bitching about how a magazine you weren’t willing to financially support changed (perhaps, because they were on the edge of folding), I think you should be thankful a magazine that advocates DIY culture and wants its audience to truly care about where their food comes from, and even challenges them with interesting projects, still exists. That is all.

  4. Andrew Wagner- Thank you for your response. I appreciate your criticisms of my complaints and can see that some of the projects can be accomplished on a tight budget, however, I do think that much of your readership still exists with younger audiences living in places where this is not possible. Perhaps I should have focused my grievances with the change in target age instead of socio-economic status.

    I attend a university in rural Missouri where I rent a relatively spacious apartment compared to others I know and I could not feasibly construct many of your projects here. Most of us renting cannot install our own kitchen cabinets and as I implied, I can’t even put a nail in my wall. I love projects of yours such as High Society in which you offer a use for discarded furniture and a way to construct it into something useful. Anyone with the time and knowledge of basic construction could create something like this and not worry about infringing upon their lease. My father and I actually drove around town trying to find good pieces in dumpsters for this particular project and had a great time.

    I do not dislike your magazine now, I just feel that I’m further from your target audience even though I have more space and freedom to create now than I did when I first became a fan of your publication.

    kitcatt- As you read, I was 17 and didn’t have a job and therefore could not afford to purchase a subscription. I happen to be a big supporter of print media and even then bought every issue I could, and as I stated, my mother bought a subscription for me until 2013. I feel like that is exactly what it means to support the magazine industry.

  5. “the fact is, you could make your own honey, raise chickens, and forage for mushrooms despite where you live and with very little money.”

    o rly

  6. Man I’m so glad Andrew has gotten to a point in his life where his local grocery store carries ostrich eggs. Does he see celebrities there too? Let’s be realistic, ReadyMade guy, we’re in a recession.

  7. Thanks for all your feedback. MC, the point of RM is, and always has been, to inspire readers to look at the world a little differently. No, you probably won’t make kitchen cabinets out of wine crates (nor will I) but hopefully seeing that someone has might make you reconsider wine crates, kitchen cabinets, and how one is expected to use both. Hopefully the project raises a lot of questions and prompts people to try and answer them however they see fit. We always try to include a range of projects – from the very simple and affordable (both time wise and cash wise) to the more complex and involved. From issue to issue the balance shifts but our hope is that over the course of the year you find some things that are incredibly practical and fit within the purview of your life. And when they don’t, we hope that they, again, might inspire you to reconsider how things fit within your life and world.

    I don’t think we’ve made a conscious decision to shift our target demographic and I hope future issues will be more to your liking. I’m confident they will be. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with more feedback – both positive and negative…and thanks again for caring enough to write about ReadyMade.

    As far as Ostrich Eggs…they actually are fairly simple to come by, you just have to look, and yes, the point of foraging for mushrooms and raising honey bees and chickens is that in the long run it will cost you nothing except your time and effort.

  8. I live in a city roughly 18 times the size of morningcrafter’s city, and I have YET to find ostrich eggs in any supermarket.
    And my landlord forbids me to keep anything other than a fixed, declawed cat or a dog less than 15 pounds. This means no bees and certainly no chickens. I can’t even have a grill on my patio.
    Get real, Mr. Wagner.

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