Dec 02 2009
I used to love it, but I won’t be buying anyone else a gift subscription to ReadyMade Magazine. And, frankly, they can keep the rest of my subscription as well. No reason to send it to me anymore.
I have been a big advocate for ReadyMade. It’s a DIY-ers dream mag – they run a series called the “MacGuyver Challenge” where they assign their readers some old piece of junk (analog antennae, or film canisters, or VHS tapes), and ask them to create something amazing. Readers always come up with cool projects.
It was created as a magazine dedicated to the idea of repurposing. Using stuff as other stuff. Shoshana Berger and her crazy team of banditos ran an article about how this guy worked from Ikea instead of working from home. He went there every day for a month and worked in the home office area. All of the employees knew him, and thought it was awesome. I mean, this was my kind of magazine.
But, something has changed.
Oh, I’m not talking about their revamp a couple of years ago, when they started adding a section at the front – before the meaty projects – that showcased cool things to buy (cheekily titled “Product Placement”). Not awesome, but the projects and the sensibility were still solid.
No, I’m talking about the latest issue – Issue #44. It just arrived. I read it the first day (as always), and kept flipping back to the front cover to make sure I wasn’t reading crappy Better Homes and Gardens or some such nonsense.
Here is a complete list of the paltry, crappy projects in their “Happy Holidays” issue:
-Holiday cards using block print: I think I did this with a potato when I was five. Oh wait, they disclaim this project, stating “even a kid can do” them. Thanks, I really love craft projects designed for people with ages in the single digits. Maybe they could write up a project of practicing writing your name.
-Spiced Apple Toddy recipe: OK, they started bringing food stuff in over a year ago, but at least it was how to make your own pickles or something cool, interesting, and fun. This is a drink. C’mon.
-Reuse flannel shirts for wrapping paper: This looks good in the photos, but seriously? Who has a pile of old flannels laying around from the mid 90s? And do you know how hard – and pointless – it is to try to get fabric glued together? Plus, no satisfying tearing sound when you open it – just a sad pile of saggy cloth. Depressing.
-Overhead lighting fixture made of three coffee cans: this one does not even merit a snarky remark. Honestly, just looking at the picture makes me want to cry.
Then we get to “The Projects” – these are typically the most serious things to make in each issue. Here they are:
-How to use turkey leftovers.
-How to make hard candies.
-How to make three different types of cookies.
-Make a wreath out of buttons. The project is, literally, 1) get foam wreath core, 2) glue on buttons, 3) spray paint the whole mess white, 4) tie a fabric strap on so you can hang it.
-Make a menorah out of disposable water bottles. One word: classy.
-Personalize wine bottles by ripping off the labels, and spray painting stenciled letters over the glass.
-Make your own almond liqueur.
-Make flag football ‘flags’, then play a game of flag football with your family (I am not making this up).
Finally, there’s a lame section where some projects are mixed in with more stuff to buy. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m listing them also.
-Make chocolate lollipops
-Make a bath bomb
-Make a terrarium out of a glass jar, some sand, and small plants
There’s no point in making snide comments about the second half of this list, because it so sad and tragic that I would just be rubbing salt in wounds. Suffice it to say these stealth changes have killed the heart and soul of ReadyMade.
After rubbing my eyes in disbelief one more time, trying to understand what I was reading, I noticed the editor’s letter – NOT from Shoshana Berger, the founder of the magazine, but instead from Andrew Wagner. NOT with a ReadyMade email address, but an email from their parent company, Meredith Publications.
My fear was confirmed by Berger’s LinkedIn profile, which marks January 2009 as the end of her tenure as Editor-in-Chief for ReadyMade.
I believe that good ideas and good communities can live on without a founding visionary. But, there has to be some legacy planning, and a group of people that “get it.” Obviously, that’s not the case with ReadyMade.
Sorry, Shoshana, and I hope you are on to bigger and better things.