Do It Yourself – a Movement for People Who Want to Start Working with Their Hands Again

By Désirée Nothnagel

The Do it Yourself Movement gained many supporters in a short period of time. But what are the reasons for its popularity and who are the ones participating in it?

Photo: Franziska Wrobel

The Start of Something New

In year 2005 the young classics Major Robert Kalin from Brooklyn worked together with three of his college friends on the idea for his own business. He had the vision, to set up something from a scratch, something that had not yet existed in the world. Two months later, they launched the online marketplace Etsy, where people can offer their self-made products such as jewel, clothes, furniture, dishes and much more. Vendors and customers have direct contact with each other. Kalin’s aim was to provide people with an internet platform where they could not only set up their own business, but would also be able to make a living from it. Over the past few years, Etsy gained many supporters and customers and since 2012, the company is a certified B Corporation – “a new kind of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems” as they tell on their website.

But why did an online marketplace like Etsy enjoy so much success in a relatively short period of time? To answer this question it might be helpful to take a closer look at the philosophy behind this company. Etsy only offers handmade goods.

The Importance of feeling Individual

The word handmade often evokes the association of a precious product made by the hands of a skilled artisan. Every product carries a connotation of uniqueness. People love to see what a handmade item they own adds to their appearance. For many of them it is important to aspire to be extraordinary and possess something uncommon. Therefore, handmade pieces are often dealt with as a special must-have to provide the customer with the feeling of being individual and different. As Robert Kalin says in an interview on, “It’s really about the stories that the items tell that you buy”. According to him, a self-made artifact has character and therefore attracts the customers. In a world where it is very likely to meet an unknown person who wears exact the same shirt or shoes and where many people shop at H&M or Zara, a unique accessory gives the individuality a human is longing for.

Longing for Independence

But is this longing for individuality the only reason why online platforms such as Etsy are successful? In the field of psychology the need of humans to experience themselves as productive, autonomous individuals is considered common knowledge. Apart from easing our everyday life, the possibility to buy everything we need can also create a feeling of unproductiveness and dependency.  In the past few years, many people started to ask themselves: What would we do, if our supermarkets stopped supplying groceries? How could we survive? This led to a new wave of so called Do It Yourself (DIY) supporters. Many of them are now very successful vendors on Etsy. It started in the USA with knitting women who were the first to be spotted in the subways on their way to work. The trend of knitting soon spread to Europe and suddenly all kinds of knitting workshops were offered. However, this movement didn’t only stick to knitting. Everything that could be made with the own hands, was now in spotlight. Handicraft became a popular hobby as well as baking and cooking from scratch. Probably, online marketplaces like Etsy took the chance to invest in this movement and to encourage the DIY supporters in doing what they do.

Producing with the own Hands – A Human Need

Another driving force for the DIY movement is the daily stress we experience from work and other factors in life. The process of making a product with our own hands is highly relaxing. A human can follow every step of the production from the beginning to the completion and feel that he created something. At first sight it may look like additional work, but it might actually be the escape from the usual working processes that force us to bring multitasking to perfection. With handicraft however, the mind can relax, because it only focuses on one action and even rewards the producer with a nice result. Handicraft can be seen as a new meditation.   The need of the human being to produce something on his own or even to dirt his hands also comes back to our everyday lives. Recently, growing vegetables in your own garden became very popular. Urban Gardening is a new trend that receives more and more support. Neighbors build communities. Every member participates in growing different sorts of vegetables as well as flowers and fruits in farm backyards and on fallow grounds. The community lives from its homegrown food and thus regains independence. Furthermore, the newly built neighbor communities bring people together and thereby transform the anonymous big city atmosphere into a collective and friendly environment.

The DIY movement can be found in many fields, but the ones concerning daily needs are the most affected. People might want to go back to the moments when they still had enough time to create their own products, moments when to them, consume seemed not as greedy as today and the value of an article was still appreciated. Therefore, self-fulfillment by producing goods with the own hands, be it handicraft or home-grown food, just as the satisfaction of underlining the own individuality, are reasons why the DIY movement is still so popular today.


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