Exclusive: Crafty bloke Chris Gardner of ManMade DIY

7 Apr

Photo:ManMade Happy chappy Chris

Chris Gardner is the founder and creative genius behind the ‘ManMade‘ blog, he made the decision to set up the food and craft site as a way to let out his creative energies.

Realising there weren’t any websites out there that reflected what he wanted to achieve. He didn’t want to make jewellery for women or just screen print all the time, he wanted some hands-on DIY crafting for himself, a mens crafting blog was the perfect answer!

Somehow Chris’ blog has managed to attract both sexes, and he’s so pleased of its success. The Philosophy graduate explains; “studying in the humanities helped me to write well, discussing a few subjects each day – in everyday language that’s easy for folks to understand.”

Here I pick his brain on the wonder that is ‘MadMade‘…

No holds barred tool belt (I want one!)


How did the marriage wtih DIY and Craft happen? (Why did you set up the blog?)
I began writing and blogging about DIY home décor and design in graduate school, and that led to lots of reading and researching in the craft and style blogosphere. I found all of the how-to sites really engaging, but noticed a lot of presumptions; for example, many sites read by men were more geeky, with emphases on processes like computer programming and soldering. And all the craft sites imagined their readers to be female. Also, at local craft shows and gatherings, nearly all the artists were women who made projects for women. And the few male vendors either made items for women, like jewellery, or were proficient in traditional art techniques, like screen-printing.

So, I wanted to create a crafting community that didn’t begin articles with phrases like “Hey, ladies, check out this cool_____” and featured projects that were more masculine, or at least gender neutral. I wanted there to be a place that gathered and highlighted projects that were designed, or could at least be translated, to a male audience. Simply put, I love making things, and I’m a man.

Rich red 60's throwback mod clock


What’s your creative background? (Education, hobbies, job’s…)
My education is not in the creative field at all. I actually have a bachelor’s in philosophy and comparative religion, and a master’s degree in theology. I haven’t taken an “art” class since seventh grade. But, studying in the humanities taught me to write well, and to boil down tough concepts to everyday language that’s easy for folks to understand. I’ve always been a creative person – doodling, playing music, seeking out challenging literature, art, and film.

My parents were both science teachers, so we always did lots of hands-on learning. It taught me to asks questions like “How did they do that?” As I grew older, my ‘how did they do that’s became ‘I can do that’s, and my curiosity developed and helped me address practical concerns. When I graduated from college and began my graduate studies, I had my own place and no money, so I learned to make the things I wanted. I wanted to eat well and on the cheap, so I learned proper cooking techniques. I wanted my home to be creative and inspiring, so I learned about furniture design and home organization. The same is true for clothing, art, etc. Also I love to give handmade gifts, so that always gives me a chance to explore different crafting media on the small scale.

G-nius light design

Do men fear craft?
I don’t think men fear craft, but I think they’ve been taught that it’s not the kind of thing that applies to them after a certain age. I do think most of the stories that get told assume that crafting is for women and children. But, men have always been creative – writers and poets, visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, chefs…. What’s different now, I think, is we’ve lived in an industrialized, global society for well over a century now, and many of us have lost a connection to what we consume. Few of us know where our food, clothing, entertainment, etc, come from. Thankfully, there’s a shift, now, and because of societal leaps in the understanding of gender construction, men can choose to live, as we call it on ManMade, ‘the handmade life.’ Do other men make fun of me because I run a crafting website? All the time. But when I tell them why, I think my approach is definitely heard differently than it would have been in centuries before. Hopefully, creative young adults will start to feel like it’s just as okay to pick up knitting needles as they do basketballs, electric guitars, and mechanic’s wrenches.

Slotted angle credenza

What’s been your best creation/discovery?
Honestly, my greatest discovery has been that the gamble of starting a crafting site for men was a worthwhile venture. Things have grown immensely since I started the site just a little over a year ago. There are lots of folks out there, just like me, both men and women, and they’ve come to rely on ManMade as a source for ideas and inspiration. It’s been amazing to give back to the internet community in that way, as well as to the craft scene in my own city.

Galvanized pipe desk

My greatest creation is a tough one; I make the things I use everyday, and that gives me a really different outlook to what I consume. I made the desk I’m typing on right now. I’m wearing a hooded sweatshirt I sewed myself, and it fits me perfectly. My office is surrounded by prints and art that I’ve made, and I stay organized through hacks that I’ve come up with that work with the way I do things. I’m super grateful for the opportunity to been able to explore those things and to impact my life and pocketbook in that way.

Chris channels his inner-boffin with this circuit frame


Any tips for men who want to get a bit more crafty?

For tips to be crafty, find something you need, and learn how they’re made, and then get the tools and materials to do it yourself. Use opportunities like the holidays to create things for the people you love, and things like school and work projects to develop your creative skills. Always be on the lookout for inspiration in literature, film, and music. And I know its cliché, but do take risks. Always try a project a step bigger than you feel comfortable.
And always wear proper safety gear. Please.

You can check out Chris’ seriously inspiring blog here. Or follow his antics on Twitter.


2 Responses to “Exclusive: Crafty bloke Chris Gardner of ManMade DIY”

  1. Ez April 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    Chris is seriously talented (hello that lamp + desk + credenza are so cool) and just about one of the friendliest/nicest people you could ever meet too. So fun to see him featured here today!

    • ellaouise April 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

      I’d love to own that lamp, especially to place it against a blank wall – it would look stunning. Also, I really want his tool belt, E x

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