Call it Mason Jar-gate. Call me sensitive. But when I read the New Republic piece, "Please Pinterest, Stop Telling Me How to Repurpose Mason Jars" by Jessica Grose, I got riled up. "I feel like the bright white light of shame is directed toward CountryLiving.com," I wrote to a coworker.
After all, the mason jar projects on our site and in the magazine are pretty popular. On Pinterest, even more so. (Our soap dispenser was repinned 224 times yesterday, in fact, but I'm not here to brag.)
Instead, I'm here to turn my initial-and unfounded-shame into a valiant defense.
First, stop picking on mason jars. I get it-they're easy targets. They're everywhere! In the Country Living offices and in our homes, we use them to can the summer's ripest fruits and vegetables, corral everything from flowers to seashells to Q-tips, and even serve cocktails. We've also turned them into light fixtures. The mason jar is a true icon, not just of country style, but of made-in-American ingenuity. If there were ever a product that deserved to be reused, repurposed, and reimagined, it's this. Ditto the cast-iron skillet, Windsor chair, and blankets from the likes of Pendleton and Hudson's Bay. But that's not the point.
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We take most offense to this line in the piece: "The mason jar plague isn't just distracting women from more important endeavors, it's demeaning the very idea of expertise."
Sure, as Grose points out, there are meaningful DIY skills that require time to learn and master: knitting, quilting, sewing, cooking. Are those the only ones worthy of doing, though? Nope. Who says time and difficulty add up to meaning? It feels like she's trying to make a point about value. The "value" of quick crafts and relatively simple do-it-yourself versus the "value" of consumerism. (Brit versus Martha; Michaels versus Target.) Women already get enough grief from the mommy wars. Let's not bring that tone to the crafting world, too.
It seems her points are contradictory: Make it yourself, but only if you're a trained professional seamstress, quilter, or knitter; otherwise, "buy the damn thing on Amazon." Well, that's boring. Clearly-and admittedly-Grose doesn't have the mind of the maker; someone who tinkers, toys, fiddles, and experiments until they've made something on their own-that's all their own. Trust us: It's an awesome feeling when someone asks, "Where'd you get that?" and you say, "This? Oh, I made it." Yes, we look for shortcuts. We're not made of time or money, so we have no qualms finding a tutorial online that shows us how to complete a three-hour project in 45 minutes. I don't think the DIY police are going to come after us. (By the way, you can, in fact, use a sock to make a beer coozie-or cut the arm off a shrunk sweater if you'd rather. Upcycling and DIY! Hey, two birds.)
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Like Brit Morin, many of us on staff don't have "discernible training in crafting," either. (Although what does that mean? Is there a PhD program somewhere?) Rather, we make every single project we feature; we painstakingly go through all the how-to steps to be confident every project we publish, pin, and promote can be made without having to be an expert. We believe that anyone (even Grose!) can make the projects we feature and be proud of them. That's the beauty of it. That anyone can do it.
And most of all, we are DIYers in terms of making our homes a true reflection of ourselves. We don't let designers take the wheel. We're in control of the one place where we can show off our creativity best-even if that means we turn a drop cloth into a table runner. A home devoid of personality is sad.
We simply like to make things. Mason jars make us happy. Ms. Grose, we invite you to the Country Living HQ for an hour of crafting, laughter, and debate. We'll serve you a delicious bourbon cocktail, and we promise it'll taste better sipped from (what else?) a mason jar.
Rachel DeSchepper in the senior editor of CountryLiving.com. For her 30th birthday last month, a friend gave her a set of mason jar shot glasses.
See more from CountryLiving.com:
Our Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Decorating »
100 of Our Favorite Bedrooms, Ever »
6 Pretty and Poisonous Halloween Decorations »
11 DIY Projects Perfect for Fall »
Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.