I didn’t build another plastic model for… years.
June 8, 2024 1:57 PM   Subscribe

When a Giftee Throws Away Your Homemade Gift In which Adam Savage relates two brutal stories of lost work while responding to a viewer question. [SLYT]
posted by Glinn (36 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Though it is the title of the video, the title is a little misleading. The viewer did have someone throw away his gift (and tell him they did that!), but in Adam’s stories, they hadn’t exactly been gifted.
posted by Glinn at 1:59 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


The link is broken - it has two https:// prefixes, and needs only one.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:00 PM on June 8


Dang, it sounds like maybe Adam grew up in a not so healthy household. Smashing a kid's stuff is borderline abusive behavior.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:04 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


Oh crud iPad :(
posted by Glinn at 2:06 PM on June 8


Mod note: Link fixed, carry on!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 2:09 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Honesty is not the best policy! Much emotional harm can be avoided by the judicious use of little white lies.

Just to offer a pair of example responses to events in the video that would have gone over much better than what was actually said:

“Thanks for the doodad, it worked a treat!”

“Oh could you make me a (small inconspicuous thing that is meant to be hidden away). That’s what I really need “
posted by oddman at 2:27 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


to be fair, w/r/t that last story, if a person has a Thing they Do, and they Do that Thing like all the time and it becomes kind of widely known amongst a circle that if there is an occasion where Doing that Thing might be an option, than the Thing will be Done by that person, and part of the ritual is going to be recognizing the person for having Done the Thing everyone knew they were going to Do.

like sometimes you just want a thing and not have to have it be a Thing.
posted by logicpunk at 2:34 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Am I the only person that has been the recipient of unwanted handmade gifts?

I have been given several handmade gifts. There's only one that really fits my taste and it's sadly not actually of any practical use to me. Otherwise they are things I am at best ambivalent about and at worst actively dislike. I wouldn't tell someone that a homemade thing had gone in the trash in the normal run of things, but if someone isn't taking 'no thank you' as an answer I could be sorely tempted.
posted by plonkee at 2:51 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but these are gifts. The gift giver has a certain amount of responsibility in terms of, "Will this person like this?" but the recipient also needs to realize that the giver has given a part of themselves with this thing they made.

Something like this (the original letter writer's situation) has happened to me and ouch. It really hurt because I hadn't even asked them, "Hey, how do you like (the thing I made)? Where is it?" or anything like that. They brought it up, and said it had been made badly so they stuck it in the back of a drawer. I said I was sorry and I'd happily take it off their hands, but the subject has been avoided since then so I'm assuming it was thrown away.
posted by queensissy at 2:51 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


My guess is most of us have been the recipient of unwanted handmade gifts.
We don’t really know what the viewer made that was thrown away. Did it take him 5 minutes or 5 days? Should that matter? I do think that should matter a little. Did he cut the end off a toilet paper tube and call it a napkin ring, or did he fashion some ingenious little device out of multiple parts arranged in a pleasing way?
posted by Glinn at 3:02 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Some people love objects. And no one loves objects like the people who love to make objects.

I am not one of these people. I'm missing the circuit people have in their heads that draws them towards investing objects with their feelings. And so I've hated receiving gifts since I was a little kid.

For me, an object can feel like a burden. I have to find a place for it, clean it, and maintain it. Forever. My personal space is the one thing I have control over in my life. When someone gifts me something that has to live in my space, it sometimes feels like they are occupying a bit of my home.

I love to clean out the objects in my space every year, and yes, some of them get thrown away. Sometimes I think I might enjoy finding an object in twenty years' time and I put it in a box of souvenirs that I keep under the bed. But it's a small box.

I've learned over the years to appreciate the sentiment in the gift, which is what really matters. I finally figured out how to follow oddman's advice, because I don't want to hurt people, but it takes an effort.

On the other hand, food and drink, or really anything consumable and useful, are great gifts for me because they require no effort. They don't have to stay on display forever, and I can share them with the person who gave them to me. That kind of gift feels more like a contribution than an imposition.
posted by fuzz at 3:03 PM on June 8 [21 favorites]


queensissy, that just sounds like a terrible person.
posted by Glinn at 3:03 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


I appreciate how heartfelt and sincere Adam is being here. What’s with all these people that are telling others what a person made was badly done, or all about them, or to be thrown out? It seems so easy (as long as the person isn’t expecting the receiver to publicly exhibit it) to just say thanks!
posted by umbú at 4:56 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


For me, an object can feel like a burden. I have to find a place for it, clean it, and maintain it.

I used to be like this, and I would be kind of offended that a good friend, who ought to have known me better, would give me a knickknacky thing as a gift.

It's shifted for me, and in the past few years I've had the pleasure of getting unexpected gifts that show that the gift-giver really does get me. That's a great feeling. And maybe the difference is that I have people in my life who really do know me well, and are very thoughtful about gift-giving. I've learned that when gift-giving goes well, it's really good.

I reserve the right to be cranky about gifts that seem like the person wasn't thinking about me at all when they bought it.

I used to crochet amigurumi and I took a lot of pleasure in it. I carried my stuff with me and was pretty much crocheting any time I was sitting still, and I could whip up a really nicely-done little creature in no time at all. One of the reasons that fell by the wayside as a hobby is that there just aren't enough people in my life to give them away to.
posted by Well I never at 5:04 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


For me it’s not just handmade things but anything being given to me I don’t enjoy. With that as a baseline it should be obvious to my friends that I don’t want anything in my house that I didn’t choose but unfortunately there’s a few relatives in my sphere that don’t quite understand why I feel this way.

Last year I was given a knit scarf that an Aunt spent a decent amount of time on and it’s pretty frustrating to play it off as a gift well received. I’ve never worn a scarf in my life, I won’t use it but because I was nice about the mittens the year prior, the scarf arrived. I also don’t like mittens, heh. In this case and the other family members that do this, I think it’s because of finances that homemade stuff gets gifted. I can’t say what the cost of a scarf is or a knit scarf either. It’s actually hard to get these relatives to accept that I’m an adult and I would be completely happy with just mailing a card to me. I don’t need their money or purchased goods.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 5:44 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


OK, wow. This has made me question whether or not to give a gift to a friend of mine who is going thru a tough time. It's not handmade, but still, I'd rather just hang on to it if it's going to cause a problem.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 6:05 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Knit scarves, hats, etc are not cheap to make, although they can be cheaper if an inexpensive synthetic yarn is used (Red Heart Super Saver, that kind of thing). Most of the time it's worth assuming that a handmade yarn object cost more to make than the same thing would have cost to buy, because the home hobbyist doesn't have the economies of scale available to them that mass producers of fashion do.
posted by verbminx at 6:36 PM on June 8 [10 favorites]


confession here: i am a compulsive gifter.

there is a saying: it is not truly a gift until the giver has forgotten they gave it, and the receiver has forgotten it was given.

i think a gift should be about the person to whom you give it, not yourself. take joy in giving it, and then let it go. however, when it is a handmade thing -- art, or food, or even just a "geegaw"? that does feel different, because you are not just gifting an object, you are gifting your time and effort. in the best instance, you are also giving that person your thoughtfulness and creativity - and that is a lot harder to separate from yourself than say, a gift certificate.

still, it is not about you.

Adam's advice is spot on: the act of creation is enough, and holds its own weight in the world. but his examples, though meaningful in their way, were not quite as astute.

in his first story, i thought the backward-winged model was going to be the gift, accompanied with an apology for his mistake and a reminder that "we all make them, sometimes..."

which would have been clever and thoughtful, and perhaps a good way to diminish conflict with humor. if it had been trashed in response, that would have been, understandably, very hurtful. a failure to be gracious can be an injury; talking about a wound like that would have been a great response. but, it hadn't been a gift. he didn't even have a chance at that - it was still Adam's own creation, his own belonging. and it was destroyed by a family member in an invasive act of anger. (what that family member did was abuse and i truly hope that sort of thing did not occur on the regular.)

i do get it - this first recounting was about having something you have created being destroyed; the sense of injury and loss, and how that can affect your confidence and motivation. but it wasn't about rejection, or how to navigate that pain.

his second example simply reiterated that experience.

so, in effect, these first two stories were gifts - to all of his audience. but they were more about him, than the writer.

which leads us to the third example, much better at addressing the actual question:
the family member who told him his gifts were more about him than those he was gifting? yeah, rude. but, i suspect, accurate, from the way the first 2 stories went.

the art of declining an offer is a delicate and skilled undertaking, which most of us are not taught to do well. the best alternative is to be direct. and honest. conflict avoidance is a thing, though. so people will demure, avoid, and engage in passive aggression. for Adam's family member to just lay it out like that was a gift in its own way - it saved him the effort. but it was rude, because the offer was generous and thoughtful. and that's gonna sting.

so Adam's advice to value one's creation simply in its own right? perfect. be in the moment, and let that shit go.

my thought is - why all these gifts getting trashed? has no one heard of donating to a thrift store??? someone, somewhere, will LOVE it!

another confession: i am also a compulsive thrifter, hahaha - and i LOVE geegaws!
posted by lapolla at 6:57 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


This has made me question whether or not to give a gift to a friend of mine who is going thru a tough time.

I may be the outlier in the scenarios all around but I've only ever given one piece of advice on the subject of homemade gifts: ask the person if they would like one of your creations if you're not sure.

For instance, I have a friend who loves doing 3d printed stuff but I don't care for any of that. Glad he has a hobby he likes but he also knows that as much as he tells me about the cool Master Chief helmet he made, I'm not going to want one. He knows me enough to understand where my tastes take me. The other side of the coin is that my other friend, who is an hobbyist painter, has made art that I've not only enjoyed as gifts but have paid for as well. In both cases the (would be) giver has had insight into my tastes and if they give me something it's not just for them to show off, they know I'll be appreciative of what it was.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:07 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


"Don't tell a scoffer."
A person who just easily tells anyone (or even just you) that what you're thinking, or of writing, or of bulding can easily deflate you. And they might be full of shit. They might be jealous of your creativity.
They don't need to know.

"Don't cast pearls before pigs."
Same idea as "Don't tell a scoffer." Something beautiful can get trashed by an inconsiderate person or an angry or jealous person.

Guard your art heart.

It's especially important when you are A) young and/or B) not yet experienced with you art to know it has worth. I have one sister who loves my writing, and my painting. The rest of my family think I'm brain dead. I showed no one in my family, protected my art heart, my one sister found out that I was writing a NANOWRIMO, I did *not* want her to see it, she convinced my to show her a paragraph or two, then pretty much insisted that I show her what I was up to. She loved it. She championed me, not to other siblings, I guess just to me, and this one friend of hers who waited impatiently for every word.

I have since had plenty of support, from plenty of people. I have friends all over the world, because of the internet and plenty of ppl with common interests and tastes etc.

But young? Not sure of yourself? Guard your art heart.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:51 PM on June 8 [9 favorites]


time and iteration

IMHO, this is also the recipe for relationship recovery and development.

There are many nice things about this FPP (!!), but one thing I hadn't appreciated about personal development with regards to romantic relationships is how there's kinda a craftsperson/tool dynamic with how first we learn who we are and then again who we are with other people and then an umpteenth time with how we are with other people as we make ourselves vulnerable [and invest our dark maia souls in rings] as we trust people along the way.

Sort of spitballing and maybe I've said too much, but it's good to recognize that not only does the river and the person change, but you get shit from the river on your boots every time and some of the rubber wears off.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:35 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


there is a saying: it is not truly a gift until the giver has forgotten they gave it, and the receiver has forgotten it was given.

This. 1000x this. If you are giving someone a gift that comes with expectations of praise or appreciation or that it will become a fixture in the recipient’s life or really has absolutely any strings attached, you are not giving in the way I understand it. Or at least, you are not giving freely. There absolutely may be a component of the exchange that’s altruistic, but if you’re requiring something in return from the recipient… ugh, the altruistic component is quickly nullified, or at least outweighed. That kind of giving hits the same notes to me as passive aggression.

Admittedly, this is coming from somewhat of a sore spot for me. If you’re reading this and feeling defensive, please know that I am not trying to attack you, everything I’m writing here is very much informed by my own trauma.

Gifts were 100% a means of coercive control for my parents. My mother allowed me 0 financial freedom – any time I was able to earn or otherwise accumulate any capital on my own, she quickly confiscated it, and anything resembling “spending money” had to be accounted for with receipts to meet her approval. She loved to keep me begging, and she loved meting out gifts, for which she very much demanded ongoing praise. If I made the mistake of betraying that I actually enjoyed or liked a thing, that thing immediately served as another lever of control she could pull by revoking or destroying the gift. She would harp on and on about how much I owed her, how much I should be thanking her, how ungrateful I was for everything she’d given me. It took me a long time to realize she had in fact never freely given me anything in my entire life. My father rarely gave me anything, but when he did, his gifts were always a reflection of his interests and came with a payload of emotional manipulation. Case in point: I hated fishing. Hate hate hate hate hated. I did not like impaling a worm. I did not like impaling a fish that was trying to eat. I did not like the idea of dragging a living thing by its jawbone out of its world as it knew it. I did not like excising a barb embedded in the flesh of an animal with hemostats. I did not like getting up early. I did not like being trapped on a canoe with my father for hours. When I grew old enough to refuse his demands (or at least resist his attempts to force me to participate in his hobby), well, he typically would give me one gift a year, for Christmas. It would always be a fishing rod, with a note attached saying “come fishing with me”. The first time I unwrapped one, my gut fucking sank. I was stunned, and he repeated the request on the note aloud. I was young and vulnerable. I agreed to go. But it was extremely clear that his gift was not about me.

Again, please keep that background in mind with everything I’m writing here. My radar is hyper tuned for passive aggression – I’m going to have false positives and see it where it isn’t there. But when people talk about the responsibility of the recipient, my entire body screams.

An old flame of mine is a fine artist. Her sculptures are stunning, like the wind made solid, and I fell in love how they were both incredibly emotionally evocative, but also how she made shapes that were functionally un-fabricatable with my mass-production toolkit. They truly could only be brought into existence by extremely skilled human hands over the course of hundreds of hours, and I admired the time, the care, and especially the emotional journey that I saw crystallized in each of them. One of the many things she taught me was the difference between fine art and design.

Fine art is an expression of self; it is the artist putting themselves into their work, and its creation is in service of the artist’s need to express themselves or something they’re feeling or how they view the world through the act of creation. In addition to servicing the need to create, there’s often also an underlying desire to be seen, to be recognized, to be known. Putting yourself into your art, and then putting that art in front for the world, wow, yes, that’s vulnerability.

Design is almost the exact opposite. Design is an act of service. There are many similarities, so many that it’s extremely easy to get them confused. But at its heart, the core tenet of design is that you are servicing someone else’s needs. You are centering a user and putting their needs first, using your skills and toolset to bring someone else ease or enjoyment.

Long, long before people started calling me an engineer, I was very much a maker. I loved making stuff, and I made so. much. stuff. I was prolific. I absolutely fell in love with ecstasy of creation. There as few feelings in life quite as fine as taking something that exists in your mind and expressing it in the real world. I got so good at being a maker, it became my job. Suddenly I was being paid to do what I loved, and I could indulge the hobby that brought me much pleasure and satisfaction full time. That attitude changed real quick once customers started depending on the things I built and I started paying salaries. The economic pressures were intensely clarifying. Playtime was over. I was running a business, and I was responsible for the employees who trusted me being able to make rent. My wants and needs had to evaporate, all that mattered was what the customer was willing to pay me for. I lamented that I had lost my hobby, it had become a job. But no customer owes you anything for scratching your own itch, least of all money. It is no one else’s obligation to finance your hobby, no matter how valuable or rewarding or important you find it. I was getting paid to be a professional, I didn’t just get to finance my hobby on someone else’s dime. It was then that I stopped being an artist, and became a designer.

The absolute most important quality I look for when I’m hiring is customer empathy. You don’t ever get to put your needs first, unless you are an embodiment of the actual customer, in which case you’re often being paid specifically for your insight as user champion. It is absolutely critical that you set aside your own wants, needs, and opinions – like, completely aside. They are more likely to get in the way than they are to help. At most, they can give you intuition into discovering customer needs which you can confirm with them. At worst… well… I think most people can think of a product or service that might fit that bill. When I see that embodied in a product or observe that happening with someone in a design role, it is extremely hard to suppress a sneer of disgust at the self-centeredness of its creators, which very much doubles when said creator is offended by the reaction of customers. It’s unprofessional.

I think a lot of artists get extremely hurt and beaten down when they’re being paid for design work that uses their artistic talents, but the job is very much not fine art. For some people, I’m not sure those two are separable; I wish those people were able to pursue a career in art and not be forced into design, but art alone is rarely a viable career path that will keep one fed and sheltered with the way we’re doing capitalism today. I think of how the design process works for me, and how many of my ideas and creations get absolutely trashed and torn to shreds along the way, and how that’s a pretty critical part of customer discovery. I can’t imagine how painful that would be if I was pouring a bit of myself into each of those squibs.

Adam’s last anecdote kinda screams to me that he’s an artist at heart that thinks he’s a designer. I get why he would be hurt and feel rejected, especially when he’s offering up a part of himself that he cherishes. But I just fundamentally do not believe that he’s owed an audience. It is not his relative’s job to provide gallery space in their home for his art, no matter how much he likes it, or how good he is at it, or how many hours he pours into it without asking his recipient. And if he’s giving something with any expectation from the recipient in return, well, that is just not a gift given freely.

I absolutely detest The Big Bang Theory, I see it as nerdface where the audience is laughing at the characters and not with them. Like seriously that show is minstrelsy. But Sheldon has one golden line that’s stuck with me: “You haven't given me a gift, you've given me an obligation.”

Because of the whole childhood thing, I definitely have a bit of a weird relationship to gifts. And again, I apologize to anyone who’s reading this and feeling hurt or angry. Please take my words with a major grain of salt, I’m over sensitive here and what I’m expressing is partially me just working through my own trauma. I absolutely love giving gifts, I spend a lot of time thinking about them and how they could perfectly match something I know about someone. To me, a gift is a way for me to express to someone that I’m thinking about them when they’re not around, and that I understand them deeply. When I give a gift, it is paramount to me that it be freely given. Like seriously I am not even allowed to follow up with “how’d you like the gift?” If someone tells me how they’ve enjoyed my gift unbidden, it is a delight. But if I’m fishing for that response, the response is meaningless, and I’m putting my own needs and desires above those of the recipient. This is probably an extreme take!

Eventually, my gift-giving habit contributed to things falling apart with the artist I held dear. Video chats with her at weird hours kept me sane during a 4-month period we were long-distance as I was working in India. I’d send her items I thought she’d enjoy or would improve her quality of life without any thought. I never inquired about them. I just wanted her to know that she was on my mind. I did not see or appreciate that this was making her uncomfortable. An ex of hers had used gifts as a means of coercive control, a sort of insert tokens expect obligations dynamic. Every time I’d been thinking of her and blithely sending what I thought were expressions of care, I think she might have felt I was banking reciprocity expectations. I totally should have seen that. I knew of her ex, and I knew that had 100% been the M.O. of my parents. But even thought I thought I was thinking of her and following all my rules, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to how my gifts were impacting her. I’d like to chalk some of that up to the whole long-distance thing, but at the end of the day I didn’t catch it, and I didn’t check, so I can’t in good conscious say I was centering her needs and not servicing my own.

I love giving gifts. I am very careful about gifts. I ask a lot questions in advance, even when that means blowing a surprise – especially when I take a second look at what’s happening and consider whether I’m trying to preserve the surprise so my recipient can enjoy a surprise, or if I’m subconsciously expecting some performative surprise or expression of gratitude. I remember a different relationship where I was getting a ring made for a woman I adored. It was gonna take quite a bit of time to fabricate the design, and I didn’t even know her ring size or which finger she’d want to wear it on. Okay yes I had some sneaky creepy thoughts – I possessed multiple high-accuracy contactless 3D scanners, it wouldn’t be too hard to surreptitiously measure her ring size. Caught that shit quick, and I told her what I wanted to get her, asked her if she would like it, and if so what ring size I should gauge it to. I told her I’d rather it be a perfect fit than a perfect surprise.

When you’re giving a gift, it’s not about you. It’s just not. If it is, then it isn’t a gift.
posted by 1024 at 10:47 PM on June 8 [17 favorites]


I really don't like getting gifts. I've tried for decades to gently let everyone that may get me gifts know this.

Most folks have stopped or will ask about a gift they want to get me at this point.

Some time ago I had to explain it to my mom that while I appreciate that people want to do something nice, what I really would like instead is for them to just respect my desire not to get gifts.
posted by Hicksu at 11:45 PM on June 8


I endorse 1000X the point made by 1024. I am a fan of Adam Savage and watch his content from time to time, and appreciate the thoughtfulness he brings to his commentary, such as he did in this video. However, as thoughtful and insightful as his remarks are, he's still seeing things 99% from his own perspective as a maker. He missed an opportunity to impart the other side of the "be aware of your own vulnerability" lesson, which is "Know your audience first."
If I was a friend of Savage's and he offered me a hand-welded appurtenance as a gift, even the offer would in fact be a huge imposition on my relationship with him, because now I have to perform the emotional labor of finding a kind way to let him know I need a hand made welded metal...thing...in my house like I need more holes in my head. Know your audience.
The fact I neither need nor want your hand-made output in my life or home is not the same thing as me saying your art has no value or you have no value. However, I am aware as a member of the human race that you invest a huge amount of heart and time and energy into making your art; and your attempts to press a piece of it into my hands are simultaneously a loving gesture of how you value my friendship and a clueless unwelcome intrusion of your aesthetic taste and presence into my most private spaces.
Know your f**king audience, and don't do that to your friends.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 4:04 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


A gift *in no way* obligates the recipient. Ever. Otherwise it is not a gift.
posted by trip and a half at 4:13 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Thanks for this video. Gifts are often such fraught spaces. I think it’s valuable to hear all the perspectives so we can walk as gently as possible with each other.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:46 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


i am a compulsive gifter
me too, lapolla, both handmade and not handmade. Though, I just had to replace my car so the gifting needs to stop for a while at least (prob not 100%, see the compulsive part)

Anyway, I am older now and it is not that big a deal if someone doesn't like a thing! Because there's probably some people who would like that thing, if I like it enough to give or offer it. And not all of the things are for all of the people. I guess I'm also finally sort of confident in what I like whether other people like it or not. (Example: I used to be so intimidated to post here. And some I did post got very little engagement. But so what? I still liked the thing, and it's possible it found its way to someone else who wouldn't have seen it otherwise.)

But I don't necessarily agree that Adam's offer to make a thing was "all about him" - it could have been something as simple and universal as a decorative latch or plant holder. And it would have been a neat, handmade thing. I really, really don't understand the reaction of that relative unless Adam somehow lords his fame and privilege, but he does not seem like that kind of guy. Perhaps the relatives are envious of his success for some reason, or people annoyingly ask them about him a lot. Just seemed like something else was going on.

But young? Not sure of yourself? Guard your art heart.
This is great advice, dancestoblue.

1024, your parents were truly awful, and did not appreciate you or that you were not like them. So sorry you had to live with that.
But I still don't really agree with:
It is not his relative’s job to provide gallery space in their home for his art
I just really think this is a harsh take on what seemed to me to be a thoughtful offer.
posted by Glinn at 7:04 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


A gift *in no way* obligates the recipient. Ever. Otherwise it is not a gift.
Definitely. But with a small caveat that if you're dealing with a younger person, they are likely extra vulnerable and it doesn't hurt to be kind.
posted by Glinn at 7:07 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I'm a knitter, and I decided pretty early on not to give knitted things as gifts. I knit for me, and I enjoy seeing people use the stuff I knit, and knitting for other people is really only a gift to myself. So I absolutely give away stuff that I knit, but not for birthdays or weddings or stuff. If I make something that I think someone would like, I will ask if they want it. But for your wedding, I'm buying you something off of the registry unless you explicitly ask me to knit something for you.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:07 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


It really boils down to, if the person's into it vs. not being into it. I've stopped gifting to some people for that reason.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:40 AM on June 9


When you make something, it's all about you, really, it's not about me.

For many crafty types, the gift is an occasion to practice their hobby.

I think handmade gifts should be by request because then it's mutual--I'm giving you something you asked for, while I get to do the thing I like.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:51 AM on June 9


Most of what Savage said I can go along with with the exception of the part about the non cooperative giftee who rejected Savage's offer of something special. I don't know how the giftee is supposed to handle that one politely and Savage's failure to essentially respect the boundary that is being set puts me more on the giftee side.
posted by Pembquist at 10:18 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Thank you for your compassion, Glinn. And yes, that whole post was very much a harsh take! I was trying really hard not to hurt people who might be reading it, but to explain the pain that informs my position.

I’ve been trying to think about why there seems to be a bit of a divide between people who identify with Adam’s pain in his anecdote and his relative’s pain. And I think Pembquist hit the nail on the head – it’s a boundary violation. I think this may be the root of why Adam’s behavior is violently rubbing me the wrong way. I didn’t have control of my space during my developing years, it has taken a ferocious amount of work to get to a point where I do, and that is extremely important to me.

And looking through this thread, I don’t think my position is at all unique. Several people have stated here that they really, really do not appreciate being on the receiving end of what Adam’s doing here. Two comments jump out:

My personal space is the one thing I have control over in my life. When someone gifts me something that has to live in my space, it sometimes feels like they are occupying a bit of my home.

a clueless unwelcome intrusion of your aesthetic taste and presence into my most private spaces


I think the specific context here is also important – the relatives had just bought a new house. Maybe they were moving from a previous home and were getting a fresh start. Maybe they’d rented all their life and this was the first space that was truly theirs. But as Adam was recounting his story, my immediate thoughts were with the relatives. I imagine their elation at starting a new chapter of life and finally having a space of their own, and then Adam chirping up with literally “You just bought a new house. The wedding present I would like to give you would be to weld you something for your house…. I weld, I make things out of steel, I’d like to make something for your house.”

I do not think I’d do well with that. It would probably take a great deal of restraint to just roll my eyes and say “here goes the Savage show again,” and then politely ignore what he would like to make for my house instead of snapping on him. Which it sounds like they did. But that didn’t stop Adam. Which then forces the relatives to do the emotional labor of managing this man’s feelings as he is actively ignoring a boundary and likely making them feel like they’re the assholes. I think their response was actually remarkably measured and kind. If someone was ignoring a pretty clear signal from me like that, I don’t think I’d be inclined to be quite so generous with my finite energy to endure the discomfort and friction of telling him what he’s doing and how it comes off. I would not fault someone for just letting him do the thing he obviously wants to do regardless, smile and thank him, then toss his unwelcome geegaw in the bin.

My work is extremely stressful. My space is my sanctuary. I don’t own a ton of things, but the things I do are beautiful, I’ve picked them with care. I have an aesthetic, and when I’m in my space I get to enjoy a sense of harmony and calm. I’ve had roommates for most of my life, and this is the first place I’ve ever lived that I can really call mine. I guard that jealously.

I’ve spent a lot of time in maker spaces and maker-adjacent spaces. There is a very certain aesthetic that I primarily see men drawn to after they to play around with some of the more fun high-energy tools like a plasma cutter and mig gun. With those tools, you can suddenly hand-cut and hand-glue plates of steel together like they’re cardboard. It’s a look. It is very much Adam’s look. I could maybe see putting one of his creations in a lab or a workshop or something, but I absolutely would not want to even catch a glimpse of that kind of eyeball-the-cut hammer-to-fit jank in my living space. It’s sloppy in a way that I would find revolting in my nice calming home. Also I don’t want tetanus. It doesn’t matter if it’s a decorative latch or a plant holder; every time I saw it, it would be a discordant note. Yes I’m persnickety, I’m extremely, extremely detail oriented, like seriously I spent almost three weeks picking out the perfect doorknobs for the two doors in my current space. Because of my work, I am intimately familiar with fabrication at pretty much all levels, and my appreciation of something executed with an extraordinary level of skill and precision is only matched by my dislike of things which aren’t. There is really no such thing as a “neat, handmade thing” in my world. Maybe that’s an issue? But that’s my aesthetic. To be a real prick about it, I do not believe Adam is capable of fabricating an object to my standards; there is literally nothing he is capable of making that I would want in my home. I would not want his latch. I would not want his plant holder. I would love a thoughtful card or something.

Imagine if Adam’s thing wasn’t mig welding geegaws of out of steel plate, but instead steampunk clothes and accessories, and he wanted to make you something in that aesthetic which he so loved, and which you would be required to wear forever. Imagine if he would not take no for an answer.

From where I’m standing, Adam’s offer was the opposite of thoughtful. I think he thinks it’s thoughtful. I don’t the intended recipients agreed. And again, just looking through this thread, I don’t think I’m the only one that would feel that way. Maybe that’s not how everyone is wired. Everyone doesn’t have to agree with my perspective! We’re all different! But people here are explaining their perspective, and I do think anyone who’s read the comments here and now knows that perspective exists does have to respect it.

I keep thinking back to one of the first threads I participated on here, about being carried. I came down strong on team fuck yeah pick me up let me surrender to your strength, but some people were firmly in the “absolutely not do not violate my bodily autonomy under any circumstances I have trauma there” camp. We’re all wired differently. We have different boundaries. I absolutely love the idea of being picked up and carried; I’m not exactly tiny and could probably pick up quite a few of my friends, and I’d love to share the feeling I get when being picked up with them. But it wouldn’t be thoughtful of me to ignore their boundaries or assume they share mine and just scoop up whoever whenever. It would be less so to expect them to like it.

So yeah, I think this is a boundaries thing. Which may be a preference thing in some cases, or, like in the carry me thread, it may be rooted in specific trauma that not everyone has. If you don’t have that trauma and can’t imagine it, that’s wonderful! Enjoy geegaws for days! But some people here are saying they don’t like that, so given that people like that exist, please do not push geegaws without asking. You don’t have to agree with the reaction people are having to Adam, you don’t even have to understand the reaction people are having to Adam. But people are having that reaction to Adam. If you unaware of that before, you are now, and I think that comes with a degree of responsibility. It doesn’t have anything to do with envy, it has everything to do with boundaries.

And honestly, I’m probably swinging back to harsh here (again, this is informed by my trauma!) but Adam’s response to the relatives telling it like it is kinda bothers me a bunch too. He gives no thought to what he put them through or what might have lead them to reject his thoughtfulness. Instead, he centers himself, he goes straight into victim mode, how much they hurt him, how vulnerable he was being. He spends no thought on the hurt he was causing. At the least, that feels solipsistic, but frankly it comes off a little too close to narcissism for my comfort.

FWIW, I am specifically talking about an exchange between adults here. If I was dealing with a child I would be gushing over everything they made in the hopes of encouraging their expression and helping them develop their own voice.

I’m sorry if I’ve come off harsh here. I’m trying to express my pain without casting judgement on those causing it, but I don’t think I’m doing a perfect job there. This is definitely touching something a bit raw in me. Which is why I’m really, truly thankful for this post and the opportunity to explore it.
posted by 1024 at 12:27 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Gifts can definitely be a burden. A few years ago I got a lovely piece of ceramics, except it was for presenting a type of food that I don't eat in those quantities, and I don't host parties in my tiny apartment. It was very pretty! If I had a bigger place, it would have looked nice as a display piece. But it just sat in its wrapper in a storage box. Even trying to arrange a proper new home for it would have required more energy than I had, so I eventually said fuck it and put it with a bunch of other stuff in a box on the curb for passerby.
posted by tavella at 4:41 PM on June 9


1024, thank you for sharing your point of view.

First, I totally agree you should feel no obligation to use or display a handmade gift. People who are pushy about it totally suck. I am a painter and I don't give away paintings unless they are asked for, with a very few exceptions. And I would never look for an item I gave someone, or ask them if they have it. But, I know people do that. Ugh it gives us all a bad name.

Second, I mean, I think most people are on the same page about basically being kind in most situations. I also understand some people do not like white lies, or don't see any reason for them. Other people see them as a way to be kinder to someone.

You're not wrong at all, in anything you said or your right to say it. But, my point of view is different. I felt in this situation, where you see boundary setting, I see a very unkind personal attack where a kinder approach could have been used while still boundary setting.

Just because it would make you really mad to get a handmade gift, that does not mean the gift was not intended in all sincerity. No one would force you to keep it. Perhaps you know someone who would enjoy it. Or just, return the gift and say thank you so much, it was such a nice offer, but it doesn't match my aesthetic. Or something like that? But that is only my opinion on it which is no more valid than your opinion on it.
posted by Glinn at 5:40 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


To the editorial "you."

A gift is always about the giver. The giver may have ulterior motives, such as imposing a sense of obligation on the giftee. On the other hand, the Aunt who knits mittens may simply be offering a piece of her heart. Rejecting a gift from the former is common sense--accepting such a gift merely affirms your price to the giver. But you would be a class-A cabbage head to reject a gift from the latter.

Somewhere out there in gift-land is the friend or relative who knew you needed a purple Frammitz and got one for you. Is that transactional? If so, return the Frammitz with a chilly "No thanks." If the Frammitz was a gift inspired by affection, then hooray. But it's still about the giver, not the Frammits.
posted by mule98J at 8:54 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


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