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Self starter 

Iris Porter prepares to release DIYinHFX, a local guide to the do-it-yourself movement.

For some, the term “do-it-yourself” (or “DIY”) evokes images of a Bob Vila-type handyman installing their own light switches or toilets. For others, it means a lifestyle comprised of responsible choices—a slower pace of life in a supportive community.

For the most part, Iris Porter identifies with the latter definition. While her DIY theory also means installing one’s own light switches, it encompasses a much larger portion of her life. “You don’t need a pre-packaged lifestyle where everything’s been done for you. For me, it’s basic day-by-day decisions that you make, like where you’re going to shop from and actually thinking about what your needs and your wants are. Up until about WWII, that was how the world worked.”

Born in Portland, Oregon, and currently residing in Halifax, Porter is, by anyone’s definition, a busy person. At the top of her to-do list are the many preparations involved with publishing DIYinHFX, a book which, according to her website (tincansound.com) is “a public scrapbook to document do-it-yourself culture in Halifax, Nova Scotia.” 500 copies of the book are to be released in September.

Independently publishing a book such as this is not completely new to Porter; she released a similar book in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, DIYinPDX. Do-it-yourself culture in Halifax is certainly rich enough to warrant documentation, and the book’s contributors reflect that. There are submissions from the Anchor Archive Regional Zine Project, Gallery Deluxe Gallery, the Halifax Scavenger Society, the Organic Landscape Collective and more, about 25 contributors in total. Each contributor is responsible for their own pages—Porter sent the specifications to interested parties in January, and has been working on layout and fundraising since. The book is expected to be approximately 128 pages, with the covers made by Porter at the Dawson Print Shop at NSCAD, featuring a collage of maps of Nova Scotia.

“Doing-it-yourself doesn’t necessarily mean doing it by yourself. It involves skills sharing and collaborating, helping each other” says Porter. Her book is no exception. Porter enlisted the help of friends Sarah Evans and Sonia Edworthy (both of the Anchor Archive and Organic Landscape Collective), Rob MacGregor and Larissa Muzzy to organize submissions.

Porter feels this project is especially important to keep effecting positive change in Halifax, and her enthusiasm shows. “This is an awesome town where people are doing really good things. I think the people that stay here and do awesome shit should be commended, because not a lot of people stay here, but it’s a good headquarters.”

Not only will the book inspire those who read it, but it’s also promoting the societies and organizations that have made contributions. “I’m trying to put out this book to help the community, let people know about what they’re doing and why, and make it more visible to a larger audience. It’s even going to help someone else out. , ‘This person started their own business and this is how they did it… I could do that.’”

Before the book can inspire or promote, however, it must be paid for. One of the inventive fundraising efforts planned is this week’s craft and art auction, being held at the Eyelevel Gallery. Porter’s hoping the items on the auctioneer’s block bring out the crowds.

“We’re serious about raising money—we have to be. I’m getting people to donate things that reflect their submissions , like a bike—I’m donating my cursive typewriter, my Super-8 equipment, there will be a sewing machine, things there to make things.” She’s also planning for it to be a semi-formal affair, so dust off those cocktail dresses and bow-ties.

Going to the auction, bidding high and supporting the book is a step in the right direction for a sustainable lifestyle, says Porter. “People can think of DIY as a form of activism, or protest,” she says. “Like deciding where you’re going to spend your money, that’s your voice. Society has established the way the world is going to run, but this is about creating alternatives.”

DIYinHFX art and craft auction, Thur Jun 22 at the eyelevel gallery, 2128 Gottingen Street, 7pm. For more info, see www.tincansound.com

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