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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fix It, Make It, Grow It, Bake It: An Interview with Billee Sharp

Billee Sharp was born and raised in a little village in Dorset, England. She studied anthropology and ancient history at University College London. Billee went on to style herself a career as a contemporary art curator and gallerist. Working with Damien Hirst and others, she opened Building One, a huge gallery in an old biscuit factory, and mounted a series of group shows, which contributed to the emergence of the YBAs.

Billee moved to San Francisco, California in 1993 where she started both a family and record label. In 2009, Billee founded The Mission Casbah, which is a fair trade, free market for craftsmen and artisans. She lives with her husband and two sons. Her book, Fix It, Make It, Grow It, Bake It, was released in 2010.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about your book, Fix It, Make It, Grow It, Bake It.

Billee Sharp: I was very excited when Brenda Knight of Viva Editions suggested that I submit a proposal for a book about living cheaply and living your dreams. I believe that’s what I've been doing for the past twenty years and I was very glad to have the opportunity to share my philosophy and my tips!

Shelly Rachanow: I love the subtitle of your book: The D.I.Y Guide to the Good Life. What inspired you to live a D.I.Y. approach to life?

Billee Sharp: This book grew out of my personal experience: I've been married to my husband, a musician, for nearly twenty years, and when we started a family I decided that I wanted to be a full-time mom and continue developing my skills as a writer. The results have been very fulfilling but not entirely lucrative. We don't participate in a lot of consumerist pastimes, we make our own fun for the most part. This is the experience I tried to impart in my book: You don't need a lot of money to be healthy, eat well and enjoy life!

Shelly Rachanow: What do you want people to understand about quality of life on our planet today?

Billee Sharp: I think there is a wide misapprehension in Western society that we need a lot of things and these things make us happy. Like everybody else I love beautiful things and I feel happy when my family and I have the things we need. However getting caught up in materialism often leads to excessive consumerism which is difficult to sustain financially and certainly does the planet no good!

We cannot keep using the planet's resources at such a frantic rate. Deforestation and fossil-fuel depletion are real problems we are facing now in the twenty-first century. It’s our responsibility to change our ways and develop a more sustainable way of life. For this our children, grandchildren and beyond will be grateful.

Shelly Rachanow: Your book is a great step-by-step guide to help people consume less but create more. What are some ways we can do this?

Billee Sharp: I think the first step is to ask ourselves whether we really need the stuff we are buying. When we do need things, try to support green and sustainable industries and try to buy quality goods that will last, hopefully a lifetime. Although its nice to have shiny new items, it’s also great when your teenager says stuff like, "I love this dish. I remember you made a huge trifle in it for my fifth birthday party!"

Shelly Rachanow: What are some simple actions people can take right away to help both themselves and the planet?

Billee Sharp: Start by considering purchases as an ethical consumer. In our society we are very market-led, when consumer trends become identifiable they are followed. A good place to start would be to stop buying products which contain high fructose corn syrup – it’s bad for your health and bad for the environment. The less people buy of this nasty stuff the more obvious it will be to suppliers that we want healthy alternatives!

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Billee Sharp: I really think the idea of women running the world is reactionary. I understand that men have held the concentration of power for the last two thousand years, they have made women second-class citizens and propagated a culture of inequality. However, I would hate to see the pendulum swing back the other way and I also reject the "women in power" model that women like Margaret Thatcher, Condoleeza Rice, Sarah Palin epitomize: These are women who act out like powerful men and follow the dominant themes of patriarchal society. This means that any power they have is merely male power by proxy.

I prefer the idea of partnership society which many contemporary anthropologists and ancient historians believe was the structure of Neolithic society. Partnership society is epitomized by men and women sharing power and making decisions for society together, where women are accepted as religious figures, doctors, teachers and politicians. Riane Eisler's book, The Real Wealth of Nations, advocates for partnership societies. She holds that sexual equality is the essential key to human development. Eisler cites the last 100 years of Swedish history as evidence that as women assume a more powerful role in the decision-making processes of society, men have less desire to aggressively dominate.

For more information:

Visit Billee on Facebook and read her posts at http://www.asitoughttobe.com/, including a recent article about feminism:


1 comment:

  1. Hey Shelly: It's been ages! Love your web blog about a new author. Your one of many woman heroes! Feminism is so strong, I will always be a male feminist forever, LOL. How the book sales going? Drop me a line if you have time from your busy schedule.

    Mc Huggs :)
    George :)