handmade (part two)

The act, and process, of creating things with your hands for others - whether for function, whimsy, or art - is an act not just of material creation but of relationship.  I wrote of this last week, when I admitted to my hopeless addiction to making things for those that I know and love.  Not that I make every gift that I give to people.  Heavens above.  (Did I mention somewhere that I have a toddler in the house?)  But I do make some and, over the years, I've seen that this act is one that attempts two important things: to appreciate who it is that I am making things for; and to share a little of who I am - through the act of making itself, the choice of gift, my style, and my skills, for instance.  This is a risky endeavour, all relationship building is in some way, but there is often excitement and reward in taking such a risk, too.


Beyond this delicious relational aspect to handmade gifts, my other reasons for making things by hand get more complicated (and not a little murky).  Some of it is very intuitive, the desire coming to me at gut level, telling me that nothing else will do than to dream up something "just right" for this person at this time.  This is closely related to an inner certainty that I can make things or, more importantly, that I can learn how to make (some) things (and that the effort will be worth it).  However, being a naturally deep and deliberative kind of a gal (okay stop nodding Mum and Dad and, well, everyone who knows me well), you won’t be surprised when I say that this gut instinct doesn’t arise out of a vacuum.  I, like many in the craft world today, respond viscerally and forcefully to much of our modern consumer culture and the deadening impact of the mass producing, global manufacturing beast we contend with on our every foray to the shops.


"The ascendancy of chain store culture and global manufacturing has left us dressing, furnishing, and decorating alike. We are encouraged to be consumers, not producers, of our own culture. Our ties to the local and human sources of our goods have been lost. Buying [and making] handmade helps us reconnect."

Many of you will be familiar with this beast (and why it is a beast) but to summarise, quickly, why I feel like running around, screaming, with my skirt pulled over my head whenever I go into big box stores, it’s things like: the gobsmacking amount of stuff that we’re encouraged to want, replace, update, add (where does it all go? how big are our landfills? how deep our cupboards? how big our houses?); the way it’s all made (labour sinks of the poor, unskilled and foreign, factories that pollute); the environmental cost (huge carbon footprints for global production, manufacturing, transportation, storage and handling; drains on natural resources for our insatiable appetite for plastic; waste and what we do with it); the cultural reproduction of sameness.  I could probably go on but I won’t.  You get the picture and can probably see why sitting in my little studio (or on the couch, or in the car, or on the bed), skirt chastely in place, nimbling away at whatever flight of fancy lies before me, feels like a cool breeze on a hot day.  It is almost impossible to escape this consumer culture beast (I buy, of course I buy stuff - and it’s not all made from organic wool volunteered by local sheep giddy with their good life) but there is something in the lessening of its grip on my life.  There is something in the rebellion that saves a woman.  The weight, of that bit of the world at least, is lessened.

So, giving handmade gives back.  Again.  It gives back a small sense of peace, it gives back a sense of difference and why that is good, and it gives back a sense of lightly treading where you want others to follow.

 Which is why, when I receive handmade gifts, that I can feel a little breathless, a little heady, a little speechless.  Just for a bit.  Because I know; I know that something - something wonderful, something palpable, something outside of - has occurred here.  I can’t claim that those who have made stuff for me have done it with the same reasons in mind as I have spoken about here and there, however some part of all of it must be true.  Whatever their processes, reasons, experiences, I at least know something of the time, the energy, the thinking, the love and the refusing to not do it, that goes into each creation.  And that makes all the difference.

PS:  These photos are of handmade gifts that we received when Tiny was born.  I thanked all the makers then, and thank them again now.  I get it.

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