Today I am going to Mexico with a dear friend to visit another dear friend.
I am going to fulfill a promise and to celebrate a frienship that began with an appreciation for the love of making things by hand.
Over the last few years, I have gravitated to buying handmade or secondhand wares, and at the very least buying from local businesses. I still purchase items from bigger chain stores but I am doing it less and less. It has become a conscious choice – a slow movement to consume less and to be a little more thoughtful with my purchases. I am not claiming to be completely free of buying new factory-made products. Sometimes convenience wins.
But I am making an attempt.
On our recent trips, we have tried to support artisans and continue to purchase handmade items. In Barcelona, we made a beeline to an outdoor market to peruse and to purchase handmade products. My daughters ran into this store we stumbled upon in the medieval quarter:
Handmade goods is an homage to the slow movement. They are made by hand, honouring practices of the past. These goods are made with care, personal touch, and yes, with LOVE.
In The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, Rebecca Solnit writes:
The “slow-everything” movement is in need of a manifesto that would explain what vinyl records and homemade bread have in common. We won’t overthrow corporations by knitting – but understanding the pleasures of knitting or weeding or making pickles might articulate the value of that world outside electronic chatter and distraction, and inspire a more stately sense of time.
My good friend, Lynn, wrote a great blog post on the effect that this 100 Day challenge has affected her creative work as an artisan. She shares her processes and her enjoyment in just making for the sake of making. She is making an ornament a day. If you get a chance to meet her at one of the many craft fairs in our city, you will understand clearly how each item is infused with love. The love begins in her sketchbook as a rough idea, as an exciting challenge, and it carries through to the finished product. Each item has a story.
Any artisan you meet will have a story for each item, an affinity for each creation. Each item is unique and tenderly touched by a human hand. You aren’t only buying an item. You are also giving thanks for an ancient muscle memory from our entire human civilization that once made things all by hand.
The artisan family that we befriended in Costa Rica has a similar story. There was an infectious joy and light that Jesica emitted when she told us the story of each of the natural objects that were used in her jewelry like the fish scale that her husband found in the Amazon river or the precious stone found on a beach in Uruguay.
The true value of making something by hand, whether it’s baking bread or sewing a dress or felting an ornament or weaving jewelry, is not the end result. It is about the pleasure found in the idea and the materials. To make something whole and complete out of separate parts with your own touch. Time takes on new meaning.
At a jewelry stand in Barcelona, my daughter, one our resident bracelet maker, was fascinated with one of the bracelets woven around a silver chain. It was a little more expensive than some of the other ones but she wanted to buy it. Concerned for her budget, I wondered why she didn’t like any of the cheaper ones. She looked at me and rolled her eyes as if I should know the answer. She said, “Mom, I can make those ones. This one is different. I want to figure this out. I want to figure out how she did this.”
I make things. My children make things. By having them make, sew, knit, cook, weave, and bake from scratch, they understand the work involved when they see the price tag of a handmade item. They understand the years of practice and focus that was involved in making that item. They know that these skills are learned and applied through admirable patience and determination. They see the painstaking process because they have been lucky to be around artisans like Lynn and Jesica and other incredible people who make things for the love of making things.
Today I celebrate handmade. Whether you are living a handmade life or making tangible things with your own two hands, I am grateful for your efforts. I’d like to say thank you for your small but heroic acts of quiet defiance against a hurried and unconscious life. Your work is necessary.
Thank you. Muchas gracias.
And I’d fly all the way to Mexico to tell you that.
100 scribbles…hurriedly writing the here and now.