Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Craft Theory: the Magic of Making

From plans to product, there is something magical in the making of craft products

Whenever I sit down to work on a craft project, I get a thrill of anticipation. With an idea of what I want to create in my mind, I survey my materials – my felt, my embroidery thread and my glass jars filled with ribbons and trinkets and buttons that I have collected –and pick out what I need to my project. I gather up my treasures and lay them on the kitchen table, admiring the colors, patterns and textures before me. I pause for a moment, my hand's poised and ready, and then I dive in. 

As I work I can feel myself relaxing and thinking at the same time, constantly changing and altering my craft as I go along. This process is full of challenges, triumphs, frustrations and elation, but I can safely say that the joy and satisfaction that I get from making my crafts exceeds that which I derive from the completed product. And it turns out that I am not alone – through my research I found that some very clever people have a lot to say on the act of making things with one's hands.

I began by looking at theories that emerged at the time of the Industrial Revolution, when machines were beginning to replace people in the process of production. The work of a philosopher called John Ruskin began to reveal to me the individual and psychological importance of making. He was appalled by the "mechanization of labour" that the Revolution brought about because he felt that factory labour separated the intellectual from the physical work, limiting workers to mindlessly and repetitively performing one small part of the process. He felt that this robbed people of their ability to create whole works, and therefore robbed them of the ability to express themselves, diminishing them from being creative agents to mere tools. He saw the need in people to create works that, even if imperfect, could be invested with the personality and humanity of the maker. 

This opinion is echoed by David Gauntlett in his recent book Making is Connecting (2011) where he says,
Making things shows us that we are powerful, creative agents – people who can really do things, things that other people can see, learn from, and enjoy. Making things is about transforming materials into something new, but it is also about transforming one’s own sense of self
Gauntlett's work led me to the writings of Richard Sennet, who explores the experience of crafting in his book The Craftsman (2008). He emphasizes that working with one’s hands enables simultaneous making, thinking and feeling, while fostering self-identity and citizenship. 

And then I had a little epiphany: crafting goes beyond merely taking some raw materials and making something out of them. It is a personal experience where the crafter is able to express a part of themselves through their work. Holistic in nature, it unites the intellectual, the emotional and the physical in the act of creation, engaging with the most human and personal elements of the maker.

Looking at this, it is of little wonder that in a world where everything has become disengaged, less personal, and less human – from digital communication to impersonal, mass-produced products – we are once more yearning for and returning to that which contains a human spark. 

So I will continue to make, to benefit from the joys of crafting, while hopefully sharing this joy with others as they too begin to participate in the magical act of making.

No comments:

Post a Comment