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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bygone Days

Before I start, yes, I did change the look of the blog. I am just not feeling the neon purple lately.

This bible belonged to my great grandmother.

The inside cover is a work of art - a stunningly detailed ink drawing bearing her name and the date. The first time I saw it I was reminded of some stickers my mum had. They have a place to write your name under "this book belongs to:" and a nice picture of a duck. They serve the same purpose as a hand drawn inscription. Do they have the same value? Pshaw. Not even close. Then I thought of my own pocket-size hymn book. My name is stamped on the front in gold lettering - an attempt at personalization, perhaps, but more realistically a mindless mechanical process. The font is standard, the work is shoddy, and the outcome is anything but personal.

Without meaning to sound overly dramatic, I think that crafts and related creative pursuits have become a a thing of the past. By crafts I don't mean exercises for children involving popsicle sticks, Elmer's glue, and glitter. I mean objects with a purpose, created by hand, with both practicality and beauty in mind. I mean stained glass.  Woodcarvings. Embroidered tablecloths. Doilies. Handknits. Pottery. Furniture, Metalwork. Blown glass. Handmade paper. That sort of thing.

Thing is, you can still get all of these products. They are mass produced, cheap, and readily available. But, at least according to Me (the ultimate authority, at least within the confines of my own blog), these products lack love. They lack personalization. They lack any real value beyond that of the purpose they serve.

As many of these crafts have fallen by the wayside in light of easier methods of production, the skills required to produce high quality handmade products have also waned. They are not gone, far from it. My uncle makes stunning furniture. My father made a stained glass window. I knit. My friend sews. Another friend makes pottery. There is a thriving craft community on the internet. Thing is, many of these skills have been downgraded from valuable, marketable, useful outlets for creative impulses into 'hobbies.' How many times have I been asked "why  put in the time of knitting that if you can get it at Walmart for cheaper?"

My answer?

Because there is far more satisfaction in creating something beautiful than in buying a similar, mass-produced item. There is greater pleasure in buying a product made by real human hands, especially from the owner of those hands, than in buying something that has been stamped out and shipped worldwide. Human history is impressed on the objects a culture creates. So much can be learned from an ancient piece of pottery. The values of the era are infused into rococo furniture. Gothic cathedrals tell us the stories of the people who built them, used them, and paid for them.
What does our cheap, breakable, mass-produced furniture say about us?

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