Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Enlighten: The Beauty of Hand-Made

Thank god for modern inventions. I cannot imagine the cost and availability of everyday objects we use without modern manufacturing. Yes, there is an industrial cost to our environment and to our health in many instances, but really try to imagine what it would be like if everything you needed to enjoy your modern 2011 life, was hand-made. How much would that coffee-maker cost? Would it operate the same or would you be hand-grinding the beans? There are minuses to our modern manufacturing world, no doubt, but I, for one, appreciate the plusses that make mundane, daily life easier than the generation before us here in the Western World.
     Beyond the cost of environmental stress from modern manufacturing, what other minuses are we talking about? I think we lose the connection to our humanity because we become detached from the actual process, energy and effort it takes to make an object. We lose the experience of how complicated making any one thing can be. We become more and more separate from our beginning nature of homo sapien, and the basic tool making needed just to survive. In losing that, we lose our connection to nature, and the environment from which we evolved. Am I suggesting that we all ditch our cappuccino makers, grab a stone and rock and grind our own coffee beans to make our morning joe? Or carve out a hollow in some wood so we have a mug to drink it from? Not at all.
     I had a Krups cappucino maker for years that I’ve carted around with me but it’s been gathering dust because I broke the glass carafe that the coffee drips into which is also the measuring cup for the right amount of water. I left it in the back room, gathering dust because I just couldn’t bear to chuck something that was otherwise, fully functional but I also didn’t have the energy to hunt down the Krups site and find the right replacement carafe. So it sat. And I went cappucino-less for decades. But then some time, a few weeks ago, I thought, surely I can find the right vessel to use with the machine! And I did, a hand-made mug, thrown, carved, glazed and fired by a single person, just the right height to fit under the spout and just the right opening to fit the old carafe top that keeps the coffee from spitting out all over the place. Better yet, when the cappuccino is done, it’s already in the cup, no transferring from a carafe, no extra clean-up. And it’s a lovely cup. It’s become My Cappucino Mug.
Blue cereal bowl by me, My Cappucino Mug made by Melissa Zimmerman.

     One human being created this cup with her hands using basic principles that have existed for centuries. Using materials that come from the earth that we evolved from. In this one mug is the aptitude of an individual who had her hands on the clay, shaped it similar to, but not exactly like the next one she made. The form of this particular mug, the shape and placement of the handle, the carving motif, the glaze choices, the color palette, they all reflect on the individual person who created it. They are evidence of the spark that represents our connection to nature but also what makes us different from the rest of nature. Not just basic tool making and tool use, but sophisticated tool use without stepping into total machine manufacturing and thereby disconnecting us from nature. It’s not perfect, some lines are chunkier than others, some colors run into others. It shows variation and the mark of the hand which reminds us of our uniqueness.
     The beauty of hand-made items, whether they be mugs, body adornment like jewelry and accessories, furniture, art, sculpture, clothing, is that they can offer a connection to your fellow human being. They can offer an experience of human sophistication more directly connected to nature. They can offer a unique item that represents not just the individuality of the creator but also of the person who chose that item. They celebrate the ingenuity, effort and creativity, the spark of humanness.
     I encourage you to get out there are visit art fairs and craft fairs. If that’s not possible, there are a ton of internet venues to find hand-made items for sale. I use Etsy, based out of Brooklyn, and one of the first “hand-made-for-sale” sites. Many friends and associates of mine have also set up shop with Etsy like 
Starry Road Studio by Karen Totten , American Walkingstick by David Warner, and, previously mentioned, Lori Phillips Ceramics . But be warned, there are many items out there. A good way to get started hunting for cool things is to look through collections or curated lists called "treasuries" on Etsy, or, if you find work you like, check out who that artist likes on their favorite list.
     I'm surrounded in my home by manufactured goods and I love the standard of loving that comes with that, but I also appreciate the creativity and uniqueness represented by original, hand-made work. I hope you do, too.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful sentiments about assigning the proper value to handmade goods!