Thursday, 16 January 2014

Slow crafting

Awhile back, my mom mentioned to me that she wanted to frame a piece of art I'd made in high school.  I looked at her curiously and wondered what possible piece of artwork she could have in her possession.  Then she showed me the was a plant, a palm to be more precise, and it was drawn in ink using a technique called pointillism.  As I gazed at the picture, I wondered how I actually drew the thing - did I copy it from somewhere?  Borrowed someone else's sketch and then started putting dots of ink where it felt right?  As you may be able to guess by now, I don't consider myself to be much of an artist.

But there are some parallels between this drawing experience, and some of the other crafting we do around here.  I seem to recall that drawing taking forever to complete, and I wonder exactly how many dots of ink it took to finish it.  Likewise, the sweater I'm knitting is also taking forever, but the half that I've finished looks beautiful.  And so did the sweet little chicks that I needle-felted for Christmas last year.  Lately, the few items I've tried to model with modelling beeswax have taken a bit more time than if I had tried to create them with play dough or modelling clay, but they've turned out nonetheless.  And we tried out some introductory embroidery with the Chinese New Year in mind too, which is a vastly slower experience than painting the symbols on paper.


 So what is it that can make these slow crafts so accessible, with a healthy dose of patience?  I wonder if the pace of a slow craft makes it easier for someone like me - someone who was not born with the instincts and skills for being at ease creating tangible things - to create something identifiable.  I don't necessarily need a pattern in order to be successful.  I can design and create all on my own. 

If I were to sew a chick together, for example, I would be done in a fraction of the time it would take to knit or needle-felt.  I would most likely copy a pattern - someone else's design that I've simply followed the instructions to complete.  If I were to wing it on my own, I would essentially have one shot to get it right, and that shot comes and goes in the blink of an eye.  In the case of sewing, once the fabric is cut, it either works or it doesn't.  Sure, it could be tweaked, but it's also quite likely it would need a complete do-over.  With needle-felting, however, I found it pretty much impossible to make a mistake.  Fiber was added a little bit at a time.  There was time between needle strikes to pause and consider what needed to happen next.  The gradual evolution of a ball to a ball with a beak at a snail's pace allowed my clumsy hands to make mistakes and see them before they became unfixable.

And I've felt, as I've worked a ball of wax into a crown for our little Bruno the Bear (inspired by a story in the Book of Fairy Princes), my breathing slow, my muscles relax, my mind sharpen in concentration, my whole self honed in to the present moment.  And I see why exposing my little ones to such handwork is so great for them.  They get to experience, without being begged and pleaded with, what many adults flock to yoga and meditation classes for.  They get to see and feel their heads, their hearts, and their hands working as one.  For a moment, nothing matters but this expression of themselves they are working hard to create.  There is peace inside and outside.  It's a beautiful place to be.   

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