Crafting is good for me in many ways. It feels good to have a tangible accomplishment at the end with so many things in life right now that are electronic or transient or completely impalpable. (Or, as is the case with most of my “mom” related activities- a seemingly endless cycle that doesn’t go anywhere at first or second glance.)
Crafting is good for me because not only is the end product tangible, but it requires me to be in my body and working with my hands. So many of the other things I enjoy allow me to live in the “fire in my head” to steal a line from Paula Vogel and to ignore or forget about the rest of me.
Crafting is good for me because, thanks to some very smart work of fellow artists and classmates of mine, I have come to think of it as a feminist action. Let me summarize: Sewing, embroidery, crafting of all sorts have long been looked on as “feminine” pursuits. While they used to be the basis for necessary ways to run and beautify the home, continued industrialization and mass marketing of clothing and art, and now digital art, etc. have led to many people looking on these pursuits at frivolous. I think they are still extremely valuable though and the gift of something handmade is huge. The work of handmade arts or crafts is significantly greater than if you can use a machine (not that they aren’t handy. I’ll certainly be talking about my sewing machine in future blog posts. But even in that example, imagine the labor that went into hand stitching before sewing machines were available) but in a world where machine made products are readily available for low cost, people are quick to scoff at the prices of handmade objects or the time invested into them. To me, it feels a little like a personal revolution to value making things with my hands, that take time, that are traditionally feminine. It makes me excited to model them for my son and offer to teach him if he is interested.
But perhaps more than anything else, crafting is good for me because it directly confronts my perfectionism. It is a one in a million shot that you can hand make something “perfect” no matter how experienced or high quality it might be. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be beautiful. Even if it is far from perfect and not even necessarily “good” in terms of something that would be marketed or sold, it can still be beautiful.
Example: when I got pregnant with my son, I decided I wanted to learn to knit so I could knit him a baby blanket. I’d already crocheted several blankets and scarves and could have crocheted one more with no problem, but I’d been wanting to learn this new skill for a long time and I knew that odds were good once the baby got here I wouldn’t have the time to do so. I found the perfect, softest yarn and started working. I knit squares to sew together
later into a full blanket. They were kind of lumpy. Sometimes I’d forget whether I’d just completed a line of knit or a line of perl. There’s strange patterns in the blanket that reflect that and some people would look at it and see a hot mess. I see so much joy. I see something that won’t be replicated that I made my child. I see something I kept adding to as he grew out of the baby blanket size and needed to be a toddler. Actually, it was working on adding to that blanket that inspired me to work on creating and crafting for one of my themes for the year.
Or I think back to my wedding- I had a bridal brigade filled with excellent artists (the perk of getting married at the tail end of an MFA program…) who crafted with and for me which resulted in beautiful, high quality pieces that made the day so special.
They look better than any mass produced or machine made product because there are small, beautiful variations or mistakes. Each individual piece of bunting wasn’t exactly symmetrical. Each flower wasn’t specifically designed, but came out of a gorgeous organic process. The hours spent Doing It Together were lovely wedding gifts and left me with pictures and mementos of the day I treasure far more than any pre-packaged “perfect”.
So my hope with crafting more is that the way I think about things when crafting might translate and start to encompass the way I think about things in life. The mistakes can become beautiful additions. The imperfections can make the end results unique and better for not perfectly matching the worldly, marketable expectations. The work is never wasted. All that good stuff I’m hoping will translate from my hands to my heart.