What makes making good for you

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The Heritage Craft Association conference had as its theme ‘making is good for you’. Celebrity makers and local heroes told the stories of their craft in an inspiring day. I felt strangely home within this group of people, where I didn’t have to explain why I do what I do.

Throughout the day I discovered there are a few elements to what makes making good for you. This is what I make of the day.

The actual making

Firstly there is the interaction with the materials to create the item. The sense of touch, the change in the materials which you notice and the satisfying end result at completion. How intuitive your hands work might depend on your skill level but, generally, it makes the mind focus on what your hands create which has a positive effect. It allows the mind to quieten down and open.

Then there are the tools. One can find clarity in the tools. Apparently even just getting them out and looking at them can help with inspiration (I read this somewhere but can’t remember where) or can provide general happiness as makers love their tools. Tools are personal and making a mess in the designer maker community is (generally) seen as a good thing.

The social thing

There are many great examples of craft community projects where the social element helps people with loneliness or mental health issues. A practical space is created which gives the community a purpose and it provides a different setting of telling someone how you feel. Talking shoulder to shoulder with someone in a workshop is like talking when you’re in a car; you don’t have to look each other in the eye and it’s a different space to share what’s really going on. There again is the satisfaction of achievement, the finished product that you’ve worked on together.

The history of your craft

Depending on the craft you’re into, the origin could go back hundreds of years. Imagine people in their time doing the same work as you do now. Craft objects are often made to last beyond the life of the maker and it’s quite extraordinary to think that your handmade bowl can be used by someone in 2150. However, it’s not all rose petals because the HCA has created a red list of endangered crafts. Many of the heritage craft skills are in the hands of an ageing population and as such the HCA is ensuring the experts can pass on their knowledge. Despite this digital age, people are going back to repairing things and there is an increasing interest in working with your hands rather than sitting at a computer all day. Encouraging as this is, that doesn’t help the extinct craft of cricket ball making.

It’s who I am

Sometimes through family the love for a craft gets discovered. Or maybe they were makers in something else but seeing them work had a profound influence on you. Via the craft there is this emotional connection which can be immensely valuable. Tools and smells can bring a recognition or memory of younger years. Also trying out a craft can take you away from the wrong job which means the craft becomes a very positive memory of taking another path.

What I found interesting is that whatever it was that sparked your passion, the chosen craft tends to stick. Employers are no longer for life, but your craft stays with you. You can hear so much pride when someone says: “I’m a chair maker. It’s who I am”.

Number 5

What wasn’t discussed but I would like to add as a fifth element on what makes making good for you, is that making is a space where you can make mistakes. There are of course the costly mistakes where you have to buy materials again and add more time and then there are the happy mistakes that might develop your design into something better than originally imagined. Making mistakes is essential as it’s how you learn, and I think it’s good to work in an environment where this is seen as normal.

You will most likely have your own version of how these elements work together. If this would be a pie chart, what would yours looks like?

Julia BlomComment