Yesterday I participated in my fourth Handmade Market, a local shopping event that features the work of regional artisans.
As I looked around at the wares and the people who produced them, my mind turned, as it has done in the past, to what it means to make an object by hand.
It wasn’t so long ago that everything we used to feed, shelter, cover and decorate ourselves had to be made by hand, and that a significant amount of one’s time would have been devoted to either creating or mending these everyday items. Surely a grueling and seemingly endless task at times.
I read an article recently which suggests that we romanticize our pre-industrial past, and objectify the process of making by hand, coveting the products produced though they are out of reach of most ordinary people. Mechanization, the author argues, is a democratizing force, handmade is esoteric and expensive.
While I think there is some truth to this, I also see that there is a wealth of human experience & knowledge that is slowly being lost as we (at least in the First world) move further away from the concrete, and toward a more abstract and keyboard dominated future. And though these skills may in some ways be less useful to us in this future, in other ways I think they are fundamental to what it means to be human. In fact, I personally believe that the physical process of making (or cooking, or gardening) are essential our mental well being, and for this reason, indispensable.
So, I decided to share some of the videos about artisans and artists that I have stumbled across in the last couple of years. Some of the clips are long, so I won’t say too much more, except by way of introduction.
I wanted to start with a short from the PBS series Craft in America. This is possibly my favorite documentary series ever, and in fact I’m actually having a small panic attack because when I went to the site to pick out a clip, I saw that two new episodes have been aired. Needless to say, I’ll be watching them as soon as possible. WordPress doesn’t allow me to embed from the PBS website, but here is the link.
The second clip I found via Kelly:
Richard Goodwin has a whole collection of videos on YouTube about trades which are slowly vanishing. I love this one, featuring a master block printer in India, where the thump of the print block is almost meditative:
An interview with Rob Ryan, romantic and master papercutter:
An interview with Jenny Hart, embroidery artist and business woman:
Natalie Chanin, of course:
And last but not least, there’s also a great blog called The Makers, which is an ongoing photo essay about Brooklyn artisans.