|Ceramic Mug made by Su Zi|
George Carlin once had a bit about stuff, how there's too much stuff. It's true and also there's a devaluing. In the realm of the handmade, mass production's legacy has created an aesthetic of the soulless, of consumption without creation, of impatience for the marks of imperfection of handmade objects.
Once, a young woman made a dress for the sister of the amour--a Christmas visit was pending. The dress had no pattern, it was the invention of imagination. The sewing machine was faulty, the stitching went offline. The dress then was hand dyed, homemade buttons were attached. Wrapped in tissue and boxed, wrapped again, the dress was unveiled as the family tore into their gifts. Later, the dressmaker found the dress in the back of the closet of an abandoned bedroom. Even later, handmade dresses, very similar, were in a rocker boutique for crazy money. The dressmaker hasn't made anymore gift dresses. Many years later, a friend of the dressmaker hand knit dish towels for all her loved ones. She cut up chiffon and hand knit scrubbies. The knitter said that she was greeted with "why did you knit something you can get in a dollar store?" but she still knits. There's little appreciation for the time spent in making, for the making process itself.
Alas, even adept artists who work in functional forms are beleaguered by the blindness imposed by the machine made. Potters are rejected for the marks of their hands, the mold form is seen as the ideal. Knitters will suffer for too large a knot, for arabesques of fiber or an embellishing thread. There's been a hierarchy imposing craft as separate from art, hand application of dyes is not art, but the same process of color sensitivity applied to paper--fragile, decorative, privately displayed--becomes art.
The dearth of appreciation for handcraft is an undoing for local economies: the neighbor who has eggs needs the knitter more than the distant big-box emporium of imported goods. Yet, barter is generally sneered at -- ours has become a culture that idolizes money, sometimes for its own sake and ill-gotten or honestly earned seems irrelevant.
Thus, a call to not arms but hands. Thus, a call to honoring the handcraft. These bits of stuff are more valuable because someone thought about its making while making one at a time, or a batch of days. In some cases, you might be lucky enough to have something made just for you; if that day comes, honor the object and the maker, and do so publicly and with pride.