For those of us who make a living from making beautiful things by hand, the resurgent interest in the handmade and artisan is a good thing.
It is possible if you are not skilled in making things by hand perhaps someone in your family was. Maybe your mother knitted or your Grandmother crocheted or embroidered? If you are lucky and haven’t been subjected to the scourge of the purge where old things were thrown out to make way for the new and mass-produced, you might have some of these pieces left?
I have a few things of my grandmothers, a favourite is a linen tablecloth embroidered with budgies. And I have a dress that my mother made for my 9th Birthday. It is a lovely delicate cotton replete with trumpet sleeves, piped hems and lovely beaded detail. Do you remember having clothes made for you? Remember how the fabric was produced and then miraculously became a garment? My mother was very fashionable and her ideas were forward thinking. I had a mustard coloured mini skirt with matching vest while all the other little girls around me were in predominantly pink ballet skirt dresses. (I was secretly envious of their prettiness.)
These domestic skills were nothing out of the ordinary back in the day but today they command oohs and aahs of amazement and following by
"did you make that? Wow, that’s amazing you are so clever."
This new fascination with the handmade stems from the fact that we don’t make anything ourselves anymore. It is similar to our collective fascination with cooking and culinary skills. We live in a society and culture based on production of raw resources and providing services…there are not many products apart from food these days that we make. It is almost like a new arts and crafts movement, the original Art nouveau movement was a reaction against the ugliness of the industrial revolution, so this nouvelle arts and crafts movement is a reaction against the unreal and intangible, a consequence of the internet. Tumblr and instagram are full of images of handmade items salvaged from vintage and junk shops, and flea markets. But these products exist in the ether, they are not tangible.
There are courses where you can make the things that we often made as part of school classes, candles, aprons and tie-dye bits and pieces. They have become fashionable again,attached to the nostalgia of our childhood. There are knitting groups that meet in pubs. The once daggy is now cool. Just spend a few hours trawling etsy and you will be convinced hat the world is turning its back on mass production and is embracing the quaint, quirky and whimsical…but I’m forgetting that the population of the world is now 7 Billion and my perspective is not everyone’s…
I lost my mother at age 9 and that vital connection to those skills, but fortunately she had instilled a fascination and interest in the handmade that has never left me and has become an important part of my life. I saw that she valued these old pieces and I learnt from her. There are still lengths of fabric in my collection that must be 60 years old or more just waiting for the right moment to be made into something special. A fine piece of wool tweed, hand dyed slubby silk, hand beaded evening crepe. Hanging on to these kinds of things can be called hording but it can also be called resourcefulness.