Modern life, in my opinion, is lacking in many areas. I feel like it has become progressively more distant and disconnected from the natural world. Which has tremendous benefits… but they come hand-in-hand with increasing drawbacks as well. I feel like we have lost that basic elemental connection with our surroundings– an understanding of what it truly takes to live in the world. We go to work all day in order to make money so we can turn around and buy what we actually need and have no sense of making or producing what we need. In essence, I believe that people are psychologically starving themselves of the joy and satisfaction that comes from producing and using everyday items in their life. I would like to describe the benefits of making things yourself, why I started this website, and why I believe you should learn a traditional craft. . . or two. . . or more!
Do you know the satisfaction and pride that comes after spending all day doing yard work and making your house look significantly better? Successfully renovating your own kitchen? Using the furniture you built yourself? There is simply more pleasure that comes from activities that have a tangible result– the ability to look back at the day and see what you accomplished is VERY rewarding! I don’t think we all need to resort to manual labor though, hobbies where you actually produce something that is both functional and beautiful generates the same sense of pride. Learn basketry, take up pottery, develop basic woodworking skills, start foraging wild edibles for one meal a week. It doesn’t matter what, just learn something! For me, it has always been a combination of being fascinated with traditional skills and having the drive to learn how to provide for myself based on my own ingenuity. I also enjoy the connection it brings to the things in my house and the world around me. You never quite look at the stuff you have in your house the same after you begin making it yourself– you’ll be trying to figure out how they did the joinery on the legs of your table, or wondering what was used to apply texture to certain pottery mug and how you can replicate it.
Lets face it, handmade is beautiful. Surely you’ve noticed that handmade or handcrafted items are making a comeback these days. People seem to be arriving at the point where they want something more than the soulless uniformity of mass production. I know of several blacksmiths that are making a good living these days, just a couple decades ago who would have thought that would ever happen? Smithing had effectively been relegated to the antiquated dustbins of history a few years ago, it was a trade kept alive by a few stubborn individuals who persisted on beating on hot metal in their garages for fun, but now it is increasing in popularity and can actually be a decent business. And it’s not just blacksmithing either, all the artisan crafts are making a resurgence: think of bread, just a few years ago we didn’t have any true “artisan” bakeries in the area I live, now I know of two within a 20 minute drive that make delicious, traditional, crusty artisan loaves. Why the switch from generic white grocery store bread? Is it the product or do they like feeling like they have a connection with the person that made it and the atmosphere of traditional shops? Good question… Maybe people just got bored being the same as everybody else? At any rate, the things you decide to make will be totally unique and truly beautiful. . . To you even if no one else thinks so!
I’m not going lie and say making your own it will be cheaper than storebought. You can buy low quality imported stuff for a fraction of the cost it will take you to make your own. But I like quality…. and frankly I usually can’t afford quality. Another consideration is the ability to repair what you make when it wears out or breaks, if you made it you know how it goes together and can figure out a way to fix it. If you have no experience with basketry say, you will have no idea how to patch a piece in and make it work again! But back to costs, you really need to compare cost of what you make to what it would be for comparable custom work, not a cheap knock-off. If you want to learn to make a pair of scissors, don’t go comparing them to kids 50 cent plastic craft ones, look at what a nice pair of handmade scissors would be. Of course, that’s not to say that what you make will be quality when you start– it almost certainly won’t be– but it can become so if you’re willing to put the time in to learn! In all honesty though, this is really about creating things of value in your own life. For yourself to enjoy. That’s one reason I got started in knife making 6 years ago, I liked custom knives and thought they were beautiful…. but couldn’t afford to buy one from a custom maker. I would have learned to make one anyways because they are very functional tools and I enjoy making things, but to also know that I could make a half dozen knives for the cost of buying a custom one is a great bonus! This, of course, puts no valuation on the time you spend on learning and making. . . but you probably needed something to do tonight other than watch a movie right?
I’ve never considered myself a creative person. But to make something and then say “I wonder if changed this…” I generate a LOT of ideas this way. I probably have 4 dozen different bows I want to make. Local woods I want to try out, designs/styles to attempt, different backings and finishes to compare, etc. Do I need 50 bows? Absolutely not. . . But I want to make them just to try out my ideas! Creativity is one of those increasingly atrophied mental muscles of our society, and like any normal muscle I believe that it is developed through use. You get better at coming up with ideas simply by. . . coming up with ideas. If you’re interested in making a little side money from what you learn I have also found that there is a great benefit to learning multiple types of skills. Over time, you learn to combine the skills you learn and extrapolate them into other areas, producing some very unique stuff! For example, if you do some blacksmithing as well as woodworking you’ll likely start combining them at some point into products that very few smiths AND very few woodworkers would have the knowledge to make.
I could probably keep going for quite awhile on percieve benefits of learning to be a little more self sufficient, make some things you value– or even just make them because they are beautiful and provide an outlet to work with your hands. But in reality it all comes down to just one thing…..
Learning new skills is FUN!