If you were a fly on the wall in my house back in the 1980s and 1990s, you would have been one inspired fly. Now I’m not here to claim that my family was any more or less entertaining/weird/crazy/dramatic than anyone else’s was, but one thing we were for sure was creative. My mom was into handmade everything, whether it was homecooked meals (even though she was a working single mom, we had homecooked meals almost every single day), pottery, crafts with pressed flowers and dried leaves, actual paintings (Mom has an affinity for chickens and roosters), Halloween costumes, DIY skin care remedies–you name it. Some of her catchphrases that still echo in my head when I’m shopping are: “You know you could make this for half the price,” and of course “They don’t make them like they used to” (I’m sure you’ve heard that one too).
Although I used to roll my eyes, Mom was right. Though the popularity of the Handmade Revolution/Maker Movement has jacked prices of craft supplies and fabric up higher than they were in the ’80s and ’90s, the quality of mass-produced goods has gone down significantly. Even clothing purchased at “better” department stores is rarely higher quality than that purchased at discount and off-price stores. The fabric quality itself might be slightly better, but what does that matter if it still falls apart after just a few wears?
I have always loved handmade arts and crafts because I marvel at the amazing things people create from almost nothing; with just their hearts, souls, and own two hands.
I credit that appreciation again to my mother, but also to all the women (and many of the men) on her side of the family. My aunt, great aunts, cousins–they each had incredible talent for handmade things like crocheted blankets, the Polish arts of paper cutting and painted eggs (wycinanki and pysanki–check out my cousin Felicia’s amazing work here), stained glass, doll making, jewelry making, pottery, figurine making, ceramics, you name it.
Some of the crafts I?ve enjoyed over the years are handmade skin care (obviously), pottery (although I?m really not that great at throwing pots), setting gemstones into jewelry (I have a gemology certificate), painting and illustrating, card making, polymer clay design, fashion design and sewing, doll-making, interior decorating, surface pattern and textile design, cooking, herb gardening, and handwork like knitting and crocheting.
While the Industrial Revolution certainly made certain aspects of life easier and more accessible, what it also did was disconnect us from our own innate creativeness.
It took humans thousands of years to get to the point where they were able to live off the land–feed, shelter, clothe, and care for themselves and their communities. To create art, music, theater, toys, and games. They may not have had many conveniences in life, but they knew how to be self-reliant individually, and within their own communities. In just a couple hundred years, we’ve managed to undo all that. And I’m not sure that we’re better off because of it.
Technology has helped us in many ways–my goodness, without the Internet, I would not be able to make my living doing work that matters to me while still being able to homeschool my younger daughter (using mostly online curriculum). It has removed certain barriers to knowledge that kept many people from being able to achieve their dreams or venture out from outdated societal roles. Technology in modern medicine–when used appropriately–has saved many lives. But technology and mass production have also depleted natural resources, polluted the air, soil, and waterways making humans and wildlife acutely and chronically ill, and have also disconnected us from our own connection to the land–and to ourselves.
When you use something handmade, you’re not only using the thing, and getting whatever result the thing is supposed to deliver.
You get someone’s expertise. You get someone’s own particular way of doing things that makes it just a little different from the craftsperson down the street. You get someone’s passion–their why in life–their creative spark. You’re getting their spirit and their humanity.
It shocks me how many people have no idea what’s in their skin care or have no idea where their food comes from.
It shocks me that people don’t know how to grow their own food, create their own art or make their own music. It shocks me that so many kids today–and so many adults–don’t know what to do with themselves when the power goes out or they go somewhere without wifi.
Not to get all dramatic or dystopian on you, but should some disaster happen, what would most people do? How would they find and prepare food? How would they maintain warmth and shelter? How would they clothe themselves? How would they tend to their sick and wounded? How would they create beauty, music, and enjoyment?
When entertainment is available on demand, there’s less need to create. When goods and services are just a click away, we no longer have the need to find creative solutions for our problems or ways take care of ourselves.
I’m not saying we need to revert back to an agrarian lifestyle, or go off the grid. But I do think it’s time to find a happy medium and reconnect both to ourselves and to the earth. We need to find value in the little things–the simple things, and we need to recognize, value, and support skill and talent. By embracing the Handmade Revolution, we can do that. When we incorporate the value of handmade into our lives, we give ourselves the freedom to express form, invigorate the senses, and quite frankly, prevent the creative brain from going dormant.
We are all creative beings, and creative beings need to create as much as we need to eat, breathe, and sleep.
If we stifle our creativity, or discount its importance, we then create blockages in other aspects of life. That can hinder our ability to move forward in different areas like health, work, and relationships.
One of the things I love the most about expressing creativity through his that when you create; whether it is a complete garment begun from just one thread, or whether it is a scene or precious moment in time you’ve managed to capture, you leave a legacy. In a way, I believe that expressing creativity is the closest we get to immortality.
Make handmade, share handmade, buy handmade, sell handmade.
So whether it’s a simple doodle, beeswax candle, beaded jewelry, knitted scarf, mini succulent garden, herbal salve, or organic skin care product line–I encourage you to add handmade into your life. Teach your kids the wonder of how it feels to be able to say “I made that.” Use handmade crafts to reconnect your mental, emotional, and spiritual with the physical to restore balance in your life.