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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 16, 2012

Handicraft: The Ancient Tradition of Creating Things with Your Hands

By Mark Sisson
136 Comments

Anyone who’s spent significant time creating with their hands – whether it be painting, carpentry, knitting, carving, building – can appreciate the distinctive satisfaction it evokes. (I’m using the term broadly.) Handicraft, as wide a spectrum as it can encompass, isn’t about routine chores or fix-its. There’s a difference between grudgingly doing your own home repairs to save money and savoring the experience of meticulously renovating your own home. It’s about the love of the craft on some level. Not everyone would put it in those specific terms, but the people I know who practice handicraft acknowledge they’re drawn to what they do on some subconscious level. Picking up a familiar tool feels comfortable, even calming. The balance of its weight in your hand feels sure. Spending an hour at one’s own workspace (e.g. basement studio, garage workbench), however plain or disheveled, feels like time in a secluded oasis. It’s in the craft that you find focus – flow even. The brush or needles, chisel or knife, spade or hammer become an unconscious extension of self. The mind devises, but the hand itself thinks, designs, knows. In its fullness, we lose ourselves in the full physical experience of craft – in the sensory nuances, in the emotional associations, in the intuitive energy. I’d venture we’re the happier and healthier for these endeavors.

We live in a society enamored by passive entertainment and increasingly invested in the virtual experience. Fewer of us have jobs that show us the tangible results of our efforts. Rarer still are full claim on a project or creative license in our work. It leaves a gap, I think, in how we live – in how we exercise the innate physical and creative abilities that make us human.

Although we tend to think of our pre-Neolithic ancestors as living a life stuck in the dirt with no sense of the arts or any other “refinement,” we’re far off course in that assumption. Artistry is indeed an anthropological indicator of modern behavior, but evidence of these inclinations date back tens of thousands of years before the Agricultural Revolution. Our Paleolithic ancestors were creating jewelry from eggshells and bone fragments. They were sewing clothes with animal sinew. They formed vessels and wove baskets. They created paints and dyes. They chiseled spear heads from metal so brittle few of us can even imagine the deftness required. They meticulously whittled shafts for the most aerodynamic, accurate spears. They designed vast stretches of nuanced cave art.

As anthropologists suggest, these inclinations toward craft and artistry were selected for. They increased the survival chances of individuals and their communities. A skilled spear maker added obvious value. Yet those who could design jewelry or other adornment introduced “material metaphors” and “social technologies” that enhanced kinship relationships and community identity as well as expanded the terms of inter-band negotiation.

Artistry then was usable if not practical. Today, Western society has largely segregated art to an aesthetic corner. It may represent life but doesn’t intersect much with it. However, individuals still practice crafts handed down to them by family or community members. Likewise, many traditional societies continue to pass down the art forms and crafts as “collective wisdom” that help define their distinctive cultures.

A recent study (PDF) conducted by the University of California Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities recently highlighted “the link between traditional artistic practices and mental and physical health.” Although examining such an association isn’t a simple or clear cut task with the methods of standard research, interviews suggested traditional handicraft bears positive impact on measures like “interconnected mind-body awareness,” “spiritual and emotional growth; physical vigor; strengthening of personal and community identity; and mitigation of historical trauma” as well as therapeutic “distraction from illness” and “enhanced respect for elders.”

Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, explains that several “protective factors” are at work here. The practice of traditional arts, particularly as they’re handed down within a cultural community, affirms “intergenerational involvement” and “community engagement.” As Amy Kitchener, executive director of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, notes, cultural practices are “embedded in everyday life, in ceremonies and family rites of passage” for many traditional groups and have long played a meaningful role in the concept of personal wellness. According to the researchers, traditional handiwork also enhances more individual-based factors like “resilience” and “self-efficacy.”

The study, I think, underscores far more than the power of acculturation. Many of us partake in handicraft arts with only personal interest or perhaps familial, but not necessarily cultural affiliations. Nonetheless, there’s still a gratification that comes from its connection with tradition. We understand that we’re one in a long line of individuals who have practiced the art for decades, centuries, even millennia. The urge to create – what is useful and tangible – is deeply human. There’s something about it that releases stress and brings us back to center.

We develop a reverence for the craft and even a relationship with the tools themselves. They can become more personal than the items we build or create. For those of us who know or have known a craftsman/woman, we honor that association. We pass many things on through the generations. What means the most, however, are the things that our forebears used and made. A decorative item reminds us of a great-grandparent’s home, but a tool or even a baking pan that we saw a grandparent use over the years makes us absorb his/her very presence. We see the years and feel his/her hands in the wear of the item. Likewise, in the creations they made, we preserve a glimpse of their creativity, a parcel of their lifetime. In our own arts, we enjoy and undoubtedly share the same.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. Let me know your thoughts on the healthful benefits behind handicraft and traditional arts.

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136 Comments on "Handicraft: The Ancient Tradition of Creating Things with Your Hands"

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Debra
4 years 7 months ago

I was trained as an artist and have always made things – art or craft – since I was small. Now I am a nutritional therapist and cooking is such a big part of what I do, both professionally and personally. Often old friends will ask “Are you still doing your art?” They mean painting or quilting or sculpture, but I think of cooking as my art now. It’s equally as creative!

Thomas
Thomas
4 years 7 months ago

I feel the same way. I never really considered myself to be creative or artistic, but that was before I taught myself to cook.

Primal Toad
4 years 7 months ago

Cooking is most definitely art. I’m glad you brought this up. I don’t draw, paint, sculpt or craft anything except for food. I love creating new smoothie recipes as well as cooking my own primal food without following a recipe.

It’s all art and its all incredibly healthy to be engaging in some form of art. Music is art too. Looking at art, appreciating art is great but we should all be creating ourselves. Cooking counts!

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago
I totally agree about cooking being creative and artistic. I find it to also be spiritual and connective with the ancestors – mine and the “in-laws”. These later aspects do include inherited family recipes and cooking tools – but go beyond that. I am part Cherokee – Eastern Band. My lineage included medicine people. I am the “official” lineage bearer – but unfortunately that honor did not come with a full traditional training. The last fully practicing healer died when I was born. Still, its very much a thread woven throughout my life. And, on a side note has me… Read more »
Bruno
Bruno
4 years 7 months ago
Very cool experience, Rarebird. I share similar seemingly-overly-emotional bouts of beauty-appreciation from time time time. At random, the same drive that I make twice a day sometimes engorges me in its beauty. The massive trees that stand taller and older than any of the concrete structures around it. The harmony of soil and air that blows in a calming scent through my slightly cracked window. It’s absolutely breathtaking sometimes – and I feel foolish, or guilty even – for not noticing the astonishing world in the same light every day. It’s all so amazing. Life is so amazing. Aww Jeez..… Read more »
rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

🙂

Awesome to be alive isn’t it?

So grateful to all the lives that enhance and make my life even possible!

Cathy Johnson (Kate)
4 years 7 months ago

Have you read The Power of Prayer on Plants? I read it eons ago, when pterodactyls still flew overhead, but it convinced me I owe as much gratitude to a plant as I do a chicken or cow or deer. All are great gifts.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

No, I haven’t – and that surprises me. Or, maybe I have just forgotten reading it if I did a long time ago. I’ve been interested in prayer research for some time. Amazon has it for sale and it looks interesting. Thanks :-).

Hollsie
Hollsie
4 years 7 months ago

I know the saying goes, don’t shop when your hungry. However after reading rarebird’s post, I have to endorse reading mda while hungry. I was hit with inspiration in the kitchen! Honestly what I did to those mushrooms should be illegal in 12 states. Soo good.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

🙂

Lizzie B
4 years 7 months ago

What a fantastic experience! Something similar occurred to me as I was hand mixing ground meats for sausage the other day. I love touching my food. Although my experience was no where as intense as your bella ‘bellos encounter… I think I finally get the idea of “grace” before a meal. I just say mine while I’m making the food. 🙂

Lauren
4 years 7 months ago

I wrote a post not too long ago wrestling with how to say grace for the food and the cooking without the need to include a god. If you’re in the same boat, I’d be interested in your (collective) reactions to some of what I came up with.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Thanks. 🙂 I love touching food too. I mix a lot of food by hand. I totally agree with what you said about “grace”.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Hi Lauren,

I just read your blog post and made my remarks there.

Jackie
Jackie
4 years 7 months ago

I’m a knitter and I spin my own yarn. I love this article! Knitting and spinning are truly my favorite things to do in my spare time. 🙂

Anthrocavedude
Anthrocavedude
4 years 7 months ago
Hey Mark! I made a Grok doll! Except I call him “Throk.” I sewed him together with cloth, gave him a wild mane of black yarn hair, made an animal-skin pattern long shirt that hangs off one shoulder, and made a stuffed club out of brown felt which is sewed onto his right hand. The bearded/moustached serious face was drawn on with permanent fabric marker. Throk follows me on my international trips and ends up in various photos, like a traveling garden gnome. He reminds me to stay Primal while traveling. He especially poses next to plates of primal/paleo food,… Read more »
Denise
Denise
4 years 7 months ago

Instruments being made mostly by males probably has to do with the women being busy making clothing, gathering & preparing food & raising children.

Uncephalized
Uncephalized
4 years 7 months ago

Why would this apply to musical instruments but not other tools or crafts?

Ingvildr
Ingvildr
4 years 7 months ago

As a mother who has had to put a number of my hobbies on a shelf, toddlers and sharp or hot tools don’t mix. When you don’t practice your craft you don’t have much chance to perfect it and making instruments is definitely a highly skilled craft.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

I just LOVE what you’ve done, making a personal totem! 🙂

Anthrocavedude
Anthrocavedude
4 years 7 months ago

Thanks! Wow…I never really thought of that, but you’re right. This doll is a personal totem, or modified talisman.

Maureen
Maureen
4 years 7 months ago

I love the feeling of accomplishing something for the first time. I ran my first 5k this month, made my first halloween costume last fall (it was a leather loin cloth, grok on!)And started repainting a wooden screen….haven’t finished that yet.. but I will.
Also, trumpet improv or singing gives me the most feeling of flow than anything I do.
Peace within music is golden

Grokitmus Primal
4 years 7 months ago

My talents are unmentionable 🙂

Robert
4 years 7 months ago

There is something very intrinsically rewarding from building or creating something with your own hands. In an age of mass production, sometimes people need to step back and devote their time to just creatively expressing themselves by hand-making something.

Alison Golden
4 years 7 months ago

I have *just* gone back to crafting after years in the wilderness. Sewing is my thing and my fingers (and eyes) aren’t quite what they were twenty years ago but the satisfaction is the same.

So many parts of the brain are stimulated when working with our hands, it is enormously rewarding.

Weatherwax
Weatherwax
4 years 7 months ago

Making is a lot like playing for me.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Exactly – that’s how I would generally classify handicrafts within the PB system. More to the point, that’s how it often feels. Joyful.

Sandy
Sandy
4 years 7 months ago

It’s a form of meditation for me. Whether it’s sculpting the landscape of my garden or getting a piece of furniture to look “just right” it takes me somewhere beyond thought. Part skill, part intuition. Neighbors see me working in the garden, lugging rocks, shoveling, and they comment about what a lot of work it is, but what they miss is that it’s immensely enjoyable work. I need it for my mental health.

Uncephalized
Uncephalized
4 years 7 months ago
It’s really amazing how you can get into the flow of very monotonous work if you just allow yourself to really be present right where you are and focus your whole attention on what you are doing. Yardwork and gardening are great for this. Just the other day I decided it was time to weed my front yard when I got home from work. I started in one corner and just worked methodically, not fast or slow, and just concentrating fully on pulling each weed carefully and completely out of the ground. An hour later I had a pile of… Read more »
Primal Toad
4 years 7 months ago
Isn’t it amazing how enjoyable life can be when you live in the moment? When you focus on the activity you are engaging in and nothing else? Pulling weeds may be something that most people don’t look forward to doing but it is in fact all in their heads. Sure, one may prefer to be hiking in Hawaii, playing a round of golf, or eating a delicious meal. But, all of these things are possible later. Why not enjoy the moment NOW no matter what the hell it is you are doing? Pulling weeds is something that has to be… Read more »
Jeff Herron
Jeff Herron
4 years 7 months ago

As the Buddhists say, “It does not matter what the task is. As long as I am focused, it is generally pleasant.”

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

That’s why Zen Buddhists create meditation gardens – involving active meditation, raking the rocks, etc. I find that even the most mundane tasks – like washing dishes by hand – can confer the same benefits if done in the right spirit.

W.J. Purifoy
W.J. Purifoy
4 years 7 months ago

Working in the earth – YES! It is a form of meditation for me, too, and it is more than that as I discovered one day when someone asked me what I was going to do over the weekend, and without hesitating or thinking, I answered, “I’m going to make love to my yard.”

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago
Yes, that’s what my neighbors have said, too. My most recent garden making project involved taking down a poorly made stone wall. Gorgeous flagstone – but used in stacked dry wall style – with a poured cement slurry all over it. UGH! The worst sort of “do-it-yourself”. These stones are now incorporated into the landscaped beds around the house and in the raised beds in the kitchen garden. All created intuitively. And, thank goodness I have found the PB or that project might have been my last one like it! I was really feeling my years. Now, I feel like… Read more »
Wildcaught
Wildcaught
4 years 7 months ago

I knit and my husband loves making ceramic sculptures. There’s something very calming to the mind, body, and soul when doing handiwork. Lately I have been trying to improve another skill that requires working with my hands – namely, handwriting. I love technology as much as the next person, but whenever I am stressed, I crave writing out my thoughts and feelings by hand now. It’s very therapeutic.

Jeanette
4 years 7 months ago

I loved this blog post. My grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet, and that has given me so much joy over the years. I have some things she has made me, too, and I cherish those so much. As soon as my daughter gets old enough, I will pass on the knowledge for sure. 🙂

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Speaking as a grandmother, I am sure that teaching you and watching you grow with the crafts has given her much joy as well :-). And, good for you for passing them on! I hope that your daughter is receptive when you are ready.

DThalman
DThalman
4 years 7 months ago

SO So true. I love watching my daughter (19) take to sewing, which I taught her, and get joy from her new art–glass blowing (which I have never tried–she’s taking a class at college.)It’s an unexpected joy of having an adult child and I often wonder why it makes me so happy to create and watch her be so happy creating. It cements our already tight connection for sure. For me it’s not so much about passing something along as it is just having that in common; that she “gets it.”

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago
Totally! That’s how it is with my adult daughter and me, too. Btw, if you are near a community college (or other colleges) they often offer reduced tuition for “non-traditonal adult students” or even free tuition for over 65 seniors. That’s especially true for art departments. My goal is to have my loose ends wrapped up enough, and my health good enough, to take advantage of these opportunities when I am 65. Glass blowing, jewelry making, art photography and so on. My mother – who was a professional artist her whole life – took several classes outside her usual media… Read more »
DThalman
DThalman
4 years 7 months ago
I fear taking up any new arts, Rarebird, cuz I’m spread too thin already; I do too many things half-baked as it is! My year-round sports (rock climbing, mountain biking, swimming laps, hiking, some running) and then the seasonal sports (lake swimming, cross countrying skiing, fishing and hunting) keep me pretty busy on top of a challenging full-time elementary teaching job (three grades at a two-room school house). I’ve a good stash of supplies for sewing, batik, knitting and tile mosaics. I cook and can a good deal. Harvest and dry wild mushrooms. Care for four tabby cats (one of… Read more »
Happycyclegirl
Happycyclegirl
4 years 7 months ago

I like to sew, hook rugs, cross-stitch as my handicraft. It is so relaxing! Also, it doesn’t allow me to snack, thus helping me get through tempting times. 🙂

mixie
4 years 7 months ago
I left my “day job” about seven years ago to start a handcrafting business. I make mainly dog-, horse- and exotic-livestock related utility equipment using mostly 19th century leatherworking techniques. I was appalled at the time by the seeming total lack of Americans still making things with their hands–and the way we seem to feel that everything must come from a factory, somewhere. I don’t make a fortune, that’s for sure, but I’ve developed a world-wide reputation in a few dog communities and get to spend every day wrist-deep in leather and oil and every day I can look at… Read more »
cTo
4 years 7 months ago

Aw, man I love good leatherwork*, and the look of well-worn, well-used leatherwork that was made properly in the first place so its aged well and remained sturdy. I get really frustrated by the crappy mass-produced leather products I see in stores, and even more frustrated by the fact that real leather is harder and harder to find; its all plastic crap now.

(*and may or may not hang around a community that appreciates it as well, ifyaknowhatimean >.>)

mixie
4 years 7 months ago
YES–the vast majority of commercially made leather goods originate in China or Pakistan, and have a weird, hard, plasticky feel that never really accepts oil conditioning. Good leather gear should feel great in your hands and practically last a lifetime with proper care and attention–and that’s the guarantee I offer. I *want* folks to be able to say they’ve been using the same lead they bought from me for 30 years and three or four generations of working dogs. I may sell fewer leashes to any one customer, but I can be absolutely sure those folks are going to pass… Read more »
rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Its not sounding like an ad to me. Personally, I enjoy the fact that the format here allows commenters to include a link to their website(s). I often visit these sites even if I don’t often say so.

Besides, if we are really a community, then why wouldn’t we take an interest in what others here do to support their primal way of life? Why wouldn’t we prefer to patronize a fellow Primal for whatever our needs are? That’s part of what makes the Mormon community so strong – they patronize other Mormons – for example.

Lizzie B
4 years 7 months ago

Ugh, and the smell of the leather coming out of those countries (India too) is just WRONG! Is it officially called urine tanned leather? Or does it just get called that for the smell?

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Good for you! Glad that the decision is working out well for you.

I agree with you about leatherwork. I’ve dappled a little with moccasin making so I can appreciate how rewarding real leatherwork could be. I loved what you had on your site. And, that handsome El Simon – I hope he is still alive and well?

mixie
4 years 7 months ago
Thanks for the kind words–and three cheers for good mocs! I’m a full-time barefooter, but do occasionally have to resort to a pair of soft mocs when the ground is a little icier than I can comfortably stand ;0) El Simon is currently belly-up and snoring in his beat-up recliner. We were just saying this morning that we know he’s starting to get “old” because he didn’t immediately fling himself to the door, quivering with anticipation, for his normal ten mile run with my husband who bikes to work and back. He just turned eight and this is the first… Read more »
rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago
Welcome – and thanks for the El Simon update. Well, as Mark likes to emphasize, a rest break from exercise is important, too. Animals seem to intuitively know when they need a break – at least some of them do. But I know what you mean about how odd it seems when a dog like that behaves that way. We have had – and still have – high energy, large dogs. He’s lucky to have a healthy, energetic young family to keep him run out. Btw, do you know anything about bike dog joggers? My trainer recommends Springer and I… Read more »
Michelle Lynne Goodfellow
4 years 7 months ago
I LOVED this post! This is a subject that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I create a number of things with my hands, and I also do a lot of electronic creation (photogrpahy and writing). I’ve noticed a huge difference between the two, in terms of the effect that the creative experience has on me. I imagine that anyone who has children, or who has spent time around children, would come to the same conclusion. Kids learn about the world by using their bodies, especially their hands. My favorite line was: “We live in a society enamored by… Read more »
FoCo
FoCo
4 years 7 months ago

I started knitted because I was told it was a stress reliever. When I was first learning I found it to cause a great deal of stress (and swearing). However, I kept going and now wonder how I remained sane during the winters before I learned to knit.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Amen! LOL!

Casey
Casey
4 years 7 months ago
I make jewelry by weaving tiny seed beads into shapes, mostly flowers. Everyone who sees my art comments on how much work it must be or how they could never learn to do it. It’s hard to explain to them that when I start beading it doesn’t feel like work at all and that techniques that seem complicated are mostly intuitive. I could spend an hour or two daydreaming while making rings, then look down to find that my little pile of beads has transformed. It’s like magic. I also teach people who ask me to, and the looks on… Read more »
rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Yeah, if there’s one thing more rewarding than doing handicrafts, its teaching them.

cTo
4 years 7 months ago
Last year I started to teach myself crochetting specifically because I found myself anquishing over the fact that I dont MAKE anything in my life anymore. I mean I write and develop digital products for work, but I dont have, like, tangible THINGS I can hold in my hand to show for my work, and–more importantly–give to people. I havent had the time to really keep up with crochetting regularly, but I was supremely proud of the first scarf I made. I am also frustrated with the time it takes, but i am equally frustrated with our society for training… Read more »
Carol
Carol
4 years 7 months ago
Great topic! I’ve always been “artistic” and tried many forms. I can carve leather reasonably well and found out I’m a photographer, but my nirvana is music. When I’m playing, I don’t even think to eat, and I can hardly walk when I finally get out of the chair. It soothes me when I’m alone and it energizes me when I have a gang around me. Singing makes it even better. I do some historical re-enacting and I’ve met many beautiful people, both native and others, who teach their craft with reverence and delight that someone wants to learn. Anecdote:… Read more »
rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Have you ever read the literature on music therapy? Its amazing what music does for the brain!

carol
carol
4 years 7 months ago

Absolutely! It even harmonizes with math skills. I play for our elders in nursing homes. I have friends who play lovely soothing harp or dulcimer music for terminally ill people. My guitar is my therapist.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Wonderful! :-).

Turling
4 years 7 months ago

We have a blanket knitted by my grandmother that holds a special place in my heart. Moreso, though, are my grandfather’s tools, as well as my late father’s, that I still use. It’s interesting how these types of things don’t become disposable. For example, the handle on my father’s claw hammer broke. Normally, this would result in a new hammer, instead, I have a piece of hickory and I’m crafting a new one. I think you hit the nail right on the head with this article. Well done.

Steve
Steve
4 years 7 months ago

A little over a year ago I became a glassblower, something I had wanted to do for a very long time.

It’s still difficult to put exactly into words the pure joy I experience while working in the studio. I consider myself very much a beginner but I have been able to create some really cool pieces and I’m now a volunteer intern at the studio where I blow and becoming much more enthralled every day.

Also, it’s fascinating to learn more about the history of glassblowing since it corresponds so much with recorded history.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

I’m (almost) envious :-). Good for you!

Glassblowing may have to go on my “bucket list”. I love glass. I love hand blown glass. I hate throwing any glass away and recycle every bit possible. I love the history of glass – we take windows so for granted don’t we? I love to watch glass blowing. But, its one craft that I have never tried my hand at. I guess if 80 Somethings can take up skydiving, I can “risk” trying glass blowing sometime in my 60’s.

Steve
Steve
4 years 7 months ago

You should absolutely try your hand at it! I know plenty of folks in their 50’s and 60’s who blow glass.

I was explaining to someone just the other day that the earliest window panes were blown which meant you couldn’t really see out of them. They just let light in while keeping the weather out. They almost couldn’t believe it.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago
Thanks for that encouragement :-). Consider it added to the bucket list. Yes, and before window panes, in Early American history, empty glass bottles were inserted in openings in walls to make windows. Glass was truly a premium. There’s a book series on Early American history, focused on hand tools and crafts like glass making. The author/illustrator is Eric Sloane (below). Amazon has a page for his books and a there is a website featuring his art – if you google his name. wikipedia: “Eric Sloane (born Everard Jean Hinrichs) (27 February 1905 – 5 March 1985) was an American… Read more »
Jamierose
Jamierose
4 years 7 months ago

I was wondering if there were any other glass blowers on here… I love blowing glass. 🙂 It’s social and artistic, almost like a sport.

Nion
4 years 7 months ago

I still have memories of being trained in some traditional Maori arts (weaving kiti baskets, cloaks, skirts, poi etc) and of course, an awesome Maori style hangi. Oh man how i miss hangi.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Could you maybe make an illustrated journal – a memory keeper – so that you don’t lose touch with these skills?

Bruno
Bruno
4 years 7 months ago

It’s music for me. You really hit it on the head when you mentioned how the very weight of the tool brings comfort and confidence. Once I pick up my guitar, I have the world in my hands. Creation is inevitable and in the next few minutes the world will be exposed to something new and beautiful.

Thanks for the post, Mark. I often wish I had a more creative and dextrous hand in the visual arts, but I’m young and (Primal) life is long, so I’m sure I’ve got time to learn.

Ashley North
Ashley North
4 years 7 months ago

I have a 2 year old son and I took it upon myself to create his Halloween costume from scratch this year. I was a little nervous about it, I’m good at drawing but not used to making things with my hands. I ended up having a lot more fun then I’d thought I would, and the cardboard jeep costume I’d created was a big hit. I’m gonna make my kids Halloween costumes EVERY YEAR!!
Definitely got my ‘flow’ on!

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Drawing is foundational to virtually all arts and crafts.

While I am handy, I am not as good with drawing as I am with other things. I consider that to be a draw-back that has shaped the way that I craft. No complaints – its all good – but if given a choice I would prefer to be good at drawing and then learn how to make things.

Ryan
Ryan
4 years 7 months ago

You could throw butchering into that category. Another lost art

mixie
4 years 7 months ago

Word. My favorite local butcher teaches a meat-cutting class once in a while where they start with a whole lamb carcass and teach you how to break it down… then wraps up with a fabulous, largely Primal-style meal. It’s one of about a zillion reasons why I love them =)

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Oh, I AM envious!

Btw, that’s how I learned the finer points of wool craft in my 20’s – from a farm family who raised sheep – and hosted weeks long summer seminars in sheep shearing, preparing the wool, gathering natural dye materials, dye techniques, and spinning the yarn using several techniques.

Melisa
4 years 7 months ago
I absolutely agree with butchering/meat cutting being a lost art. My dad grew up in a slaughter house, then cut meat in a grocery store before opening up his own poultry slaughter. The things he knows about beef–the best way to cut them, etc–it knowledge noone has. He’s in his mid-60s now, and has just recently ‘retired’ from butchering beef for us. I’m sure he’ll do a deer now and then if we ask nicely. It was always a source of pride for him that he was so good and quick at it, and of course that he didn’t have… Read more »
Susanne
Susanne
4 years 7 months ago

Knitting, crocheting, spinning, jewelry and rosary making, and recently hair decorations. I also sew a little, paint a little, and play oboe, including making my own reeds. Very crafty.

I find making something to be a guaranteed path to relaxation.

It is also nice to have something in my life oriented toward instant gratification. My career certainly doesn’t provide that!

Angel
4 years 7 months ago

I can recommend a wonderful book on the history of clothmaking “Women’s Work – the First 20,000 Years; Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times” by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. Very well written and a fascinating look at the development of fiber arts and women’s history. It just about made me want to learn how to weave cloth.

It also helped me understand my deep sense of satisfaction when I have a linen closet full of clean sheets, towels, washcloths, etc – it’s genetic, I think. 🙂

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

YES!!!!

DThalman
DThalman
4 years 7 months ago

funny isn’t it that sewing class used to be called “home economics”–the emphasis was on saving money, as in “a good wife and mother can help her family by cooking and sewing efficiently.” and that colored my view of it for a while. i thought i shouldn’t bother since it’s cheaper to buy clothing now. then by the time my daughter and her friends were in high school, it was called fiber arts. i like that better. yes it is genetic and it’s about practicality and beauty and creativity. i want to read that book!

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago
All true. However, there was a study done a few years ago that looked at the economics of a wife/mother working outside the home. Analysis was done on the cost of maintaining a job – transportation, work wardrobe, child care, frequent use of take out food, and so on. The same sort of analysis was done on how much money could be saved by the wife/mother staying home, cooking from scratch, and so on. The bottom line was that the wife/mother needed to make mid 30 K a year just to ~break even~. And, that’s not even taking into consideration… Read more »
Melisa
4 years 7 months ago
I am 37, and was definately groomed by my dad to go to college, get a good job and make lots of money. That was his dream for me. Well, I went to college, never used that degree, made decent money at a few jobs I hated, and then finally became a stay at home mom for the last 4 years. I’ve had people use the term, ‘She just a stay-at-home mom’ and I let them think what they will. But I know that my kids have security knowing they will always have a good homecooked meal for supper (together… Read more »
rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago
Melissa, No such thing as a wasted education. 1. The level of a mother’s intelligence and education plays a major role in their children’s intellectual (and other) development. 2. In the US, a four year bachelor’s degree is roughly the equivalent of a high school education in some other counties. 3. IMO, the US needs to either beef up the high school curriculum or make higher education up to 4 year undergraduate degree free public education. 4. Higher education is correlated with better lifestyle choices: Breast feeding, healthy diet, longer life span, less dementia, and much more – leading to… Read more »
DThalman
DThalman
4 years 7 months ago

naw it’s good. stay on that soap box. maybe i tried to do it all too much also but with an only child it worked and now that she’s off on her own i have enough time to do what I want. meals from scratch were always part of the equation–it helped that my husband and i took turns working outside the home, every family finds their own way.

DThalman
DThalman
4 years 7 months ago

and yeah, Melisa, you are doing the most important and rewarding work around!

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago
I’m a kinesthetic (hands on) learner. Art, handicrafts, and music have had a place in my life and my family’s life, always. If there’s a hand-made (or hand built) version of anything, I have wanted to get my hands on it/into it at some point in my life. Basically, I’m a fiber artist who ventures into wearable art and soft sculpture. But not exclusively. I have made simple musical instruments (dulcimers and flutes), for example. LOVE decorative wood carving – but haven’t yet done much myself. One of the selling points of our retirement home was a hand carved front… Read more »
carol
carol
4 years 7 months ago

I look at retirement as an opportunity to do everything I couldn’t get to earlier. ;^) You’re way ahead of me!

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Exactly how I see it! I really don’t get that whole bored in retirement thing.

Kevin
4 years 7 months ago

I never thought I’d see the day when Mark talked about creating with our hands. haha. Bacon & pullups keep me healthy, but crafting keeps me sane!

ChaiKe
ChaiKe
4 years 7 months ago

A beautiful girl once told me she was learning lots of local minority crafts in west china, I told her she should do something ‘creative’ or ‘productive’ instead, like writing, music or learning a language.

Reading this, I remember that moment, and suddenly realise I was so stupid and wish I had gone with her…

Heather
Heather
4 years 7 months ago
This is a great post and some wonderful and encouraging comments, what a fabulous community you are! I have been a tutor of textile crafts for over 20 years, a hugely rewarding thing to do, and I learn so much. What I have found over the years is the stellar improvement in self esteem of my students when they are stepped through a process, which they can then expand on. It’s great to see that light bulb moment. Over the years, slot of my students have been women, roughly middle aged in the main, and their sense od self wormy… Read more »
Heather
Heather
4 years 7 months ago

Ah!!
My iPad is being creative all by itself. Self worth, not wormy! Lol

Cathy Johnson (Kate)
4 years 7 months ago

I’m reading Lyall Watson’s The Nature of Things; The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects in which he talks about tools and artifacts of Stone Age peoples and what they tell us about our forebears’ lives. Appreciation for tools, art, personal decoration and even just interesting curiosities picked up while foraging…it’s fascinating! Reminds me of this post…

Katydid
Katydid
4 years 7 months ago

My grandma taught me how to crochet when I was 9. I think I taught myself how to sew. My Dad was always making things with wood, and let me use tools, and even a blow torch, when I was pretty young. I tried to teach a group of high school girls to crochet once. They didn’t know how to tie a knot or make a hangman’s noose, and couldn’t really grasp using both their hands to make the chains. None of them had ever been taught to sew, even just to repair something. Very sad.

Cathy Johnson (Kate)
4 years 7 months ago

Oops, had my website wrong…

Kari
Kari
4 years 7 months ago

A relevant article! In my house we spin wool, knit, blacksmith, carve, metalsmith, woodwork, leather craft, hide tan, boat build, lathe work, and more. I find that doing these things just feels good, along with the primal lifestyle. It all fits together.
People really seem to be longing to learn these skills too. We attend and teach at a Traditional ways gathering on Lake Superior in August and it is amazing. Check it out at http://www.traditionalways.org. If you are in the upper midwest, come!! Even if you are not!

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Thanks! Look like a lot of fun. Seeing the kids with the bows and arrows reminds me of how much I used to love archery. My husband has a special piece of Osage Orange that he is saving for making a long bow. When he retires we will both be in MI for the summers. We would love coming to the gathering.

Kristina
4 years 7 months ago
I’m an artist/illustrator/graphic designer by trade, but I take the most joy from doing things by hand. I’m grateful to be busy enough with freelance and my day job to not have time for ‘art’…. but I wish I could do it full time. I enjoy painting tremendously. However I make a point of doing some kind of cool art project with my (already talented) 10 year old daughter every month. Painting, drawing, decoupage, etc. I’ve also discovered that working on my car is therapeutic, and I’m fighting the urge to get a project, something like a 55 Chevy truck… Read more »
Joe
Joe
4 years 7 months ago

I think there is often a cultural bias towards ‘handicraft’ per se and against other, more ephemeral forms of creation. I think it can be just as rewarding and useful to enjoy performance art such as music, acting, dance, etc. And just as much a force against passive entertainment.

I know I feel my best, most creative, and most primal with a pair of drumsticks in my hands. Others may feel the same with a bow, pick, voice, or in their fav dancing shoes. Just my two cents.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

I agree about performance art.

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 7 months ago

Check out the link about “elders” in the article. Discusses performance art as well as handicrafts.

Joe
Joe
4 years 7 months ago

I will, thanks!

farmgirl
farmgirl
4 years 7 months ago

Thanks for a beautiful post; I’m inspired.

Hannah
4 years 7 months ago
I loved this post. I’m a “crafter” too. I read a book once that talked about “prayer shawls” that were knit or crocheted and each stitch was made with a prayer or wish for the recipient of the shawl. Maybe there’s something to be said about the benefit of the creating something in the aesthetic for those not only ourselves but for those in need? I also think a pen (or keyboard) could be included in the “brush, needles, chisel or knife.” I’ve been writing everyday this month and I’m definitely happier and healthier for it. I linked to this… Read more »
Charles Spencer
4 years 7 months ago
May not totally fit here but I build exercise prototypes in a minimalist shop in the basement using mostly hand tools. The process of cutting each piece of steel is an exercise in focus. Making the pieces fit just right and come together takes much more time than if I had a sophisticated machine shop but forces me to come up with a lot of creative solutions and efficiencies I wouldn’t have to bend to if I worked in a big shop. I have spent many years in the musical arts and also have composed much music as well as… Read more »
rik
rik
4 years 7 months ago

there is art ..in everything I do…

jturk
4 years 7 months ago

Seems to me there are parallels between bread and sugar and all of our digital technology.

Both are incredibly addictive.

Both are incredibly unsatisfying.

Unlike handicraft.

AussieCaleña
AussieCaleña
4 years 7 months ago
My husband and I by choice fix our own cars (we have 3 projects in the pipeline a mini, a charger and an rx7), we also renovated our own house (currently on to second house). I also make jewellery. All of these things are things that don’t feel like work, they give us joy, they make us proud. Everyone around us thinks we are loony for not paying someone else to do them. Whereas we love the fact that we do what we want in exactly the way we want it done, and later on get to enjoy the fruit… Read more »
PaleoDentist
4 years 7 months ago

I recently wove a stone sling from a leather chord. it was a lot of fun making this very ancient hunting weapon. I may take up flint knapping this summer. It may be fun to learn the skills our ancestors used for daily survival.

Joe Brancaleone
Joe Brancaleone
4 years 7 months ago

Herzog. “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” Watch it.

I’ve done a few drawing classes in times past, and I was absolutely mind blown by the dimensionality and the emotional dynamics of THIRTY THOUSAND year old drawings in Chauvet Cave.

Kelda
4 years 7 months ago
In the last few months I’ve enjoyed a return to dressmaking and knitting, simply for the pleasure of the ‘doing’ and the satisfaction of the ‘wearing’ something I’ve created. And there’s nothing like wearing bespoke one-off creations! It has brought my mother and I closer again after a period of familial discord triggered by my wayward daughter. My mum and I have found a neutral ‘zone’ in exchanging tips and talking about my creations and thereby an ability to communicate again. And to add to the intergenerational theme I’ve been using vintage 40s patterns which hooks me back into the… Read more »
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[…] To make things makes us truly human and happy – don’t believe me? Read this We live in a society enamored by passive entertainment and increasingly invested in the virtual […]

Carl
4 years 7 months ago
I love this post. It’s spot on what mark says.. for me when i create something, there’s nothing else like it. I draw and paint when i get a chance and my work is based on design and manufacture. All in all it’s pretty much what i do all of the time. Does it make me happy ? hell yeah :o)) I finished a canvas painting last week in fact, my three year old daughter asked me to do a picture for her, of a tree with some pink hearts on it. So i grabbed a canvas and some acrylic… Read more »
Dave PAPA GROK Parsons
Dave PAPA GROK Parsons
4 years 7 months ago

Learn it…Make it..Master It…beats the hell out of “go buy it” any day>>>
Tap into the Instincts you have ….make something or do something without a machine>>>>
GROK ON>>>BY HAND>>>

Dineen
Dineen
4 years 7 months ago
I am a trained artist. I’ve learned fiber arts, jewelery making of a few sorts.As modern illnesses robbed me of energy and concentration (and added a perfectionistic streak), the striving for quality needed to create “good” or “better” items overcame the stress relief of the process. Spinning wheel, loom, knitting needles and jewelry making materials got stored away so that they didn’t cause more stress and illness. Now I am a mother of an active 4-year-old and the labor-intensive and thought-intensive craft work don’t mix well with supervising and teaching this growing mind adequately. All while maintaining a home and… Read more »
Heather
4 years 7 months ago

I could not agree more! I have been thinking quite a lot lately about how most things in our society are mean to be thrown away. I like having things that last and that are well made or hand crafted. Things that I cherish. Things that my family has made or passed on to me. I truly believe that this creates a sense of connection, meaning and decreases stress.

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