Today, UK Handmade took part in #craftdebate hosted by the British Museum on twitter; a discussion about whether “craft has a place in this digital age?” Previous craftdebates posed questions such as “What is the role and value of crafts today?” and “Can craft be used to change the world?” and this got me thinking about just that.
I guess I wouldn’t be expending my energies as part of the UK Handmade team unless I believed that craft can positively influence the world we inhabit. Having experienced a corporate life totally devoid of any creative outlet at one point in my life, in my humble opinion, people who “make”, “craft” or “create”, whatever you wish to call it, on a regular basis tend to be happier people…a little less stressed and consequently more likely to have both the emotional and head space to “give”, “care” or “share” more, because they aren’t all-consumed by the business of getting through the stress of the day.
I feel the act of making/creating something is intrinsically therapeutic. Anyone who makes will tell you that there isn’t space in your mind for other things when you’re making….creation requires focus and produces an almost meditative state of concentration, where all other stresses/noises/things going on in life fade into the background for a moment of sheer, beautiful, blissful peace and tranquility and oneness with yourself…you are connected to the essence of what makes you you.
Menno carving a Japanese “Hanko” insignia stamp in marble
Of course not ALL happy people necessarily go out and do things that have a major impact on the world, but each and every one of us impact the people with whom we come into contact in one way or another…and this is where the “happy” bit comes in for me….if you’re happy then your interactions with others are likely to be positive and have a positive effect on them…happiness is catching. Have you ever had a friend where you always come away from them feeling better about life, yourself, the world….I always like to think that you’ve caught their happiness (^_^).
Having recently attended the Thames Festival and seen the free craft workshops in action, I also think craft is a powerful tool for engaging young people and adults alike. Even the most distracted or disruptive child can become quiet, at peace and focused when working on making/creating something. This coupled with the sense of satisfaction that comes with producing something yourself is surely a powerful tool to re-engage even the most disengaged of youngsters.
Thinking back to my own school days, I wasn’t the most academic of kids in my year…I preferred spending my time playing sports or making art. Creating artwork/ceramics in particular gave me a sense of achievement and pride which helped to counterbalance the lack of confidence I felt in my academic abilities. It didn’t matter to me that I wasn’t the best artist in the world because it was just so wonderful to know that I had created something from nothing. I think the Crafts Council sum it up well in their comments on the Wolf Review, “Craft practice in schools has enormous educational value, encouraging creative thinking, innovative learning and contributing to learners’ sense of personal agency; research shows that developing haptic skills aids cognitive development.”
“river bed” hand-crafted ceramic dish
For me, confidence, like happiness, is a massively important thing (I guess each is a part of the other)…without confidence (the confidence to be who you are, to accept yourself, to show others who you really are warts and all) I feel one can become defensive, withdrawn, antisocial, aggressive even. I don’t mean the false-confidence of bravado, bullying, confrontation or aggression…to me that isn’t confidence it’s fear….but rather the quiet confidence inside that allows others to be as they are, that keeps one safe in the knowledge that it’s ok to be who YOU are…just as you are and that there is a space just for you in this world, as there is space for others.
So what do I think? Call me naive but I think that craft can change the world, because it can change people….and people make the world. Craft can play a part in influencing whether those people are happy and confident people who go out and spread positivity through their interactions. Change always starts from you outwards….we all have the power to change people and people have the power to change the world.