Benefits of 'world made by hand'


By Sherry Ackerman

Rosemary Hill, the British potter and art critic, wrote, 'To make objects by hand in an industrial society, to work slowly and uneconomically against the grain, is to offer, however inadvertently, a critique of that society.'

Social critic James Howard Kunstler takes that a step further and maintains that a 'world made by hand' is the only viable alternative to the inevitable consequences of a culture that hedges its bets on cheap, disposable manufactured goods.

The Holiday gift-giving season offers an opportunity for examining our values. We can either pursue 'business as usual' and mindlessly buy cheap, mass manufactured, throw-away items; or we can choose, instead, to patronize area artisans and buy their hand-crafted, durable products. Yes, they are going to be more expensive. But, they are also going to have more longevity, quality and unique character.

So, it really comes down to how we define ourselves. Do we operate as if we are merely 'economic' entities? In other words, are our decisions and choices governed primarily by financial parameters? Or, can we get past that conditioning and see a bigger picture in which we make choices based on doing what's beneficial for society at large?

Creating artistic products changes the physiology of the brain.  Contemplation and observing stimulate pleasure centers within the brain while  increasing  blood flow by up to 10% in the frontal cortex. And, when you observe an aesthetic piece of craftsmanship, you are potentially firing the same neurons as the artist did when s/he created it. Then, if you give this item as a Holiday gift, you are, further, presenting the recipient with an opportunity to engage in the same process. This seems to me like a more elevated values-platform than just 'getting a good deal' on an item that rolled off an industrial assembly line somewhere.

Hand-crafted gifts, moreover, will be valued by the recipient for years to come perhaps even down through subsequent generations. Those precious handmade quilts, ceramics, toys, sculptures, pottery, baskets and numerous other items have a way of being handed down through families and fondly remembered as 'grandma's wooden rocking horse.'

Siskiyou County has an incredible number of top-flight artisans tucked away in these hills. Do a little poking around this Holiday season and you will be surprised what you can find. You'll be creating win-win situations for all involved, as well as offering your own tailored 'critique of society!'