Wednesday, May 5, 2010
....but what's it FOR?
Few things in life are as utterly functionless as jewellery is. Purely decorative, the needs it satisfies are hard to quantify. Ego, status, beauty, self-esteem, self-expression... the list is long. I worry that these needs are perceived as shallow, vain, and self-serving, but at the same time I realize that when people decorate themselves, it is a means of communication. Self-adornment speaks of group affiliation or of individuality, it is an indication of wealth or taste or culture.
I was learning the fine craft of lacemaking, and I took my pillow and bobbins and pins into the park so that I could have some sun at the same time. Do you think people are unfriendly or untalkative? Try doing a craft in public! I didn't get as much work done as I thought I would, because so many people wanted to stop and ask questions about what I was doing. Everyone who stopped by that day seemed delighted by the ancient craft. The last comment I got before I packed up and went back inside made me think deeply about the reasons I enjoy my art, though. A couple of men, drawn in by the attention I was giving to the lace, stopped to ask several questions about the craft. I answered the first man's questions with all the enthusiasm I have for my art, and then his partner had only one question to add; "But why?" Hmmm. Why would I bother to learn a craft which has been almost completely taken over by machine in the last century? I suppose I could have told him that I was a jeweller, and that this particular craft supplemented my growing toolbox of techniques. I could have told him about how my teacher, in her enthusiasm, travelled all over Europe trying to glean pieces of the craft from anyone who would teach her and any book she could find, and how I found that enthusiasm infectious. I could have mentioned how relaxing and meditative it was to pore over the pillow. I might have tried to explain the great rush of satisfaction I get from creating something beautiful with my own two hands. But instead I just smiled. If he doesn't understand the why, he will never get it.
(Interested in learning more about bobbin lace? Visit www.lenkas.com - she taught me this exciting craft, and her art is breathtaking.)