One of the greatest gifts of hand-making has very little to do with the object being made. Rather, it is the cultivation of presence, the refinement of ones inner life that comes from the careful crafting of a work of art. To put hand and heart into the creation of an object casts the attention simultaneously outward and inward, creating a singular channel of thought and intention that cleanses both mind and spirit. This is not limited to any particular type of craft, but any discipline that involves using ones hands to shape raw material into form.
The masterful food writer M.F.K. Fisher, who made a career writing about the life lessons gained from preparing food, has this to say on the healing powers of baking: "[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”
While modern culture has been desperately trying to free us from the perceived drudgery and burden of physical work, it has also deprived us of the simple yet miraculous healing that can be found in making things of use and beauty.
We are now at a precipice in time, where we need to strike a balance between modern conveniences and the real need for activities that ground us in the present moment and connect us to the cycles and rhythms of the earth. The more that we engage in simple acts of beauty making, the slower, sweeter, and richer we can make the lives of ourselves and those in our community.
Art by James Henkel