ancient handicrafts and the loss of domestic arts

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So many creative skills have been lost over the years. Picture your own Grandmother – even 30-50 years ago there was such a greater focus on mending, re-using, recycling materials in the home, and making gifts and trinkets for the house. Very little was thrown away back then, things were built to last, there was simply not so much waste.

I remember at the age of 8 making lavender bags with my Mum and Nan out of old cloth and dried lavender that we had harvested a few weeks before that just smelled wonderful.

If I really think about how many of my Nan’s skills I could have acquired but I didn’t – maybe I didn’t have the time, I wasn’t interested, I thought the skills were useless; sadly when I was at school the thought knitting was highly un-cool… Out of her wonderful depth of knowledge gained from her 97 years of life, my nan had many life skills such as knitting, darning, sewing, weaving, embroidery, how to re-use old fabrics and make clothes, gardening for flowers and vegetables, keeping chickens, DIY, cooking…. and probably so many more I never even knew about.

Nowadays we have this totally crazy culture ‘the throw-away society’ where we seem to be obsessed with consuming. Cheap, disposable, probably highly toxic mass-produced items are so commonplace. Acts such as consuming lifeless un-nourishing pre-packaged food, and trading in our car at only 3 years old have become normal as we lurch uncontrollably towards the latest accessory or fashion. Items have become status symbols; we seem no longer interested in home-made heirlooms due to their often low financial value.

Traditionally both the creation of handicrafts, and inheriting skills such as weaving, embroidery, calligraphy, pottery, quilting, papercraft, spinning, sewing, handicrafts were essential to that culture. Women would teach and practice their art with patience and dedication, learning many lessons along the way. Many of the crafts would be sacred and grew in value, so were placed under the care of a custodian. Often they would be passed down through the generations of the clan, becoming family heirlooms. Story-telling sessions in the community would keep the memory of the maker and their clan very much alive; so in this way the worth of the handicraft was very much in the spiritual and energetic connection with the maker. It is no wonder we feel no connection with the world if there is no story behind our factory-produced ornaments.

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It has been found that the repetitive nature of such craft activities does actually calm and still the rational mind (in the same way that we use mantras during meditation). This would have also allowed the women access to light trance states and assist in connecting to their intuition; to receive visions and insights. Due to the cyclical nature of our seasons, these handicrafts would make up an essential part of the Winter months; a time known for inner work, reflection and solitude.

Bringing back the lost tradition of craft is essential if we are to escape from the material consumer-driven world that we are inevitably part of in the West.

My friend Shira in Canada has regular ‘crafter-noons’ with her female friends where they make things from driftwood, make cards, get together and have a chat. We were laughing about it the other day, coming up with other names like ‘crafter-nevenings’ or ‘crafter-lunches’.

Hope to see you on woman’s wheel soon! Click here 🙂

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