Wednesday, December 08, 2010

the flip side...

I take making things pretty seriously. Nearly all human culture emerged through our relationship with our hands. The idea promoted in this blog is to make things of useful beauty that nourish character and intelligence.

But, last night I began reading Amy Sedaris' new book, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People and I laughed until I could hardly catch my breath. Her 8 pages of stretching and preparatory exercises for crafting near the center of the book are almost too much for a serious craftsman to bear.

Amy's book won't make you a better craftsman, but it is creative, funny and fun. Nearly all of the poorly crafted objects in it would be natural targets for ridicule if they were seriously done. The book is a great reminder of the power that comes from not taking ourselves so seriously. If a person once got started making, even if it was disgusting crappola like that shown in the book, the process might lead to something more. If you are making something for the first time without ever taking time to develop skill, even the things in Amy's book might seem beyond you. But take time to get started and do believe that in time your work will get better and more creative. Being a mindless maker would be a thousand times better than living the life of mindless consumer. Make, fix, create. Be thrifty, be wise.

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, students in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades made wooden Christmas trees. "I don't want to sand it," I heard from two children."OK, here is your choice. You can either sand it and do your best or hurry through and get finished before the other children and then sit around bored." I'm tough, but I can get away with it because they love wood shop.

On NPR this afternoon, they were discussing the use of puzzles to sustain mental acuity. There is no clear evidence that it works. A listener contacted the program via email and noted that when stuck on a crossword puzzle, he would switch hands, and approaching the puzzle left handed would bring breakthroughs that weren't available when he held the pencil in his right hand. Unfortunately that note fell on deaf ears and the programmers quickly jumped to less relevant questions of their own. I thought for just a second they were on the edge of something important. But there are things that people just don't understand about the hands and why they are relevant to mental processing. They are not even receptive to discuss the concept. Someday soon, perhaps.

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