I worry about the society we find ourselves in today. Many people have become spectators of life rather than participants and as a result, find themselves disconnected and struggling to find a purpose.
While there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution there are, in my opinion, things that can be done to provide us once more with a sense of being, doing, contributing and probably most importantly, with that sense of purpose while we are here and knowledge of leaving our mark for when we’re not; something that speaks of our existence and identity.
Today the media is full to bursting, of programmes and articles dedicated to the tangible achievements of the past, where experts extol the virtues of craftsmen and craftsmanship. They talk about the detail, the design, the skill, the workmanship and the fact that many of these items are still in working use, literally hundreds of years later.
We are fully aware of the significance and importance of those exertions, which I repeat; we celebrate on a regular basis. However, we have forgotten that manual occupation is still one of the best ways to satisfy this primeval need and there is nothing wrong in going to bed tired, maybe even aching a little, knowing that the day has been used to its full advantage and there is something to show at the end of it. We have become obsessed with jumping the gun, to get to the destination without going on the journey, let alone enjoying it.
We have become obsessed with the idea that physical struggle is wrong and bad, so much so that we are desperately trying to eliminate it (in the western world at least) to our cost. What we need to realise is that a certain amount of physical exertion, struggle even, is necessary in every human life. When that is not present an emotional as well as a physical vacuum is created, which as we all know, must be filled.
Are our lives any ‘easier’ today? I doubt it. We’ve simply replaced physical struggle with mental anxiety. I would argue that a lot of that anxiety occurs because we are not satisfying that innate need to be manually and creatively occupied. Art, Craft and Manual Production satisfy that need on every level.
Using our hands and indeed all our faculties to create things of beauty, use or both, is of immense value. Using the raw materials we find around us, where a battle of wills ensues between maker and material, grappling and tussling with that material, until a truce – a compromise and an understanding is achieved and something beautiful emerges. It is this struggle that helps define us as human beings and we need this affirmation, pretty much on a daily basis, to keep us sane and healthy.
Gillian Montegrande, is founder of Made by Hands of Britain which is dedicated to showcasing the heritage, traditions and contemporary interpretations of British craftsmanship.