June 5, 2009

The Beauty of Making Things

image via cauchy09

Many moons ago, I worked in academic book publishing as an assistant to a very brilliant editor of art history books. Not long after taking the job, I had to attend a book fair in her stead. I found this book, Six Names of Beauty, on a crowded table and being nothing if not a lover of beautiful things, I had to have it. It then sat on my bookshelf for years, uncracked. When I finally did open the book recently, I was struck by this passage:

In craft, means and ends become intertwined so that the process itself by which the crafted object is made is experienced as an end: the process itself is beautiful, like a dance. An excellent craftsman, at work on a pot or a cabinet, engages in a beautiful process that eventuates in a beautiful and useful object.

I would venture that one needn’t even be an “excellent craftsman” — neither excellent nor a man — for means and ends to become intertwined, or for the process of making to be as beautiful, beneficial, and useful as the object being made. This, I think, is what is so profound about DIY, cooking and craft, and the heart of why “the good life” is accessible to the most thrifty among us.

Investing time and effort in the process of making — whether you are recovering a chair or grilling a ham and cheese sandwich — is not only a way to bring beauty and pleasure into your life, but it also imbues the end product with meaning. Making a skirt, for example, is a double-header of pleasure: there is the creative process of sewing followed by the satisfaction of a skirt born from your own hands, rather than a factory on the other side of the world.

image via romanlily

This, as I see it, is the way in which cooking and crafts come together to create a way of living that is filled with creativity, meaning, and pleasure. All are linked by process, a process that anyone can engage in and participate in the beauty of.

Philosophical musing for the day is over. But what are some of the other ways you bring the beauty of making into your life?

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  • Sara Rose: I don’t know. I feel no real capacity to be happy today. It seems the only thing I’m good at is making food or just making messes. I’m glad you’re having a happy Friday. I hope the whole weekend is full of making and enjoying beautiful things for you.8 years ago

  • Trude: I’m not so good with sewing or painting or drawing, but I can do digital. That’s been my outlet (digital scrapbooking, that is) for several years now and I’m so happy I finally found a creative outlet. Pair that with photography and I’m a happy girl. 🙂8 years ago

  • Kristina: This is such a lovely post. When I’m writing my blog, I often hear voices in my head, voices that say, “Oh, why bother,, when you could just go to the store?” I have a hard time answering that question for others. For me, it has to do with meaning. I’m a very nostalgic person, and so, making something myself imbues an ordinary meal or card or handbag with all sorts of extras, making it all the more important and special.

    The process itself is beautiful. Wow. Awesome. I think that one phrase could make the non-makers completely understand the makers in one fell swoop, and maybe even be inspired to try it themselves. Amen.8 years ago

  • Tiffany: This is such a lovely post. I do think that there’s a beauty and pride in being able to produce things for oneself, and a bonus if you are able to make things that other people can use and treasure as well!

    You sum it up really well here!8 years ago

  • Brianne: Wonderful post. It’s nice to be reminded that just because things don’t always turn out it’s the process that’s part of the beauty—and the knowing that you made something for yourself or someone else.8 years ago

  • Amy C: Sigh…so true. Tis’ music for me. How is it that something as simple as my hands and some ivory slabs can play transporting and timeless notes that Bach created hundreds of years ago? A Mozart sonata becomes like a quilt that I have worked for months to stitch together on the piano, when completed it converges into this beautiful patchwork of my personality and mozart’s ambition – this beautiful craft that I can’t wear like a skirt, but it is nearly as tangible for me.8 years ago

  • Marti: and there are the materials themselves. I am really a terrible quilter, but I love the way materials and colors can line up and create a harmony or a loud shout. In my class we have a phrase called “the six foot rule”: if you can’t see the mistake from six feet away, then don’t sweat it. I find that wonderfully forgiving. Of course at times I need to invoke a six BLOCK rule..but at all times the sheen of the thread and the textures and patterns of the fabric can transport me.8 years ago

  • msmezzo: for me, knitting is all about the process. the quiet, almost meditative state I enter when I am really in that rhythmic groove is the most relaxing thing I know. I prefer to knit in quiet, and let my thoughts go. How the piece turns out is always secondary, the pursuit (read: stress) of perfection does not have a place in my practice.8 years ago

  • Renata N: Lovely post! And couldn’t agree more, since to me nothing compares to the feeling of making things myself. The process is just so pleasant, and then when it’s done, whether it is something I made for myself or,especially if it is something I made as a gift to someone else, what really matters is the huge amount of love I put into it and the hint of happiness that takes over me!8 years ago

  • Shandell's: Wonderful post. I spend my days making things to make people smile. I love what I do and would trade it in for anything. I think about what I will be making next all the time.8 years ago

  • Allison Conley: Sarah, please tell Sarah Rose that the process she is engaged in – gestating and rearing children – is the most beautiful and messy process of all. Huge and long term project. I bet she would like it if someone would come over and pick up all the stuff, and sweep and mop the floor for her.8 years ago

  • Felicia: It’s definitely the process for me 🙂8 years ago

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