Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page
Less than ten generations have passed since the mass-production methods of the Industrial Revolution properly took hold, and even then the majority of the population would have been involved in some form of craft work on a regular basis. Prior to that, thousands of generations relied on handmade items and tools.
As our ancestors learned more about the subtleties of their environment they responded with ever more sophisticated – and yet often startlingly simple – craft techniques. Knowledge was passed on and techniques evolved, forming an inextricable sympathy between craftsperson and natural world – a relationship that from today’s perspective (alienated as we tend to be from our modes of production) can seem almost mystical.
Sometimes it seems almost as if handcrafted items are imbued with the intention and consciousness of their makers, as if this is a physical trait that you could almost reach out and touch. In the voculabulary of spirituality you could say that handcrafted items are enspirited in a way that mass-produced items are not.
Can this be an objective quality – or does it require knowledge of the production method on behalf of the observer? Either way, it seems to me to be a vitally important link to a sustainable way of living that we seem to have mislaid … and increasingly need to recover.
I bought this book a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t get a change to look at it properly until this weekend. It’s a wonderful overview of a range of traditional crafts, from popular pastimes such as whittling and making fire to more unusual things like working scrimshaw and glass-blowing.
If you’re looking for detailed instructions of how to do each activity you’ll be disappointed; this is more of an inspirational book to perk up your interest in a particular topic, so you can then go away and do your own research and experimentation. Having said that, this is so much more than a ‘coffee-table’ book. It’s filled with well-researched historical information and wonderful anecdotes about each of the disciplines.
I particularly fancy having a go at flint-knapping, coracle making, beer brewing, bee-keeping (eventually) and making oil lamps and rushlights.
For the past couple of weeks I have been making a woodland-style flute, and now it is finished. I was quite nervous that it wouldn’t sound at all, but it turned out to have a lovely gentle sound, perfect for learning. I’m going to practice on this one while I’m making my second flute, using a similar technique but taking into account the things I learned the first time round. I’m going to use a slightly thicker piece of wood this time, and try and get the walls thinner to create more resonance and a bigger, mellower sound.
The flute is contructed in the Native American style, with two chambres, a carved windway, and a plain ‘fetish’ tied on with a leather thong. The bark is left on in the area of the second chambre for an added woodland feel.
The course is run by James Watson, who was taught native awareness and bushcraft skills by Tom Brown Jr. James returned to the UK to set up the Native Awareness School. I met him at last year’s Druid Camp, where he was leading workshops on friction firemaking and foxwalking.
The bowmaking course is an update on James’ previous course, with extra background information about different sorts of bows and construction techniques. I’ll no doubt be posting lots more about this in the run up to the course, and then again afterwards – hopefully with pictures of my very own bow!