Back when I started The Craft Sessions, on the “About” page, I wrote something along the lines of “I come from a long line of makers” as part of my introduction. Later in the piece, I suspect I also said it on a few podcasts as well. I've done a lot of thinking between now and then, and so now, I want to apologise for my thoughtlessness.
It is true - I am from a line of women who make - but stating this was also lazy and unthinking of me, given what I believe about making. I was simply trying to write some copy about what made me qualified to start this retreat thing when I didn’t really feel qualified at all. What did I know about running retreats? Well lucky for me, I am surrounded by women who have helped me to grow the retreat into what it is today.
What is not relevant at all to whether the retreat is any good, is that my mother made and her mother made and her mother made. And if I'm totally truthful, I’m not even sure that my great grandmother did make. I could totally just be making that up as I don't know that much about her.
Anyhoo I removed the “I come from a long line of makers” statement from our website a year or two ago, as the more I thought about it, the more I felt uncomfortable with it.
That statement is an incredibly discouraging statement if this isn’t your background, and you are a newbie wanting to get started with making. It creates an “us” – those that come from a long line of makers and therefore are genetically predisposed to be skilled at making..... And an “them” – the rest of you lot, whose mother didn’t make your clothes when you were little, and therefore are less likely to be able to pick up the skills you need to make.
Do I believe this? Absolutely not.
Why was I saying it? Because that is what you say, and at the time I hadn't yet put enough thought into my ideas around making.
Is it true that the my mother made and her mother made? Yes but who cares. It has nothing to do with why I can knit and sew.
Can I make because my mother can? Yes and no.
What my mother gave me was more important that the skill of using a sewing machine. She gave me the belief that I could learn to sew if I practiced. And the belief that the skills I needed to learn in order to make were learnable.
I can’t knit because my mum was a knitter, because she really wasn’t. I don’t remember her knitting at all when I was little, and I kick her arse as a knitter now (sorry mum ;) xx). I really only learnt to knit in 2003, after an aborted attempt at knitting when I was young, getting super bored with the striped garter stitch scarf I was trying to make.*
We are all genetically wired to make. Many of us have simply forgotten that this is part of who we are.
All of us share a common history as makers – even if your direct ancestor going back three generations didn’t make – go back another generation or two and I guarantee they did. We all had to make to survive. We had to make to clothe ourselves and feed ourselves. We had to mend and bake and stitch and chop wood. We didn’t have a choice.
Tens of thousands of years of us being makers does not disappear because of 150 years of industrialization. We are still wired such that if we practice a skill then we can learn it well, or at least get to a level that we are competent at it. There are very few of us that can’t drive a car – yes some can do it better than others, but we can all do it. All of us learned to walk, eat, wash dishes, write our names, sing, speak - through practice. There is absolutely no difference between those skills and the skills we need to sew and knit.
Do we all come from a long line of makers? Yes! We simply may have a little break in the chain of our making ancestory that has lead us to conclude that we are somehow a special brand of non-making-human. It just isn’t true.
We are all makers.
Do you think about this? Has this perception of makers/non-makers affected you?
* I also abandoned it as I was a little horrified with the back of said scarf because of how the yarn colour change looked. Pernickety but true. My ten year old self did. not. like. it.