I often talk on this blog about craft as a wellbeing practice. Like mindfulness, meditation and exercise, craft changes us for the better. It elevates our mood, provides us with engagement, a sense of achievement and meaning, and creates comfort in the moment. It also connects us to community, whether that be other local makers, online communities, or simply the people we are making for.
Each of these tools - mindfulness, meditation, exercise, craft - is a valuable support in my life. But there in one, unacknowledged and little understood, way* that craft kicks it out of the park, in terms of the everyday wellbeing that it provides in my life**. You see when we craft, we are creating a physical object; through the process of craft we create objects that we live with, love and enjoy as part of our everday. This object exists in our lives long after our physical engagement with the process of making is over. The object we create is more than an simple object; it is an artefact of the process that we went through to make it. And like any artefact – the objects that we create through our craft hold history.
Why is this significant? Because the artefacts of the craft process, the objects we make, are visible representations of the process we have engaged in to make the thing. And we humans are visual creatures. Like a photograph, they capture a moment in time. How we felt, where we were, who we were with, and why we were making this particular thing. The object we make embodies our reasoning, our choices, our stories, our feelings and our values in that moment.
Our history is held within the fabric we have made or manipulated. And history is important, as it speaks to us of who we were and who we were trying to become.
I’ve been making for many years now, and so as I walk through my home, I clock the things I have made everywhere I look; sometimes consciously but often sub-consciously. This sub-conscious seeing means that my heart is regularly reminded of who I was, who I am and who I am trying to be.
The objects we make remind us of who we are and what we are capable of.
These reminders don’t need to be conscious to be valuable. My heart knows what it sees, even when my head is not paying attention. It reminds me – continuously, lovingly and hopefully – that I have capacity and agency in my life. I can do things. I can change things. I can create something wonderous, something new.
These reminders serve to make my heart buoyant, and elevate my life by adding depth to the interactions I have with my environment as I wander about doing my everyday. For example doing my chores in clothes that I’ve made, is an inherently richer experience that one where I’m wearing something soulless from the shopping centre.
Interacting with meaningful objects can improve our lives. We are feeling creatures who get joy through interacting with objects that hold meaning and intention. This is not materialism – it is not objects for objects sake. For example the experience of blowing my nose with a tissue is not the same as blowing my nose with one of my nana’s hankies that I inherited when she died a few years ago. While there is research that says that “stuff doesn’t make us happy, experiences do”, what is special about interacting with the artefacts of our making is that object is an embodiment of the experience. The object is a souvenir but rather than reminding us of a place, it reminds us of the experience of making it, and all the inherent meaning associated with that process.
When I see a kid zoom past in an outfit I have made for them, specifically to make their beautiful spirits feel loved, then I am reminded of my connection, my intentions and my love. When I look at my couch and see a cushion I have made - a cushion where I tried a new-to-me technique - I am reminded that I am brave enough to get out of my comfort zone, that I can sit with discomfort of not being good enough, and I can prevail!! The objects I make show me that I can act with agency. That I can change my stories and my life, for the better. I can make something beautiful if I try, even when I doubt myself and even when I make mistakes.
Not everything I have made holds these beautiful uplifting soaring memories. Somethings hold stories which are full of mistakes and things I could have done better. Objects I’ve created where my decision making was off, or I was too lazy, or tired, or sad, or angry, to go back and fix the mistake. These objects are also important in this lived experience, because they remind me that I am a human in process, and that I will always be a human in process. I will always be making mistakes and trying to do better. But they also remind me that part of life must be undertaken with a who-gives-a-shit attitude. That sometimes a half-arsed job is the only way forward – it’s all we are capable of in that moment and that is enough because we are enough. And when perfectionism is getting the better of me – when I am feeling that my worth is tied to my output – then this reminder is so important. Perfect is the enemy of good and sometimes 80% done is done. The object still fulfills it’s purpose and I am worthy of love.
I heard David Whyte speak a few months ago and he spoke of how we are practicing, in each moment, for who we want to be in the next. The fabric we create holds that intention – who were we practicing to be on that day? Were we practicing courage by trying something new? Were we practicing generosity by making for another? Were we practicing a new story about who we are by intentionally moving away from a story that no longer served us? Or were we simply trying to comfort ourselves so we could sit with our sadness or fear or insecurity? This comfort is a gift we give ourselves; a gift of time and space where we acknowledge that ignoring our pain, does not serve us. Allowing ourselves the comfort of craft – and then there being a visible reminder in our homes of us treating ourselves with grace – is so very important.
Over the years, as the things we have made begin to surround us, these artefacts we have created demonstrate to us, over and over again, the depth and richness of our lives. These objects that we make – the artefacts of the process – deepen the connection we have to ourselves, and remind us, over and over again, of the good in us and what we can do when we act with intention.
“Craftefacts” - A New name for the objects we create.
I’ve been pondering these ideas for the last few years – about how the objects we create are artefacts of the process, and how these objects elevate our lives. And how we don’t have language for what it does for us. And if we don’t have language for something we can’t communicate it’s significance.
We need a name so that we can talk about these objects more easily. And so that we can spread the word about this wonderful, life giving, elevating aspect of craft that is little understood.
Artefacts isn’t quite the right word as it speaks of “cultural and historical significance”, whereas the significance of these objects is much more personal. My suggest is that we call these objects “craftefacts”.
Whereas an artefact has cultural and historical significance, the significance of the objects we make, our craftefacts, are generally only significant to us, and the people we love. And that is where the beauty of these objects lies. That they are personal; that they hold our personal stories.
These objects, the craftefacts we create, are significant to our lives and to our wellbeing. A large part of the richness, depth and meaning that craft gives us in our lives comes from living with the objects we make. Craftefacts ensure that the process of making doesn’t stop when the physical making ends, because we get to live with, and love, them. The process of making a thing includes the process of living with the things we have made.
I fully acknowledge that “craftefacts” is a slightly clunky, possibly silly word :), so I’d love any other suggestions you would like to make? Maybe there is a word I don’t know about? And I’d love to hear how you relate to the objects you have made, what they show you about yourself, and how they make you feel….
*There are actually a couple – but this is the main one.
**Not that I am dissing them. I do all three of them and love them. But mindfulness, meditation and exercise are over when they are over. They do not have an ongoing visible representation of their presence in our lives, other than our minds and our bodies being in better shape than before we did them.