Friday, 19 October 2012

Happiness and the Basket Case

How happy can a person be with making a basket? TV historian Ruth Goodman was almost childishly gleeful with her achievement on the BBC’s Wartime Farm this evening, making a basket to carry messenger pigeons. Maybe I’m a bit of a ‘basket-case’ myself, but I know that happy basket-weaving feeling. Even if it did cause aching thumbs, I was really pleased with making my first basket in about two years on a course at Denny Abbey the other weekend, taught by a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers, Sandra Barker.  

It’s the first time I’ve worked under Sandra: in previous years I’ve had great fun working with coloured willows and dogwoods on courses with Mary Butcher at the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. Teachers all have their different approach to things but share one thing in common – their passion for their craft. You can see it makes them happy transferring their skills to others, and it makes us happy to receive those skills, and to end up with a tangible achievement we can take home. It’s nothing to be hidden: we’re not after showing off, we’re just pleased to have made something worthy and useful. 

Psychologists recognise the primeval need we have to make things: it makes us feel, as one article says “vital and effective”. It gives us back our place in the world and the feeling that we as individuals can effect positive change. No wonder textiles and basketry were once the mainstay of medical Occupational Therapy. Modern Occupational Therapy has come a long way from the offerings of the 1960s while the value of craftwork too has been much better quantified. The Crafts Council’s report on the economic social value of makers says they gain from their craft “ confidence, self-esteem and a sense of value,” and that young people engaging with craft gain “a sense of autonomy and control”.  

Control isn’t exactly what I’d call the construction phase of my basket but it made the grade in the end. Letting go control is more possible weaving with other materials, though the collection of materials I’ve got on the loom at the moment are probably more controlling me than the other way around! Yet, as the Institute for Employment Studies points out about craft graduates, people in our sector carry with them: “ persistence, self-motivation and belief, professional attitude, a strong work ethic and dedication to creative practice”, which should at least see me through the battle with the mohair in the warp.

Whichever walk of creative or business life you choose, such attributes are to be proud of. So here’s wishing you the joy of process, persistence and positive outcomes created by your own hands this week.

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