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Sacramento, CA, 95820

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On Patience, Longing, Artistry, and a Handmade Life

Heart's Path Blog

On Patience, Longing, Artistry, and a Handmade Life

Lisa Jenkins

I've been taking my time reading Dreamworker Toko-Pa Turner's book "Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home."  In it she explores the roots of our connectedness (to ourselves and as a society), exile, longing, healing (both personal and inter-generational), approaching the empty spaces in one's own inner landscape and more.  It should have been no surprise to me when there in the pages she delved into the longing for connection through a handmade life - the juxtaposition of the old ways rich with their spirit and connections to others and what we have now with (mostly) mass-produced goods.  It's no wonder (she said in so many words) that so many artists dream of being pregnant, or laboring, of the process of giving birth; that so many are drawn to the history and closeness with one another that a handmade life affords us.  What a breath of fresh air I got reading that!  An electric tingle at how she GETS it.  It's been hard for me to describe just exactly why, to pinpoint the longing in myself that has drawn me ever since I was a little child to the whole process of meticulously creating a thing with the hands that can then be used for a lifetime (or gifted or sold to others for them to treasure and use).  As a child, I was drawn to beadwork, dreamt of making moccasins (why? flip flops can be had for a dollar!), I wanted to build my own house some day. I read about the basket-weavers, the soapmakers, and knew there was a deep unspoken need in my heart for a handmade life that even I didn't fully understand.

I am so blessed to connect not only with Toko-Pa's vision, which more elegantly helps me bring to light these concepts but also to connect with all of you - the makers, artists, and people who cherish the efforts and bits of our souls that we put into our handmade works.  Carry on good people, it's an amazing life you all labor for and support.

In a plastic, petroleum-byproduct world with more and more resources being wiped out by the minute, it's so good to be cold process!!

Selected words from Toko-Pa Turner's “Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home” -

“Occasionally you meet someone who knew their great-great-grandmother, who wears the handmade, ceremonial clothes of her people, who still stewards the land and sings the ceremonial songs of her people. But most of us are not so rich. . .

Handmaking is an act of conceiving, laboring for, and and contributing to culture. . . While those of us who are the children of refugees and settlers may no longer have this symbiotic relationship with the land upon which we live, our history is still embedded in the things we make with our hands, which is why I consider handmaking to be a great competency of belonging. The materials we chose, the teachers who imparted the craft to us, the necessity or beauty which called the creation forth, the style of music contained within its curves and lines – all of these elements live quietly in an object made by a person's hands. And wearing, using or living with a handmade thing allows the essence of a handmade lineage to be kept alive through us.

For centuries, the only tools and objects people used were made by hand, usually by someone in their own village, creating a reciprocal economy, In other words, by engaging a maker to bake your daily bread, or a blacksmith to forge your knives, or a blacksmith to make your knives, you are receiving an original creation – but you are also giving the makers a purpose in your village. With the advent of plastics. . . . we have access to buying cheaper, more colorful products, (but) it comes at an unseen cost. The disappearance of both human mastery and other-than-human resources happened very quickly over the last seventy years. . .

Consider, for example, a knife you use everyday . . . But imagine for a moment that your knife wasn't like any others. Imagine you sought out a bladesmith, who procured the metal from a miner whose lifetime has been spent collecting iron from the earth, and who knows the ancient alchemy of alloying elements. Then imagine your bladesmith shapes it in a fire he always keeps alive at a forging heat. Notice its handle is carved in bone, only one of the precious elements of a fully esteemed deer who was killed in a night-long hunt that bestowed its hunter the honour of its death. Then imagine your bladesmith is allied with a leatherworker who has cleaned, tanned and tailored the deerskin into a sheath that protects your blade which also sits snugly at your hip.

A knife like this would humble you with its beauty. Every time you felt its weight in your hand, you would remember the earth that gave of its bones to become your blade. You would think of the man who lives in the dark to find your metals. You would remember the fire, fuelled by so many trees that gave their lives for the heat. You would be astonished at the artfulness the bladesmith has mastered with his life, as well as your indebtedness to his skills. Every time you sheath your knife, you would think of the deer who ran through the dark forest by the strength of its brave heart, and the hunter who left a generous offering to the deer's spirit, whose body would feed his family for a half a year.

When you learn to make things with your hands, you begin to awaken to the beauty and value of things in your life. Teaches us about slowness: the antidote to brevity and efficiency. It shows us, through the patience and skillfulness of our own hands, the what goes into a thing . . . We work in tandem with mystery, feeling its rhythms awaken in our bone-memory. . . As the hands work, the mind is stilled and a greater listening is engaged as we drop down into the deep rhythm of devotion, where the whole world is in communion. . .

Handwork also teaches us the patience required to make a life materialize. . . The work is small, the work is slow, and all we can do is stay with it. As Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “the shortcut, the easy way, always falls apart. Then one returns to the handmade life. One has to pick it up painfully, and piece it back together, holding the overall pattern in one's mind, but working patiently, piece by piece.””