I had breakfast out with Don today at the soon-to-open diner of some friends of ours. Usually my Sunday morning is Yoga followed by a workshop. Due to yesterday's snow, yoga was canceled and the workshop didn't fill (see previous post) so I had the morning off and took the opportunity to eat some really well crafted (and delicious) food at the Palace Diner in Biddeford. As I was sitting there munching on a grade A breakfast sandwich I was reminded of the value craft plays in our daily lives, and how important it is to me. I can get pretty cranky these days when simple objects like band aids and ziplock baggies don't work. In our world of advanced technology we seem to have skimmed over quality in the mechanisms of our daily life. Don't you hate it when you can't get your timer out of the packaging it came in because it is child proof, and then when you do, you have all this packaging to get rid of. And then the damn thing dies after 10 uses…. I'm sure you all have this run-in on a pretty regular basis. I have a couple of skirt hangers that were left over from my Mother's children's clothing store back in the 70's that still function and get used daily. I have others that I have purchased recently that break, literally, within a month of use…. I am particularly sensitive to the ways in which our food supply chain has taken so much pleasure out of the experience of eating, for the benefit of convenience or health, or worse yet, cost. The saying goes, 'Garbage in, garbage out'. It feels like we have lost touch with quality, integrity, craft, technique and expertise.
When you come across a well crafted experience it stands out, doesn't it? I was so impressed by the quality of my breakfast sandwich this morning. The English muffin was toothsome and tasty. The egg was baked as a fritatta, which made it moist and flavorful with out being tough, chewy or rubbery. (Eggs are tricky…) The added touch of the Mayo (yes, mayonnaise, do not fear the Mayo) and the pickled jalapeños, with the chewy salty umami bacon was a perfect combination of flavors, beautifully executed. Don and I remarked on how much this diner could do for the burgeoning community of Biddeford, because Portland residents were willing to drive 20 minutes South for the experience of eating this delicious, well-crafted food in a cool old diner setting. We are all looking for the authentic experience. The reality. The analog. The tangible. The visceral, emotional, connection of craft, craftsperson and audience. Something that may be ephemeral, that is situational, an experience that we can maybe tell a story about. That we can hold as ours uniquely, and at the same time collectively. Am I right?
For me, this is why I sew, knit and stitch, to connect with a tradition, a history, a legacy of experience I can share with past, present and future generations. Taking a skein (or 6) of yarn and some sticks and creating a warm (and fashionable) garment connects me to my predecessors. It connects me to my mother, and her grandmother who taught her. It connects me to the culture of the Aran Islands, Peru, and Istex. And yet, it is my experience- my hands with the yarn and the knitting needles, following a pattern customized for my specifications. In a time when operating systems change seasonally, it is nice to have a solid, reliable interaction with my environment that I know will be the same every time I go back to it. When I am finished with the crafting of it, I will have an object to give me pleasure (and function) for a long time to come. Something I know will operate as I want it to, as I expect it to. And if it begins to wear, that I can mend.
I think this is why so many are drawn to the hand crafts (and to the modern food movement). They seek an authentic experience, something unique and yet based on a long and illustrious history. Something to balance the fleeting, ever-shifting, evolving experience of the digital age. Something you can hold in your hand and know the measure of. Something that tells you a piece of it's history in it's being. Using your own hands to craft an item is indisputable evidence of it's reality. Creating an 'App', is there as long as your phone/laptop/ipad is available. Otherwise it is invisible. Do not misconstrue my words. I rely on my various devices, but at the end of the day they don't validate me and my existence the way a Tova top I've made does….
This is what A Gathering of Stitches celebrates. Come join us in using our very own hands to create, to connect, to expand, to experience.