The Lost Art of Craft

“We’re increasingly constrained by computers and a pixelated abridgement of reality that serves only to make us blind to the truly infinite complexity of the nature world. Most critically, our physical movements have been almost entirely removed as a factor in our own existence. Now all we seem to do is press buttons.” Alexander Langlands (review by Gracy Olmstead)

My friend and I were at the fabric store–a place we haunt when we don’t go to a coffee house for tea. Our meeting places most often involve tea and/or fabric and sometimes food, over which we discuss our lives–husbands, kids, grandkids, other friends (in a non-gossipy way), current events–and our perceptions of the workings of God in our circumference.

Sometimes we even discuss our crafting–and what it means to us.

Pieces of us stitched together to pass along to others or enjoy ourselves.

Crafting takes time. Investing time in a project teaches us diligence and patience. There is no such thing as instant gratification when you are handcrafting something.

Time and craft add meaning to the final products.

And time, craft, and meaning add value–to a point of pricelessness–for something handcrafted matches nothing else. It is unique, the only one of its kind.

In his book, Langlands quotes a definition of craft (from the ancient term craeft)–“the organizing principle of the individual’s capacity to follow a moral and mental life.”

To craft is to contemplate–to plan and work the plan. And the contemplative life, Aristotle said, is the only kind of life that can be happy.

As Olmstead asserts in her review of Langlands’ book Craeft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts (now on my Goodreads’ “to read” list) balance is the key today. It’s what Aristotle called the Golden Mean–the balance of a virtue between its excess and its deficiency.

From Olmstead’s review: “Langlands argues for a revival of cræft throughout this book, as a response to the toll that industrialization and consumptive living has taken on our world. Who knows whether slower, more laborious rituals will become a godsend to our broken world in future years?”

Who knows? One does. And godsend? Indeed.

The ultimate Crafter/Creator who gave us time, thought, and art.

Slow, laborious work can be a rite of contemplation as we ponder him and his power to make beauty through work. As we see our work become beautiful over time. As we see ourselves as his image–imago Dei. And as we find ourselves anew by emulating his creative ways.

Here’s to time spent happily crafting.

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29 Replies to “The Lost Art of Craft”

  1. I live in a small community and we seem to have been lost in time. We have lots of crafters here. One woman makes intricate eggs. Others sell hand made decor at local shops or Facebook. The church hosts paint nights for women, and craft nights for missions. We have crafting events at the library or park. I, however, am not a crafter.

  2. I love the time spent creating things. I’ve been working on big paper flowers for my classroom, and putting my classroom together bit by bit. Crafting gives people a chance to learn perseverance as well as open their minds to the ideas of God Himself. Love this Nancy 💕

  3. I like this thought, Nancy. I rarely take time to make something truly unique with my hands. I grew up in the age of computers so m time was spent indoors. Only in the last few years have I even tried making things. They’re definitely unique! Ugly but unique 😀
    I will try to slow down and take some time to make something more often. Art for Art’s sake. We’re the Creator’s kids after all.

  4. It makes me so happy to read this! In these modern times of hurry, hurry and rush, rush, crafting can be a place of escape and retreat! Thanks for sharing, Nancy. Blessings to you.

  5. Good article. Not only does crafting do all that you stated, but it is evidence of the imago Dei: God is a creative God, and has imparted the ability to be creative to us. Not only is it outwardly productive, it is also inwardly productive. For me, it is a way to feed my soul and allow my mind to unravel. It gives the artist within an outlet. And it can motivate to attempt skills desired but not mastered. Thanks for “getting” that, my friend.

  6. Thanks for sharing about the lost art of crafting. I wish more people would understand the amazing feelings of accomplishment when we create something with our hands. I used to do more crafts but slowly have let my time go towards other activities. Thanks for encouraging me to make the time for crafts again.

  7. Oh my gosh, Nancy… have you been reading my mind lately? Ha ha ha… I can totally relate, and am actually slightly convicted by your post. I scrapbook, but since the advent of social media, and digital photography, I don’t scrapbook at all anymore. I have an entire closet full of beautiful papers, and embellishments to create works of art, really, on family history. And there they sit – untouched for a few years now. I am going to change that! I love the art behind my craft, and a layout with embellishments and photography is so much nicer to look at than the flat digital stuff. Okay -off to dust off my scrapbooking gear! Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. Yes, Nancy, our culture is becoming more and more estranged to what investing time into something looks like. Whether it’s a jog, a project, a craft, and so on. Because instant gratification is the emoji of the day! So sad!

  9. Yes! Totally agree. While I don’t have tons of time for it now, I did pick up knitting and hope to again once we are empty-nesters. For now, I’m trying to craft a God-honoring novel and crafting relationships with my teens and the people God sends!

    But I agree – there is something so refreshing about taking the time to slowly work on a project with your hands. Some of my fondest memories are snapping string beans or pulling wool with some friends back when our kids were small. 🙂

  10. We truly have become a culture of instant gratification. I started teaching myself to sew with a machine early this year, and I got frustrated when I didn’t figure it out fast enough or get a project finished as soon as I’d hoped! I need to unlearn that fast paced mindset and learn to craft with diligence and patience! I think those virtues will spill over into other places in life as well.

  11. Nancy,
    Yes crafts are wonderful and so relaxing for your mind.
    Many years ago I created an afghan which took me a few years to complete since I only did it on airplanes and at spare moments.
    At this point, my time has been consumed with my internet products and services and focusing on improving my fitness, diet and meditation. But writing is also a craft, and I do find some time to write. Creating a powerful webinar can be a craft, and I am currently tweaking my upcoming 5 Secrets to Healing Through Love webinar and getting the promos ready.

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