Updated: Dec 14, 2020
It’s a funny feeling; that last stitch, final stroke of a brush, or placement of a bead. Its absolute pride, joy and more than a dash of relief. After hours, and hours (and hours) you’ve finished. A job well done! Because while it’s true, the fun is in the creating, it’s also in sending your entire family a photo of the masterpiece you have created. No matter how wonky it might look. Whether it’s knitting, painting or pottery, craft makes us happy. Perhaps then it’s no surprise that since the dawn of occupational therapy, craft has been prescribed to relieve the symptoms of a multitude of physical and mental illnesses. Basketry for instance, was prescribed for anxiety in the late 19th century. While today, Combat Stress encourage veterans to engage in pottery.
My own journey with craft goes back to early childhood when my mum taught me how to cross stitch. I put the skill to good use and aged 6 sent a thank you letter, along with charmingly ugly embroideries to my grandparents from hospital. How else could I have possibly shown my immense gratitude for the packet of chocolate Rocky’s they’d brought me? Over the past few years, I’ve dabbled in embroidery, drawing, paper flowers, sewing, needle felting, knitting, crochet and now pottery. My physical health has forced me to adapt my hobby time and time again; in an unexpected stroke of serendipity, each new diagnosis has lead me to a new craft.
While craft is, and should be, for everyone. It’s particularly prevalent amongst those with physical and mental illness. I’m certain that without my illness, I would still be a crafter. But I’m not so certain I would value craft as much. When you’re isolated and unable to work, craft makes you feel good about yourself, productive and more than anything else, it’s accessible. But could arts and crafts be about to take a wider role in our society? The Extinction Rebellion has placed the current climate crisis at the front of all our minds. The economic model of mass production and consumption is causing immense damage, not only to our natural environment, but our social one too. While many are taking this fight to the streets, could there be a quieter revolution taking place. One thats not on the front, or even in the sidelines of the newspapers. A movement gaining traction in the homes of many, just as it did 200 years ago? During Britains industrial revolution, cities boomed as a mechanised factory system replaced handmade processes. But just as today, the damaging natural and social impact of industrialisation was hard for many to ignore. And so an anti-industrial protest began: the Arts and Crafts Movement. A movement which advocated for the return of a society based around communities of craftspeople. A society where beautiful things were created by happy people and enjoyed by all. Craftsmanship was seen to merge dignity and labour in a way factory work could not. The movement emphasised skill of design, quality of materials and human connection, as well as the preservation of our natural environment. The movement flourished, gaining traction in cities across the continent. While in rural communities craft traditions were revived and employment created for local people. Organisations such as the Home Arts and Industries encouraged amateurs to get involved in design and manufacturing, women included. The legacy of the movement remains evident today. But beyond William Morris wallpapers and Liberty of London prints, the UK is witnessing its very own 21st century Arts and Crafts Movement.
Once again, people are beginning to make rather than buy. Classes and workshops are sprouting up here there and everywhere. Sites such as Etsy and notonthehighstreet are more popular than ever, as are blogs like Independent Liverpool. Across the country, handmade items are taking president over mass production. Whether you craft for yourself, craft to sell or if you're simply enjoying the creations of others, it's hard to ignore the prevalence of handmade goods in our lives. And perhaps, as governments crack down on polluting industries and consumers engage in ethical consumption, the future could see a much more mainstream role for craft. Viva la revolution 🧶