The Art of Making
I grew up using my hands to express my creativity. I wrote stories, I drew, I made forts with my brothers, I did cartwheels, I gathered leaves and made “stew” to serve to my family in the woods. Anyone who knows me will tell you I emphatically talk with my hands. Apparently words alone don’t suffice. Our hands, if we’re lucky enough to have them, are weapons of creativity. They are a means to express something our hearts overflow with. Yet many of us have long ago stopped using our hands for anything we’d deem recreational. Our hands have become utilities. We brush our teeth, chop vegetables, and click some computer keys. But when was the last time you picked up a paintbrush, strummed a guitar, or molded clay?
After years of sitting behind the computer using my mind and mouse to execute my creative work, I began to feel restless and unsatisfied creatively. I suddenly felt like it was urgent that I have paint on my jeans, clay in my fingernails, and a Ukulele in my lap. So I did those things. Every week. Consistently. And then I felt calmer, soothed. I felt grounded and satisfied in a way I wasn’t before.
There is something deeply rewarding about making things. I consider myself to be somewhat of a minimalist. I don’t like overproduction or having an excess of things. But I think making things is important. There’s a deep desire within us craving to get our hands dirty and make something from nothing. I don’t think art is separate from the desire to be alive. We live for the sake of living, and we do art for the sake of doing art. It doesn’t mean that art needs to stay alive. We can do a burning man and set it to flames without destroying the satisfaction and fulfillment of having made something.
The art of things is making a revival. Boutiques and online shops are popping up selling handmade wares all over. I think the fast paced, tech driven world pulls us into the desire to salvage the art of things, and this means the art of every thing. We have The Art of Shaving where men use a single blade to scrape their faces smooth. People are becoming fascinated with the origin of wines and whiskey and refining their palettes. You can find shops in almost any country serving up the best coffee or jam or some kind of butter. In the chaos of mass consumerism art has arguably become even more important. We’re interested in discovering the origin, savoring the fruits of labor, and preserving the art of making.
One of my favorite quotes is from Kurt Vonnegut. He says:
“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Creating is the reward. And, of course, the art of making isn’t exclusive to using your hands. Sing a song, dance, but do something with your body. There’s a flow state that occurs when we make art. We get lost in it. It’s as if something else takes over, whether it be choreographing a dance, putting ink on paper, or weaving a needle through wool. The process of creating is deeply fulfilling, and I believe it’s integral to living a deeply fulfilling life.
So go make something. Start somewhere that feels good to you. If you find music interesting go pick up an instrument, if carving wood feels exciting grab a how-to book, or keep it simple with a blank canvas and some ink. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t try to force something to be what it’s not. Just let something come out of you and bask in the joy of having created something. Then frame it in remembrance of that feeling. Or give it away.
Or burn it.
Then do it again.