On Making Things

“Craft teaches our dependence upon the natural material world directly and practically – not as an abstraction.”

–  Zabe MacEachern, from her article Crafting as a practice of Relating to the Natural World in the Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (CJEE), Vol 5, No 1 – 2000.

Crafting is often seen as a way to kill time by making trivial items (think decorated placemats, ash-trays and gift shop knick-knacks).  I see it as the physical point of connection between a person and the landscape.

More of our lives are abstract than at any point in history.  Crafting is an antidote to that abstraction by creating a real, tangible link to our environment.

Children are raised as perfect consumers, producing nothing while consuming items from the four corners of the earth.  Our culture teaches them to want things, and even to be prideful when they find a deal.  But when they learn to make what they need rather than buy it, the world is a different place and they become more empowered people.

This holiday season (or season of covetous mammon), as the relentless messaging machine says if you love someone you’ll buy them stuff and that to consume is our hightest calling, consider taking some time to make something useful.  Anything.  And if you have kids, make something useful with them.  It may seem like a small act, but the results of the mental shift that making something can bring about are powerful.

Blog, Educational Philosophy

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  • Steven Hanton

    Great points. I read that paper as an undergraduate Outdoor Ed student six years ago while researching potential links between Bushcraft and ‘more conventional’ school curricula. I have never forgotten the resonance it had with me when thinking about the point of crafts…

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