One “wooden spoon at a time”. In this article from The Guardian, Rhik Samadder explores craft and the philosophy of “welldoing”. Getting stuck in with a new and varied band of social media and consumerism-bucking champions, he finds solace and community in the reward of the self-made. As we get ever-farther from tangible outputs, throw down the wooden spoon gauntlet and “make it ’til you make it”.
Watching TV is boring. I haven’t watched TV all summer,” remarks a teenager as we gawp at a terrarium-building demonstration. Teenagers have changed. At, least they have at Make More in Victoria Park, east London. It’s a five-day event “for makers and doers”, populated with stalls offering workshops in bookbinding, pottery, weaving and using the word “practice” as frequently as possible. I wonder if anyone here even owns a TV.
There are middle-class scenes, as you would expect. A woman complains about a banh mi salad sandwich (“I just don’t think it works”). Nearby, at a demo kitchen, a chef explains how to make carbonara with runner beans instead of spaghetti. Many people lament that they work in IT, but “want to switch careers to something with more soul”. The carbonara aside, I’m into all of it: I suspect only craft can save us.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re turning out a calming spoon, a macramé planter or a bust of Boris Johnson from wads of Hubba Bubba
Craft is the fastest growing UK creative industry and a resurgent lifestyle trend – an antidote to our overwhelming digital lifestyles. Hipsters lead the way, but others are bypassing the mass produced and convenient for the artisanal and bespoke. “We’ve tried getting wrecked, we’ve tried hard capitalism, we’ve tried social media, and they’re not making us happy,” muses Barnaby Carder in his woodwork tent. Barn the Spoon, as he’s more commonly known, is a legend in the surprisingly sizeable the spoon world. He spent years living in the woods teaching himself to carve, and now runs Spoon Fest, a sell-out three-day event that draws international attendees. He describes his love of the utensil as a sculptural form as I sit on his shaving horse, learning how to work a small log with a double-handled knife. Barn is eloquent on the peacefulness of green woodwork, but I feel the truth in my hands, rasping smooth curlicues that flutter and fall about like scrolls.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re turning out a calming spoon, a macramé planter or a bust of Boris Johnson from wads of Hubba Bubba. It doesn’t even matter if you’re good or not. There is something about making things that many of us are missing out on. An inherent mindfulness, a state of flow. It needn’t be solitary – the emphasis at Make More is on group workshops and skill sharing. It’s an essential way to un-knit our current crisis of mental health. There’s a word doing the rounds, “welldoing”, which points to why craft is great. Creative expression provides a tangible reminder that we are more than our use to advertisers, more than data to be sold. Making connects us to our species’ essence: we are Team Thumb.
Creative expression provides a tangible reminder that we are more than data to be sold
What’s more exciting is that the philosophy behind all this could have a deeper impact than simply therapeutic benefit. “Engaging with our products, repairing and maintaining them, rather than expecting to get things cheaper, from further away … at a systems level, that’s a different economic paradigm,” explains Tom Mansfield, who runs the talks here, and is involved with a number of social enterprises, including the League of Pragmatic Optimists, which bills itself as “a club of doers, committed to making the world a better place”. He cites community-owned energy projects: selling renewable energy to the grid, using the profits to fund community gardens, apprenticeships, and more energy projects. “We can own our own power.” He is speaking literally; but I picture a fabric banner with the words woven on it, hoisted against a rosy dawn. I’m not sure you could make a more inspiring manifesto. Just leave out the runner beans.