Where do you find your personal truth?
How do you sort out what is important amid all the flotsam and jetsam of your daily life? Working, kids, relationships, downtime, overtime....
In recent times, especially with the recent Presidential campaigns and election, where partisan politics, social media and internal division might have confused some, convinced many and consoled few, I began to think on these things in the larger scheme of human experience.
“Making by hand is a search for personal truth.”
What good can come from this for the maker?
Wherever you are on your maker path, I’d ask you to consider your responsibility to yourself with a deliberate pivot away from the distracting concerns of the day.
Your focus is forward.
All of your efforts are pointed to your personal truth, because of what you “bring” to the challenge. Thus your journey of creative effort is about various levels of preparedness, your intention for the next step, your past experience, your willingness to try a new path and onward.
You can be satisfied with where you are.
If you are a beginner the result in each step might be as a beginner would do. The truth is revealed and no one is deceived. And that is understandable and OK. Suspend the powerful echoes of self-judgment. None of us knows all, and none of us has to know all. You are enough as you approach your personal truth through the efforts of your hands.
The truth of making by hand.
There is personal truth in what comes from your effort. Look around. There is no one else between you and your material. It doesn’t matter your medium of expression; food preparation, pottery wheel, holiday decorations, or paint stripping. What you do is what you do. And it is enough.
What is happening around you matters less.
As you are making you might find yourself assessing your outcome as “perfect”. Or that your effort is just what you wanted. Within the next moment all of the self-assessed perfection can change. The perfect lip of the perfect cup spinning on the potters wheel can change in an instant with a small move to correct what in the moment seemed imperfection.
Knowing when to stop
That perfect lip of that perfect cup spinning on the potters wheel remains untouched only to be fired to perfection in the kiln because you assessed that no more effort was needed. Stop and relax.
Making by hand is a place where resilience is fostered.-Randy Gafner
Move on your time
The piling of stone upon stone for the hand-built stone wall or other project that you envisioned is a powerful metaphor for re-building esteem and composure. Between you and your task there is no boss who tells you the way that the stone fits against its brethren to build up the rock face. You combine your first beginner experience and your last skilled effort in meeting the challenge. You become the sum of your parts. Your next step is your practice, at whatever level, combined with a new vision of what could be at the moment.
You are meeting your personal truth in that moment. You are enough.
It is your work. Making by hand is a time in your day where no one is telling you what to think. For many modern humans in 1st world environments their handwork is not their current lifework. I define the lifework as that which currently puts food on the table and keeps the bank from foreclosing on you. But perhaps diminished in monetary value, the impact of the handwork remains as backdrop of connection to the successful maker imperative echoed from generations earlier.
They were makers.
It is a genetic and behavioral obligation. It is here in the making by hand that your personal truth shows up and pushes back against the distractions of the day.
In dire situations and moments of anticipated danger, the ancient makers relied on their human hands to create the solution for the moment. Oddly the phrase, “all hands on deck” in times of distress seems appropriate to explain my point. The hands were not held high in a posture of surrender to undesirable outcomes, but rather were engaged to respond to the need for action and focus at the time.
“Hands held high in surrender are not hands engaged in problem-solving.”
Your personal imprint is all over the work you make. Like the unique fingerprint of your personal truth. That is because you are doing it. Your knitting at home or your sand castle at the beach reflects an impression of who you are. You will knit the sweater to the wearer’s size. Your sand castle will have majestic arches if majestic arches are important to you. That is your choice for your sand castle. More of your personal truth is expressed to ground you and to solidly anchor you.
You are the one doing the work. You
This is the identity piece of the making-by-hand paradigm. Tim Ingold, in his book, “Making” explains that ancient stone tool spear tips are thought by anthropologists to have been sized and shaped by the ancient makers based on the void of the makers two hands clasped together. In those artifacts you literally see the hand size and shape of those ancestors
In the prayer pose the space between the hands of different makers would result in different sized but similarly shaped stone tools. None are exactly alike, none are required to be alike. All makers make differently. All makers make for their own reasons. No one makes like you do.
“ There is nothing between you and your focus on your hand making effort.”
As you are working, the hand as a tool or the hand/tool combination becomes the focus of your engagement with the physical world. The knuckle of your thumb becomes a tool that raises the wheel thrown pottery vessel. The Exacto™ knife held in precision grip applies pressure through the blade to the stencil that you are cutting to decorate your room. This is the contact point of focus for the work. Any distraction or lapse in awareness becomes a potential point of failure or disconnect from the desired outcome. At that point, your personal truth is revealed through this solo effort. Your personal truth is expressed despite and in addition to the swirl of distraction on the political and diplomatic stage.
You produce your personal truth. Your truth.
Your personal truth is a revelation of yourself through the expression of your knowledge, guided by experience, know-how, hubris, hunches, and fore-knowledge. Your personal truth can be detected in your make by hand efforts. Apply hand, heart and head to distill your personal truth to push back against the inevitable distractions of your day.