My thoughts have turned in the last couple of years to the spiritual nature of craftsmanship. I repeatedly have experiences with folks who take my workshops or classes and are transformed. Oh, of course not everyone is so changed! But a handful each semester leave me, changed by making. And don't misread my meaning, I don't by any means attribute it soley to my teaching! No! In fact folks have shared stories with me about their watershed moments in others workshops or classes, or maybe even a DVD lesson in making something.
At any rate, maybe those people leave an indelible mark on my memory because I seek those types of exchanges, sometimes subconsciously but often deliberately. Those are the reasons I continue teach, to relive the excitement of manipulating materials, often for the first time. And I especially like watching people get excited about working metal, which seems so rigid and unmoving to them. When students get that electric charge it can light up a room. Its addictive to me. So much so in fact I begin to detest my community college job when students don't get into it! I can't fathom their apathy and I become a major grouch. So what is it about the making of things that can be so intoxicating, fulfilling, spiritual? How does taking a class in making something rejuvenate so many? I find that energy is my drug. I can't get enough.
The concept of art as therapy is kind of a new one, relatively speaking. Is it because before the Industrial Revolution making things was the only way things came into being? Therefore the therapeutic aspects of the work of making things was never questioned, making stuff, working with ones hands in quiet busy-ness occurred all the time! No big deal. So now in our age we hardly ever make anything! Making things has become the stuff of hobbies.
Well the nature of craft has long been a subject for discussion. I've read snippets of Ruskin long ago. But on a recent internet book search I found a treasure trove of writing on the soul of crafting... and by craft I mean the careful construction of functional and non functional art. Not merely your gramma style "crafting", but certainly not excluding those quaint "mediums" since indie crafters have show us that anything can be elevated to an artform!
So, right now I am reading "A Way of Working" edited by DM Dooling and plan on reading "Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person" by MC Richards and I WISH I had a copy of Paulus Berensohn's "Finding One's Way With Clay".
I love the idea of making sense of our lives through creating. Don't you?