Hearts and crafts

EVERYBODY instinctively feels (not entirely sensibly) that the world was a better place when things were made by hand, when hours of work and loving care went to the making of an object, when mass production and the conveyor belt were unknown. There can be no denying that to be a craftsman has a salutary effect upon the character -- patience, slight anxiety, and finally pride of achievement making for a deeper appreciation of values.

Some years back a proportion of young people, aware of this and thoroughly disgruntled with the modern world, disappeared into the woods to build their own shacks and bake their own bread and weave their own clothes, putting the clock back with such a vengeance they estranged themselves from anxious parents and more orthodox friends. Whether they still inhabit the forests, living in grave discomfort without heat or light but happily making themselves life's essentials with primitive tools I know not; but their idea, their notion of manually fashioning some object has revived our dormant love for craftsmanship. We are all rolling up our sleeves again and sharpening our bradawls.

Unfortunately, the home craftsman's standards of work are apt to lack the professional's je ne sais quoi. Working with our hands may give us greater peace of mind than we have ever known before, but in many instances we take it away from our friends who, when invited to sit on our homemade chairs, find their nerves tingling with apprehension.

Making crooked shelves and lopsided sweaters and nonfunctional chests of drawers, and balancing kitchen tables on piano legs and turning old pieces of carpet into coats and making jardini`eres out of saucepans may bring satisfaction to their perpetrators; yet one cannot help but feel that the original object of the exercise was probably to beautify the environment. Beauty need not be complicated, and a drawer that runs smoothly, like the making of a good rice pudding, has a glory about it which is the envy of the nonartisan. Yet for love of doing things for himself the amateur craftsman is tending to pepper the world with ugliness, and heaven knows it is ugly enough without his assistance.

Even so, the happiness of the individual is presumably of more importance, and to see the light of pride in a friend's eye as he shows you the birdbath he has molded out of cement; as he displays the distorted chessmen it has taken him a year to carve; this light in his eye, radiating a deep self-satisfaction, should shame the critic into silence.

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