Making Not So “Ordinary” Things

I have been going through my old Selvedge magazines: re-reading, clipping, and trying to toss the rest…if you know the magazine, you might understand the dilemma…but that is not the point here.  An interview of Sveta Dresher (J/F 2010) made me stop and think.  I am still working through her answer in my mind.

The question:  “What makes a handcrafted object special?”

Her answer: “Many things, but the most important is that the individual who makes an object by hand puts aside everything else to concentrate on that one thing they are making.  The time spent on it is someone’s undivided attention.  That translates into more than a handmade ‘look’–it carries people’s energy around the world.  It matters how the person who makes it feels about it and whether she is conscious about the process…that’s what makes the difference.”

Sitting on my studio table at the moment is an old wooden hanger that someone took the time to cover in a pretty crocheted pattern.  It is cleverly made to button onto the hanger.  The two buttons (one on each side) are mother of pearl.  The crochet makes the hanger work better as the clothes don’t slip off as they surely would otherwise; it also makes an ordinary thing into a charming, more interesting thing.  How long did it take that woman (and we all know it was a woman!) to do that?  What else was she “supposed” to be doing when she was working on this hanger?

There is even a bit more to this hanger’s story:  Trawling one of her favorite thrift stores (a local church/volunteer enterprise) my mother spied the hanger holding a blouse–probably hung just as it was donated: on THE HANGER.  When she went to the counter to pay for her finds, the clerk went to take the blouse off the hanger (just as one might expect) but my mom, to the surprise of the clerk, stopped her.  Mom just wanted to buy the hanger! From the shop’s point of view, though an unusual request, that was even better yet–two things to sell!  Everyone was happy.

I am now the owner of this hanger and am hoping it will add something to some of the photographs I want to take of my “artfully embellished” jackets and such.  But, back to the question: why does someone cover a hanger with handwork? knit a dish cloth? crochet or weave a potholder…especially those, when surely in their use, they get stained, worn…and eventually, most likely…tossed?  And yet, the work of an unknown woman, who spent some precious hours and some careful thought has enriched my life and made me stop and think.  That is a legacy of sorts…a worthy one, in my opinion.  I am still thinking about Sveta’s answer to the interviewer’s question…