Friday, January 11, 2013

PEN-CRAFT - Crafts and the City

In search of identity foregone

Labladorite Silver Necklace made by NurrgulaJewellery

Living in large urban agglomerations entails a number of consequences affecting our position and role in social structures. One of such ramifications is anonymousness. Many welcome this feature of city life as a blessing. This may even be the reason why they choose to live in Warsaw or move out to Cracow. At the end of the day, however, you may start choking on the freedom that tasted so sweet in the beginning. In a more or less conscious way you take to restrict the overwhelming liberty. Lack of contextualisation: no sense of local belonging, superficial interaction and no personal identification with the place of residence turn the once desired freedom bitter. The natural human longing for group identification begins to set in. 

Terrier Brooche made by BartekDesign
An answer to such tendencies may be the urban crafts. A co-founder of an Urban Housewife Club explains that the idea to establish the club came on the spur of the moment, but it it is based on solid foundation of careful subsequent consideration: “At first it was only a need to pursue my passions in a group of people with a similar frame of mind, a chance to swap experience and ideas in the field of crafts, a getaway from regular professional life, a way to spend your free time differently. It quickly turned out that it may also carry a deeper meaning. Somewhat a comeback to the habits of our ancestors, like getting together to stitch or embroider in a group. I discovered I was not alone with my passions, and in a more general sense – with my attitude towards life. It was that experience that gave me the feeling of my personal belonging and of the club's place in the urban tissue”. 

Blackthorn berries photography made by bialakura
Such pursuits should not be confused with any attempts to weed out individualism. On the contrary, identifying yourself with small groups offers a great opportunity to stand out on two different levels. This may happen within the group itself, or by the very singularity of the group against the background of the general public. 

Collar Necklace made by ProjektMosko
Mushrooming crafts workshops, a broad and growing offer of varied courses in the art of hand made further strengthen the tendency. City dwellers are no longer satisfied by anonymous leisure activities pursued at malls or popular nightclubs. What they need is a closer contact with a pack sharing similar interests and views on how they like to unwind. Because this is exactly what participation in crafts workshops is about: having some rest after a hard day or week in the office. In such cases, after a 12-hour working day spent on the rat racing track, concentrating your brain on manual and mild physical work may be therapeutic. You can switch to the daydreaming mode or involve in seemingly pointless chitchat. 

Craftsman house made by TheBirdOnTheTree
It is widely known that occupational therapy schemes for persons suffering from psychological problems of all sorts are mainly based on crafts. Classes in throwing on the pottery wheel for a group of children diagnosed with ADHD run by a ceramic artist from Białystok prove the theory. It turns out that, after only six months of workshops, they are able to focus their attention while throwing for as long as half an hour – a noteworthy achievement given the level of difficulty related to this kind of task. In the long run, the big city, neo-capitalist rush affects our physical and mental abilities. Anxiety, depression, ADHD and other disorders are a curse of many. The source of these problems may often be the loss of contextualised identity. Not everyone is cut out for the brutally pushed model in which an employee must work within specific time frames in a precisely defined location, display all the teamwork skills possible and present a 24/7 readiness to commitment. 

Soutache Necklace made by BlackMarketJewels
Undoubtedly, courses and workshops in 'hand-made' enable self-identification and foster the search for one's self. The relaxing and soothing atmosphere of manual work is of great help in this process. Often it is the creative process itself that is more important than the final outcome. The final product of your effort is just an added value. The ‘therapy’ leaves you richer in experience, with new acquaintances or friendships and with a tangible result – your very own thingy. Suddenly you discover that in your quest for a more balanced and calmer life you are not alone, and the fellow co-worker across the office also has a non-typical pastime. And I don't mean extreme sports he/she does to show his value as a fierce negotiator and skilled corporate predator. 


  1. I am a fan of your wise thoughts and a slow-life way of living. Thank you for this lovely feature!

  2. Great article! I live in a village and was raised here and we always had something manual to do and it stayed with me till now and I'm loving it. It's a great way to relax, and to express yourself.

  3. Basicly you're right - great article! But I think there's the other side of story worth noticing and discussion: for example that handmade/craft workshops is often just another fad of those bored "corporate predators" [such a nice and easy way to all pseudo - artists to make money..].

  4. Morion, true, but as usual everything is relative and more complex than seems at the fist sight. Often the only way to sustain a craft shop econamically is to run courses for 'one-day potters' or 'quantum physicists in a weekend'.
    All in all, some claim that the more real the artist, the more difficult for him it is to make money on what he does...

  5. I agree - sad, but true. My comment wasn't against artists [those born to be]. I've stopped being a cog in the corpo-machine and - believe me - it wasn't economical decision at all. What did I gain? Maybe freedom to fight with the rest of chains ;) Best regards and thanks again for your inspiring words!


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