Monday, 3 November 2008

crafts and beauty

Wow! The second post here in a day. Someone must be on holidays. LOL

Lynne has a post on crafts, beauty and usefulness. There are several comments but I wanted to write more than was suitable for a comment. So here goes.

She said that many people regarded crafts as being "artsy" and needing to be useful, whatever that may mean. I disagree with that assessment in many ways, although I can see where they are coming from. Why should something that is useful not be beautiful too? I think of many classic pieces of furniture in different styles, all useful and all having some beauty of their own. It takes not much more to design something which is not only useful but is also beautiful, well made and a pleasure to hold and use.

Of course this barely skims the surface and does not even begin to touch the definitions of both "useful" and "beautiful." There will be as many definitions of these ideas, I imagine, as there are people asked to define them.To me, a beautiful painting or sunset or piece of music is not only beautiful but useful. The sunset with its ephemeral beauty has gone forever, the music will need to be played again. However each brings rest and relaxation and re-creation to me. Is that not a useful thing just as a pair of socks is useful to keep feet warm? It's all very subjective.

Tied in with this on her post is the idea of creativity. I believe probably most of us are creative, although some of us have often stifled the urge to create in whatever form takes our fancy. Many crafts make use of the ideas of recycle, reuse, repair and obviously this is a very good use for them. When my boys were small they often had holes in the legs of their overalls and jeans. These needed repair if the items were to be still used. Often a patch was the best way to repair. I'm not very good at drawing, but I decided early on that I would be imaginative in my repairs. Not much more effort and a pleasure to the eye. So one knee might have a large cat on it in soft suede lather offcuts for long wear. The other undamaged knee may well also be adorned with a small mouse. A jumper to which the two year old had taken scissors was repaired by an applique in pictures being sewn on, after the original hole had been darned. What might have turned into something to wear in the garden was kept good and extra warm.

I also feel that even when we knitters use others' patterns we are still being creative. The garment I produce is unique. To someone else's creativity, I have added my sense of colours, my choice of wool. What I produce is unique. Even my actual knitting is unique to me.

However, I can also design my own pattern to start with. I don't just throw a sock together purely because I need a sock. Apart from anything else, the time invested makes me disinclined to "throw something together." I choose wool, needles and pattern to fit together. I love making my own designs for lacy socks and enjoy mixing different stitches. I don't really have the skills yet to design bigger items with any accuracy, but can adapt patterns to what I want.

Knitting to me is not only useful but also an expression of something which is deep inside me, a longing for beauty expressed in my life in many ways.

I think my feelings on this are probably closely tied with my ideas on education. Here is where I may well part company with many. I know some in my own extended family strongly disagree with me . I'm a teacher, a High School teacher of languages, Latin, French, German and I also occasionally taught English when the school was shortstaffed. Since leaving teaching in schools, I have continued teaching and speaking, both adults and students. Different topics to languages, but still teaching. I have also done some writing, nothing really published but some used in statewide conferences etc. I love teaching and I know I am a good teacher. Results tell me this but more important to me than results are the comments I get from students about enjoying my teaching, seeing things they never saw before, suddenly understanding something etc. I have two diplomas, one with honours, two degrees, again one with honours status. I would dearly love to start a PhD. but things do not work that way at present. I also have most of a four year course in agriculture done, useful perhaps? The course was changed in such a way I could not complete it at the time. I'm no stranger to education.

I strongly believe that vocational training should not be available at school. I even think that practically any tertiary course would be better with a liberal arts component. I see too many who cannot think, cannot research, cannot string two words together in a logical sequence, have no idea how to reason or present an argument. All these things are a major part of education. With these skills, practically anything can be learnt. I could write a thesis on this so will stop here.

Perhaps there should be more emphasis on developing creativity as each is led. Who knows? We may then have more commonplace good which are both beautiful and useful and well made which is in itself something beautiful.In the meantime. I intend to concentrate on producing items which are not only well made but useful and beautiful, however that is defined is. In that way, I hope to produce satisfaction in the user. I know that knitting with this emphasis in mind will satisfy me deeply and produce joy, wonder and a sense of fulfilment.

Thanks, Lynne for raising the topic and helping me think a bit more about it.


Lynne said...

Wow! and think about it you did! Interesting reading - thank you.

I agree with a combination of beauty and usefulness. Why live life using things which are ugly when the beautiful is just as easy to come by? For this reason, we use our 'good' cutlery every day. They are far more handsome and well designed than the pieces I bought when we were just starting out!

Lynne said...

I was trying to distinguish between art and craft - though for me the line is blurred. My 'fine arts' teachers certainly do not see knitting as an art form, only as a 'craft'. I disagree.

I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear - as a teacher of English to [adult] speakers of other languages I should be able to express myself clearly! LOL

Bells said...

I'm with you on the vocational training thing. Although I suppose I'm a bit more on the side of moderation in all things - I really wish education in Australia had not moved so far away from a good grounding in liberal arts. I was scorned, as are so many, for doing those subjects but I credit them for teaching me to think, and not just do.

Nice post.

TinkingBell said...

Yay! and hurray for the liberal arts education which teach people to think, to research and to learn - I wear my 'generalist' badge with pride

and I believe everything in life should be beautiful - this is a very Celtic thing to ensure that everyday objects are beautiful and beautiful things are used everyday

what a great post!

Rose Red said...

I'm coming in a bit late I know, but I totally agree with you - practical things can also be a thing of beauty - and I think it makes them even more practical because not only are they fit for purpose, but they make the user feel good about using them as well.

And don't get me started on people who can't write or speak properly - I do recruitment and the number of "highly educated" graduates I see who can't write properly astounds me!