Aug 162012

1. The longing to hand-make beautiful things has overtaken me recently. It was seeded some 4 years ago when I was gifted a deerskin medicine pouch by a friend in ceremony. She had learned to skin & tan the hide herself, working it until the tassels hung gently and the slipknot moved gracefully along its braided path.

2. Recently, I was given another miraculous gift – an anatomical drawing of a long-gestating moth carved into the broad side of a reishi mushroom, by a woman who also wove her own baskets. So enamoured was I, that I set about weaving my first grass basket for a sister on her wedding day.

3. Since music, writing and dreamwork are all ‘invisible’ arts, I have an inextinguishable thrill whenever I create a thing in 3D. In a more pronounced way, physical arts feel as if they go on to live a life of their own once they leave my hands.

4. When a dear friend sewed me a vibrant string of prayer flags for my birthday, into which she’d woven symbols and objects that were meaningful to our shared history, I finally understood why hand-making calls me so strongly. It isn’t just the long efforts to bring beauty into the world, honouring that which made us by creating as we have been created, but the story that is embedded in the work itself.

5. The songs of the Aborigines are actually maps of their landscape. An elder who has never been to a place can navigate their way there if they know the sequence of the song. Each word and rhythm represents a tree, stone, or curve in the earth, making a ‘songline’ which they can follow to their destination. Languages between tribes are not a barrier because the “melodic contour of the song describes the nature of the land over which the song passes.”

6. The Shipibo are one of the many indigenous tribes in Peru who, throughout history, have recorded their songs, or icaros, in elaborately embroidered geometric designs that correlate directly with nature.

7. Weaving, sewing and painting our stories & myths into the things we make is a way of keeping our culture alive. Heirloom is a compound word, with its roots in heredity + looming. Indeed, if even one generation is denied their inheritance, the story and the way home may be lost. As it is said in West Africa, “When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.”

8. I set out earnestly on this path of hand-making, hoping one day to pass on things of beauty to the young ones in my life so they may find their way home across the songlines, as I have been found by those who have made beautiful things for me.


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A writer, artist and tender of dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications around the world. Thanks to Skype, she works with dreamers internationally in her Private Dreamwork practice, based on Salt Spring Island in Canada. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or sign up for her mailing list to receive news about upcoming events.

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  10 Responses to “Beautiful Things”

  1. Love this! I’ ve been feeling the same urge to create recently….trying to do my best now, but I’ m not that gifted!! 😉 love is what drives me and the fact that I bumped in you today doesn’t seem a coincidence to me! Thanx!! Xxx Elisa from Italy

    • Thanks for writing, Elisa! Yes, I can relate to the somewhat painful humility that comes with being a beginner. It takes great commitment to a craft to become masterful at it. But I reassure myself that, even though my crafts is still clumsy, my yearning to become adept still shines through.

  2. So very true! I have felt urged to pain again… and I have designed for the first time parts of what to me is my family line and my personal womanhood (including my daughter). Still working on that, but Yes! the desire is that to leave a trace filled with what is that I radiate. I have a very special aunt that looms and does amazingly beautiful crafts…she lives in Lapland and she gifts us of the most delicate and powerful gifts <3 I understand know what is takes to knot a knot
    Thank you <3

    • Oooooh Ambra…I can only imagine how gorgeous your Aunt’s gifts must be! One of the things that excites me the most about hand-making is finding and coming together with other women who yearn as we do, and singing our songs into our crafts.

  3. beautiful!!! i so appreciate this longing and gifting of bringing handmade offerings back into our daily rituals. there is so much beauty held in any one item that is handmade with loving intent through and through. thank you for posting these words and pictures – a reminder of the beauty that we can offer back to each other and to the world…

  4. […] those who have been following my slow initiation into the World of Handmaking, you know that I’ve had a long yearning to make baskets! Last summer, I even tried teaching […]

  5. so sad and lost tonight. this lifted me a little. thank you for that…

  6. I find so much joy and fulfillment when working with my hands and pulling creative thoughts from my mind… added bonus is when it can be shared with others. You’ve penned exactly my feelings why I love making beautiful things from my heart <3

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