Jan 122016
Photograph by Olego Prisco

Photograph by Olego Prisco

The longing to handmake things overtook me some 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. Instantly, I felt a longing in me to know things with my hands as she did, since music, writing and dreamwork are all intangible arts.

Since then, I’ve set about accumulating skills in basketry, lightsculpture, knotwork, and recently crochet (!) finding myself inextinguishably thrilled by how the objects I make seemed to live a life of their own once they leave my hands. I think it’s because when we put in the long efforts into bringing beauty into the world, we are honouring that which made us by creating as we have been created.

We are taught to respect the slow, attentive piecing together of the life we yearn for. Stitch by stitch, we apprentice the craft. We work in tandem with mystery, feeling its rhythms awaken in our bone-memory. And we realise the patience it takes to make a life materialise. There are no shortcuts, and it can’t be done cheaply, or en masse. The work is small, the work is slow and all we can do is stay with it.

As Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “the shortcut, the easy way, always falls apart. Then one returns to the handmade life. One has to pick it up painfully, and piece it back together, holding the overall pattern in one’s mind, but working patiently, piece by piece.”

May your hands be blessed. May they know the magic they make. May everything they touch, touch them in return. May your exquisite efforts soon show their shape.

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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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  2 Responses to “The Handmade Life”

  1. A beautiful longing that gives us a sense of belonging. Thank you for putting into words what I feel when I’m creating with my hands.

  2. Thank you for this. I have a deerskin in my freezer, waiting to learn how to do that handwork. I needed the reminder of the slow process, the illusion of the shortcut, holding in mind and staying with it over the necessary long while. Appreciate your sharing.

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