I have a passion for things which are made by hands and the proliferation of sites such as Etsy, with over 1 million buyers and sellers now, proves that a lot of other people do too.
At home we drink our coffee from a variety of special blue mugs which have “Far North” marked on the bottom. In fact they were fashioned by a ceramic artist named Lotte Glob, who lives right on the rugged north coast of Scotland. My daughter used to live nearby and each time I visited, I would call by the pottery for more mugs! Consequently we have quite a few, but no two are the same, one has a rougher texture, one is bigger than the rest, one has a little mark like a hand, one is more elliptical than round, and the glaze and colouring are different too!
I was fortunate to be able to chat to Lotte on one of my visits and she spoke with great enthusiasm about her work and showed me some wonderful clay books, she had been making ( an example of which is shown above). But what fascinated me most were her hands - I couldn’t take my eyes off them! They seemed so expressive, and well used, in the best possible sense of the word - I mean they had done a lot of good work.
And this got me thinking about the relationship that we have with our hands and the work we do with them. In handcrafting an item we use our creativity to design it and then really focussed concentration, almost meditation, whilst we work on the project. Many times I have been surprised just how much time has passed and I have not been aware of it at all.
To me the craft of binding books is not just a pleasant pastime to while away some empty hours, after all I could easily go and buy some inexpensive spiral bound notebooks. It is deeply satisfying. It gives me a sense of who I am - my books are infused with my spirit, (just as Lotte’s ceramics are an extension of her). I choose to make the book, I choose the materials, the size, the shape, the form, the style, according to what is pleasing to me, and in stitching the binding with my hands, I am leaving my imprint. The imprint of my consciousness - my perceptions, memories, emotions, thoughts, desires, intentions and actions etc, are all bound up in that book.
Handcrafted things are made with the imagination, the intellect and of course, the hands, but also with something much more important, they are made with love - and that is why I prefer my books, to the spiral bound variety and my mugs from the Far North, to any slicker machine made porcelain. When I use them, I can see in my mind’s eye, the hands that made them.