Placemaking / The place of objects

On reflection, one must conclude that in bringing cheap and useful goods to the average household, industrialism has been of service to mankind — but at the cost of the heart, of warmth, friendliness and beauty.
— Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman
Pottery thrown by Jo Norton, commissions available.

Pottery thrown by Jo Norton, commissions available.

Handmade natural soaps by The Church Farm.

Handmade natural soaps by The Church Farm.

We are a people that love our possessions and ironically they have become things that possess us. Most households consume a copious amount of goods. Goods that are mass produced by companies with obsolescence and repeat patronage in mind.

The nature of what we own has been forsaken for the quantity that we can afford. Cheap imitation and mass production has given society the means to preoccupy themselves with consumption. That yearning for more has become so ingrained in our psyche that we endlessly pursue the feelings of elation we experience at the purchase of new things.

Never before has our world been so wasteful or so fickle. Our tools for daily existence have become nothing more than items we throw away at the dawn of each season. They are objects made not from the soul of humanity but by the calculation of machines; not in service of the spirit but for monetary profit. If these are the pieces that shape our daily existence; our everyday rituals should we not hope for more than that.

A return to handmade is the privilege of our times. We have almost uninhibited access to both local and foreign artisans, traders and hobbyists. The people who put hand to stone, clay, fabric and wood so that their ideas of beauty and function may come to life. 

Handmade objects allow for an appreciation of hidden treasure in the present moment. They entwine monotonous routine with the imaginings of people whom you might never have met. The people that craft their work just so. Just so that it rests perfectly in your hand; sits beautifully in your home or functions just as it should. These are the people that hold thoughts of you in your daily life as they go about their own work. Work that creates objects in service of the spirit. 

With consideration and balance possessions that are handmade enter into the realm of art; the art of slow living; the art of gathering; the art of curating one’s self and personality. They position us to appreciate our moments. Moments; at our tables, eating our meals, making our beds; the simple things that actually make up the majority of our existence. 

I romanticise the handmade in honour of those with skills I appreciate, admire and covert. That being said it isn’t necessarily practical or affordable to embellish our lives with nothing but bespoke objects - or certainly it isn’t for me. Neither am I going to be immune to impulse or IKEA or MUJI for the rest of my life. 

Consumption will forever be a part of who we are as a people; I only think that we should partake in it thoughtfully rather than mindlessly. Our purchasing decisions should be made with prejudice to possessions that enrich our motions of daily life rather than distract or diminish them. 

I wonder then if by choosing objects in our daily life that move the heart whether we might also invite a measure of humanity back to our relationships with land and community. It is after all a very fortunate existence to be surrounded by lovely things. They have their place albeit one that is thankfully shifting back to grace after greed.