Ok, I handmake and sell my creations so of course I’m going say that there is something special about handmade treasures, but hear me out because this isn’t just me trying to sell my animals. This is a philosophy I have lived by for as long as I can possibly remember, and one you probably have too.
When we were young, how many of us proudly presented our loved ones a handmade card, a lovingly baked (if slightly inedible) cake, or a tiny bottle of ‘perfume’ we concocted in the garden shed by soaking rose petals in water for a few days? My own girls are often delighting me or their dad with a new work of art that they have put oh so much thought and care into making. I think the desire to make lovely things to show others that we care is possibly an innate part of being human.
And when we go through our memory boxes, is it not often the handmade cards that are kept, while the others get thrown in the recycling? If I get tired of a piece of jewellery then it will go to the charity shop, yet the string of beads my daughter gave me at 3 years old will forever remain in my jewellery box. We can’t help but treasure gifts that have been made with love, because that love truly does shine through: you can feel it when you hold those special gifts, see it when you look at them (dropped stitches and all).
Young children, who have all the time in the world to embrace their creativity and show their feelings with such honesty, grow up though. Life takes over, and suddenly all the time in the world whizzes by in a flash of housework, commuting and long days in the office. So instead we search for other ways to show we care, and in this world of consumerism there is no shortage of things to buy or places to buy them.
I got to a point a few years ago when I realised that we just have too much stuff. At that point I pretty much stopped buying, and asked people to stop buying things for me too. Unless I could eat it, drink it, clean with it, or otherwise needed it to get by, then I just didn’t want any more of it. While you can buy some beautiful things in the shops, that catch your eye and convince you that you want them, I realised that for me all these things lacked something really important and didn’t actually do anything for me other than make tidying the house more effort.
But one day I was at a festival of wool and I came across a lovely felt picture. It was of two gnomes sitting around a campfire in the woods. The background to the picture was made of wet felt, and the gnomes were three-dimensional needle felted characters. You could see the hours of work that had gone into it. You were immediately transported to the wonderfully magical place within the artist's imagination as soon as you looked at it. It was entirely unique, there could never be another just the same. I had to own it. I put it on the wall next to my bed and now, even two years on, each day when I wake I look at it and I smile, and each night before I sleep I look at it and I smile. I am honoured to own such a beautiful thing. I can’t truly say that about many of the things I own.
This is what you get with handmade. You get the vision within the mind of the artist who is absolutely passionate about their subject, expressed in the way that only they can portray it. You get the feel of the lovely thing, the curves and the edges shaped by their fingertips. You know that time and care have been willingly given to make sure that the treasure is everything it was meant to be. Of course, you get more than this, maybe more than you will ever know. You get the years of learning, practice, experimenting and failure. You get the experience gained from the mistakes made: from the ones that went wrong, from the ones that got smooshed because they just wouldn’t do what they were supposed to do, from the ones that fell over and smashed, or got thrown against the wall in a moment of frustration. You get the blood, the sweat and the tears. You get those moments of “YESSSS!!!! I actually nailed it!” But most of all, you get the love. The love that a child paints onto the special card they make for Father’s Day because they really want to see Daddy smile when he opens it, the love that pours (maybe a little too much) flour into the mixing bowl to make Granny’s birthday cake, the love that painstakingly collects every rose petal that has fallen onto the garden path to make Mummy’s lovely perfume.
Those of us who are lucky enough to make and sell our artwork do so with that same innate desire to share joy through our creations. We love what we do (we wouldn’t keep going through the smooshing and smashing if we didn’t), and we want others to love what we make just as much as we loved making it. We want each and every handmade treasure to find a forever home where it is cherished, where every day somebody looks at it (or washes with it, or wears it, or writes in it) and smiles simply because they are the proud owner of this lovely thing that we made.