The digital world is not the evil nemesis of art, it is the blessed child, moving in symphonic gestures, mimicking the guiding mother.
Before crafting became a business, for me it was an escape from the world around me. I would close my laptop, silence my phone, and just start making whatever I felt like making to shut everything down. Sometimes it was cooking dinner or baking, sometimes it was candles, and sometimes it was a scrub.
Ironically, once I turned handcrafting artisan skincare and candles into a business, I found myself glued to my computer and my phone more than I ever was before. Updating the website, writing blogs, posting, commenting, I feel like my technology is attached to me. More often than not, it doesn’t bother me; I enjoy being engaged online – it allows me to connect to people from all over the world, but there are moments when all I want to do is disengage.
And that’s when I close my laptop, silence my phone, and just start making.
I’ll use my nose to arrange fragrances. Florals mixed with woods, and a hint of citrus. Mix, match, test, repeat. I’ll use my eyes to analyze texture. Thick and fluffy, with enough depth to be tangible. I’ll use my hands to create. Pour, stir, whip, drip, angle. I make, and when I make, I create art.
There’s a sense of connectedness I feel when I create. Every pour, mix, sniff, and package is a little part of me being born into the world. A version of every product I make, whether it’s soap, lip balms, or candles, has been factory generated. My grandmothers would sew, stitch by stitch, one little thread at a time, until it became a gown or a fur coat. Somewhere there’s an assembly line worthy of Henry Ford where machines are pouring, filling, stitching, and labeling in mass quantities. While there’s a beauty in the methodical and rhythmic beat of machine precision, it lacks one major aspect: art.
The world needs more art. The aesthetic was once the most important factor in the humanities, dating back to Aristotle’s Poetics. Since the Industrial Age, art has been tossed aside as secondary to mathematics and science. You can always learn about a culture’s values based on the emphasis in their educational system, and for decades, as budgets continue to be slashed, the arts are the first thing to go. In lieu of the arts, the focus has become on technology, math, and science. There is nothing wrong with strengthening these skills, but there’s one major point that seems to be missed in contemporary culture (but a point the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, all the way through the Romantics knew): there is no technology, math, and science without art. There is no industry, architecture, engineering, law, and medicine without art.
The art of hand-crafting is at the very core of primal humanity. The irony in all of it is that the digital age is possible because of art, because of hand-crafting. Before a machine could learn the steps to creating, it must be taught by a creator.
When I shut myself off to the digital world to hand-craft and create art, I’m not really shutting off, and no one who crafts is – in reality, it’s a contribution. All creation is contribution, progressive movement. Art and craftsmanship is innovation. Fingers dancing across a piano, wrists swerving brushes across a canvas, muscles churning the oils to make soap – the art, the beauty, the aesthetic, the innovation.
It’s not the digital world which proposes the problem, it’s the lack of creation it can induce. The Monks of Tibet practice mandala, where they spend weeks creating a beautiful work of sand art and upon completion, they sweep it away to start again. The digital world begs why, cries out for the inefficiency, but the artist, the handcrafter, understands.
Art is patience. Art is discipline. Art is math, science, philosophy, literature. Handcrafting is art. The digital world cries out for art.