There is this phrase of “putting a piece of your soul” into something you are making. Sounds a little vague and clichéd to me, to be honest. So let me explore what might be meant by that a little more.
Sometimes when I create something I reach a state of existence where I am so strongly present that the importance of making transcends any other purpose of making that object. At that moment, when my gestures become precise and measured, my breathing quietens down and my thoughts become silent, when I’m focused with a deep concentration and a peculiar effortlessness at the same time, when I am uniquely present, then I know. I know that I have reached a sort of harmony that in itself is such a gift that the outcome or the finished products matter much less than the making of. Sometimes it even becomes the only thing that matters in the world, if only for an instant.
When I’m really immersed in this transcendent state, a strange feeling will start to spread, starting somewhere behind my belly button in my middle and slowly filling my entire body with a warm sense of complete and utter contentment. It’s a state so peaceful that I can literally feel the stress and anger accumulated over the day evaporate from my body.
It’s not always easy to reach this state. Usually I’m too distracted or frustrated or scattered in my mind. Thoughts of the email I forgot to write this morning or the trash that I should take out or the online shop I need to curate (never mind make stock for it) keep crowding my mind. But occasionally I do manage to hover in that strange combination of deep concentration and letting go: A focus on my gestures and the tactility of my making and the inherent laws of the material I am working with, while simultaneously letting go of the nitty-gritty worries of my life. It’s like zooming out and bringing the world into perspective – a kind of bird’s view where it becomes clear that I as an individual human being really don’t matter so much, but that I am part of a system that is wonderfully mysterious and complex and that matters a great deal. And I feel a sense of peace at not having to understand everything about this.
So making, in other words, is not so much an action taking place, it’s a state of being. A condition that reconciles seemingly paradox aspects of life (and I believe that the human mind is perfectly capable of holding several contradicting ideas simultaneously): I as an individual am so present, so focused, so important, at the centre of this process of making, and I am also dissolving into it completely, melting into my surroundings, giving myself up to breathing creativity. My personal borders become porous to let inspiration in while some part of me, some essence, can leak out into the world.
This happens especially when materials/ingredients are transformed into something more in quite a rapid way or at least at an observable pace – when you can see the making as it happens. Like drawing or painting. Enamelling. Cooking. Sawing and smithing metal. Sewing and embroidery. Writing. Making music. Even gardening. You name it. These creative endeavours all have some characteristics in common:
They are tactile and sensual experiences, where touch is extremely important – feeling the texture and surface of materials beneath your skin. Which is why writing with a pen on paper is still so fundamentally satisfying in a way that typing on a computer never can be, although there are other benefits to that.
They are immediate and transformative: With some patience you can observe how the materials you are working with change into something else you are making. You can see it grow and evolve, watch paint dry and bread dough rise deliciously and sauce thicken.
They all have one component that is mechanical and one component that is spontaneous and unpredictable; the recipe based on the maker’s knowledge and the inspiration from thin air. When I enamel, for example, I have a basic idea what I am doing and what I want to achieve, there are laws of physics I have to obey, for example melting points of enamels and metals. But some part of the process is almost magical in its unpredictability. You have no idea how the patterns will melt into each other, how the speckles of powder will form unique textures. This is the alchemy of it, the everyday mystery I choose to live with.
Without exception, creating something in this way has a positive effect on both the creator and their environment; it cleanses the world from anger and hatred, and adds self-worth, value and joy.
So yes, when you buy something hand-crafted by me, it will be an object that is steeped in my existence, in my constant state of marvel at the world and my gratitude for being alive here and now. If I could, I wouldn’t want to put a monetary price on my work. But the thought of doing anything else with my time, of earning my living in a way where I have to deny myself this creative process, is unthinkable to me.