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I was at the Museum of History and Industry on New Year’s Day learning all about my fine city’s past. I took my brother Geoffrey, a new transplant to Seattle, along with me. They were both tremendously patient with me. I can be a very difficult person to go to a museum with. My issue is that I’ve been both blessed & cursed with an extremely long attention span. I get hooked on a topic or even a thought & explore it to it’s depths but god help me if I need to switch gears. In college this made me great at writing art history papers & horrible at taking the tests. One slide would change to the next slide & I’d still be dissecting the meaning behind the color palette of the last. It also makes it excruciating to go to a museum with me. It takes hours if not days. I could spend weeks just going back to the same spot. At MOHAI I got wrapped up in a handwoven towel from the pioneer days. A towel. In a museum full of photographs of a burgeoning city, interactive exhibits about the great fire of 1889, & films about the WPA I get consumed by a towel.

That towel made me think about what an enormous psychological shift it would be from the way we process our everyday lives and the objects that we interact with if everything we owned was either hand made by us, made by someone we knew or had to be bartered for by using our skills to make something else. If it broke we would either have to possess the skill to fix it ourselves, or know someone who could and again would barter something we had or could do in return for that service. Objects today are not even made to be repaired. They are made with built in obsolescence so we are forced to buy a replacement or buy the next best version before the original even breaks. It’s not anything that I hadn’t thought about before but the towel made it feel so close. A hundred years ago was not so far away. I could try to feel what it would be like to interact with a world where everyday objects, all everyday objects, held intense meaning because they had been directly forged by someone with the face of someone I knew. That’s a thought that I could not even fake if I tried. It requires an experience that I will never have because it comes from a forced circumstance that I will never experience. Even if I removed myself from modern life I could not force my mind to embody the head space of someone from that time because I would still know what was available to me & with how much ease I could have it.

I wonder how that effects the handmade today? Most handmade objects today are art or craft objects. To the Pioneer everything made was the result of a practiced & skilled craft possessed by an individual. Does the handmade, on a relative scale, mean more now because so much less is imbued with the  effort, skill, and intent that it takes to make or does it mean less because so much is so accessible that the average person does not differentiate psychologically between the hand forged object & the mass produced one? The two can appear so similar on the surface, after all. Would the hand made mean more for to the Pioneer because there was simply less product so every object was imbued with more meaning (especially the handmade) or would it mean less because everything that surrounded them was handmade & therefore the norm. When that hand woven towel started to wear out I guarantee it would have been patched or made into something else.  It would have been reborn into a new object, primed to add a whole new chapter to it’s history.

I have so many objects. Few of them I’ve had for more than 4 years. Most of the ones that are handmade I have made myself. I do have a few though that were made by others & I cherish these not only for their outright beauty or utility but because I feel the intent behind them.