Having just come back from a three week road trip in the US, the aftermath of Brexit has been quite an experience. Now I wasn’t going to mention Brexit, in fact, I’m actually getting a little tired of the word, but in fact it is the reason for this post. This imminent splitting off from Europe got me thinking about all the ways we are connected in the world, not just through an agreement on paper, but how it runs much deeper and wider than that. It connects us in a way that not even this decision can pull apart.
Change creates opportunity for something positive to happen.
We spent three weeks driving from Chicago to New Orleans, taking in the change in landscape, language, accents, food, music, art and temperature along the way (all I can say is thank goodness for air-conditioning!). We watched as the landscape was pierced with hills that rose from nowhere, forests arched in over us and corn fields covered the land as far as the eye could see. We followed the grand old lady, the Mississippi River as she gently wound her way to the sea, an amazing force that has inspired many an artist. Our trip was a musical pilgrimage, following the heritage of music in the south, from blues to soul and the fun filled celebration of New Orleans dixieland. The blues was a music of the black African slaves, a form of freedom for the enslaved and a music that was embraced by many. It became an inspiration for Elvis, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones to name a few. It became the founding of the music we know today. Learning about this musical journey got me to thinking about how craft has had a similar evolution.
Different forms of craft have their origins all over the world, being born of one culture and then transferred to others historically over time. These skills and techniques slowly seep into their new surroundings, influencing and adapting to their new makers. A great example is batik fabric which originates from Far East Asia and spread west to the Middle East along the caravan route. Through trade the fabric travelled to Central Asia and beyond with the Dutch bringing Indonesian craftspeople to Holland during the 1830’s to teach the technique to Dutch warders in several factories throughout the country. Eventually it arrived in Germany where in the early 1900’s the Germans created a technique to mass produce the fabric. Each new encounter found a new use and technique based on it’s new surroundings.
This is the beauty of creativity and diversity, the sharing and interweaving of knowledge and cultures that is an integral part of our world without us even knowing. This can’t be taken away and should be embraced and encouraged. It is the new interpretation and embracing of an ancient craft that helps to make them relevant today and it is in making them relevant that keeps the skills alive to pass to the next generation.
I am not a master of one craft, I dabble in a few, but it is the joy of the experimentation, the trying something new, the figuring out, the learning something that I know many before have learnt and mastered that is such a joy. In creativity there should be no rules, only respect for those who have gone before and the skill of making.
So with an imminent change so near, it is important to remember that out of change comes opportunity and I think the importance of craft and it’s ability to build communities between people and cultures around the world is more relevant than ever.
To this end, I am off to volunteer at Art in Action today. First stop, the International Tent! Hope to see you there!