I had another one of those deep thought moments, still about crafting, but more so about why crafting has really taken off lately (and this isn’t limited only to crafting – people have been canning gardening, and simply making things in a trendy way a lot these days).
I heard a great talk at TEDxAtlanta (recorded from the main TED conference, but still) in which Jane McGonigall explained why video people who are relatively unsuccessful at life are so great at video games, mostly because video games provide a platform in which they can excel. Unlike life, video games never challenge you more than you can eventually master, and have a set system of goals and rewards. You know what you’re meant to do. The problems are not un-solveable. Given any amount of diligent effort, you can fix things, or get recognition, or feel a sense of accomplishment, things that you can’t see in paying rent or fixing your car or buying a life insurance policy. Often life’s challenges aren’t easy, and there isn’t a set goal. There’s no princess to rescue. It’s not easy to be superhuman.
I’m going to take a bold step and extend this way of thinking to pretty much everybody in our economy nowadays, but especially to those of us in the middle of things. Not those of us with a lot of venture capital (though it sort of still applies). No, I’m talking about the Jimmy Olsens out there. The folks who keep trudging away at life because it’s a sink or swim kind of thing, who really want the superpowers but aren’t from Krypton or a family possessed of a trust fund.
We’ve got to work.
The frustrating thing is that the work we do, in this advanced society, is sort of invisible, or intangible, or often both. I’m a graphic designer, which means that pretty much all day I’m pushing pixels around on a computer screen, or doodling in a sketchbook, and at the end of the day I go home empty-handed, even if I’ve been slammed from the minute I get in until the minute I leave (and sometimes even after that). And then when I’m done designing, somebody else does the physical making part, and I’ve got something to show, but it feels a little disconnected. I think that lots of people feel this way. Insurance agents, accountants, pharmacists, doctors, salespeople. And then you get home and you struggle to pay your bills and you struggle to save money and you wonder where all that time went.
I believe very strongly that craft fills that void. I have about four different crafts going at once (right now it’s knitting, embroidery, shoemaking and boxmaking). I’m doing research. I’m working on my house. So when I’ve got a rough day, I go home and I make something that I can hold in my hands and I can say, “I made this.” It’s a tangible result, and it’s rewarding and it has a clear goal. And it’s achievable. A friend of mine (robbingpeter) cans her own food. She makes delicious pear butter and pickles and salsa (well, actually everything she cooks is delicious, but I’m trying to prove a point here). And I think that while I deride scrapbooking, it fills that void, too.
Maybe we’ve all got something in common with gamers – life is hard, and so we do things that help you cope, from stomping on goombas to crocheting afghans.