It should look handmade…
I had this conversation with someone last weekend at Chillingham. Honestly, that phrase just sets me off on one, I hate it. “It should look handmade” should only ever be applied to 1970s hippy trippy macrame plant pot holders and things made by primary school children as far as I’m concerned.
You might find this odd from someone who does a lot of handwork (Oh, and how I hate the word “Crafting”, mainly because its not a proper word) but its because I’ve heard it used far too often as a blatent excuse.
There is a massive difference between an honest mistake at one end of the scale, and the laziness and lack of pride in one’s work (and to me this implies a corresponding lack of self respect) that is found at the other, much more heavily wieghted, end of the scale.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to put down beginners efforts, but as the phrase implies, a beginners effort should be a starting point, a jumping off to something bigger and better. You should constantly strive to improve. Being happy with your own beginners effort as an end unto themselves is self defeating because it denies growth. Be proud of your first effort, by all means, but don’t be content with it. The day you stop growing as an artist or as an artisan is the day you ought to book yourself into Dignitas. Personally, I think telling a beginner thier work should look handmade is somewhat patronising, tell them its a great start, give them a little tip so they can improve next time, throw in some gentle constructive criticism, but don’t fob them off with platitudes.
Nor do I have a problem with honest mistakes. Goodness knows I make enough of them myself, and I’ve learnt far far more from them than I’ve ever learnt from getting it right first time. Sometimes I go to great efforts to remove or correct those mistakes, and sometimes I let them stand. Honest mistakes are part of the creative process. The difference is that I take no pride in my mistakes, and I certainly don’t advertise them. But sometimes I let the little ones stand even though I know they’ll bother me, niggling away at the back of my mind and reminding me to try harder next time. They force me to grow as well as reminding me of my past, without being quite as annoying or embarassing as certain ex boyfriends, but then, lets face it, few things are cringeworthy as the loser you dated in the eighties. Or was that just me?
In costume and re enactment, I have seen “It should look handmade” used far too many times as an excuse for sheer unrepentant laziness. “It should look handmade” is used as an excuse for just not trying at all. “It should look handmade” leads to a Viking cloak embroidered all over with six inch satin stitches done in neon pink fourply polyester knitting wool (and yes, I have encountered such beasts, and they were quite beastly, believe me). “It should look handmade” is used to justify the production of complete and utter rubbish.
“It should look handmade” is used too often to devalue and belittle handwork, usually by the people working it, and this is why the phrase sets my teeth on edge.
“It should look handmade” implies that there is something ever so slightly mentally deficient about striving for perfection.
If my work must, by virtue of my own mortality, look handmade, then I shall forever strive to make it look made by the hands of angels. I know I am in the minority, but don’t minorities have rights these days?