Humanity’s Love of Handcrafting by Tracy Falbe
Our modern craft stores might be puzzling to people from earlier eras. These shops are full of kits and supplies for all manner of projects. They serve a market of people hungry to make something with their hands. Our ancestors might wonder at this craving because once upon a time almost everyone made things with their hands all the time. Whether you whittled mixing spoons from greenwood or hammered horseshoes, you were making something. Mothers spun and wove the clothing on their children’s backs. Fathers cut and shaped wood and stone to build their houses. From humble objects to sublime art, our innate human need to craft our possessions was satisfied all the time.
Since the Industrial Revolution and the rise of mass manufacturing, we have gradually lost touch with our crafty skills. Most people don’t make anything with their hands. Maybe you work at a factory and run machines and robots that make things, but you’re not putting your physical soul into the product like a master craftsman carving lion’s feet into table legs.
But we still want to make things. To craft them and feel that connection with the final product and know that the energy of our minds and bodies is forever a part of it.
This is why viewing antiques and museum artifacts can be so fascinating. We wonder who made them. We imagine that person carving or painting or stitching every little detail. That diligent concentration from long ago lingers upon the object.
The quality and durability of these old objects captivate us because we live in a plastic throw away culture. Machines stamp out flimsy things that will soon break. We did not do that hundreds of years ago because we valued our time and resources. And when you made everything with your hands, you were judged by your work and you took pride in your work.
In the past, everything needed to be built to last. Planned obsolescence would have been anathema to both housewife and clockmaker.
In one scene of the novel when the hero Thal has to sell a cuirass of armor, the blacksmith who buys the metal knows who made the armor. He notices that person who put the rose design in the metal was getting better at it. Craftsmen were very competitive, and I intended this little detail to show the pride and planning that people put into their creations.
Another character Lady Carmelita is shown stitching on a tapestry. Even a wealthy woman would make things. Although she has many servants, she still chooses to add to her décor with the skill of her own hands.
And the heroine Altea is portrayed as a skilled seamstress and embroiderer. To be true to the time, I mention how she designs her clothing and makes it. These would be skills expected of a typical 16th century woman.
Although we’ll likely not feel the need to return to a completely handcrafted economy, people increasingly remember that they need to do some things for themselves. Junk from a clearance bin brings no joy. Heirloom skills are being resuscitated. Marketplaces like Etsy have found success. Handmade is special. It is part of being human.
Tracy Falbe considers writing a necessary activity that she happens to enjoy. She has the most fun writing in the fantasy genre. She finds inspiration in history and likes to contemplate warfare before gunpowder and life without modern technology. Placing characters in an elder fantasy world allows her to explore age-old notions of bravery when combat was often done face-to-face. Explore more of her fantasy novels at Brave Luck Books.