Hands at Home—My Top 10

Because I’m thinking a lot about makers and making, those “loving hands at home,” I want to explain my thinking a little more. I have certain activities that I love to do, to participate in, and others that I want to learn about and appreciate. These are some of the topics I’ll be writing about so you can think of this as a preview of coming attractions! If you love the handmade, too, what would you add to the list?

  1. candy making—this is on my mind a lot because it’s a business for me. I make caramels and chocolate candy. It’s a great creative outlet and makes the people around me happy, too.
  2. quilt making—this, to me, is the ultimate “hands at home” craft. The colors, the textures, the design possibilities!  The connections to the past and other makers. I love the most utilitarian quilt as much as the most carefully crafted, beautiful quilt.
  3. jewelry making—I studied this in college, took it up again at a later date, and should do more. I never feel more powerful and accomplished than I do with an acetylene torch blazing away.
  4. music making—do you play an instrument? Sing? I think we all should. I don’t do it often enough but there’s something about participating in the making of music that is essential to human nature, I think.
  5. gardening—I came to this late and have a lot to learn. For me it’s about flowers and loveliness but maybe you grow vegetables. Either way, watching things grow . . .wow.
  6. folk music—I like homemade music. I put this as a different list item than “music making” because, while I think we should all play our own music, I also want to listen to the music of the average person. I especially like the music of protest and rebellion.
  7. weaving—I don’t have the first clue how to do it, which is too bad since we have a big loom, an impulse purchase, sitting in the garage. I’m drawn to the woven items every time I go to a craft display or historical museum, though.
  8. textiles—I guess I should just admit that all textiles appeal to me. Those samplers done by nine-year olds. Those rugs hooked from rags, to warm the feet AND beautify the home. And all those tablecloths and dish towels, embroidered with bright colors. So much tradition and personality in each piece!
  9. folk art—this is in the front of my mind because we just made a trip to Shelburne Museum in Vermont, where they have a huge collection of folk art and it’s so cool. It focuses on utilitarian items, like weather vanes and duck decoys and scrimshaw. These were made by unknown hands, by people not trained as artists, and each item is simply lovely.
  10. 10. enough about me . . . what would you add as the tenth item on the list? What do you make by hand?

The Human Touch

Quilt-making, artisan chocolate, metal smithing, garage sales, vintage linens, ironing, folk music . . . what do these things have in common?

They’re a few of my interests but, because I am known to over-think things, I’ve always looked for a theme that connects them and that would give me insight to what makes me, well, me.

Then I read a phrase in a novel that gave me a starting place. The character receives a gift and reflects that it has that “loving-hands-at-home look.” The phrase “loving hands at home” was used as if it was a well-worn term but I had never heard it before.

So, I looked it up! I didn’t find anything definitive but learned that it’s a phrase used to talk about something that is obviously handmade by someone with a love of making. And, it became clear that the phrase is generally used in a disparaging way, to imply that the hand-maker might mean well but that they have more love than skill.

As I thought about it, though, I realized this was the connection among the activities and interests that have motivated me for much of my life, and I think they motivate many others as well. We are humans and we are drawn to that which is made by human hands. We appreciate the exceptional and the talented but also see the value in anything handmade, even if it is inexpert or awkward, because it reflects a desire to do something for oneself, to create, to participate.

Click, click, click . . . the seemingly unrelated interests in my life fell into place. All those things I’ve made and crafts I’ve dabbled in. All those exhibits of folk art I’ve sought out. All those items I pick up at flea markets and garage sales. All that music that moves me. They’re essentially the products of loving hands at home, not made by professionals, or mass-produced. They have the imprint of an individual human being on them. That human being might be me or you, or someone long gone, but the “hands at home” speak to me.

So, this blog is initiated to celebrate the hands at home. You won’t find me using that phase in the condescending way it is often used—I really do love those hands at home! If you do, too, I hope you’ll come back often and participate in the discussion!