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Slow making

What if our new metaphor for time was craftsmanship?
By Doug Stowe
Summer 2011 5.15.11

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hands at a potter's wheel

(Andrea Laurita/iStockphoto)

We’ve all heard of the slow food movement. The idea of making things quickly and too easily, thus providing empty calories for the creative soul, is a notion we should explore, and then avoid as unhealthy for the human spirit. A passage from Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel Always Coming Home speaks to me as a woodworker.

It was a good thing for me to learn a craft with a true maker. It may have been the best thing I have done. Nothing we do is better than the work of handmind. When mind uses itself without the hands it runs the circle and may go too fast; even speech using the voice only may go too fast. The hand that shapes the mind into clay or written word slows thought to the gait of things and lets it be subject to accident and time. Purity is on the edge of evil, they say.

One of the things that can slow a person down in woodworking is the knowledge that what one makes can last a hundred years or more. When an item is crafted with useful beauty in mind, it transcends not only the years it may last, but also the need one might feel to hurry in its making. What are the few extra minutes to do things right when each moment of attention is witnessed in the finished piece for such a lengthy span of time? What’s the rush in the light of generations?

We have become so impulsive, so undeliberative in our actions, that I urge you to contemplate the very slow making of things. Through applying more conscious attention, can we invest greater mind in the making of the things that fill our lives and awaken our sense of beauty? And what would the effects of such actions be?

It seems that much of our hurry is driven by the metaphor, “time is money.” But time is not money. It is the opportunity to invest care, carefulness, attention, listening. What if our new metaphor for time was craftsmanship?

Make, fix, and create.

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