Friday, August 13, 2010

Thinking of now

I just got present to something (and in the most literal way).  This moment, right now as you are reading this, is the only moment of it's kind.  Your perspective, your emotional response, the way the air moves, the slow degrade of the objects around you, this snapshot in your life and in mine will never be the same.  We will never experience what we are experiencing right now.  We will never see (no one will ever see) what we see now.  I think of my grandmothers, who will turn 100 this September, and all that she's seen.  I ask her what it was like to see suffragettes out on the streets, how she felt about vehicles, or the civil rights movement.  She didn't care much for any of it, and didn't have much to say about it.  "What a loss!"  I think, that someone lived through all of these incredible developments and didn't look for it or didn't care about it!  I think of all of these milestones in history (whether we think of them as good or bad) and then wonder how many of us are asleep to them.  What can be happening right now that we are asleep to?  I'm not saying that we should seek out all of the big changes and try to be there when it happens to say "I was there when...", but rather I'm saying that we need to be more fully aware of the gift that the present really is!  Think about it- you are the ONLY one with the experience and perspective that you have, and this is the only moment like this that you will ever have!  Whether you are soaking in a bathtub, walking to the store, chanting at a rally or reading a blog online... this moment is precious so try staying right here and don't wander off.

I had a friend in high school who had the most beautiful smile.  I can picture her right now, daydreaming about her amazing dimples and the way her face lit up.  She tried her hardest to stop herself from smiling, often times physically holding her lips down if she started to laugh.  She told me that she didn't want wrinkles, so she tried to hold down her face to keep from making creases.  I don't know how serious she was about it, but what I do know is that she was so thinking of the future- that she stopped herself from fully enjoying the present.  As much as I am amazed at this, I acknowledge that I do it to myself every day in that I am always planning a meal for later while while listening to someone in a conversation.  I dream of a big road trip I want to take across the country as I eat that meal I planned.  Then while I'm traveling I'm thinking about the changes I want to enact when I'm back home.  We are always living into the future, which is a function of human nature.  As a practice, I encourage you to try out for one day fully enjoying and relishing every moment.

Right now there are molecules buzzing, life is shifting, materials are breaking down and layers of dust are landing on your shoulders.  As simple and as mundane as every moment might feel, I am grateful for this moment sharing with you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crafty Thinking: the power of handmade

Check out Radical Cross Stitch for more incredibly gutsy feminist threads!

I've been thinking recently about the power of "crafting".  Ever since the industrial revolution, the world has moved towards a mass-manufacturing model, taking the skill out of many careers and causing heavy dependence from workers on corporations.  Individuals around the world are stuck within the conveyor belt system, often not even aware of what is really being built, or for what purpose.
There is something incredibly powerful about creating something by hand.  Although most often the person who knits does not house the sheep it comes from, or the person who sews did not invent the sewing machine- the management of the entire project using one's own hands fosters skill, independence and personal investment in the item.

While crafting has been dismissed by capitalism as a hobby not gaining capital, I see handmade as being a revolutionary tool.  Making things by hand not only creates incredible variety and diversity, but it fosters community exchange and cultural appreciation and knowledge sharing.  On master crafting site sellers often talk about their process and mission behind their goods, describing the process and often even sharing the blueprints for others to make their own item along with their goods in their virtual store. (see for examples like the image above) Teams on Etsy cultivate the community experience along with how-to workshops and forums and in-person meet ups. Crafters here work as a collective together sharing the etsy forum and most of them work off the grid, earning independently from each sale with a small portion going towards the maintenance of the site.  Teams work together to give and gain exposure to like-minded artists without an exchange of money but added support on all ends.  Crafting communities I believe are at the forefront of a new type of production that is both founded in the feminine and requires community.  Keep your eyes open on etsy, I think I just convinced myself to create a  feminist etsy team. ;)

What's complicated about the independent versus the mass, is that for people who do  not have enough start up access or capital in order to create a career out of skilled crafts, most rely on large corporate production.  This creates a dependency on multi-national industry and takes agency away from both the worker (who has no access to goods or training) and the buyer (who depends on affordable and easier to access goods to sustain themselves).  Marginalized immigrants are only able to semi-escape the mass-made industry through selling to fetishism for the "native".  These handi-crafts are often important icons of personal heritage and culture and are sold to tourists or those looking for "authentic ethnic" gear.  This too puts those in a strangle-hold out of selling one's culture (or the buyer's perception of the culture).

 With this in mind I've become weary of buying items from sidewalk vendors who sell "ethnic" bags, jewelry or scarves but drawn to support their strive to sustain themselves.  (image to the left is taken by a tourist of Yakan) Everything that we own is cultural, it's just that White American cultures have become normalized and thus an "ethnic heritage" of Whiteness cannot be seen.  Cross stitching is as much as a good representing culture as African wax print fabric.  Each is representing cultural heritage and each is being sold as product, both as an item and as a symbol of authenticity and culture.  Whether we enjoy these products based on the quality and interest in the item or consuming representations of the exotic... what I have come to recognize is that cutting out "ethnic" products from my diet cuts EVERY-SINGLE-THING out and that there is no clear border between fetishized consumption and honest enjoyment/need of goods.