Review: Making a Life-Working by hand and discovering the life you are meant to live by Melanie Falick.
I first read about this book on the Mason Dixon Knitting daily news snippets that come to my email. It sounded interesting, so I added it to my Christmas wish list and was super excited when I unwrapped the box and saw what was inside. I highly recommend making wish lists, whether on Amazon or somewhere else. Then you get exactly what you want, but opening the box is still a surprise.
The book has a little of an anthropological tone, which was part of what interested me. I did some small research projects in college using a naturalistic inquiry approach and have always been fascinated by what you can learn from and about people this way. Melanie Falick interviews and chronicles the lives of different makers, some in the United States and some in other countries. Her goal was to answer two basic questions - (1) Why do people make things with their hands? and (2) Why do they strive to make them beautiful?
The first interview is with Ellen Dissanayake, who has spent her life studying how and why art originated and evolved. She is considered a global authority on the topic. She believes art and making are genetically hard wired into our DNA, which makes perfect sense to me (this is the biologist talking). Our ancestors from centuries back were successful in large part based on how well they used their hands to make things-shelter, clothing, weapons, food, etc. It would stand to reason that the most successful survived, thrived and procreated while the less successful did not.
The common thread of the people in the book is how making things with their hands is central to their life. They live on their own terms, making things with their hands that they love. They aren’t necessarily rich or world famous, but making things is at the very core of who they are. I love that and can relate. My husband and I more often make things than buy them and I want to do more of that.
I found some of the work so fascinating that I plan to learn more about the specific techniques they used. I love doing almost any kind of hand work with yarn, thread or fabric. I have tried my hand at knitting, crochet, weaving, locker hooking, needlepoint, sewing, and quilting. I also like doing things that are a combination of techniques. One chapter was devoted to Natalie Chanin and her business, Alabama Chanin, designing and making hand stitched and embellished clothing. She started by remaking t-shirts. I happen to have a collection of old t-shirts just waiting for a project, so I am looking forward to learning more about her work. I have made quilts from some of the t-shirts my son collected at mountain bike races but am eager to see what other ideas are out there and how she went from t-shirts to where she is now. She sells her patterns in books so that everyone can have access to quality hand stitched clothing even if they can't afford to buy what she makes. I was also inspired to learn more about natural dyes..just not enough hours in the day!!
This book really opened my eyes and was so inspiring! I never studied art of any kind beyond the art classes I had in secondary school, though I sketched constantly and wrote poetry when I was young. In my family, art was a hobby, not a profession. I found in those pages that I am not alone in that. I have two degrees in biology and a PH.D. in education, but I have known for a long time now that opportunity for creativity was very important in any job I took on. There are too many jobs that involve way too much mundane repetitiveness. When I reached a point in a job I wasn’t learning anything new and not creating anything worth while, I left. Now that I am retired, I am looking at how I can craft the next chapter of my life.
Once I got started on the book, I couldn’t put it down. Each artists’ story is just a few pages, but each is beautifully illustrated with color photographs and detailed captions. I spent as much time on the photos and captions as I did reading the book. I plan to keep this book handy on the shelf as one of my creative inspiration books. I have no doubt I will spend many more hours with it by the fire as part of my self-care time because of the inspiration and contemplation of my life that it encourages. I think changes are coming…
Hi there! I am Jeannine.
I believe that a holistic and balanced approach to life is a must when living with an autoimmune disease. I share gluten and dairy free recipes and all the other things I do here. I just like doing stuff and making stuff.
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