Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Craft & Healing

Over the past year and a half, as we've become more deeply involved in the craft world, Jae and I have become aware of an association between craft and healing that crops up from time to time. This association has manifested itself in our very own shop, although we didn't intend for Greenjeans to be a "healing place." We don't carry jewelry with property-attributed gemstones or anything deliberately to do with witchcraft or healing arts (though we do display magic wands by spoonmaker Dan Dustin, albeit with tongues planted firmly in our cheeks.) However, for some visitors, and probably even for ourselves, Greenjeans is becoming something of a garden filled with objects that offer more than just usefulness and beauty, but also some sort of healing.

This healing power (for what else would it be called?) seems to literally emanate from the hand-made objects that we display to sell, these beautiful objects made with skill and care, with a sensitivity to pleasing surfaces, textures, colors, forms. To observe a person sensitive to this power navigate the shop is quite remarkable, as different objects will elicit for different people exclamations of joy, discovery, surprise, admiration.

One time, a man entered the shop after having been caught by the "sound" of the Shaker chairs, describing how objects can be "heard" the same way music can been "seen." He lingered for quite a while, and he and Jae had an engaging conversation going over all the details and intricacies of the chairs, though I felt more than being so compelled by the chair's construction he just didn't want to leave the feeling the chairs gave him.

Another recurring visitor moves through the shop with a delighted smile, carefully touching almost everything she passes, unconsciously making a different sound for each sensation the objects bring to her. She explained once that she has an injury that prevents her from being able to freely use her arms and hands, but even without that information I could tell that interacting with all these handmade objects gives her a powerful charge.

Occasionally someone will come in, look around, ask if they can try out the rocking chair (to which we always answer yes), and suddenly find themselves experiencing an unexpected sense of relief and safety, lingering there in the chair in a state of amazement and near-bliss, rocking longer than they intended, and eventually getting up surprised by their own reaction.

Lots of people remark that "everything is beautiful" or something to that effect (which is always nice to hear), but some seem to have a more profound experience. There are the customers who struggle to contain how stirred they are by certain pieces of pottery and find themselves compelled to buy them. There is the mother who told me that plastic toys make her small child scream and cry, but that he plays calmly with handmade wooden toys like the ones we carry. Are these visitors just having an aesthetic experience? Or are they experiencing some kind of healing? Or is there a difference? The healing potential of making craft is one thing -- anyone who has ever thrown a pot or knit a scarf or stitched a quilt can attest to that. But does this healing potential extend to the user as well? I wrote a while back about if craft has the ability to extend one's life. Is that really about healing, too?

Interacting with objects carefully and sensitively made by other hands seems to be the key. I do tend to think there is the potential for some to sense a powerful connection to humanity, nature, and spirit by interacting with craft objects. I think this is a real connection and that objects can play a dynamic role in our experience of being. It is not just psychological projection onto a mute thing, as some might say. When the connection becomes one of healing I'm not sure. It think it varies from person to person. But one thing is for certain: interacting with and living with craft doesn't seems to hurt.

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