Tuesday, 24 March 2009

In The Handwork of Their Craft is Their Prayer

Nicholson Evening At Boothby by Winifred Nicholson
Nicholson Evening At Boothby

We've had good weather in the UK over the past week or so. It's been gardening weather and spring cleaning weather indeed. I passed a happy morning in the garden, not doing anything special, just tidying and pottering and I came inside with a small armful of greenery and forsythia.

I have a table in my living room, a side table which belonged to my great-grandmother, it's the kind of thing you'd find at a car boot sale or a junk shop and pay a fiver for it, but it has a nice colour and shape and I have a lamp, I bought years ago from Habitat, on it and an elaborately carved candlestick I picked up from one of those ethnic/hippy shops you find in posh market towns. I arranged my bits of rosemary and eucalyptus with the sprigs of forsythia and it made me happy to do such simple work. I thanked God for that corner of my living room, the flowers and greenery from the garden, the candlestick and the old table, it looked so pretty even though I'm not such a brilliant florist, and I was suddenly reminded of an Arts and Crafts banner hanging in York Minster. It shows St Hilda and underneath this venerable Northern saint it has the words: "In the Handwork of their Craft is their Prayer."

The gift of creativity is such a fine one, it gives real satisfaction and you don't necessarily have to aim for perfection to enjoy it. In fact, I sometimes think if we do aim for a perfect result the work becomes less satisfying, creativity becomes stultified in Self. That is to say, we become too aware of the faults in the work, to aware of what other may see as a failing in ability, and this awareness curbs the joy we have in the gifts we have been given.

During the middle ages calligraphers would make visual jokes out of their errors, laughing at their mistakes only made their work more beautiful, more human. Their lack of perfection didn't stop their prayer or their handcraft, but only humbled them, in the best possible way.

I shall leave you with what Jospehine Moffett Benton says about perfectionism.

It is in the light touch, in whimsicalities, in a sense of the ridiculous that we best see our littleness, see that we are but a seed that needs to lie dormant in the good, dark earth of God. Recreation provides the change in rhythm that sends us back refreshed to homemaking and service in the community. Those who never unbend and relax, who strain to eagerly fly off into the life of the spirit, miss being rooted and grounded in the love of God. The cross is firmly fixed where we begin to be created anew.


monix said...

I will look up that banner on my next visit to York Minster. St Hilda sounds like a good, solid Northern saint.

I am reading 'Zen and the Art of Quilting' by Sandra Detrixhe at the moment. She too writes about aiming for imperfection in handicraft. Apparently, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was believed that a structurally perfect quilt would bring bad luck to the quilter. Deliberate mistakes were made, such as placing a piece upside down, to show that the quilter was not trying to rival the perfection of God.

My many mistakes are purely unintentional but I say they add to the interest!

Angela said...

Don't the knitters of the Fair Isle also believe 'perfection is the prerogative of the Almighty' - and thus always ensure there is an error in their handiwork?

like Monix, I am afraid my handiwork too has many errors!

blessings x

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Monix
I have a soft spot for St Hilda, a nice practical Geordie.

Anyway, I read about the book you mentioned on your blog and it sounded right up my street.

Hi Angela
I think you're right. I also think mistakes make the item more personal and individual.

Anonymous said...

Oh I did enjoy this post! Some of my favourite things are imperfect and earthy...handmade, chunky and substantial. Lovely. :)

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Tina
Me too! Chunky and substantial are somehow comforting words!

Islandsparrow said...

Good thoughts.

I enjoy the same things - pottering (such a nice British word :) around the garden, arranging a bouquet, shaping a loaf, drawing a picture.

So soul satisfying.

Now I must look up St Hilda.

Dulce Domum said...

hi Kathie
I think you'll like St Hilda. You're dead right about the soul-satisfying bit!

Gumbo Lily said...

I always feel my best when I'm creative.


Owen said...

"In the Handwork of their Craft is their Prayer."

Comes from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes) 38:39 and has long been an inspiration to me. Peace and creativity be with you.