Getting Crafty About Crafts
The term "craft" encompasses many things. It's far more
than gluing toothpicks to make doodads only true enthusiasts can appreciate. In
its broadest sense, "craft" means skilled working with your hands. Today it
commonly refers to "artsy" things, but in previous times the emphasis was on the
more practical skilled trades. You can see the legacy of this in Sears' naming
its tool line "Craftsman."
The idea of craft holds a high place of honor in our
culture. In business, strategic planners refer to "crafting" a plan. This
connotes a high degree of skill and pride in what you do. There's no making of
things involved. Actors refer to honing their "craft," as do writers. Again,
nothing physical produced.
Why craft? Some reasons people engage in a craft include:
- They find it interesting and want to make that their
avocation. The classic example is the tailor. Someone who enjoys altering
garments because of the highly visible improvement in how those garments
look on the wearer can make a decent living tailoring off the rack garments
for other people. There's a misconception that the more you pay for a man's
suit the better it is, but the reality is the suit label is what you pay for
and it's the tailoring that makes it look good. So, there's a nice niche for
someone who has an eye for what works and can build clientele based on
- They find it pleasurable. The classic example is the
woodworker. There's something about the tactile feedback and the
satisfaction of making something from wood that, if you're skillful, causes
a nice flow of endorphins.
- It's how they celebrate the holidays or other special
occasions. This kind of crafting often starts in childhood with making
birthday cards for parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles. Then the child
makes Dad a tie rack or does a small embroidery project. Eventually, little
Johnny or little Suzie grows up making gifts for special occasions. A large
Afghan quilted for nephew Joe's wedding becomes a family heirloom passed
down to Joe's grandkids.
- It helps pass the time in situations where there's
not much else a person can do. A classic example is Suzie babysits her
sister's kids every other Saturday. Suzie needs something that allows her to
be alert to the children while they do homework, so the reading she gets
engrossed in is out of the question. She takes up crocheting.
- It's something they can do with their children. Mike
works as an accountant, which is a great job. But it's not a job you can
talk with your kids about and expect them to be enthralled. So each quarter
(remember, Mike is an accountant), they decide on a new craft to do
together. They've made dolls, built spectacular birdhouses, and knitted
sweaters. Most of the things they made didn't turn out all that great; store
bought was better. But that wasn't the point of doing the craft projects
- They want to teach their children craftsmanship.
- Their kids join scouting and do various crafts to
earn merit badges.
Depending on the particular line(s) of craft you choose,
the benefits include:
- Improved memory. Exercising the memory by learning
something new improves overall memory, academic performance, and mental
- Better hand-eye coordination. You may have noticed
that people with poor hand-eye coordination almost never do anything to
improve it? This is a use or lose it proposition.
- Relaxation. Many crafts are, by their nature,
relaxing to engage in. Others can cause some stress, until you reach a
certain level of proficiency. Then they are relaxing.
- Emotional satisfaction. Completing a tough craft
project and being able to show others the fine job you did is immensely
- Saving money. For some crafts, you're going to spend
extra money on things you would not normally buy; making dolls, for example.
For other crafts, you are essentially replacing store-bought goods with ones
you make yourself; clothing, for example.
- Making money. Those dolls from the previous example
are a good one for this example. Ditto for any other kind of goods that a
local merchant might sell on commission or that you might sell online.
- Craftsmanship. This might be the main benefit for
most people engaged in crafts, and it's one of the most rewarding aspects in
terms of emotional well-being. Doing something in such a way that your pride
in your work is written all over it is not only a great way to build and
maintain your self-esteem, but it also says something about you. It can be
an instant generator of respect or, as is often the case, outright awe.