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What Artisans Do for Us

I just finished a craft fair this past weekend and while wandering around, I noticed few artisans. There were plenty of crafters, but few artisans. This post isn't about the difference, but what artisans do for their communities. Below is a photo of a furoshiki wrapping two bottles of wine - a very eco-friendly way to give a gift. I'll explain more about furoshikis later, but take a time to consider this: what do artisans do for their communities?

Have you ever considered just why we need the arts in our lives? Most people can understand the need for music, drama and painting in schools and life - after all they provide entertainment and beautify our lives. But what about the other artists? The Artisans - just what do the potters and weavers and glassmakers and others do for us?

I can think of seven big things that they do for us:
  1. Go Green. Artisans help us go green. Think about how much we throw away each day - whether through recycling or not: plastic bottles, paper plates, paper towels and napkins, to go cups, plastic wrapping on toys, plastic bags . . . and the list continues. My family - which does have a weaver in the household - still manages to throw out quite a bit. We have a wood stove as well, so most of our paper products such as paper towels and junk mail, actually go into the fireplace, but it is still quite a bit. Using reusable items whether cloth napkins or other items actually helps us conserve our world. 
  2. Save Green. This one always surprises people at least people who don't consider the full cost. Purchasing cheap items that wear out quickly or fall apart after normal use doesn't save money. Putting money into items that will last does save money.
  3. Provide income for villages. This one is the favorite thing to do within microenterprises, and it's a good way to not only support communities, but save world crafts that are in danger of being loss. Think of it as Slow Food for artisans.
  4. Connect us to our past. Artisans by doing what they do keep us connected to those who have gone before, and help us learn about those cultures. Think of the Ancient Egyptians and linen. We cannot make what they made on the simple looms that they made. It is the modern day weavers who are attempting to keep the craft alive . . . and learn what we have lost.
  5. Provide beauty. It isn't only the artisans who do this, but artists in general, but artisans provide beauty in everyday settings. I love tea; love coffee as well, but tea is a special drink. A teapot is a thing of beauty, and one that has been thrown on a wheel by a master potter, or blown by a master glassblower adds beauty and elegance in an everyday activity.
  6. Teach us. Artisans, whether they provide classes or not, teach us about their crafts. Through magazines, at fairs or in school demonstrations, they teach us about something new and something old. It takes a slightly different way to look at things to be an artisan, and by teaching, they give us a glimpse into that world. 
  7. Challenge us. It might sound crazy, I realize, but artisans challenge us to think differently about our everyday activities and products. Is what I'm doing or using actually beneficial? Will it help me to pass on a gift to my children or grandchildren?
There are more things that the arts do for us. We can all probably think about something else that the arts have done for us. My grandmothers gave me a love of fiber; other family members taught me about woodworking. What about you? What do you think artisans have done to help us? October begins the seasons of giving - whether birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah or another holiday - why not make this a handcrafted holiday season?


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