Friday, June 24, 2022

The Gentle Arts

“For the gentle arts are just that, gentle.  They do no demand to be practiced. No one is obliged to pursue them. They have not been taken up by any government department and regulated and repackaged with health and safety messages and warnings. They are a matter of individual and personal choice. They can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest and the ability to thread a needle, break an egg, choose a color or wield a pair of scissors. They don’t require complicated skills, qualifications, training or equipment. They don’t take up much space, create dirt and mess (although you may find yourself leaving the house covered in little threads or fibers) or impinge on others’ lives.

What they do require, though, is a conscious choice to do something “old-fashioned’ and “quaint”, to choose not to buy and consume endlessly, but to make and create for a change.

The gentle arts are not all-or-nothing decisions though. Fortunately, there are no legal guidelines about how much is good for you. So you can consider yourself a practioner whether you decide to bake a cake or knit a sock once in a while, or live a life packed with quilting and stitching. It’s the awareness of the worth of the gentle arts that counts, the ability to see that the feminists of the 1970’s were misguided when they thought that teaching young girls to devalue domesticity constituted progress.

Just as its possible to combine the gentle arts with all sorts of lifestyles - full time work, part-time work, unpaid work - so it’s possible to combine a range of skills. Many how-to craft books catergorize readers as knitters or quilters or embroiderers, without considering the possibility that they may be all of these, and more. Anyone who likes knitting may enjoy crochet, those who work with a needle may love hand-quilting  or embroidering, an embroiderer may want to bake cakes as a subject for a textile piece. And so the connections go on to create a world of colorful tactile possibilites that are limited only by your reluctance to try something new.”

- JANE BROCKET
The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art and the Comforts of Home

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