My father instilled in me an appreciation for the handmade. Himself a craftsman, he raised me to make things (practical and impractical) as much as possible; and I often did. But my father, so enamored with what can be done by human hands, tried to teach me that everything handmade is beautiful. The fact is, however, that not everything is. Sometimes the skill is lacking, sometimes there is no essence of design, sometimes a handmade treasure isn’t a treasure at all. I stand firmly in my conviction that handmade is not synonymic with beautiful. More recently though, I came to understand my fathers point (although he does unnecessarily hoard ugly paintings because someone has spent time on them – the amount of time questionable): sometimes even the mundane can become beautiful when crafted by an artisan.
Made by Hand seems to say just that. Somewhat comparable to a Discovery Channel program, Made by Hand is a highly artistic film series that captures the individuals behind crafts we might not think to recognize. I featured one short film in my post on urban beekeeping (how could I not? It was beautiful), but Made by Hand covers an array – The Knife Maker, The Distiller – and will hopefully continue to produce more in the future.
The soft, black and white videos overlaid with the voices of each featured artisan speak to the personal element of the products, the story behind how the artist came to be an artist. My favorite of the short series, The Knife Maker, is rustic. It speaks to a time pre-factory robots while somehow being incomparably modern. Although it seems that contemporary society is futuristic in some elements, there seems to be a large backlash: a tribe of individuals pushing for a more human element. I’d argue that the Knife Maker is one of these individuals, the group behind the video series, the Bureau of Common Goods, another.
When I watched the series I thought I should drop out of college and become a blacksmith. I’m still holding onto the dream for another life where I can make cast iron skillets that are truly beautiful. If anything, the following film might make you stop buying your knives at Target and start browsing Etsy more frequently.
by Rebecca Pollock