hidden craft

From Tim Cammisa, Fly Tying, YouTube

From Tim Cammisa, Fly Tying, YouTube

I love finding hidden pockets of making. Like the delicate skill of fly-tying, which has 107,000 hits on YouTube alone, with 440,000 views for just the top clip. But then fishing is the most popular participatory hobby in the UK. And the materials are lovely: feather, fur, leather as well as glitter and neon.
catapultsami_coffee_bag_kit_moreSomething about making tools is particularly attractive. I’ve been buying a catapult kit for my nephew, it’s another area where men are allowed to make stuff. This one, with its tactile mix of wood and metal, is from a knife-making supplier, who also sell a kit for making a Reindeer Leather Coffee Bag Kit, which I really, really wanted to buy too. It would be useful, too, when hedgelaying out in a field somewhere – always muddy and damp, so coffee is essential. The Sami use the bags for tinder – they are waterproof.
Inuit togglepolar bear toggleBrida from The Last KingdomThere’s something about Scandinavian craft that sems very authentic. I’ve met many hedgelayers who love their handmade Swedish axes. Like the reindeer bag, I love Sami and Inuit art, too: I think because it sees no division between art and function. I once copied a polar bear toggle in polymer clay – I usually wear it around my neck, but oh, for a lovely fur wrap to put it on! Maybe something like Brida’s, in TV’s The Last Kingdom…
It’s not always easy to find the right subculture for this stuff: there’s a lot of mock-medieval around, linked to game-playing and dressing up. But even in a tiny online image the real thing stands out: I think it’s about a kind of integrity to the material, or maybe an intention to be functional. My own bear toggle is polymer clay, hardly a traditional material: but it’s pretty practical for a toggle as it has a bit of flex to it. In the US, the key words are often ‘survivalist’ or ‘self-reliance’. Like the knife-making, the context can make it seem more sinister than the folk-singing, coppicing, woodlanders of the UK. Both are pretty anti consumer-capitalism, in my view the subtext of a lot of craft.
From Zak Van Horn's blog

From Zak Van Horn’s blog

The one object that encapsulates both the design and the politics behind this strand of making is this fabulously designed, blacksmith made, blanket pin. It’s also an awl (the pin), and a striker – use the back of a knife for a steel, and it will make a shower of sparks for fire-lighting. There’s a similar pin on Zak Van Horn’s pouch, so you can see how it fastens. So elegant, it could be made in platinum as a high-fashion item: although it wouldn’t work then, of course, as an awl or a striker…
There are great materials online if you are inspired to investigate further: if only there was more time before Christmas I’d be making antler toggles myself….

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