Craft as Communion

Arts + Culture

Craft as Communion

Britnie Dates

Anyone who has made anything knows, even if not consciously: making is more than doing.

That end exists, but we are led there by many quiet, intimate steps. Craft is the mode of making we are naturally drawn to, how we seek to make sense of our surroundings. Far from a one-time project, craft is the honed method we cannot help but to engage, learning along the way that the honing is expansive. Imagination and daily living happen before and throughout our attempts at craft. As does the inner questioning (sometimes, negotiations) around what will be made at the time of creation. It includes our circumstances and contending with the world we live in, so there are times when we cannot help but let an idea flow forth uninterrupted. Other times, we encounter a kind of silence where nothing seems to break through. In every case, our making takes a commitment beyond just doing—to sitting and embracing each step leading to craft for what it is.

Our work turns to endless toil when making is solely output and with toil, there is never enough. Toil - output - ignores the life being cultivated as we choose to move toward and through creation, feeling around in the unknown until the way is revealed. Poet Carl Phillips has written it this way, “Art isn’t a goal to be checked from a list of goals…for me, at least, art is the result of my having allowed myself to stray from any marked path and become lost. The poem is the evidence—like tracks, or footprints—of my quest into and across strange territory, the shape I’ve left almost as if unintentionally behind me.”

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In order for our work to be more than entertainment and reaction, it is a necessary practice to value the inner life of making. The inner life is an understanding that we do not control our outward, innate expression, but can explore and steward it with honor. Repetition and fidelity to making is how we come closer to the inner life, to seeing it as spiritual union. When we do, we simultaneously create space for something greater to be experienced—our work bears witness to the space of abundance. Craft, the act of it, is both sacred fellowship and bond. Craft is communion, the pursuit just as important as what that devotion yields and our practice is to return here as often as we are able.

Tending to the soul is care for our work; that is how we come to see making not as toil, but as an invitation. Holy communion follows a rhythm of taking, blessing, breaking, and giving. Creation, both craft and context, welcomes us to a similar cycle of feasting and sharing. The heart of our work is made alive here and, as we traverse one path or chart anew another, we emerge with a plate for our fellow spirits.

The journey asks us to remember from where we came and where we are now. Work devoid of connection from these runs the risk of forgetting what it took to get here, ultimately forgetting who we are. And so we learn to examine ourselves, contemplating often our motives for making. We consider what weighs on us, what compels us, what our hearts have become hardened by, or what we are indifferent towards. Ignoring these thoughts may recall the lapses of silence we face in creating, where it feels as though nothing will ever come forward when we desire it to.

But what feels like an obstacle might actually bring us to indulge what our inner lives need most. If production for production’s sake is not the goal, then we can seek enjoyment and solitude within the in-between moments of literal making. We come to know silence as a refuge. Refueling by taking a longer walk than usual, trying a new recipe, or sparing more time for conversations with friends, can fundamentally shift our perspective. We begin to notice what we didn’t see before and intuitively bring those details with us to the next round of creation. The remembrance and examination and embracing, applied then in craft, all build up to something solid that will never stop giving: hope.

Craft as communion is a sharing: of time, of mind, of heart. In creating from a place of fellowship, we invite each other to partake in inner feasting. Here is a co-mingling of ideas, those of others and our own, merging to form a way that is whole. Art and the act of creation an ever-present reminder that our worlds are not set apart from one another. On the contrary, we exist here together. If we want it to be, our making is a marker of a better way of living.

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Consistently engaging in what we can do is a matter of effort cloaked in willingness. We take the mistakes of attempting something new and the triumphs of seeing things come together as envisioned and revelations sparsely scattered amidst ordinary days all the same because practice is pleased with formation, with “long obedience in the same direction.” Communion is how we come to revere making as more than genius and forgo the flash-in-the-pan. The posture of creation is sustained by our response of humble acceptance to an invitation: shared vulnerability.

Editor's Note

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Obiekwe "Obi" Okolo

Guest Editor

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