making things to be well-loved

by Abigail Percy on 06/03/2006

in Historic Craft

It’s great to see something well-loved. I love the idea that objects have secret lives we somehow project on them, and over time their history becomes apparent physically. The object becomes a record, and is filled with ‘meaning’ and magic. As we make things, we can also imagine how (hopefully) usage will mark them.

[Designers] look at how things age… how things are used… how things break. Ultimately trying to fathom how the patina of everyday existence builds upon the objects in our lives. Somehow, this ‘social life’ of objects, their wear and tear, breaths life into things that designers only half complete.
From thinking about things.

This is my friend Sinéad, who has her cotton bunny, crocheted by her neighbor. As the evening wears on, she is known to drape it over her neck, and bring it to her nose to smell it, because it smells particularly wonderful. Thanks for letting me post it here, Sínead.

well-loved bunny

It’s great to think, if you make something by hand, that it could be so treasured as to bear the marks of being held for so long. It flaunts long-wearing in the face of mass-production and consumption. It bears thinking about how our lives and our environs are made meaningless in many ways by a throw-away attitude towards materials and resources. If you’ve been lucky to have the Velveteen Rabbit in your childhood, you can appreciate this quote:

From: The Velveteen Principles | News & Reviews
The Velveteen Rabbit is Margery Williams’ clever and aphoristic nursery story about a toy stuffed rabbit who was suddenly thrust into a world populated by an apparently well-to-do child’s numerous and varied toys. In the 1920’s world of material excess, this book provided popular appeal as it discouraged getting too tied up in a mechanistic, mass produced world and favored instead using one’s unique life experiences to discover the treasure of individuality, meaning and purpose. The Velveteen Rabbit, at great risk to himself, helps the boy endure scarlet fever and discover the value of his life, but is then ordered thrown onto the trash pile by a germophobic physician (the Humanists never have liked technology much!). Just as he is to be consumed by flames, he discovers he is real, and makes a choice to live.

Oh I also found the Velveteen Rabbit story online. Ok, this quote about ‘becoming real’ might make me sob. The skin horse explains:

“”You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Of course, there was no reason to throw the velveteen rabbit on the pyre! “With children, items like well-loved stuffed animals that can’t be easily laundered can be tumbled in a hot dryer for ten to fifteen minutes to kill the bugs.” From What’s that bug.

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