The traditional arts have been practiced for thousands of years as a way of sustaining life, of bringing social cohesion to communities and nations, and to remind us that we are in a continuous process of co-creation with the highest source of inspiration. Functional vessels; pots, baskets, woven bags, and wooden & metal vessels aided our earliest ancestors in the movement and containment of life sustaining resources like water, food, and medicines. Pattern and surface design applied to these objects added a narrative element often detailing the mythology or spiritual story of the people, their genealogical lineage, their shared values and their moral ethos.
Ancient civilizations are full of examples. Greek and Roman pottery that depicted mythological figures, stories of battle, and scenes of everyday life. Textiles such as Scottish tartan that indicated a person’s region of origin or membership in a particular clan. The beaded Wampum belts of the Haudenosaunee and Onondaga people describe the stories of exchange and agreements made between groups, and with early settlers. These objects constituted not just beautiful objects with incredible time and care invested in their production, but served as a means of communication, record keeping, and transmission of a world view from one generation to the next.
The production and use of craft also fulfilled a spiritual function for people from all manner of religious and spiritual precepts. Everything from Christian iconography richly depicted in stained glass, mosaic, and fresco painting, to the 81,258 woodblock carvings that comprise The Tripitaka Koreana (Korean Buddhist texts), to the stringing of mala or rosary beads, or the crafting of a Tibetan singing bowl. All of these processes of making and their use in the culture have served to orient humans towards that which is greater than their individuality and their ephemeral existence. These objects united people in prayer, worship, meditation, communion, and acts of service to others and to God. For the crafts-person there may be a sense of purpose deeply bound to the communication of the highest ideals, and a process of bringing Divinity through the creation of beauty here on earth in physical form.
Many of these objects are humble and functional, ordinary in form and yet powerful in their purpose. The significance of these objects continues to inspire and serve us today even as the methods of production, distribution and use are changing radically. Because of how intimately these objects are integrated in our lives it can be easy to overlook the magnitude of their importance. A handcrafted bowl for your meal, a string of beads handed down from your grandmother, a hand-woven garment brought home from your travels in Borneo, a few bars of delicately crafted soaps purchased from an artisan at your local farmers’ market or an architectural embellishment on the door of your church, university, or city hall all add richness to the movements and musings of your life, although you may hardly notice. You may not stop to contemplate the loving attention of the craftsman that is undoubtedly contained therein. Yet each one ties us back to a moment of our shared history. These objects contain our family’s legacy. They express our appreciation of people and traditions of other cultures. They participate in our present experience of belonging to a community, and maintain our union with all humans and The Divine across time and space through these perennial practices of making.
Rising Moon Gallery exists for the purpose of maintaining this tradition. A tradition that has brought immeasurable beauty, knowledge and meaning to my own life and that I feel is more important than ever to share with you. This gallery exists to preserve the old way. The way that is and always has been embedded in each of us regardless of our differences. These traditions are the unity that underpins our remarkable diversity. it is the old way that maintains masterful and meditative methods of making. The way that sustains a local economy by fostering direct relationships between human beings in a physical market place and enriches people’s lives with handcrafted objects produced in their own community. It is the way that invites people away from their screens and into the wonder and magic of a full sensory experience in a well conceived gallery space where they can learn about the stories of the artists and the meaning of the work through dialogue, skillful curation, and mutually beneficial trade.
As our culture hurdles towards a paradigm shift with the inception of artificial intelligence into the creative fields and as social media plays an ever greater role in our interactions, the traditional arts can serve as an anchor to who we really are in the deepest and most substantial sense. When we outsource our thinking, writing, imagining and composing to machines, we may risk losing a part of who we are. And no small part, but the part that makes us intrinsically human: our Divine creative spark. As we embrace these hyper-novel technologies that are evolving far more rapidly than our brains, cultures, and ethics, we see and feel the rift that is growing between our most basic human impulse for direct relationship and the temptation to live at a "safe" distance from others through the screen. We are learning that while these modes of communication and marketing bring certain gifts of convenience and efficiency, while providing greater access to products and information, it also creates a void for the way that we have obtained objects and information for thousands of years, namely through direct trade and storytelling.
in 2018, the government of the UK appointed a "Minister of Loneliness" and subsequently, other nations are following suit. Japan has also appointed a minister of loneliness and institutions such as the NIH (USA) are studying the profound health impacts of widespread loneliness. Indeed it is being termed "An Epidemic of Loneliness". As a maker and an active participant in the daily social activities of in-person commerce, I can speak to the gift that is feeling connected with my community through my craft. That doesn't mean that I form a friendship with everyone I sell my work to, but it means that I come to recognize the members of my community. I learn their names and they learn mine. We make warmth and friendliness available to each other in the simplest of transactions. I often think of particular clients or customer when I select my stones for jewellery or when I envision a new design for a pot because I learn their preferences and what iterations of beauty light them up. And in turn, my clients and customers think of me when they need something I can provide or when they find something in nature like a feather or a bone that they bring to me to use in my sculptures. We are in each other's consciousness and seek ways to enrich each other's lives through the production and exchange of beautiful objects. When we meet, we speak, we see each other, we read each other's body language and sometimes even provide a compassionate ear. These interactions plug us back in to our primal psyche, the one that depends on knowing the other people around us, and we remind each other of our basic belonging. That simple exchange is so fundamental to our wellness, so rudimentary and intrinsic to our human nature that we don't even think about it all. It seems entirely logical that if these organic interactions are removed or reduced in our daily activities and replaced with digital transactions, we are certain to suffer loneliness, anxiety and even grief and depression. The causes of these problems of spirit and psyche are certainly multi-faceted but one simple thing we could do to help ourselves is to prioritize buying in person; sustain the old fashioned market place where people have always gone to obtain not only the physical goods they need to live, but also the interactions that sustain their mental and social well being. This is what artists and producers of handmade goods are offering; not just the beautiful object, but the preciousness of human connection.
That is why my business model prioritizes time spent selling in physical markets and shows where I am in relationship with my buyers, rather than via e-commerce. It is why I prioritize creating a physical space in the Uptown center where you can come and observe the production, hear the music, smell the plant aromas in our soaps, touch the textures of clay and fabric, experience the curation of a variety of different objects placed in very intentional relationship to each other to tell a story, rather than establishing an Etsy “store”. It is why I prioritize mastering my craft and the processes of making by hand the way countless generations before me did, over learning how to use design programs and 3-D printers or digital cutting tools that will do it for me. It is why I am more interested in reading and writing about the traditions that got us here than I am in promoting myself on social media.
I am not dismissing these technologies and modes of communication wholesale. I can see there are also many valuable gifts and opportunities therein. These new ways are also worthy of learning to use in service of craft and the craft economy. They broaden the scope of access to ideas and images making the traditional arts of any historical period or geographical region available to anyone anywhere, and from that may emerge an expanded appreciation of craft. these new ways also expand the market for makers creating new opportunities to earn income from their craft. But like so many artists, I struggle with the tension between making my work and selling and promoting my work. I am only one human and can’t do all of the things masterfully so I have to prioritize my time and energy. I choose to focus on the old ways of making and trading because in the end of my life’s work, it will be my pots that remain to tell our story perhaps for thousands of years more, and not my Instagram account. Our technologies become obsolete faster than we can learn them, but the clay of the earth does not. The clay of the earth passes through the eras and the rise and fall of civilizations.