On Working With Your Hands + Creating Value

All day yesterday I was a lazy sack of bones.

I’m serious.

I sat in my pajamas, on my aunt’s couch and watched movies, cooking shows, and ate.  I only walked the few feet to the kitchen to get more water or open the fridge.

Horrible, I know. And yet, it was incredible! It was exactly what I needed! It was energy saving and recharging all at the same time. It is  something I need to practice more often.

Anyhow, in ALL of that sitting yesterday, I did a lot of work with my hands. I cut out 108 envelope linings by hand and I knitted a scarf.

See, I started off my day a bit early, around 8:45am and I read a few pages of my book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” before anyone (I was visiting my aunt’s home) woke up and I wouldn’t get another word read.  As my aunt and family started to wake up, I started to prepare to tackle other activities that needed to get tackled over the course of the day.

The first thing I did was pull out my envelope lining project.  As I mentioned just a few sentences above, I cut out 108 envelope linings. By the time I was done, my wrists were a bit annoyed and my brain kept thinking, “Why do you like stationery so much?”, but it was the perfect job to knock out as my 10-year-old cousin asked me every single question she could think of during the hour and a half it took me to cut each piece.

When I finished that project, I then switched to my scarf project.  I’m glad to say that I finished it last night before heading to bed. That was a solid 8 hours or so of knitting, but I finished and I’m glad I took the time to finish.  Now, I can move on to finishing another knitting project and then starting the next three (so many babies!). I can also move toward other sources of inspiration. See every time I knit, I am further inspired to design with paper.

As I got ready for bed, I realized that I spent the entire day yes, sitting on my butt, and watching bad, bad movies, but I talked to my cousin, relaxed my mind, and worked with my hands.

To me that is the secret of life, making things with your hands. It could be as simple as a note (my preferred method of communication), or as big as a knitted, sewn, painted, and cooked item. We all have skills and tools that allow us to create in these manners. The person that says, “oh, I can’t cook for the life of me” can probably grow the most amazing tomatoes, or sew the most gorgeous dress, or sketch the most real-life drawings. That’s the beauty of working with our hands.

Then think about all the  skill-based people like the carpenters, mechanics, and farmers-their craft is just as beautiful. Think about how awesome your car is after it’s been repaired (if you have a good mechanic you trust and they haven’t tried to rip you off), or food you bought directly from a farm (maybe you have a relationship with the farmer, or you know the growing methods and value them).

Since starting S2 Stationery and Design, I’ve learned to appreciate everything that is done by an individual’s two hands. I know it sounds simplistic, but as someone who finds value and rewards in cutting a piece of paper and maybe tying a bow around it, I find the value in the work that those who use their own hands do; It is not just great in creating value of skills and products, but in self, too.

Believe it or not, but this posting started over two months ago, after I attended the Brooklyn extension of “Hello Etsy“,  a summit on small business and sustainability put on by Etsy in Berlin, but with sessions going on in the US.  The keynote presenter that day was Matthew B. Crawford who wrote a book called,  “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work“. I have yet to read the book, but I’m excited to pick up a copy and give it a read. You’d think that between September and now, November, I’d have done so, but I’ve been busy reading and making and doing a whole mess of other things that I’ve only just managed to finish reading “The Help”.

Anyhow, I remember as I listened to Matt talk about how he ended up working with his hands that day, I couldn’t help but notice that I enjoy working with my hands. I think I always have, since I was a kid, actually, but as each day has gone by in the last two years, I’ve notice it more.

A few weeks ago, while at the seminar my 9-to-5 sent me to, I was out with a fellow seminar attendee and he mentioned how it feels weird to write notes down. He told me that his hand cramps up from not having written as much ever and you know, he’s right. When you don’t spend time writing, your hands don’t know what to do with themselves when they do. It’s like getting up to run after never having run before- instinctive, but painful and exhausting.

While I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic, it was only yesterday that it hit me just how important it is to love, nurture and protect my hands. Even now, I’m typing this post, but you know, it requires my hands. I don’t always feel fulfilled having spent the entire day typing, but I find that everything we touch as individuals, when filled with love and passion, can have value.

This post started out as a homage to solely working with your hands and being that artist like person, but really what I’ve come to realize is that it all comes down to value. Your hands are involved every step of the way (including when you’re lazily sitting on the couch flipping channels) and so what matters is how happy your are creating whatever it is you are creating, even if it is stringing words and sentences together using a computer keyboard and monitor.

My one piece of advice however, if you are sitting in a chair on a computer all day, do take a minute to doodle. It’ll give your hands another space to work with and can even stretch your imagination.

Oh, and if you ever feel a draw to the world that is skill-based and requires you to leave an office environment…explore it. You may learn quite a bit about world value and what your own two hands are capable of accomplishing.

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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

2 thoughts on “On Working With Your Hands + Creating Value”

  1. Thanks for posting.
    I was a jeweler for many years, mostly repairs and retail. I was very good at retail but I really enjoyed repairing. On a busy day I wouldn’t notice the time fly by. The nicest part though was that people were so sad when they came in (broken jewelry) and so happy when they left. I feel there is something primal about working with your hands. I can’t really explain it. I have this idea, problem or need that arises and I seem to go to a space deep inside myself. I try to visualize the final solution, but in the end, my hands save the day.

    1. Hi! I’m so glad that you wrote and shared your experience. It makes me happy to know that there are individuals like you and I, that really value our hands and how they can save the day. I completely understand the feeling of “something primal about working with your hands.” We are fortunate to know the feeling. Part of me wishes that individuals out there facing whatever problems they are, could take that feeling and make something very real to solve their problem.

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