“I don’t want to die without any scars,” said the narrator in Fight Club, and the majority of this website’s highly creative readers probably agree. Most of us spend the majority of our time looking at our screens and my past roles as a student, journalist and now writing for the Costume Rag are no different.
In fact, while my sewist partner and I share a small flat crammed with fabric and sewing equipment all I need is a sofa and my laptop – providing my wardrobe is safe. But such an existence feels empty and barren even if it is the ultimate objective of many Millennials. Fortunately despite my digital incarceration I cannot escape the small scars on my hands that are echoes of a past existence.
The Joy of Crafts
As a child and young teenager I was a craftsman. I loved working in the garden on projects all the time. I’ve made siege engines, attempted bronze casting and blacksmithing, flying balsa wood models and more. Duct tape and Polyfilla were my games console. A scar on my thumb hails from when I wore my dad’s Australian leather hat on a day out and, visiting the gents, removed the hat as I was going indoors and never picked it up again. Months later I got hold of some hard leather and tried to replicate that hat, only to badly sever my thumb in the process. I eased my mind about the resultant scar that it was a sign that, while friends at school fixated on video games, I was out and about crafting.
Today I remember this and think what I have lost. My tools are no longer chisels and a vice but an Ipad, SEO keywords and WordPress plugins. Assignments at a higher level of school first challenged my projects but now confining both mine and my partner’s lives into a studio flat makes trying anything nearly impossible. Switching to “recreation mode” has become opening a beer and turning my Ipad from analytics to World of Tanks. But recently on holiday at a coastal cottage I was struck by my sudden satisfaction and attention-span when chopping wood and easily lighting a fire with wet wood without firelighters for the first time in years. How hipster indeed.
Our skills with our hands are perhaps some of our most precious abilities. They may not be profitable nor efficient and we almost certainly wouldn’t want to rely on them to live like our ancestors, but to completely isolate oneself with a physical task offers an unparalleled level of focus and clarity. Our society seems to fixate on driving us towards careers and money but we must not forget to stop and gain some perspective. We don’t need Iron Man or Tough Mudder challenges – just sharp knives and pieces of wood or sewing patterns and a heap of fabric.
Never Too Late
If you don’t already have a craft then it is never too late to start. Thankfully another quality of crafts is the journey is so personal and “success” so subjective – or even redundant – that is doesn’t matter if you’re not good. Sadly the internet – and Youtube in particular – means that we are exposed to experts with millions of hits on hyper-realistic drawing or beautiful sculptures. Just look at this Instagram star who makes hauntingly real Victorian dolls.
So, start now. The question is where. Grab a book and some basic materials – never invest too much at the start. Plenty of people make the mistake of committing to a hobby and spending loads of money. Take it slow and use Google as your friend. Start small and then expand to take it further. Just within sewing and costume there is a wealth of new things to try like making corsets, breaking down costumes and leatherwork. What about taking a step into cosplay and looking at armour (we’ve got some great Black Panther cosplay tips here).
Here are some other little projects to try:
- Casting low-tempertaure metals
- Polymorph sculpting
- Making hats from a felt blank.
- Precious metal clay jewellery
- Casting wax (Ever wanted melting pyramid of skull candles but been put off by the price tag? This is your solution!)
- Casting silver with the lost-wax method? A great way to make your own heavy metal jewellery.
- Customising leather items with leather paint, studs, spikes and band t-shirt graphics.