Saturday, 21 December 2013


I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring the books “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent” written by Tom Hodgkinson.  I enjoyed a lot of the ideas expressed in these books, and think that exploring them further will help me to explore the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

Chapter 26 – The reign of the ugly is over; long live beauty, quality, fraternity! – HAIL THE CHISEL

Things used to be more beautiful.  When you start mass-producing things, you start to think about the bottom line, and convenience, and the quality and beauty of a thing is diminished.  Tom talks about how clothes have become plainer as time has gone on, more plain and less embellished.  (Has he been to Primark lately?  There's plenty of embellishment going on in there.  In fact, it's the rich who choose, simple, plain, less embellished "classic lines").  Yet again here Tom blames the descent into plain and ugly on the puritans for whom decoration and colour were frivolity and to be frowned upon.  So to counter this, avoid ugliness, and learn and embrace crafts.  Only buy beautiful things, only make beautiful things.  Avoid plastic at all costs.

How does this match up to the ink-spots-and-grass-stains life?
In some ways I disagree with this.  While I do agree that individuality is beautiful in its own way, and that nothing beats true craftsmanship for real quality and beauty; it's also true to say that not everything handmade is either beautiful or good quality (depends on the hands!), and that mass producing decorative items mean that many more people have been able to afford to think about how their home looks, and put their own identity on it, rather than being stuck with what they could afford, which would have been practical and simple rather than necessarily aesthetically pleasing.  It's really only now that we have had the luxury of seeing and choosing rococco ornate that we have chosen to go back to the simple, rustic look.

Saying that though, I was struck yesterday by a beautiful and well made piece of furniture which had just been installed at the pre-school, and which was a bespoke item hand made by a local joiner.  Definitely better than anything we could have got from our friendly scandinavian furniture warehouse, but probably considerably more expensive.  Not everybody can choose to go the handmade route.

I definitely do crafts, and I choose to make things where I can.  But making things takes time, and buying hand made crafts costs money.  Once I'm established on the crafting scene, perhaps I'll be able to exchange practical and beautiful handmade items with my fellow crafters.

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