With your own two hands lifestyles

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You’re pretty practical.

The thing you did – you did it yourself with a minimum of help and it looks fabulous. It’s almost a professional piece and you have reason to be proud. Look what you’ve made, check it out, then read “Craft: An American History” by Glenn Adamson and see if your ancestors would agree.

Tens of thousands of years ago, humans began crafting, which by definition means the act of a skilled individual creating something by hand. For them, however, tinkering was less fun and more a means of survival.

It was the same when the Europeans came to America: although the pilgrims were quite fond of baskets made by local weavers, artisans from home were in demand to make clothes, plow blades, horseshoes and the like that life required at the time . Today we tend to romanticize these artisans, but the truth is that the work was largely repetitive and there was seldom room for creativity.

Even so, the ability to use a valuable skill came in handy. It ensured the work immediately and for the next generation, as tools and know-how were often passed on from parent to child. For slaves, a craft could benefit from being kept rather than being sold. Released, although sometimes fired for white job-loss protests, used their jobs to give family members freedom. In these cases, the knowledge and skills of a craft gave black artisans and women opportunities that they might not have had without one.

As the mass production of items began, the value of the craft shifted: suddenly clothes could be made without waiting, and factory-made kitchen ware was cheaper. Elite artisans were valued higher, although much of their product was made by “out-workers” who did the real work. At the same time, women were taught homework – some of which, if you look at them now, were handicrafts.

Today, says Adamson, “relatively few of us actually do more crafts,” although our definition of “craft” seems to be changing again …

Let’s start here: this is not a crafting manual. There are no patterns, no instructions, and no ideas to creatively change. Instead, “Craft: An American History” relies entirely on the last word in its subtitle and connects it to several cultures in time.

The other difference between this and a craft manual is that this book isn’t as relaxing as it can be with sewing or woodworking, for example. Author Glenn Adamson delves deeply into the background and meaning of the craft, starting with a pre-pilgrimage to “craft breweries and tattoo parlors …”. Emphasis is placed on the types of handicrafts one could practice for a livelihood While today’s conventional “handicrafts” as we know them – crochet, knitting, metalwork, needlework, jewelry-making – are treated very little, if at all.

That might make a historian happier than a cross-stitcher with this book, but Craft: An American History has something for both. Just think of the depth so find it, but keep a bookmark handy.

“Craft: An American History” by Glenn Adamson, 387 pages, c. 2021, Bloomsbury Publishing $ 30.

• Terri Schlichenmeyer of The Bookworm Sez is a self-syndicated book reviews columnist. Schlichenmeyer’s reviews include books for adults and children of all genres. You can contact them at [email protected]

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