Thursday, June 19, 2008

Earthly Possessions

I was thinking about John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath" the other night. This is the heartbreaking story of the "Okies" (sharecroppers who have lost their farms from Oklahoma's dustbowl) traveling across the country in a mass exodus to pick oranges in California. The novel follows the Joads as they face losing their house and packing all their possessions into a truck and travelling the dangerous roads only to face ostracisation, poverty and exploitation in the promised land of California. Throughout all this the family is held together by the humanity and strength of Ma Joad and the far off promise of a dignified life and a home of their own.

In one scene of "The Grapes of Wrath" the wonderfully named "Rose of Sharon" the teenage daughter of the Joads is very excited about going to the orange pickers regular Friday dance as she has a new dress. This is her ONLY dress and in a couple of weeks time it will be old and faded but for that one Friday night it is brand new, pretty and promising.

In this Western world of excess and waste I often worry about being a maker of luxury goods. In the past people would have only had a couple of bowls, there was no possibility of going to Ikea and buying more for $5 each. Everything people had would have been treasured and preserved for as long as possible as it was a privilege to own possessions. Handmade goods are expensive and they still represent the true value of goods, the fact that it takes many hours manual labour to make a bowl means that a handmade bowl should be treasured.

A Jackie Gasson vase from exhibition "Softly Softly" currently showing at Maleny Artworks.

Everything we own should be treasured and I can't help feeling that if the price we paid reflected the true value of the work and resources that went into making something the vagaries of fashion wouldn't be a factor in our purchasing of more stuff and we'd take better care of our possessions.

Two Sisters (close in age) from "Nests-Series 2"


andrew widdis said...

How true. But, hopefully blogs like yours can/will give insight to the wider public about the hours of devotion that goes into a finely crafted object.
It's the dumming down of the publics understanding of “quality” that makes them think that "IKEA" is the cutting edge of contemporary design. And the desire for quantity rather than quality that allows it.

Cheryl said...

How often do we see a mass-produced item priced unreasonably and know it is churned out by the thousands? A hand-made item has love, care, thought, dedication, talent, years of training and skill put into it and is sold for a smidgen of its true value. We need to reassess our values and buy only what we truely know to be an artists' work and then we will love this item and cherish it and pass it on to our children.