I am constantly astounded by synchronicity in the way ideas present themselves into my sphere of being, even though I know that is how the universe works. I inevitably am reading three or four books of varying types at a time. Today, while resting my legs, I picked up Between Form and Freedom by Betty Staley, which I have been reading for spiritual and practical ideas for working and living with my late-teen-years daughter. This book is written with the perspective of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy or anthroposophy. It was serendipitous, after just posting about art, that the chapter I came to in my reading was about art. I want to share some excerpts that were particularly meaningful to me:
We live in a world that is splintered. The spiritual life is separated from scientific and artistic life. We classify knowledge and experiences into neat compartments, but the soul of the human being fights against such fragmentation and cries out for unity, for interrelationship. . . . Art is the healing remedy for fragmentation. . . .
Art becomes the saving grace for human beings cut off from their spiritual origins and suffering from the loneliness of the human condition. . . . When human beings feel whole once again, they are able to use their energy to enliven and transform social life. . . .
When we engage in artistic processes, we have a conversation with our inner being. We are not so concerned with the product of our work as with the process, which puts us in touch with the spiritual in us. In most activities of daily life, we respond to the outer world, but art allows us to awaken our inner eye and inner ear to imagination and inspiration. It helps us understand our thinking, feeling, willing and to gain insights into who we are and who we are not. It helps us explore the qualities as well as the quantities of life.
As [we] experience the many-textured levels of artistic process, the diverse ways of coming to an answer, the richness of metaphor in language, of rhythm and melody, of the living quality of form and space, [our] capacity for imagination deepens and [our] inner soul-space expands. A transformation of the common place stimulates [our] consciousness and sense of existence. . . .
When we create something artistically, we stand before a mystery, something unknown. We feel that something alive is present and that we are the means for it to come into physical form. . . . [We] experience the artistic process as a time of quiet contemplation and communication. It resembles a conversation between lover and the beloved. This is the power of art. . . .
When the artistic approach is applied to the everyday world, to the dishes we eat from, the clothes we wear, the furnishings in our homes, we imbue our surroundings with beauty and care. . . . To make a well-formed plate of clay and take it though the entire process until it is ready for the table; to card, dye and spin wool, and then use it for knitting or weaving an article of clothing or household item; to make a bookcase or a chair; to print calligraphic invitations; to bind a book; to make a stained glass window; or to do any one of a variety of other crafts is a major accomplishment. . . .
The word craft once meant power or magic. It is not surprising, then, that those who take hold of a craft develop power in their lives.
Staley, Betty. Between Form and Freedom. Stroud, UK: Hawthorn Press, 1988.
These observations from Rudolf Steiner’s worldview that Betty Staley so aptly lays out illustrate the meaning of art and craft in my life. My home is significant and spiritually satisfying because I have infused it with artistic beauty. Antique dolls and Depression Glass are a considerable part of the heart and soul of my home. I have a deep sense of satisfaction, and perhaps of power, when I create something artistic; a handmade dress for an antique doll, a crocheted shawl made from soft natural fiber, a delicious and nourishing meal, a poem, a well written blog post. And I usually spend time in contemplation and communication with the physical form of what I have brought to life.
Much more observation and contemplation could be written about the spirit and meaning of art and craft in our lives (and indeed has). I welcome your observations and comments here.
In the shop fluorescence frames
Substance of years past
In shades of daguerreotype
Until on a shelf, on paper doilies,
Gleaming abreast of crystal twinkle lights
I behold a red glass cup
Shimmering in that clutter of decades
Like a garnet embedded in a cavern wall
Millennia past compressed of primordial vegetation
A gemstone hiding in darkness
Facets beckoning to be sought.
The cup flows, curves like a womb
Lifeblood of grandmothers and great-grandmothers
Immutably setting tables with gossamer lace,
With Ruby Red glass
Boasting warm cookies, hot tea,
Tinkling sounds like echoes of laughter.
Rotund glass glows within from twinkle light
Embodied like an embryo
Fecund with viability, filial love, felicity
Apposing danger red, war red, depression red.
I take the red cup from its insipid shelf
Exchanging only a few paper bills and clinking coins
For its florid rubescence.
I take it home
To hold my hot tea, my laughter,
To glimmer like a garnet
On cotton lace.
~~ Jennifer Anne Stewart 1997