Handmade love

When was the last time you made something?  Something with your own hands?  When was the last time you had to think outside of work or the daily grind and make something with the sole purpose of making someone you love happy?

There was a time in our lives when this was a preoccupation.  No doubt in early school you brought home pictures and paintings, colourful alphabets with seven strokes on the 'E' and a backwards 'S'. Adorable stuff.  I'm sure there were lopsided thumb pots and ashtrays for dads that didn't smoke.

Remember mix cassette tapes? The process, the selections, the favourites and the ones designed to throw the listener, but hopefully win them over or make their summer.

Have you ever received something like that, a painting from a friend, a batch of homebrew or a beautiful meal cooked in your honour?  Have you ever been thought of so strongly that someone gave you a handmade gift from their heart or vice versa?

First there's the satisfaction of completing a project you actually believe in and then there's the pride of having someone appreciate the effort and time you've invested.  This is something very difficult to deliver in a brand or store-bought gift, yet it is something I always want to imbue in every piece of my own work, the essence of craft or the human touch.  It has to make you feel special and the further you remove yourself from that, the less you feel.

I was recently 'stuck' in London as a result of the volcanic eruption in Iceland and some friends very generously put me up for the week. It was great to be back in my London, and to be with some great people helping me through an otherwise annoying and interruptive time. This was made infinitely easier because their one-year-old, Archie, and I spent some quality time together.

When I eventually arrived home I wanted to thank them with something that meant something, something special.  I racked my brains going through many of the usual things - lovely but stereotypical Australian ideas. In the end I thought this gift should be personal and should literally come from me, from my two hands.

So I made the teddy bear pictured here as a piece of me to say 'thank you'.  There were a million other things I could have made, but I hope this lasts. I hope when I get to see Archie and his parents again, he might even remember who I am.  He'll probably be walking and have an extensive vocabulary, but I like being the guy that gave him a teddy years ago and even if the next time I see him he's a dangly, awkward teenager I'll still be that guy.

It doesn't matter what you make or how you do it, but there is a feeling that can only come from this kind of work.  It is the reason I do what I do, why I feel compelled to create and support anyone that does too.

So my question for the week is simple, forget the brands, forget the market and ask yourself: when was the last time you wanted something to be so special that you had to do it yourself?  What were the results and how did it make you feel?

This article Handmade love was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.