Ravelling and unravelling time: part 1
(University of St Andrews)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores why hand-skills exert a pull which provokes their production, and re-production, and why such skills might be important temperamentally, and developmentally, for human thinking, learning and acts of memory.
Paper long abstract:
Why, I ask myself, did Scottish historian Isobel Grant spend many years of her life collecting "homely highland things", including a range of basketwork furniture, with a remarkable woven settee and a dresser with woven sides? Why do members of the Scottish Basket-makers Circle learn from past basketry forms in a resolved and autodidactic fashion, although their own work takes a contemporary slant? Why, when curator Sandy Fenton put together his remarkable Scottish Life Archive, was one key section entitled "Baskets and creels"? Why did birdwatchers Leonora Rintoul and Evelyn Baxter make the definitive collection of Scottish vernacular baskets in their spare moments away from documenting Scottish birdlife? And why did German photographer Werner Kissling become fixated on documenting twining and basket weaving during his 1930s Hebridean visits? We may debate about the why's of the human fascination for creativity, skill, handwork, even tradition, and come up with a multiplicity of explanations. The diverse explanations for people's concern for skill will change, but the fact of this fascination remains, even when faced with its obsolescence. This paper explores why, like human life itself, the handwork entailed in basketry, and other hand-skills, exerts a pull which provokes its production, and re-production. It examines why such skill might be important temperamentally, and developmentally, for human thinking, learning and acts of memory. And why, even when we do not need to weave baskets, people weave, and re-weave these forms, ravelling and unravelling through generations, the plants and practices entailed in their making.
The endurance of the ephemeral