Shadow's Essays

"Words are loaded pistols."Jean Paul Sartre ~ "The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." Anais Nin

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Location: San Jose, Ca, United States

Friday, December 15, 2006

# 40. The World in your hands: The Zen and flow of creating your own toys.

Essays on a life of P.E.

For centuries, the idea of making something by hand has included the basic premise that it is imbued with something of the creator. Giving homemade jams and jellies to family and friends conveyed both the talents of the chef as well as the implied thoughtfulness of sharing something that took time and effort.
Learning an art, and then using one's own resources to create that art meant an educational journey at the least, an investment of the intellect in learning how to cook or sew or create the item in question. It has also included, to a lesser extent, the idea that some part of the person who made the item was actually in the item, whether it was the seats in your car being turned out on an assembly line to the hand made shawl that granny crocheted with scraps over the long winter.
Humans have always revered the handcrafts of previous generations, be it the early primitive housewares of the Puritans in New England or the ancient carved doorways of the Egyptians. Handcrafts, and arts, were not just a historical fact like writing on a page, but a 3 dimensional reality that carried the very essence of the maker. Egyptian pyramids carry the maker marks on the stones of each mason that carved them out of the larger rubble- testament to their pride in workmanship, as well as permanent proof that "I was there".
Mankind's need to leave something behind that shows of their existence has been one of the driving forces of our species, but the rift between those who have monuments created FOR them and those who actually created is what separates the historical from the spiritual. You may walk through Cheops temple and feel the power of the great King and the awe at the resources he employed, but as you walk along and feel the monuments of stone and glass and mud beneath your hands, you are the recipient of the transmitted spirituality of the individuals that used their blood, sweat, and tears to transform their ruler's ideas into concrete realities, as well as leaving their own unique mark.
First Americans have traditionally linked the creation of a thing with the spirit of the creator, forever bonding not just the cloth with it's maker, but the slain Buffalo with it's slayer, the mountain stream with those who draw from it, and even the very air they breath with the life force of those that take it in to them. Historians have had a fairly easy time of dating, placing, and even attributing items to the specific makers throughout the New World due to this social bonding of art with the soul.
Each tribe had its own patterns and colors handed down generation after generation, encouraging new members to not only put some of themselves into their work, but to place their mark upon it as reference to who in the tribe created each pot, blanket, beadwork, headdress, and work bowl. They asked the Gods for kindness and assistance as they made their crafts, and spent added time and energy in spiritual cleansing and guidance if the item was to be used to honor the gods or call upon the dead. It was not enough that a man should make a cape of eagle feathers for a potlatch. He must make himself clean through spiritual prayers before heading out to kill the bird or collect it's feathers, and then spend time and emotional energy thanking the animal and it's maker for his finds. The area or building where the garment was to be created was cleansed ritually, adding spiritual energy and the collective call of the tribe to make the space worthy of the cloak to be created there. Great patience was used as the necessary supplies were gathered, ritually cleaned and laid out, and put together using ancient customs and chants that were also guaranteed to imbue the garment with the spirits of the dead, as well as the living.
The Quakers in mid 18th century America also felt that their crafts should be a reflection of the maker- but in their world, authentication and ornamentation were signs of pride and to be avoided. A great spiritual moment was one where the creator of the chair or quilt had finished the project with as much perfection and attention to detail as possible, but in a manner that was consistent with every other example of that craft and showed no individual embellishment or identity. To them, the spiritual need to pay attention to the work, to want to create for the glory of God rather than the individual and his or her talent was the priority.
In addition, due to their religious desire to keep their needs as simple as possible and give as much time as possible to God rather than the accumulation and care of earthly possessions, they had a minimum amount of goods in their homes, making each item that much more needed as well as a focal point of it's intention. It is hard to not appreciate and respect the time and energy given to making one deep soft quilt in the dead of winter if that one quilt is the only one you have for your bed. Remembering the time it took to collect the pieces for it, recollecting the communion and social sharing that took place around it as it was made, and cherishing the creature comforts that it gave you were all important spiritual links that often unwittingly seeped into the item over the years of service it first gave.
The path of creation imbued with faith, spirit, or self has never actually disappeared since the dawn of mankind. Today, one of the newest forms is "The Shawl Ministry", a church based group that knit shawls and pray, intending that the shawls will have the power of the prayers of those who made them.
Information at: gives insight to this ongoing phenomena. "We are knitting prayers into shawls to bless those who will receive them," said Julie Tampa, one of 40 women who show up, knitting needles in hand, to spend two hours each weekend knitting and praying at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in the Great Valley in Paoli, Penn.
"It is a time to become aware of God's presence and God's grace. There is another element to it," said Vicki Galo, co-founder of the ministry, which has needles clicking from Maine to California and in a handful of groups overseas.
"Somehow, it benefits the knitter or the crocheter, too." The women involved are discovering that in the process of helping others, they are helping themselves—spiritually. Knitters say the click of the needles, the tension of the yarn and the sight of the colors winds them into a meditation-like state. For Galo and many others, the combination of craft with contemplation was an awakening.
"You mean I can pray when I am doing this?" Galo said knitters asked. "It was a very new concept for women. And yet it is an old concept known by Tibetan monks and Native Americans."
Melanie Fahey, a shawl knitter at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Houston, put it this way: "When I am working on a shawl, I am far more at peace in my own life. Everything gets done without leaving me feeling frazzled."
Whether it is a bookcase for the ages carved out of oak that will be loved by generations long after the maker has died, or a simple yarn shawl, the idea of creating usable items that have the creators Ka, Chi, soul, or essence imbedded into them is a universal human theme.
Knowing this is one answer to the question "Why bother"? Why do we bother to take the time and effort to learn something and then try to make it when it is obviously easier and often
often financially wiser to just buy the item from a store? Why turn yet one more wooden bowl on a lathe, weave another mat, make another stained-glass lamp? Because something we have invested our own time and thought into has more personal meaning to us, more sentimental value, and often, is not only just as "good" as the machine made/assembly line/ anonymously created item, as well as being made to our own unique needs, desires, and specifications, but better due to the unique materials, style, and embellishments.
The unseen link between creator and creation is as old as time itself, and although the worst example is best exemplified by Mary Shelly, the history of humanity is filled with connections between the artist and the art. While there are few that can put their own soul into the painting of a wall with the eloquence of an Eldon Burnaky, no one disputes the passion resonating from "The Last Supper" or "The Mona Lisa" are also present in every gift of art and moment of paint on canvass.
The fire and connection between the artist and the art is so profoundly accepted throughout mankind's history as to be a moot point, yet the average crafter often forgets this important connection. An item does not have to have even an intrinsic value to carry the entire emotional impact of the creator, as witnessed by thousands of mothers every May as their preschoolers present them with bits of painted shell and clay, construction paper reeking of undried Elmer's glue and macaroni bits, and even rocks they have lovingly cradled in their arms on the long walk home from the park. We share our essence not only through our DNA or our words, but our touch, our time, and our attention to the thing at hand, be it humble or inspired.
Leatherwork, macramé, decoupage, candlemaking, papermaking, basketry, spinning and dyeing, weaving, batik and tie-dyeing, stained glass, string art, origami, pottery, quilting, modeling, casting sculptures, drawing, painting, printmaking, printing on fabric, stenciling, collage, wood sculpture, metalworking, drying and preserving flowers, mosaics, lapidary, jewelry, woodworking, picture framing, preserving fruit, bread baking, winemaking, restoring furniture and bookbinding, the list is an endless example of ways to give of yourself and create something that is more than the sum of it's parts.
At it is noted that: "Adam and Eve were world makers, culture makers and therefore the first craftspeople. They were commissioned to shape as well as use and appreciate the created order. They were the first landscape gardeners, the first builders and the very first collectors. They were the first persons to note that things are good in themselves and worth having for the simple enjoyment they provide. The creation account notes that “the gold of that land [the land of Havilah, watered by the Eden River system] is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there” (Genesis 2:12).
Was Eve (or her descendant) the first jeweler, the first collector of beautiful ornaments, the first inventor of perfume, the first metalworker? It is difficult to imagine that everything in the garden was provided just for humankind to make a living", and we have to remember that the entire human race from the first humans forward have not just inhabited the earth, but left behind their spirituality in the things they created, grew, tended, and even in the lives they cared for.
Within the sensual erotic arts, this concept of intimacy through artifacts is well understood. People seek out the finest artisans of leather for cuffs and collars that will stroke the skin of a loved one, adding not just a layer of cow hide, but the karma of the craftsman that lovingly designed and stitched the product, the harmony or ill will of the leather dyer, even the chakra energy of the woman who sold them to the ultimate buyer. There are hundreds of players that seek out certain craftsmen not just for the quality or type of product they offer, but due to the love, attention to detail, and bits of their own soul that the buyers know is part and parcel of the whip, forged in the bit, and hammered into the collar. The idea that any piece of equipment is sterile and carries nothing but a price tag is rarely seen, while the unstated assumption that kink goods have karma is widely recognized and appreciated.
Does everyone need to do this? Probably not. But there is no need to spend time on the thoughts of those who don't get this.
So, with that knowledge, how do *you* tap into this spirituality? You have 10 thumbs, no time, and are color blind? There is a way. You hate making things? There is a way. You have no money and little time? There *is* a way.
I have spent hours watching Viper create whips and leather goods, and even as he jokes and laughs and interacts with his family and slave, the raw materials that arrive in his home take on so much of his respectful restrained personality that they almost buzz when you hold them. Sweat from the pulling of the braids, the sweep of his hands tanning the colors, his quiet presence sings in the singletails he creates. He is creating the spiritual whip, the beginning of the chain.
Then you buy it. Or it goes through 20 people on the WAY to your hands. What next? You need to break it in, throwing and cracking, shaping your hands around it, working in the conditioner, leaving your own sweat and saliva and heat. That toy will resonate with YOUR spirit long before you use it on a bottom. You need to keep it near you, feel the power, think of the uses and the intentions of that woven leather implement.
Every toy gives this possibility for a bit of you to soak in. Wooden paddles need to be waxed, maybe your own name or signature mark carved or burnt in. Some women fill the battery pack area of a dildo with herbs before it's first use, or wash it with soaps they have made. There are aftercare blankets woven by people for their lovers over many months, and there are aftercare blankets sewed over the weekend.
While some leather work takes YEARS and mentoring to learn well, other things can be picked up in a 4 hour workshop, from making a simple belt to a magically infused collar that carries all your energy, and can be adorned over time with the chains and symbols you and your leather family find of importance. Having your property wear something you created as a symbol of being YOURS has far deeper meaning than some generic item off the shelf. While I don't condone scarring or branding without some SERIOUS training by a professional such as Fakir (failure to know what you are doing can result in killing all the skin within a brand, or creating a mess rather than a mark), you CAN research and create the design (with modifications as your brander advises), draw and color your own tattoo pattern, or even design and forge your own body jewelry to have pierced into that special someone.
You, the owner of the item, can always find a way to add personal love to it, to give it more than how it came to you. One friend takes hours filing off the burrs on fishing hooks before he uses them in skin ceremonies. They might start OUT as huge fish hooks for Salmon and Tuna, but when He is done, they are shining bits of metal that will change a life. The skin they pierce KNOWS this as it enters, and remembers it when it is gone. Keeping our toys clean and safe is respect for our things. Giving part of ourselves to our toys is respect for ourselves and our partners. The spirituality of our toys is the spirituality of ourselves.

CopyrightStrong Eagle's shadow, May 15, 2006 rights reserved. Please write for permission to repost. All reposts must be complete with copyright and contact info.


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