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The Utility of Handmade Objects

Most handmade objects have not been made as works of art but as objects to be used. Too often when we think about art, even art that is very old, we have a tendency to think that it must be put away in a dark cupboard or hidden to protect it. Handmade objects need to be enjoyed, to be viewed, to be used. Whenever possible, we should put our hands on the same objects created by others.

In this third and final discussion for now about my Granny Sligh, I wanted to highlight a beautiful piece of crochet work that she created and which most of us who knew her remember seeing on her kitchen table. This tablecloth, made with her hands, was the foundation for many meals enjoyed around her table.

Granny Sligh had a big family, so she spent many hours cooking. She was a pretty good Southern cook who favored old recipes that she learned from her mother. She baked hams, cakes, and breads, and worked to create meals that were enjoyable, even memorable. And when we sat down to her table, this tablecloth was there underneath it all.

As a result, it has suffered some wear and tear.

Because this particular tablecloth was created out of necessity, it suffered tears and stains and hard use. But isn't that part of its story? It is memorable, not because it hangs on a wall or is folded away, but because its use brings back memories of those days.

I love its pattern. But as much as anything else, I love that we can remember it in the kitchen on the table in the house up on Catawba Mountain. Its beauty and the skill that it took to create it are just icing on top of the cake, a slice of lemon in the sweet tea glass, or that wonderful baked crust on top of the ham. Handmade objects are legacies because they evoke the lives of those who made and used them.

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