boy works on coal burned bowl outside

The idea for KLT’s WildCrafting program began as a slow seed taking time to germinate and grow. While working at a boarding school,  I began to see the value in getting teenagers to work with their hands creating things.  Many times I had students look questioningly at me when I offered them a chance to make a basket or skin a deer leg and stretch it out to dry.  Often frustration would follow as their hands proved clumsy and uncoordinated.  I would tell them that each finger has a little brain inside it and it only learns by doing things over and over with lots of different materials.  Invariably pride would surface as their creations grew and transformed.

In a world where news of inhumanity bombards our sensibilities, where grasping for things goes so far beyond our needs, where time is squandered in busyness, it is a pleasure and a privilege to pause for a look at handiwork, to see beauty amidst utility, and to know that craft traditions begun so long ago serve us today.” 

-John Wilson

It has been wonderful this fall to see a whole new generation dive into working with their hands.  On an almost daily basis, I hear, “I’ve never used one of these tools before”.  There is no denying, in my opinion, that our culture has gotten more fearful and less adventurous.

This seems especially true in regards to kids and what we think they are capable of.  Our society has swung from one extreme, in which children were forced to work in inhuman conditions in factories, to the present where kids are given no work to do with their hands and therefore are missing a key part of life.

There is a joy that comes with working with your hands, a self-confidence that grows as your abilities grow, a satisfaction at producing something beautiful or useful, or both.  The innate desire to create in children almost needs no encouragement to come out, all we need to do is not stifle it.

Is giving a kid a knife, a saw or a chisel dangerous? Absolutely, but I think it is more dangerous to not give them those tools and teach them how to use them. As technology and screen manipulation are offered to kids as the only outlet for creation,  it flies in the face of hundreds of thousands of years of creating tangible, tactile things with our hands.  I for one will continue to create with my hands and offer opportunities for kids and adults alike to do so as well.

We don’t value craftsmanship anymore! All we value is ruthless efficiency, and I say we deny our own humanity that way! Without appreciation for grace and beauty, there’s no pleasure in creating things and no pleasure in having them! Our lives are made drearier, rather than richer! How can a person take pride in his work when skill and care are considered luxuries! We’re not machines! We have a human need for craftsmanship!” 

– Bill Watterson