One of the excerpts that caught my attention is from the book More Work for Mother by Ruth Schwartz Cowan. It's about the technological changes of the industrial revolution, and how those changes redistributed household work from the shoulders of all family members, to those of the females alone, at the same time that they raised families' expectations in cooking and cleaning. The technology didn't decrease the amount of work -- if anything, for women, it increased work -- but it altered the material standards (more, cleaner clothes; fancier meals).
I loved this! it allowed me to vilify the industrial revolution a bit. I am such a flake. I have definitely romanticized nonindustrial societies: how could I not? I love baskets, plants, farm animals, log cabins and wilderness; I've devoured vintage Harrowsmith and Mother Earth News; I've read most of the books of Hilary Stewart and Nancy Turner; and I resent the smell of road haze and the incessant hum of electronics, not to mention the insults of climate change, the Garbage Patch, etc.
I doubt that I'll ever be able to cut myself off from my little huntergatherer or homesteading lifestyle fantasies completely; but I would like to have a better understanding of why I harbour them. Why is it that I need to speculate and to take myself out of the present, and deny all the privileges that I enjoy? (well, perhaps because they offend my sense of social and environmental justice, for starters....)
In the meantime, I practice being critical of any nostalgia and fantasy in my work. I am exploring many materials and sometimes using traditional forms; sometimes this is copying or cliche (like the corn husk fairies and diagonal-plaited forms), and with apologies to my professors, I do it because I want to reach mainstream audiences with the exhortation to look again at the materials and appreciate the natural world. I think the most direct way for me to accomplish this is by making accessible objects and teaching.
But I am also thinking about ways to incorporate electronics into my work, so that I can create different contrasts and explore the relationships between the technological and wild elements, and my own complicated feelings about the technology. And to those who already see and appreciate the natural world, I hope that my work can speak quietly and deeply.
I remind myself to practice gratitude for the comforts and advantages that I have (because really I'm a wuss and couldn't deal with being any more vulnerable than I already am), and not to let my romantic yearnings for a "simpler life" blind me to the complexity and harsh wonder of the real thing.
If I do, may I be thoroughly spoofed!