You know, I've just been thinking about this work "practical" a bit. Maybe you're familiar with the idea that we don't simply use language to articulate our thoughts or beliefs, but that the language we have to use informs our thoughts and beliefs. To take an obvious example, it's so hard for people to wrap their heads around the idea of a person who feels they are nearly a man or a woman, because we only have two possible, binary, pronouns for gender. The idea doesn't really exist in our language ("trans" is the word of the day, but still feels inadequate for many), so it doesn't make sense.
This is a little different, but maybe you need to strike "practical" from your vocabulary. Why is this even a question? Why is this a description for any object? What is so "practical" about a wolf carved and painted on the handle of a bowl? What is so 'practical' about a mass produced bowl from China, say, that has little or no value beyond the initial cost, that has no meaning or significance to its owner, which, as a mass produced bowl, only reinforces a devaluation of all objects and the consequent mass consumption and wastefulness of these same objects? Wouldn't a more expensive, hand made, emotionally significant, carved bowl be cared for better, for longer, passed down to one's children, connecting them to their past, and the stories the bowl holds in its carvings, and in the people who used it?
The bowl is the thing needed to hold food, but people in every culture around the world through out time have needed to make objects their own - not simply beautiful, I don't think - but personal. Things that reflect their beliefs, values, curiosities, their cultures, memorialise people, mark significant days, honour animals, the moon, a particular tree. We're myth-makers, don't you think? and maybe it's just an industrial, consumer-culture thing to focus solely on the end result, to simply look at the object and assess it. What has developed my appreciation for basketry and the work that you do is what I've learned about the practice of doing it, that hands have made this laundry basket in my room even though it probably came from a chain store such as Home Sense. I think you are on the right track with doing workshops and making these beautiful objects, simply and not so simple. At Easter, a time when people just buy more crap, you offer a course on handwork, an opportunity to engage people in this basket-making - a new way to mark a transition, whether one is thinking about Jesus or just that spring is finally here. it's an occasion.
Okay, I'm rambling. Now I'm thinking about narrative, story-making, and how irrelevant the word 'practical' is to story-making. "Valuable": that is the word. I'm going to go away now and think about how making objects is motivated by similar impulses as the making of stories. Myth makers, trying to see ourselves, trying to know ourselves, trying to be grateful, trying to be critical, trying to make symbols out of objects, meaning out of the banal.
Andrea Routley is a writer, singer/songwriter and musician living in Victoria, BC.