Indeed many folks who craft and otherwise make stuff are initially inspired by a material; the material itself suggests what it would like to become through the process of human interaction. I am definitely one of those folks. I have collaborated with many materials in my lifetime, always learning and partnering. I've grown plants and used them for dyes, grown and/or harvested plant fibers for papermaking, done a bit of weaving, lots of sewing, a bit of woodworking, painted on various surfaces (I prefer wood and stone). I have grown my own food, preserved some of it with the various processes thereof, made my own miso and tempeh and sourdough and seitan, herbal preparations and cheese Danishes and jams and on and on.
This alchemical love of learning about materials is also the motivation for the proliferation of craft stores, with their offerings from bags of seashells and sand to scrapbooking stickers. The qualities of a material are revealed as we interact with it, and in the process, learn to appreciate it. Can we poke holes in it, is it flexible, can we glue it, how do we cut it, can it repel water, what is its thickness, coarseness, its color, its transparency, its weight, its size? How old is it? How does it cause us to feel as we relate to it? How does it speak to us?
For, just as I can use my ears to cook, listening to the pot simmer or the pan sizzle or the stove creak, I can also "hear" objects, materials. This post was inspired by some successful thrift shopping, and especially I get excited when I can take home some orphan high quality fabrics or other objects d'art. Here, my knowledge of materials works for me, though of course if you don't care about materials, well, you would not be thrilled at all. The small town thrift store is the place where, alongside of the pilled-up acrylic scarves for $1, there can also be imported handwoven scarves for $1, though they sell on line for close to $100.
Of course one of the reasons that I hear these pieces calling me is that folks don't want to, or have not the time or knowledge, to clean and maintain them. I don't blame these folks a bit. I often shake my head at the time and effort I have put into ironing linen, handwashing silk and cashmere, polishing copper and brass. Somehow I have managed to arrange my life in such a manner as to continue this indulgence in materials, though. And for that, I am grateful, as we are naturally grateful for that which we love.
Hand crafted means unique; it means human interaction, it means loving relationship. We do not desire to exercise our powers of creation, whether it's silk, sheep, or sandwich, except through love, for the urge to create and otherwise relate is the same as love.