Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And On The Other Hand, Part One.

From the moment I came in to this world my hands have been a hot topic. I was born with a rare (apparently one in 30 000) birth anomalie known as Symbrachydactyly . Please don't ask me to pronounce it, I am not sure I can. The definition is pretty vague, and covers a lot of related finger and hand deformities. In my case, I was born with a shortened left forearm, tiny fingers with no bones, and a partially formed thumb. The muscles, tendons, bones and nerves are all messed up in that hand. All in all a pretty short and oversimplefied definition of a very complex problem. The gist of it is, the experts don't know why, it just is what it is.

I have spent a great deal of my life consciously not thinking about hands and a great deal of it being forced to think about hands. But now I am choosing to think about, and talk about hands. My Hands. This is a pretty big leap for me, having spent most of my life wishing people would shut the hell up about them, and move on to something or someone more interesting. I would much rather talk about my work, not about how many hands it took to make it.
My outlook on the hand discussion changed rather abruptly Several months ago when a friend posted a link to this video of Renate Hiller "On Handwork" to her facebook page.


 This video was the catalyst to my journey of looking really hard inside myself to uncover what exactly hands meant to me. As an artist, as a human, as a person with a disability. I watched it over and over again, her words sinking in to my mind and making my head spin.

"The use of the hands is vital to the human being. For having flexibility, dexterity.  In a way, the entire human being is in the hands."-Renate Hiller, on handwork.

This absolutely blew my mind. As an artist I agreed with it all, the feeling you get from working with your hands, from being a maker. That empathetic connection with the world when you create something for use by people. A beautiful,  tactile object made by the hands. But for me, it was a bit more than that. It was that eureka moment when I realised just what it was that made people want to know why, and how a person with one hand could possibly do what I do. It made me realize that I could no longer seperate what I do, from how I do it. This really pissed me off. Now suddenly I wanted to know how, and why I did things the way I do. My pat answer .."I don't know, I just do it." wasn't going to suffice any longer. I was going to have to join the discussion, find the answers, and share them. I was not looking forward to this process at all.

Looking inward is never easy, but is sometimes vital to discovering what makes us the person we are. When I decided to write a blogpost about having one hand, and making pots, it was going to be just that, Some "how I do it" photos, and a short blurb about how you can do anything you want even with one hand. It wasn't that easy, and I never got to the "how I do it" stage; or for that matter, the "anything you want to do" stage. It is a much larger and more complex problem than I initially thought. and so dear blog readers, there will be more.