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The Healing Aspects of Crafts in Our Times by Lisa Damian

The Healing Aspects of Crafts in Our Times was the theme of this year’s Camphill Craft Conference, held at Triform. The conference opened with a tour of Triform’s craft work areas, a hearty dinner, a performance by the Triform Bell Choir and a keynote address by Stephen Steen. Participants braved blustery weather to tour the work areas at Camphill Copake on Friday. There we were hosted for dinner by various houses and enjoyed a lovely and moving performance of Complementary Eloquence by Gili Lev, John McManus and Inbal Segev. On Saturday we toured work areas in Hudson, visiting Solaris, Drop Forge and Tool and Inky Editions.   

We also got our hands dirty. Panel leaders provided rich experiences in paper marbling, lino printing, indigo dyeing, ceramics, felt and dried flower wreath making.  

Four main themes emerged and were aptly woven into a fabric of deeper understanding. Stephen Steen laid down the warp as he articulated the esoteric aspects that underlie the human being’s relationship to craft and crafting. Tina Bruckner brought the texture and color of gratitude for the multifold natural materials that present themselves to be transformed and for the opportunity to be in communities that value craft and make it a priority. JoJo Dzielski wove in the academic components of her research and helped us awaken to deeper, more hidden components of craft work. She made us aware of the obvious manual skills being developed; as well as pointing out the subtler aspects that are engaged in the creative process - the social components, increased self awareness, cognitive development and growing sense of agency. Suzannah White, accompanied by her daughter and colleague, Amelia McIsacc, added the component of biography and what it means to live a life where crafting and creating is valued and experienced. Three generations of weavers emerged from Suzannah’s childhood in a community where making the things one needed was a way of life. It became clear that an environment where creativity and craft are engaged and valued is an important component of emotional health and well being.   

Ilan Ronan, who runs the Candle work area at Camphill Copake, brought forward the question regarding how the values embraced by Camphill, can interact meaningfully and without compromise with technology and the digital aspects of our modern world. How can technology be better used to serve the mission of Camphill, which values human encounter as an important component of supporting human development through life sharing and craft and hand work.


It was recognized that the beautiful picture of the developing human being, shared with us by Rudolf Steiner, is one that deeply underlies and informs the work. Camphill communities exercise craft intentionally and with human warmth and encounter in the service of human development.  

Larger questions were aired during the final plenum that will lead to themes for future conferences. Of note was the recognition that those who are work area masters, are not just masters at a specific craft such as weaving or pottery, but they are also masters at using their craft to support the developing human being through values such as inclusivity, human interaction, love and acceptance. Camphill residents, co-workers and long time house parents all benefit from engaging in the creative process with craft work.  Perhaps it is time to codify this knowledge and wisdom so that those seeking a degree in Social Therapy can specialize in the use of craft through the work area master model. 

These days spent in the local Camphill Communities - in particular - Triform and Camphill Copake, allowed us to experience the atmosphere of Camphill life, in particular the pace and hospitality, the overarching warmth of human encounter. Despite blustery cold weather, we were all deeply warmed by the experience. 








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