Disappearing Crafts: Tin Embroidery

I am quite passionate about keeping “old-time” crafts alive and often stress about how our survival skills are dying off. No one is teaching, nor has the motivation/desire to learn about them or pass them down anymore. They aren’t big money-makers, so people don’t want to waste their time. We live in a society that is so driven by quick-living, and is displayed through everything from ‘fast-fashion’ to instant online social gratification.

We are losing the skills and trades of many generations before us at an alarming rate. Skills and trades that tell stories rich in history and culture. Learning new “old” crafts is a passion of mine. Last year, I got into tatting – an lace-making method using intricate knot-work. I knit, crochet and sew quite frequently. I love growing, canning and preserving my own food, exploring herbal remedies and solutions for daily life and baking and cooking many things that are bought in bulk, prepackaged form these days. These days, it seems that we are all in a hurry to go and to do and no one takes the time to actually be present and enjoy the experiences of life.

My greatest thrill of hand making goods and items is by far the memories that pop back up when you are using the item. I once knitted a sweater from Icelandic wool. Every time I wear it, I am transported back to the shop in Reykjavik where I purchased the wool. When I continue to work on a cross stitch piece (that I’ve been working on for the last 14 years), I am reminded of where I was when I completed specific parts of it. Whether I was sitting in an airport in Northern Ontario waiting for a flight, or sitting at home on the couch with my dog or recovering from ankle surgery.

Taking the time to work on things with your hands, provides you with a moment to really be present and create long lasting memories.

A friend recently sent me this video that highlights the tradition of tin embroidery that only exists in a remote village in Guizhou Province in China. Tin embroidery has been around for thousands of years.

If you only embroider and don’t sing, you won’t know the stories of your patterns.

Long Nu San Jiu, 4th generation embroiderer
Sample of tin embroidery piece

This video really resonated with me. Every piece I work on with my hands helps me to create long-lasting and precious memories. It helps me develop skills that can be passed on for generations, making the memories last forever. Quite a different experience from the fleeting joy of Facebook’s “This day 8 years ago…” reminders. In 80 years, we are going to have nothing left of traditional crafts and be left with a mess of online photos and reminders of the life we lived.

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