This book falls into the category of “Could Have Been a Blog Post”. I’m guessing at the ratio but the book feels to be fifty percent or more quotes from other people compared to original writing by the author. And that original writing is threadbare.
I mean, I understand well how hard it is to write craft tutorials, however much of the writing for each craft is little more than an introduction to other books and resources on how to do the craft. Even with crafts like the one dealing with prayer beads, one of those projects I would expect the author to have a great familiarity with making, doesn’t get even an explanation of how many beads one would need for the project.
More egregious, though, is the cultural appropriation of pretty much every religion and culture throughout the book. Hindu, Zen, Islam, and Jewish religious items are presented to what I read as a mainly Christian audience as projects to make. Terms like “Native American” are used to identify various crafts like the “talking stick”. Even magickal practices such as color correspondences, crafting during the waxing moon to bring in energies, etc. are mentioned, however they aren’t connected to their pagan and witchcraft roots.
Beyond the appropriation, the author and publisher conflate, confuse and treat the various cultures they are plundering as if they are mix and match bangles. While discussing luminarias, linking them with Mexican culture and Catholicism, the accompanying picture shows a luminaria with the symbol for Om written on it.
Later the author seems to show a bit of self-awareness when she writes, “Trying to understand Zen art and craft is fruitless without an understanding of the culture it comes from.” However, in the next sentence she talks about standing atop of Uluru (“Ayers Rock”) which she says gave her insight into Zen gardens and moves on to mention having spent some time in Japan which is now why she suggests making a tabletop Zen garden. It’s a bit of unconvincing knotted logic, and I ended up muttering “Of course she would climb up on a sacred site that has had signs asking people not to climb it up since the 1990s.” If I had written this in a novel it would be considered a bit too on the nose.
Ultimately, I pushed myself to finish the book because 1) I am that kind of reader and 2) I wanted to see if the tone-deafness was consistent throughout. It is. The book isn’t without some merit, though. Many of the passages written by various crafters and artists make for interesting reading. It was in one such interview that I came across this quote, from Tara Conner, which struck me deeply:
“There is something too wonderful about seeing my daughter in the jacket I made for her, or seeing my husband reach over and over again for the sweater that I worked on for months. Or watching my son snuggle up on the couch with the pillows I wove. It’s like there’s a magic spell stitched and woven into these things I make for people. Like an amulet worn for protection.”
This is what I try to do, create magick through my crafts. It is heartening to see that I am not alone in doing so.