‘ To fix one’s own car is not merely to use up time, it is to have a different experience of time, of one’s car, and of oneself.’  Crawford, 2010

It may seem curious to start this essay with a quote about car maintenance but Matthew Crawford’s words are key to the concept behind this publication. In his book The Case for Working with Your Hands he talks about being ‘master of one’s own stuff’ and sketches for us the man who is able to move from a position of dependence to one of self-reliance by fixing his own car.

Substitute Crawford’s car for this book and you will get an insight into my own reasoning. I could easily have taken a computer-designed layout to a local printer who would undoubtedly have produced a beautiful book, printing images and text in bold and faithful colours. Why, then, did I choose to squelch around in a toxic Cornish adit?

Because, to use Crawford’s parlance, it has enabled me to ‘get under the hood’. Collecting and drying the ochre silt from the stream bed that runs out of the County Adit, grinding and mulling the pigment into usable ink, making the photo-etching plates and printing the text using letterpress, binding the book with needle and thread – all these manual processes have educated me physically and intellectually whilst also building up layers of time and experience that become embedded in the book.

‘The path to a profound transformation of consciousness and values is one that can be discovered only in the walking.’ Dawson, 2015

In his recent article, We Need New Stories, Jonathan Dawson talks of the gatherings he attends where much theorising and furrowing of brows is involved - mainly in figuring out what the new narratives might be that help us make sense of the future. Whilst he acknowledges that conceptual work is worthwhile he also highlights its limitations in bringing about transition and proposes that the way forward lies in ‘…deep embodied experience’.

I am not under the illusion that this book will set in motion any of the vast societal changes that Dawson speaks of. However, his words do resonate with me - this book is a statement of intent, with regard to how I wish to work in the future and the humble hope that in my doings I can help to be part of the change that is needed.

Dawson goes on to talk of ‘a new unifying narrative centred on values of connection, interdependence and co-operation’. However necessary this is for humankind it is not a new story. As the quote below from Janine Benyus’ book Bio-Mimicry illustrates, Nature already embodies all these values. Maybe it is simply time that we listen to her again and act accordingly.

‘Nature runs on sunlight.
Nature uses only the energy it needs.
Nature fits form to function.
Nature recycles everything.
Nature rewards co-operation.
Nature banks on diversity.
Nature demands local expertise.
Nature curbs excesses from within.
Nature taps the power of limits’.

Benyus, 1997

Text commissioned for the publication Natural Alchemy, 2014.  The project was a collaboration between Dr. Chris Bryan of the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) and artist Oliver Raymond-Barker. It is part of the Creative Exchange Program supported by the ESI and Falmouth University’s Research in Art, Nature and the Environment (RANE).
All text copyright the author.