I agree with Jane Brocket about there being a common belief that domestication and domesticity are the same thing, and this week in our book study we'll explore more about that through the author's eyes and through our own.
Here's the first paragraph for those who do not have the book...
"This book is about domesticity and the pleasures and joys of the gentle domestic arts of knitting, crochet, baking, stitching, quilting, gardening and homemaking. It is emphatically not about the repetitive, endless rounds of cleaning, washing, ironing, shopping and house maintenance that comes with domestication. Domesticity rises above the bossiness of cleaning products and media exhortations to keep our house pristine and hygienic, and focuses instead on creativity within the domestic space." page 8
Now I don't know about you, but just separating the two harmoniously different areas of our domestic life in this way - the necessary chores and the wonderfully creative - got me quite excited the first time I read this book! It was as though looking at my life through completely different eyes.
On one hand the everyday chores and responsibilities of being a homemaker, whilst usually giving me a relieved sense of accomplishment once completed, were a never ending cycle of the same thing over and over, almost like pressing repeat on a favourite song and listening many times over until quite frankly you've had enough and won't listen to it again for many weeks or even months.
On the other hand, the time I spent creating a home that is pleasing to the eye, smells amazing, has evidence of my personal creative touches both inside and out, and tells a story of what makes my heart happy...well, that's the side of domesticity I crave the most. It's when I truly took hold of my role in a much more delightful and adventurous way.
Being a homemaker was always going to be the path I chose, but before becoming one I did have a slightly enhanced vision of what that would be like. The realities of housework and babies was a bit of jolt.
Jane writes that it took her years to realise she was "thoroughly domestic and only grudgingly domesticated" and once this made sense to her she was able to embrace the creative arts within her home and let go of that banner of housework perfection too many have pushed in our faces.
As a young mother the television bombarded me with advertisements for cleaning products that would have my bathroom sparkly and germ free, sprays that would lift every stain from those cotton dresses my girls wore outside when they climbed trees with their brother, or instantly remove the constant tread of black scuff marks off our kitchen floor. The bar had been set high for having an immaculate home and not once did I think to lower it.
Never did my thoughts turn to being creative with domesticity and ditching the perception of perfection.
Jane Brocket is a well educated woman who gained degrees and accomplishments both before and after having her children, but during her first pregnancy (with twins) she and her husband moved to Germany and it was then she realised full-blown domesticity would be forced upon her.
Rather than fighting what had become society's 'drudgery' view of a wife at home Jane had a joyous epiphany when she realised there was no need to kowtow to a particular set of expectations, that domesticity could in fact be very liberating!
Home-based and craft activities she had loved for years yet felt guilty about pursuing, suddenly became worthwhile and she threw herself into all of them.
Knitting, baking bread, buying and growing flowers, reading, art and writing (to name a few) and then after starting her blog a delight in photography grew as well.
Jane did return to study when the children were a bit older in order to gain a PhD but after a year the conflict between her intellectual and creative life was too great so she opted out of study and pursued a different work path whilst fully embracing her gentle domestic life with its ever increasing creative avenues at the same time. She came to the conclusion that variety and choice were integral in understanding the values and pleasures of the gentle domestic arts.
I love what she wrote on page 11...
"For the gentle arts are just that; gentle. They do not demand to be practiced. No one is obliged to pursue them....They are a matter of individual and personal choice. They can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest and the ability to thread a needle, break an egg, choose a colour or wield a pair of scissors."
There's a deep emphasis within the pages of "The Gentle Art of Domesticity" to remove the burden of perfection from your tasks or creative pursuits and simply enjoy the process because there are no rules to restrict your creativity, no awards you must achieve.
Gentle domesticity is a journey of discovery within yourself, to become acquainted once more with the arts, hobbies or activities which you used to love to do, and then to make a beginning with the ones you've always wanted to play at.
"The whole point about the gentle arts is that they are non-competitive, soothing and utterly pleasurable. Anyone who tells you otherwise should be tied up with acrylic yarn and deprived of her knitting needles for a long time."
"Ignore all calls for perfection and focus instead on what you can achieve and the pleasures of the gentle arts will be yours for the taking."
There's some delightful moments which will make you laugh out loud within the pages of The Gentle Art of Domesticity and plenty of inspiration to be adventurous, inquisitive, relaxed and at peace with love for living the gentle domestic life. I have personally found myself liberated through the obvious pleasure Jane shares in her writings as she steps forth into the many and varied (beautiful) aprons that domesticity can offer.
Each week I'll share a few questions you can ask yourself about what we've just read and these will most probably trigger my own reflections much of the time. Like the fact that Jane also shared how she was a bit of crafty nerd growing up but it wasn't until she was expecting her twins that she became totally knitted into the beauty and fun of creative expression again, and with gusto!
When I was a little girl living in my Nana and Pop's tiny flat there was a lovely lady who lived in the flat above us and she had this marvelous black treadle sewing machine which she would use to make almost anything you could imagine. As a nine year old I was in awe of her skill and the day she asked if I'd like to take her fabric scraps, a needle and some thread downstairs and make clothes for my doll - well, my heart was won over forever to the idea of creating new things out of old.
One of Nana's dear friends was a lovely woman I called 'Auntie' and when I was about seven she sat me down right beside her in the heavily cushioned wicker couch on her front porch while we were there to visit. Between pouring cups of tea and spreading measured spoons of jam over the scones Nana had made for our morning tea, she taught me how to knit. It was wonderful! To see how two thin tortoiseshell needles and some spindly yarn could become a square so pretty that I thought my heart would burst from my chest, I knew this was something I wanted to do forever.
Watching Nana cook and bake with no recipe to guide her, how she'd take ripe mulberries from the tree branches which hung over the fence from next door's yard and bake us the most delicious pie, and the way she'd gather the pastry scraps left over from an apple pie just gone into the oven and press them over a china bread and butter plate before spreading with jam and criss-crossing a lattice of more pastry scraps to bake as my 'jam tart' afternoon treat...I fell in love with baking, fell in love with baking 'with love'.
I see now as I look back over my life that many of the creative domestic arts I pursue today began when I was a child when someone took the time to show me something wonderful, and to encourage me to learn and explore them myself.
Child-like delight in something new is an art in itself and one many of us have sadly forgotten. Perhaps we can consider this when new opportunities to 'play' come our way in future.
What crafts or creative domestic activities did you pursue when you were young?
Have you continued with them?
Is there one or more that fell by the wayside but which you'd like to try again?
What inspired you in our study this week?
Share with us in the comments; or write your own blog post and join in with the Link Up so we can come visit and read. I'd love to hear about your journey and discoveries living the gentle domestic life.
NEXT WEEK we're going to study pages 16-25.
The WINNER of the GIVEAWAY from last week is...
Congratulations! I'll be emailing you soon so I can send that sweet parcel your way.
A little gift...
If you noticed that 2019 bookmark in the photos above and you like it, be joyful because I'm going to share the pattern with you today!
It originally featured on a similar bookmark which I stitched a couple of years ago and use all the time so I've updated the design with '2019' and sewn it up as a fresh new bookmark which will mark my place inside "The Gentle Art of Domesticity".
You might want to do the same!
This will be a free stitchery pattern all year and you can download it here.
Every week in the Tuesday book study post I'm encouraging readers and lovers of the gentle domestic life who have a current blog and have blogged about Living the Gentle Domestic Life this year to link their relevant post for others to come by, visit their blogs and be inspired.
NOTE: If your link is advertising or not a true reflection of the heart for living a gentle domestic life it will be deleted.
I hope you'll join in!
My dear friend Fee has shared her own thoughts on this week's study here on her blog. Why don't you pop over for a visit?
May you be blessed in all things that bring a sense of joy and gentleness to your wonderfully domestic life...