From Mind to Hand

From mind to hand–the essence of handmade–is such a short distance.  It is this: a little breaking sound of dawn, not just light slipping across floorboards and through the edges of window blinds and curtains, but a true arrival.  It is a fiercer light breaking across the morning as if arriving by wagon over stones, the sound of cyclists preparing for an early morning ride, cleats over rocks. This is the noise that would have you looking up from whatever it was you were doing, knowing that something was happening in addition to just the day’s beginning.

From there, you might swing your legs to the edge of your bed and then the floor, or maybe you would be getting up from the kitchen table to open those same blinds or push your front door ajar to see what is that sound; in your bedroom, after your feet hit the coolness of the floor’s surface, your hands probably reach to open the window’s shades or push the curtains aside, the impulse drawing you from sleep towards sound and whatever it is that seems to be out there.  The day is handmade now, pulling back that curtain, rising from your bed.  You begin to shape it right there.

The day is as handmade as the steel bicycle, and the hands are nothing, as Dario Pegoretti, bicycle maker of the handmade type, has said, without the mind.

There is the same sound to dancers’ running, too, especially twenty-four of us all at once in the bigger ballets, the Swan Lakes and Sleeping Beauties, Paquitas and Don Quixotes, there are always those rushes on stage or off.  And all of that running is preceded by hammering and pounding and shaping the hard box of the pointe shoe.  No matter how soft the bottom of the shoe, there is still that noise.  Twenty-four corps de ballet women, twenty-four pairs of carefully prepared shoes, feet upon the floor pounding but as muffled as humanly possible, as technically achievable with those papery, satiny, boxy shoes.

Inside the shoe, whether cyclist or dancer, is the wonder of the human foot, beneath the asphalt where the cyclist is standing is the earth, off the dancer’s stage, the grass.  Earlier, somewhere, the day was beginning for each, the walk across the floor, to the window or down the hall to the kitchen, the coolness beneath their feet.  Earlier, their days began with thinking, each inclined to take that possibility of moving from bed to window to out the door a layer further, and each inclined to make the day, the bicycle, the dancer, the body, as alive as possible as they work the hours of their lives through their hands.

Did the bicycle maker say that steel has its own smell?  Perhaps a quality of sweat to it?  What of dancers as they are held by each other?  The handmade comes to life, the impulse of rising for something gets built out and up to an extreme, one dancer with another, arms, legs, hands, a great deal of sweat, passionate yet pliable.  We are inevitably and uninhibitedly shaped by each other.  We are that close to each other and we are the things created–the lines, the strength, the structures, literally breathing with life.  This is steel sweating, this is bicycle-maker friendly.  Emily Gresh

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