Raise your hand if you’ve had enough of innovation. Who else is completely over the accolades given to those with visions of more efficiency, more productivity, just more, more, MORE?
Instead of back to the future, let’s go forward to the past and reclaim ancient practices and not just admire them, but actually earn a viable living from them.
In a bit of a rebellion against our collective addiction to progress at any cost, I’ve become captivated by practices that sustained us years ago. As a career coach, I support people in exploring what is deeply meaningful to them, and I started to see a thread among many of my clients. They wanted to recapture some of what we’ve lost in our clamor to optimize technology. They wanted to anchor around tradition and invite back vocations that seem to have faded like the image on an old photograph. Perhaps most of all – they wanted to slow down.
I started to dig more deeply into this thread, and I began to talk with and research people who have centered their income, their livelihood, and their personal expression around what I call restorative practices.
Here’s a sampling of whom I’ve met and what I’ve found as I explore this trend:
- Pottery: My sister, Virginia Virkus, earns her living as a potter, so – of course – she has to be at the top of this list. She travels to several shows, including the Maryland Rennaissance Festival, and distributes her work via Etsy.
- Herbal Apothecary: I had the opportunity to interview Sarah Josey, the founder of Golden Poppy Herbal Apothecary and hear about her beginnings as an herbalist, working local farmers’ markets before she set up her own storefront, offered classes, and hired a team of herbalists.
- Etiquette Instruction: Misty Harris runs her own finishing school. Not only does she teach people which fork to use but she also helps both children and adults with electronic and social media practices.
- Matchmaking: Even in the age of dating apps, there’s room for good old-fashioned introductions. NPR produced a story about it, detailing how the ancient practice has modern twists.
- Hand-Lettering: Meet Mary Kate McDevitt through her interview with Jonathan Fields. She chronicles her path into her craft and her success with well-known clients such as Sesame Street and Nintendo.
- Broom Making: Watch this video to see a craft that still exists as it’s handed down from generation to generation.
- Blacksmithing: Nathan Donaho has a studio where he creates both decorative and functional metalwork for local sales.
- Glassblowing: See glass artists discuss their craft and view some of their work on this video.
- Silversmithing: Danny Hansen shopped for a cloak brooch to adorn his garb for his SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) character. When he couldn’t find what he wanted, he took a course in jewelry making and never looked back. The work that he and his wife, Sherry Hansen, created has been used in the tv show Vikings, which is a huge endorsement of their artistry at Crafty Celts.
- Weaving: Drawing inspiration from Native American weavers, Deborah Corsini creates tapestries that are exhibited internationally, particularly in US Embassies. In addition to her own studio work, she also teaches weaving and natural dying.
- Wigology: Wigs are used now for people undergoing cancer treatment, and they’re also used for beauty and gender identity. Hana Kim owns Hana Designs, a wig shop and salon that started out as a mobile service and grew into an enterprise that changes people’s lives.
- Shoemaking: Catskill Mountain Moccasins artisans work from a mold of each customer’s feet and legs to design moccasins and sandals that are specific to each person. View their portfolio – it’s filled with exquisite designs.
- Midwifery: Carol Roedocker catches babies for a living. She’s worked in medical settings but now supports women who want home births.
- Bakery: Neighborhood bakeries still exist, although they now tend to cater to people with food allergies and sensitivities. Outside the Breadbox, a dedicated gluten-free operation, started in a family kitchen and expanded to both a storefront and a distribution outlet serving both local and regional grocery stores.
- Agricultural Farm: I learned about this movement from one of my clients. There’s a wave of both small, sustainable agriculture farms as well as the infrastructure to support these new farmers. The Organic Growers School offers both events and sustainability coaches.
- Dairy Farm: Morning Fresh Dairy still delivers milk to my neighborhood – it’s been in operation by the same family since 1894. The milk comes in glass jugs and there are insulated coolers on people’s porches for the milkman (or woman) to leave the milk, butter, cream, yogurt, and eggs.
- Chimney Sweeping: Even though chimney sweeps don’t wear top hats like we’ve seen in Mary Poppins, they’re vital to people who still burn wood in their home fireplaces. Watch this video for a more detailed description of what modern chimney sweeps do.
- Post and Beam Construction: Custom designed timber frame homes are crafted with hand cut mortise-and-tenoned frames, drawing on tradition that dates back many years. Companies like New England Timber Works employees people in their shop who do prep work as well as those who work on site raising the frames.
There are so many more possibilities around this theme, so take these ideas and build upon them. Know that you’re not alone if you seek to restore your career, restore your life, and restore yourself. Many of us are drawn to this realm, so you’ll be in good company if you gravitate in this direction.