When my family asks me what I want for Christmas, my response is: What I want is for you to buy me nothing.
They listen. Sort of. This year I might receive a couple of interesting beers and some underwear to replace the elastic rags I pull on each morning.
But this year, I did purchase one gift for myself, the “Hands” DVD by David and Sally Shaw-Smith. This remarkable collection of 37 films shot during the 1970s and 1980s capture many of the disappearing traditional crafts in Ireland.
Each short movie focuses on a particular craft, from building Regency furniture to carriage making to stone cutting to leatherwork. If you work with your hands, you will be captivated by the stories, the filming and the people who are trying their best to keep these skills from vanishing.
The DVD set is sold by the good folks at Benchcrafted, and I’ve caught glimpses of it at the different shows during the last few years, including Handworks. I once had a set of the DVDs, but they have disappeared into my basement. So I purchased a replacement set this year. Yes, it’s a pricey set, but I know that you and your family will enjoy these films.
You can buy the set for $199 here.
Jameel and F.J. Abraham have put up three of the films on Vimeo for you to enjoy, free from advertising. Check out the film on cutting stone here.
Also a film on making the currach, a clever leather-skinned boat:
And a film on rural Fermanagh Country in Ireland.
Very highly recommended.
— Christopher Schwarz
8 thoughts on “‘Hands’ on DVD: A Worthy Gift for Yourself”
I bought the set several years ago and absolutely loved them. Besides capturing a wide range of crafts, the series captured a heart touching lifestyle and culture. Makes me smile to recall watching them. Highly recommended.
That is definitely going on the Christmas wish list.
Love those old movies of those incredible craftsman and the talent they possessed.
Things like that should be preserved.
This post is cool.
There is a book by Sybil Connolly on the subject, Irish Hands. Great read. I picked it up for less than a dollar. I believe David and Sally have a book also, but I haven’t read that, so I can’t recommend it. Still not nice, still not gone.
Thanks for reminding me about this. That’s my Xmas presented sorted. I remember seeing this series on TV in the early 80’s and being fascinated by it, way before I ever picked up a hand plane. I remember in particular the tinkering and (given your new logo) you will enjoy the piece on making traditional bee skeps. I still fish for brown trout very near where the woman was making the butter in Fermangh and the curraghs take me back to days in Connemara. Great stuff mostly gone but with some remnants I think, if you know where to look.
I saw the series on PBS when it originally ran and thought it as great. Was very sad when it was dropped along with “American Dream machine”. Some of my favorite episodes were the Bookbinder, Silversmith, Shoemaker and rural Sled Maker. Hope you get it for Xmas.
German (or in this case bavarian) produced a similar series called “Der letzte seines Standes” which roughly translates to “The last of his profession”.
If you want to have a look they have a few episodes online here (I hope these Vieos accessible from outside Germany):
This one is about a man who is 91 years old and took care of the saws in a lumberyard for 75 years.
There are no subtitles available for the videos, but maybe you enjoy watching the images.
Fritz, the videos are viewable in the U.S. Thank you for the links!
It will go on my list. I built a Currach, a number of years ago, and went to Ireland and saw some first hand. If you get a chance, check out “The Man of Aran” silent movie from the 1930’s. Amazing the hard life the Irish from the west coast lived. The famous Aran Sweaters were created so those people could identify the villagers who were lost at sea, after they washed ashore. The sweater patterns are each unique.
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