The Economics of the Handmade Broom

When you come across the word ‘economy’ or ‘economics’ in conversations there are three broad responses (many others are, of course, possible)

1. Hopping and often greedy enthusiasm from the sorts who are confident about the best form of economics or economy and are simultaneously eager to tell you about it and probably try to make a lot of money the moment the conversation is over.

2. Disinterest of the most complete sort. Often coupled with ‘I don’t think much about that kind of stuff’

3. Active disdain from the types that think that economics is the embodiment of all that is wrong in the world.

And yet the word ‘economy’ and all the derivatives come from the Greek word ‘oikonomikos’ which means ‘of, or pertaining to, the management of the household.

Such a simple and humble word that has had the bit put in her mouth and ruthlessly driven to be measure of productivity for entire nations, employment levels, interest rates, stock markets, depressions, recessions, booms and busts.

And yet this word and all she speaks towards really is only as big as your front door. Perhaps we might welcome this word back with a few questions…

What is it that makes a house?

What is the difference between a house and home?

We know the skills that it might take to make a house – carpentry and the like. What might be the homemaking skills?

Surely there are many but one might be making and maintaining a boundaries difference between the house and let’s call it ‘not the house’. Once that boundary is established perhaps that is where economy, in its’ oldest sense, starts to appear.

In Crawford Bay, British Columbia a family is keeping alive a fading art of hand weaving brooms from local broom corn and hand carving the handles as a testament to knowing the land around them and having the land be part of dictating the measure and capacity of having a home at all. A home where, however temporary, might be well kept and beautiful and distinct from the outdoors by using something from the outdoors to do so. It is a lovely little enfolding contradiction. Because it is in these contradictions that culture starts to emerge and understanding your relationship to the place you reside starts to grow.

So I hope you take five minutes to watch and listen to this gorgeous little ember of culture be fanned in a distant corner of Canada.

Keep an eye out for such folks in your corner of the world.


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