Saturn in Virgo: Handmade Nation

Folks, something really big is happening out there. As usual, I’m late to the party and I’m going to wax nostalgic about my Army brat childhood somewhere in this post.

First, kudos to Gastriques, my faithful tipster, who sent me a link a few weeks ago about Etsy, a eBay for handmade crafts. Duly noted, but not yet a trend in my mind. Then, last Thursday, while I was reading The New York Times (which used to benefit from the insight of Gastriques), I noticed an article in the Home section about the modern-day mother of Handmade Nation: a crafty chick called Faythe Levine.

So far, so good. Then I noticed that Jim Kunstler, my guru on the post-oil future, has written a book called World Made by Hand, a novel about an apocalyptic future where we’re not knitting sweaters for fun or to express our creativity. Handmade Nation, World Made by Hand: I sense a trend here.

Today, I stopped on Main Street in Beacon, N.Y., to participate in our “Second Saturday,” where there are always lots of gallery openings and other interesting happenings (as they used to say on Mod Squad. I stopped by Paper Presence to admire the window full of origami cranes, a continuation of the dream of Hiroshima victim Sadako Sasaki, and then stepped into a garage-cum-workshop with saws, hammers, and other tools artistically displayed on the wall.

This was the venue of the Handmade Calvacade of Etsy vendors that rolled into Beacon. The vendors were mostly hipsters from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who had to restrain themselves from rolling their eyes when I asked: “What’s Etsy?” Of course, I knew, but the journalist in me had to play dumb to get information. I bought a couple of really cool tote bags made from embossed Indian burlap sacks and decorated with ribbon and beads.

The Handmade Calvacade seems to be a younger, groovier version of the craft bazaar that is well-known to church ladies and militry wives. I remember in the early Seventies when my Mom complained that the general’s wife at Fort Riley, Kans. was snubbing her because she didn’t knit enough hats for the Officers Wives Club’s Christmas bazaar. Yes, crafty folks can get catty and petty.

What’s driving all this hipster interest in making things by hand? It’s definitely Saturn in Virgo, which is fueling an appreciation for craftsmanship. But I believe this trend is being electrified by the opposition with Uranus in Pisces. By buying something handmade at Etsy, I’m declaring to the world that I’ve rejected the crap at the mall in favor of unique things made by hand, and I’m on the cutting edge.

The handmade movement seems a little more gritty and low-budget than the upscale arts and crafts exhibition held in places like Lincoln Center and Grand Central Terminal in New York. It also seems more political than artsy-fartsy.

Making things by hand can indeed be revolutionary. Think of Gandhi with his spinning wheel, exhorting Indians to reject the textiles made in British mills.

Who is the loser in the handmade movement? Wal-Mart, with all its cheesy Chinese goods. Who is the winner? Wal-Mart, the only store in my neighborhood where you can still buy fabric by the yard, an embroidery hoop, thread, and other tools of the crafty trades.

Let me leave you with my reminiscence of the coolest mall I ever visited. It was in Japan, where peak shopping experiences abound. The mall that blew my mind was near Mount Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano. This was a place where you could drop in unannounced and learn how to make handmade paper, arrange flowers, or do calligraphy. Yes, I was a consumer. I was spending money. But after two or so hours, I left with something I had made by hand.

What did the adults do with the kids? Well, this crafts center mall had day care, a working farm, and a petting zoo!

I’ve got to study Japan’s chart, but I think this nation epitomizes the yen (pun intended!) to make something by hand. I also think the Land of the Rising Sun has a great appreciation for nature and generally knows how to live in a civilized fashion, though I can do without the special slippers for the loo.

I’ve written previously about the Japanese version of Ikea, a store called Muji, which I think epitomizes Saturn in Virgo.

Obviously, the crafts revival has been percolating for quite while in the U.S. It never went out of fashion if you were a member of 4-H and working on a quilt for the county fair. But the handmade movement seems ready to go mainstream in a big way.

What are you making by hand? It’s not too early to start making your holiday gifts because I’m predicting this will be a Handmade Christmas, Yuletide, Saturnalia, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa.

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Sadako Sasaki: The Saint of Hiroshima


As I noted in an earlier post, today is the anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, the most horrific act that man has ever committed against his fellow man.

I’m amazed that there hasn’t been more outrage about dropping a nuclear bomb on innocent civilians. Although President Harry S Truman described Hiroshima as a “military base” when he told the nation of his decision to drop the bomb, in fact, civilians outnumbered military personnel by six to one, according to this Web site.

I think the Japanese are so used to keeping a low profile that the horror of Hiroshima — and Nagasaki two days later — hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.

Yes, the Japanese brought the U.S. into World War II by bombing Pearl Harbor. Yes, they committed great atrocities such as the so-called Rape of Nanking and subjecting POWs to the Bataan death march. Let’s not forget the Korean “comfort women” enlisted for the sexual pleasure of Japanese soldiers.

But dropping a nuclear bomb is exponentially worse than any of these other acts of violence. However, as the saying goes, it is the victors who write history, and the Japanese lost.

When I went to a demonstration outside the United Nations on Aug. 6, 1995, the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, there were a just handful of protestors gathered on a windy, rainy day. It was me and a few Old Guard Jewish Commies from the Bronx — the same people who had been attacked at the Paul Robeson concert in Peekskill, N.Y. in 1949 and who protested in Union Square against the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953.

Then 35, I was the youngest face in the crowd. It made me sad that there were no students in front of the U.N. “Who will remember Hiroshima when these octagenarian activists go to their eternal rest?” I asked myself.

Now I know. It seems that Sadako Sasaki, a little girl from Hiroshima who died of leukemia caused by the Hiroshima bomb, is capturing the hearts of schoolchildren around the world more than 60 years after her death in 1955.

According to the Wiki, Sadako’s best friend taught her how to fold origami cranes while Sadako was dying in the hospital. Sadako tried to make 1,000 of them because there is a Japanese story that if you do this, you will get your wish. Sadako’s wish was a simple one — to live.

Sadako died before she reached her goal of 1,000 cranes, according to the Wiki, but she made more than 600. Her friends made up the difference so she was buried with 1,000 of the paper birds.

A Capricorn born Jan. 7, 1943, Sadako was memorialized in Eleanor Coerr’s classic children’s book Sadako Sasaki and the 1,000 Cranes. If you’d like to look at Sadako’s chart, you can see it here, courtesy of Astrodienst.

Along with Sadako’s natal chart, I’ve called up the transits of Aug. 6, the day the bomb was dropped. I wish I knew what time she was born because I think that could tell us a lot more about her iconic role in the peace movement.

Sadako’s visibility will be on the rise this year as Jupiter transits Capricorn and lights up her stellium in Cap, which includes Sun, Mercury, Venus, and possibly the Moon, depending on when she was born. This year’s Jupiter transit also opposes Sadako’s natal Jupiter in Cancer.

Sadako Sasaki may not be a household name, but today children all over the world make origami cranes, posters featuring doves of peace, and other art through the auspices of the Peace Pals Project of the World Peace Prayer Society. Their wish? That war will stop and that there will never be another atomic bomb dropped.

What’s really exciting for me is that in September, artwork from Peace Pals all over the world will be on display for a week in my hometown of Beacon, N.Y. One of the catalysts for this event has been our Main Street stationery store, Paper Presence, which also runs an annual kite-making competition.

When I was researching Sadako to write this post, it struck me that she is Japan’s answer to Anne Frank, an enduring symbol of goodness in a world gone mad. It’s fitting that a child is the messenger of peace because the Sun was in Leo at the time of the Hiroshima bombing and Leo rules children. Children do have the power to change the world!