I find this whole discussion fascinating. I’m currently working on learning silk embroidery – a process which began in 2001 with raising silkworms, learning about cocoons, learning to reel silk, learning to throw, degum, and dye it, figuring out what kind of floss I want for the effect I’m aiming for – I’m definitely slow.
For me, the process of creating things by hand involves pouring a certain kind of mental energy into the process. Like the Velveteen Rabbit becoming “real,” my projects accumulate more and more of this stuff as I work with them – and I think it really shows in the finished work. There may be nothing that a machine could measure, but experienced human hands and eyes can spot it. My silk yarns have spots where I’ve had to patch the filament and I bite the thread off with my teeth (handier than scissors, ya know!) and every bit of this work ends up with bits of me (and my cats and dogs, I’m sure) worked into it. For me, a slow, involved project becomes more “quick,” in the sense of being alive and meaningful, than something I can whip together quickly. I’ve gotten to the point where my hand-made silk threads are nearly indistinguishable in finished work from machined threads – but I know.
As I have gotten faster with my weaving and many other crafts, the process becomes more efficient, with less lag – but I’m still making all the same important, soulful choices about how to handle a stroke of color, what curve to put on a lizard’s tail, whether this stitch went in just right.
I’ve learned to use computers in parts of my design process, which I was concerned at first would get in the way of my creative energy going from brain to paper. The more I work with it, the more I’ve found that it just allows me to use certain shorthand moves – things like cut-and-paste to build letters into words, rather than sitting and hand-coloring grids in a graph.