The New York Times today has an article called Beauty and the Bento Box. I haven't read it all yet, but this and the cake I made this weekend, helped crystalize something for me.
Some time ago, I wrote a post called Why I make Things, Part One. I think it boils down to my belief that craft = utility + beauty. It needs to feed/serve body and soul. This is what I think the Japanese bento box symbolizes, just as the simple elegance of Shaker furniture, the beauty and utility of quilts, and the furniture, etc. of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Nowadays, it's so easy to buy something instead of making something. But before you make something, you have to think about it.
Think about the function, then the form, then the materials. As you gather the materials, that's when you think about how it will look. Do you want the dark clay, or the light clay, all other considerations being equal? What if you combined them in a swirl pattern as you wedge the clay together? You have to wedge the clay anyway.
Patchwork quilts are the epitomy of craft. It's about making something useful and essential -- blankets in times when there was no central heating. And handsewing something takes so much time and effort, you might as well make it beautiful, because you'll have to look at it for a very long time.
The fact that every single culture engages in decoration of things and self (body art, tattoos, make-up, fashion), indicates that the need for beauty is an integral part of all humans.
So that's why I make things.