Friday, February 1, 2013

Craft

I am taking a class called Work In Contemporary Society.  While that could be quite boring, the instructor constantly brings the focus back around to how we as artists relate to work in society and whether our art making "qualifies" as work.  These articles from Etsy and The New Yorker echo the precise feeling I have had the last few classes but not been able to put my finger on.

Etsy columnist Chapell Ellison gets things started in this lovely little article, Is Cuteness Bad for Craft?
which then led me to Alexandra Lange's passionate Craft Wars vs. William Morris.

Both women are questioning if tv shows like "Craft Wars" (which I didn't know existed) cheapen the term "craft" for those of us who make functional crafts for a living or to feed a passion.  William Morris tried, in the 1800's, to reform the early waves of early consumerism from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and bring consumers back to the idea of objects that were both functional and beautiful.  He would rather have one very simple, carefully handmade set of china than three mass-made overly-glitzy sets.  I feel that I fall in between his ideals and the "Make do and Mend" group.  I throughly enjoy purchasing mass made china, but at the thrift store where there is only one of that particular tea cup.  Perhaps that is leaning strongly towards my gypsy-mish-mash tendencies, but I like it that way.
I will purchase things that are new; occasionally indulging my love for things from Anthropologie, or the necessary underthings and shoes.  However I prefer the second hand things, not to satisfy some anti-consumerist notion, but rather because that is how much I want to spend on "new" clothing.  The Ann Taylor dress I paid $10 for?  That is how much it is actually worth in my eyes.  The greatness of your label name is no excuse for poor craftsmanship or cheap sewing.
Granted, I feel lucky when I can find a nice, pre-made dress that fits me everywhere, but therein lies my frustration with consumerist made clothing.  It has nasty labels that make me think I must be fat because I'm not a size zero.  That's beside the point.

The point is, Craftsmanship versus Crafty "Let's make this old thing super cute and non-functional just because I can" is frustrating for those of us who are artists and crafters.  Who love taking simple materials and making beautiful, functional items, and who sell them for a living.

What stance do you subscribe to?  Do you disagree with these articles?

Cheers,
Anna

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