visit the web site

Thursday, January 14

pondering craft

I will admit that sometimes people ask me when my next craft show is and I cringe a bit. Because "craft show" brings to mind the kind of work that is, well, less than artful. I don't like being called a "crafter" because I don't want anyone picturing me carving decorative doodads out of old milk cartons. This is, admittedly, a bit of undeserved elitism. I am equally uncomfortable when I am referred to as an "artist", though, so you need not worry that I have become hoity toity. As one art carnie put it, the only time I refer to myself as an artist is when I ask where the artist parking is.

My problem is not with the term craft, it is how that term is perceived. Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft movement was all about craft. Beautiful, artful, intricate work in wood and metal and clay and paper. One of my favorite shows, 100 American Craftsmen at the Kenan Center is a showcase of the best of the genre. I am always amazed when they let me do the show. Same with the Roycroft Summer show and the Chautaugua Crafts Alliance. They are dedicated to the art of craft.

There has been a lot of discussion amongst my fellow art carnies about the start of the art. The craft fair phenomenon really sprung out of the 60's generation, the majority of whom are now experiencing their own 60's generation. When you look at the people in their little canopies, you notice that most are graying. Will new blood rise up to take our places when we pack up the bungee cords and shelves? Or will the movement dry up with us? Add to this the explosion of imported craft from China that is copied from American artisans, mass produced to mimic their work and sent back to sell for pennies on the dollar. If you think your local craftsmen copied an idea they saw at Pier One or Joanns, think again. It was most likely the other way around. Trust me.

All of this musing is to share a snippet of an article I read by the woman, Carol Sedestrom Ross, who started one of the premier craft shows in the Northeast, Rhinebeck. She talks about how the movement surged and then faltered and how it is changing with the times. I found this most interesting:

What is happening now is what is called a "pulled" movement because the public is very tired of mass produced things and prefers handmade so it is pulling the movement forward. There is now a huge appetite for craft in the US. I heard a lecture last Friday by John Naisbit who wroteMegatrends. He is most famous for his "high tech, high touch" concept, that is, the more technology we have in our lives the more things we need to touch to remind ourselves that we are human. It was the industrial revolution which started the craft movement and now it is the technological revolution 100 years later that is really pulling it forward.

Yep. I believe this. After a several years of recalled Chinese imports, losing ourselves in Solitaire without touching a paper card, connecting with friends through Facebook, even when they live across the street, we are pulled to things crafted with care, one at a time, by the person selling it to us. There is a connection. The item becomes special, treasured, remembered.

Ross also says that she notices in tougher times that people may not be able to buy, say, a full set of handcrafted dinnerware, but they will buy one special piece to accessorize the ones they already have. They are still drawn to artful things and want to own them.

So, I am optimistic about the future and proud to be a craftsman. I am encouraged by the younger folk coming up to fill our empty canopies when the time comes. I've begun to notice craft taking on an edgier, contemporary look. Maybe those art and craft fairs we love so much will continue to bring some dazzle to the long hot Summers.

But I have miles to go before I sleep and there are apps waiting. Enough musing. I have work to do. Creative work, one of a kind stuff. Apparently there is an appetite for it. :)

1 comment:

barbara said...

I love this sentiment- as a fellow craftsperson, it fills me with hope.
I truly enjoy your blog and hope to get to meet you at Chautauqua this summer.