Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Craft Manifesto

I've been a huge fan of "craft" for a long time - the type that I feel should really be called art. I don't want to sound like a snob, but following patterns religiously isn't what I call art - I look for unique, thought out, clever arts/crafts. I started following patterns, but was quickly bored and disatisfied with that approach. Then I started adjusting patterns, and now I don't use them at all. Don't get me wrong - I love looking at books and magazines on fashion, jewellery, etc - but I only use them for inspiration or to learn new techniques, not for copying. We all have to start somewhere, but I really respect those that grow.

I often think about the definition of art and craft - I feel that often craft is treated like the poor cousin of art, that it isn't as important, that it's considered easy... But anyone who creates items traditionally defined as craft can confirm that it can be anything but easy!

I've also noticed over the past few years a resurgence in the popularity of craft. I love the amazing weekend markets that you can find all over the place, the websites sharing ideas, techniques and support, the "stitch n bitch" style groups forming, etc. So I have been quite interested by a few sites I have discovered recently.

Ulla-Maaria Mutanen's Draft Craft Manifesto lists her thoughts on what is driving the increasing popularity of crafting.

From her site:
1. People get satisfaction for being able to create/craft things because they can see themselves in the objects they make. This is not possible in purchased products.
2. The things that people have made themselves have magic powers. They have hidden meanings that other people can’t see.
3. The things people make they usually want to keep and update. Crafting is not against consumption. It is against throwing things away.
4. People seek recognition for the things they have made. Primarily it comes from their friends and family. This manifests as an economy of gifts.
5. People who believe they are producing genuinely cool things seek broader exposure for their products. This creates opportunities for alternative publishing channels.
6. Work inspires work. Seeing what other people have made generates new ideas and designs.
7. Essential for crafting are tools, which are accessible, portable, and easy to learn.
8. Materials become important. Knowledge of what they are made of and where to get them becomes essential.
9. Recipes become important. The ability to create and distribute interesting recipes becomes valuable.
10. Learning techniques brings people together. This creates online and offline communities of practice.
11. Craft-oriented people seek opportunities to discover interesting things and meet their makers. This creates marketplaces.
12. At the bottom, crafting is a form of play.

I pretty much agree with all these points, and they got me thinking about why I feel so driven to create. Some days I find the urge quite overwhelming, almost controlling! I've come up with my reasons for making crafty things:
- I get to put a little piece of myself into something that I then share with people I care about.
- I love learning new skills and watching the quality of my work improve.
- I lose time when I craft, and that to me is the best sign that I'm doing something that is really "right" for me.
- I love being able to give a gift that I have created - it means more to me, and I hope it means more to the person I give it to.
- It's an escape from the mundane of "real life" - you know washing clothes, going to work, shopping for groceries. Having something to balance out all that stuff helps keep me sane!

Another approach is that taken by the DIY Trunkshow Craftifesto. (I have edited the below to make it more general)
1. Craft is powerful. Anything you want - clothing, jewelry, art, music - you can probably get from a real live person. And buying handmade, one-of-a-kind goods from your neighbor kicks the ass of buying mass-produced, slave-made corporate stuff.

2. Craft is personal. To know that something was made by hand, by someone who cares that you like it, makes that object much more enjoyable. And it makes you feel less lonely when you realize that you know the name of the person who made the bar of soap you use, the earrings you wore when you met that special someone, or the scarf that kept you from freezing while you waited for the train.

3. Craft is political. We're not just trying to sell stuff. We're trying to change the world. We want everyone to rethink corporate culture and consumerism.

4. Craft is possible. Everybody can create something you don't have to be an established business to make stuff. We hold workshops to teach people how to make things. And we're creating friendships and connections between crafters. Being a small business owner doesn't mean you have to work in isolation.

Good points, I think.

I'd love to know what you think - please leave me a comment!

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