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Being Crafty

by admin

I specifically avoided Origin, The Craft Council’s annual event this year. The flagship UK Craft event left me feeling a bit cold last time I went in 2006. I thought it was a tad too upmarket and whilst there was a lot of great work on display it felt a bit like a gallery or actually a museum. It felt dead. Not a lot of ‘disruption’ going on. And in this way I believe Origin mimics the notion of Craft by the powers that be at the Crafts Council in the UK. To them Craft is undertaken by a privileged artistic few and the arbiters of quality are the gallery curators. It feels like a rather stuffy ‘club’. I can understand why it is so. Before the internet power and decision making was often confereed to the few. It wasn’t well distributed. But now we have the internet we’ve got the ability to ‘filter’. If flickr can enable amateur photographers to compete with professionals (and many photographs, actually ‘snapshots’, taken by the unwashed have been used for commercial purposes from flickr) and at the same time encourage the take up of the practice and craft of phtography then surely the same can be true of Craft, of making nice ‘things’. Etsy has done a great job to encourage craft, particularly in the US, and I’m hoping that we can cause a bit of disruption here too.

So, rant over, I’d like to ask you what you think of when you think of ‘Craft’? This is partly in response to this question “The word craft is misused, misunderstood and misplaced. It is used in ways that diminish its credibility” which I came across on the forum of the Craft Scotland site.

NB: for a good overview of the neat stuff at Origin see treehugger’s coverage.

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Gillian October 23, 2008 - 11:22 am

MMmmm interesting – whilst I do agree to a degree I also think that there is an element of ‘reverse snobbery’ out there which is kind of sad!! To me there is a place for both – high end crafts and also the more ‘all inclusive’ crafts that we are seeing a huge surge in popularity in, which is great. For myself – I sell on etsy, folksy, galleries, boutiques and I will be applying for events such as origins next year (I hope!). My work covers a range of disciplines – some of which is purposefully and specifically more ‘high end’ and some of which I hope is more accessable and affordable – there is a place for both! I do believe it is possible to aim higher and still maintain integrity and a grass roots appeal and feel it is a shame that there can be such a divide between the two when really there is such a cross-over.

SallyF October 23, 2008 - 11:22 am

And while we’re on the subject, there is still time for anyone who wants, to contribute to the national consultation on developing the craft workforce – closing date is Oct 31st – get your voice heard because no-one else is going to do it for you. http://www.ccskills.org.uk/insight/downloads/Draft%20UK%20Craft%20Blueprint%20Workforce%20Development%20Plan.pdf

JamesB October 23, 2008 - 11:22 am

@gillian – I completely agree. I haven’t seen the reverse snobbery but I do think a bit of ‘affirmative action’ to address the balance and make it more inclusive would be no bad thing.

@sallyf ooo, that’s really interesting – a craft workforce. This is quite a useful ref: http://www.ccskills.org.uk/insight/craft.html

francesca October 23, 2008 - 11:22 am

i’m not sure, i totally understand it feeling a bit stuffy but they have to have some kind of criteria for the show. and actually it is these extra talented people who are starting to turn the concept of craft around from being a bit sneered at to being respected again. so i think it’s important to have a show that’s the best of the best. and for the rest of us, we’ll always have folksy!

lusher October 23, 2008 - 11:22 am

Hello everyone! New to folksy! I have been to Origin this year and a couple of years ago. Very inspiring, but as you say, way out of my league – in fact a bit intimidating…I discovered etsy a while ago and longed for something here to bridge the gap between high end “craft” mag and ‘home-made craft’ stalls and I think folksy just might do it, but you need a lot more exposure. I avoided folksy for a long time because of it’s name – sounds very ‘down home’! We need to re-define the word Craft in the UK and reclaim it for those of us who really know what it means, and gather all those other customers in who find Origin bewildering. There are other smaller craft fairs up and down the country who are more in touch with the market than Craft and Origin…

Lorrie October 23, 2008 - 11:22 am

I read this with great interest, and refer you to an article I wrote at deviantART when I attended the Craft Councils COLLECT fair a couple of years ago…it may make you smile…

Helen October 23, 2008 - 11:22 am

I totally agree with lusher – I too found Etsy some time ago and felt there was a need for something similar UK based.
Folksy as a name doesn’t really do it for me though – too twee, but the website looks great. I think it needs way more marketing though – (I’ve only just stumbled across it), where as Etsy seems to be mentioned so often in magazines etc.
As for the crafts council – their makers are excellent, but for Joe public (as opposed to Joe the plumber!) its too intimidating.
We really need to bridge the gap between high end craft and PTA home-mades, and get people to appreciate quality goods that command a fair price.
Primark has a lot to answer for.

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