This Got Me Thinking
Written by Tash Goswami of www.bletheringcrafts.co.uk
Image by Tideline Designs
Last week I contacted a Maker that I discovered on the internet, with a view to her doing an interview for my craft site Blethering Crafts. She replied, thanking me for asking her but declined because she was not formally trained, with only 3 years experience and retired. She had however exhibited her work in a local gallery and had done a few regional shows.
This got me thinking. When does one qualify to be a Maker? Do you become one after a period of formal training? Is a lengthy experience required? Does one have to do numerous shows, exhibitions and sales? Do you have to be young?!!
In the UK at the moment, many degree courses in Crafts are ending. Ceramics, Textiles, Glass, Woodwork, Jewellery…you name it and it is probably under threat. In the last year or so over 12 major craft degrees were axed. Yet the government insists that crafts are a valid and desired – however they argue that Higher Education is not the exclusive option to getting a Craft based career and that more skills based apprenticeship opportunities need to happen. Alongside this you need to take into consideration that for many people now, studying at degree level is going to be a very costly affair.
I don’t think that you must do a degree or get formally trained to be a Maker. I do think that for each Craft there is a set of skills that need to be learnt but that can be achieved in a myriad of ways, from reading books, joining a local craft group or doing short courses. In fact really, the way I see it, a degree is a great thing to do as you get 3-4 years of concentrated and focussed access to facilities, people, ideas and materials but these things can all be achieved without one. The bit of paper that you get at the end does not get you an exhibition, job or lifestyle – if you get those things it’s because you made it happen, not a bit of paper.
In fact, I think Craft has tried, in recent years, to validate itself against an elitist Arts world by trying to become like it, replacing craftsmanship with snobbery about whether it is craft or Craft and frankly it hampers individuals.
The joy of making is where it is at! Learn your skills however you choose, define yourself by your own values and be clear about why and what you do. Some of us will make work as a hobby, others as a living and someone out there will always like it and someone will not.
Craft in the 21st Century is redefining itself. Opportunities and developments are there for the taking. Can’t get a gallery to exhibit your work, create your own gallery! Maybe a pop up one in a disused space or in your living room or online.
Want to sell your work full time, get yourself armed with good business advice – it does not have to be a formal course, there are books, online sites and business gateways offering loads of free advice. Arm yourself with a clear statement about who you are, what you do and why you do it. Take the time to cost the work properly and charge real prices.
Create selling opportunities like an online shop – there are many collective outlets like Folksy, Etsy etc, join up and get selling. Or maybe do what I do and hold an open house sale event for key calendar dates, valentine’s sales events for men, Easter, Halloween, Christmas – you get the drift!
Stimulate your creative juices by going to artist/crafts forums, reading blogs, visiting exhibitions , watching films, TV documentaries, reading books, visiting the library – anything can be creatively stimulating!
Feeling the economic pinch? Then maybe look at how to diversify your business. Sell how to tutorials, create a craft makers support group, run training courses of your own, set up your own craft fairs and markets. Use social networking to gather a following of customers and interested purchasers.
And finally be generous. Share your story, your discoveries, the places that are holding sales events, funding opportunities and your knowledge. Be generous with yourself, trusting in your creativity and work. The old adage of ‘you reap what you sow’ is really true – you don’t get vegetables if you don’t plant seeds! Or as a good friend always says – “you need to believe in it and put it out there, in order to manifest it”.
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