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February 07, 2008


Interesting post. I don't know if this is a generational thing. Except that "trafitional" craft making, for me, can only be possible when you have a family tradition of craft. If you come from a dysfunctional family as I do, you can only look with envy at those who have been taught to knit and felt and embroider and so on from an early age.

In my feeble attempts to do craft, I also feel a terrible pressure to do a lot (this I resit though) and to go fast. I suppose I have internalized the mass consumer society speeches. Or maybe it is just that I am afraid.

In the end, I believe that anybody picking up material to do anything handmade is standing up against "the system" and starting a quiet revolution. It's all about claiming your own freedom...

Ah now here we have a perfect example of the 'western craft phenomenon' in which tie-dye clad middle-aged middle american ladies exist in a bubble of hobby-craft, needle-work & quilting. I recently attended an international conference which attracted a number of these types, & also a number of indigenous artisans from the sub-continent on which the conference was held. The former proceeded to patronise the local artisans (with one lady even offering to 'certify' one artisan's traditional family products..) whilst on the other side the local artisan community were mildly bemused (& amused) by the antics of these ladies, though most importantly were deeply insulted that something as genuine as their hereditary family skills & traditions of making could be lumped into the same basket as flakey hobby-craft quilters with too much time & money on their hands... a sad sight to witness, & a tragic dissolutionment occurred among local artisans in the wake of this unfortunate event. Ladies, please don't lose sight of the bigger picture of what craft is all about - as an 80 year old artisan of Jaipur once said to me - 'if your work is good there's no need for ego, & once ego takes hold there's no need for your work'.

These are fantastic comments, all of them. I do agree with Deidre and Jenny that any gateway into fiber arts is a good one. I made a lot of Barbie doll clothes, and grew up with McCall's Needlework and Crafts magazine and made some crazy stuff. My cousin remembers a seashell collage that was probably, uh, remarkable in a not necessarily good way. I also made felt bird Christmas ornaments that would be the hit of Etsy today -- I wish I had them still. But while I remember that some projects were simple, I don't think there was a disdain for having more skills -- I think generally the drive was to start easy, but get better and learn more. That may be missing in some, not all, of the new craft movement.

I spent time volunteering at the Family Arts Needlework Shop in Phoenix in my 20s and found fiber art mentors like the ones you found at the weaving store in Chicago. They taught me about needlepoint, knitting, fiber choices and art. I think that the Craft 2.0 projects have their place -- my 12 year old daughter has learned to sew making polar fleece monsters and I taught myself to knit making fun fur scarves for different fund raising auctions. Eventually some of those crafters will graduate to more involved projects and better craftsmanship.

Great post, though I see Craft 2.0 quite differently. Like you, I can't stand shoddy goods and there are far too many "crafters" who seem to think their products are worthy of a wide audience simply because they're made by hand (like kids who try to get their parents to display their day camp macaroni crafts indefinitely).

Anyway, I see Craft 2.0 quite differently, or at least I hope it's quite different. The internet gives truly talented people (and the not-so-talented) a chance to make their goods available to a wider audience. It also makes it easier to find craftspeople and to trade goods, which makes it more likely that more people will be able to afford beautiful, handcrafted items. I guess I see it as a chance to revive cottage industries and give new life to traditional crafts.

And as Deidre said, maybe some of the less-than-thrilling crafters that we see out there are just getting started, and will soon be moving on to better things! (Let us hope!).

While I agree there is a glut of dumb make-it-quick stuff being overmarketed these days, there is a possible silver lining to it. When I was very young, I made a lot of crafty stuff that was quick, easy, and absolute junk. I would see magazines or books with titles and articles not so very different from those being disparaged now, and I would beg my mother to buy them for me. While I made nothing of inherent value from these projects, it did instill in me a lifelong love of making things with my hands.

I can remember knitting yards and yards of a long tube using a spool with 4 nails in the top. Although I didn't know what to do with the darned things when I was done, I still have fond memories of spending time doing that. I also knitted and crocheted many potholders and afghans, a couple of which I still have. I started out small, with things that were appealing because they were "quick and easy," but enjoyed it so much I moved on to more complicated, time-consuming things. Maybe these new throwaway projects will inspire some people to want to keep going on making things. It's got to be better than video games, at any rate!

I've been continuing to think about this whole subject of slow cloth and art cloth since you first raised it, and although I've promised to blog on it, I haven't yet.
Your post today makes me think about how we live in such a "throw away" culture. I think a lot of these quick, make it in a day or an hour crafts are designed for quick consumption and quick disposal.
We pass on as heirlooms those slow and art cloths made with hours and hours of love and care. We are less reluctant to toss something made in a day or an hour.
Perhaps some of this quick craft marketing reaches the younger generation that is very into multi-tasking and trying every new experience. I understand that, because I also want to try each new thing and there are limited hours to do so. However, my hope is that each will settle on one or two techniques and learn to do them well, with integrity, and yes, slowly.
Thanks for keeping this topic in the spotlight.

Hi - I could link to the string or nothing article this time - I agree totally with the great book divide. Basic beginner books are ok, hip new easy etc not so good - embroidery, quilting, beading, knitting - it doesnt matter what the topic - these books are dross.

Its an interesting topic. One of the things that annoyed me at the 'living creatively website was Kennerely' was her condescending attitude: ' growth ..(in the craft market)..is not coming from the existing market. The new audience is generation X and Y. They're hip, intelligent and internet savvy, and they want to know where to get the best of the best....they are creatively minded, culturally aware, confident, stylish and sociable consumers and they love things that are handmade'. Not like all us old grannies crocheting toilet roll covers. I may have to re-write that ranting post, instead of leaving long comments here.

There's one thing that annoys me about the "Craft 2.0" movement; they tend to be highly critical of what they perceive to be "the establishment" -of which I'm admittedly one- selecting its worst elements for criticism while failing to follow the examples of its better ones. A lot of their items are shoddily made, quite tragic looking but defend their efforts as justifiable being hand made. Everything I make is hand made, everything, and none of it looks like that. I get that they're exuberant, joyful to share their craft in a supportive environment but they deride established practitioners when they should be learning from them.

Perhaps my dismay arises because I feel they're disrespecting their creativity and gifts (in spite of continually self-lauding their weakest efforts) and failing to apply the RIGOR required to develop their skills. If they were talentless, I wouldn't care but I hate waste. I lament the lack of discipline; the lack of maturation to know that no matter how clever their rendering, their zipper application for example, a straightforward affair, forever brands the work as an amateur effort. Creativity doesn't trump execution; superior skills and examples of execution are summarily dismissed as "mass production" when they'd do well to learn its processes and implement standards appropriate to their work.

One of the best entries so far. Thanks for naming what I've seen in quilt how-to marketing that's annoyed me, but I couldn't put my finger on. "Make a weekend quilt!" Right, please don't dumb it down.
Love your stuff.

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10 Qualities of Slow Cloth, by Elaine Lipson

  • I defined Slow Cloth several years ago on this blog. Read the original post at http://lainie.typepad.com/redthread/2008/01/this-must-be-th-1.html. (Copyright Elaine Lipson 2007-2011; all rights reserved).
  • Joy
    Slow Cloth has the possibility of joy in the process. In other words, the journey matters as much as the destination.
  • Contemplation
    Slow Cloth offers the quality of meditation or contemplation in the process.
  • Skill
    Slow Cloth involves skill and has the possibility of mastery.
  • Diversity
    Slow Cloth acknowledges the rich diversity and multicultural history of textile art.
  • Teaching
    Slow Cloth honors its teachers and lineage even in its most contemporary expressions.
  • Materials
    Slow Cloth is thoughtful in its use of materials and respects their source.
  • Quality
    Slow Cloth artists, designers, crafters and artisans want to make things that last and are well-made.
  • Beauty
    It's in the eye of the beholder, yes, but it's in our nature to reach for beauty and create it where we can.
  • Community
    Slow Cloth supports community by sharing knowledge and respecting relationships.
  • Expression
    Slow Cloth is expressive of individuals and/or cultures. The human creative force is reflected and evident in the work.


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