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May 16, 2009


What I found disappointing about the Resurgence article is the endorsement and mention of eco/ethical labels which, in my mind, are only slightly eco, slightly ethical and vaguely sustainable--and operated by very large commercial entities and consortia. I felt that the argument for the article derailed towards the end. It may be sour grapes, I admit, but there are small, independent labels out there producing excellent goods with true Product Provenance which do not get a look in.

Shauna Chapman
Founder, Quail By Mail

K, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I think "artist and artisan" is a terrific solution to the dilemma we all struggle with.

Look at this coming Sunday's NY Times magazine -- the preview is up now -- the feature article is on reclaiming the value of working with your hands. Mostly it seems to talk about things like car repair rather than stitching, but that's the author's perspective -- he rebuilds motorcycles -- and the broader point is very well made.

And that may be the silver lining of the recession: craftsmanship rediscovered and reinvested with meaning and respect.

I too get frustrated by those who equate craft with low quality. It is an unfortunate association that has been born out of truth. Too many people moving too fast to do anything right. Besides why make it when you can buy it? I get that question a lot. That kind of attitude enables the justification of making something that's lower quality, rather than taking pride in making something of high but handmade quality.

As someone who does both art and craft I've struggled with definitions. Why should what I create, using the same mind and creativity, be separated into two categories or words depending on the materials I use? Why does my craft automatically go down in value because of that word, even though I have put the same care, love, and skill into that as I put into my art.

Words become so easily contaminated and then we begin to behave according to that contamination. "Craft is low quality, therefore I will make low quality craft."

So, now, in an effort to skirt the contamination and redefine my crafts, I've made some word changes. When asked if I'm crafty, my response is "I am an artist and an artisan." It sounds a bit like snobbery, but it certainly puts the value back into what I do.

Thanks so much for sharing the article, The Tyranny of Trends, which I saw on Knitting on Impulse. Passed it on to my 20 year old daughter, who is minoring in Women's Studies. Glad to have found your blog.

I read that whole article "The Tyranny of Trends" and marveled that someone in the industry finally mentioned that the damned Emperor was nekkid AND ugly!

The Styles of the Times has been an ongoing reminder of how this industry has led several generations down a path of self-loathing and self-destruction. I can just picture anyone connected with fashion recoiling in horror from even contemplating the issues brought up in that article. Visualize all the damned souls scrambling around on an Hieronymus Bosch canvas, well dressed according to each other.

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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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Books and Reports by Elaine Lipson

Selected Articles by Elaine Lipson