Tuesday, March 18, 2008

on craft

in my opinion, very fine craft work from the indie community. from margauxlange

Disclosures. I am a self proclaimed "craft snob." I am in love with the world of craft. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit, and I have also spent much of my travels looking at craft. I have seen amazing schmuck (jewelry) in Germany, wonderful keramik in the Czech Republic, mind-blowing fiber work in Great Britain. I have watched low-country basket weavers work, been mesmerized by the rhythm of a loom, seen cold glass transformed into a work of beauty before my eyes.

I have also stood next to the original Mona Lisa in the awe-inspiring Louvre, seen large, intricately carved pieces of early Hindu temples, stood in a room filled waist high with motor oil in the Saatchi gallery. I tell you this to give you a frame a reference for my views. I am not an artist, not a crafter. I am an addict. While I enjoy any sort of intelligent discussion, I am not interested in the debate of art vs. craft. I group them both into an aspect of my life which comes second only to my family and friends. It is a way of life, a daily need, an appreciation for making.

As a 30 something who has spent close to half of her life around fine craft and crafters, only to recently find myself knee-deep in the indie community, I can easily see both sides of this argument. I have traveled to most of the most prestigious shows in the country, and seen work that made my jaw drop, made me willing to mortgage my home to own it, inspired me to devote much of my career to promoting the craft industry. And, I will add, I have found the fine craft community to be a generous and friendly group of people, who have in many senses built the road that the indie community of today is now cruising down.

On the flip side, I have found the indie crowd to be inspiring in many other ways. The overwhelming support of each other, the fearlessness which allows them to try new materials and subvert expectations, the lifestyle which actively promotes the rejection of mass production, the return to the beauty of everyday useful objects made by hand, the support of independent businesses - these all mesh so perfectly with my own beliefs that it is impossible for me to not support this movement as well.

I guess I just can't identify with the rhetoric of the recent SNAG conference. Do I think some craft is better than others? Of course, that's the nature of the world. But to discount craft artists because the lack of a B.F.A. or M.F.A. (visited AVAM lately)? I don't want to go down that road. I don't like where it's headed.

Overall, this discussion saddens me. I believe that the broad category of “handmade” and all of the social benefits that come with it is only weakened by the attempt to separate out some very talented and qualified indie craftspeople simply because they are too young or don’t have the right “pedigree.” Over and over, I have lamented the lack of younger buyers or makers, at American Craft Council Shows, Museum Shows, and other juried "fine craft" shows. I don't envy show producers... it's a difficult task that lies ahead.

To echo sentiments from Imogene and Sweet Pepita, the indie craft community is a vibrant, creative group of diverse artists which I am proud to be a part of. I am also proud to know many, many of the craft artists who belong to the world of "fine" craft. I hope that we can find a way to unite and preserve all forms of making, to ensure a strong future for craft in America.

Editorial post by jenmenkhaus.


Juliet said...

Amen Sister.

Jill Popowich Designs said...

Oh Jen, what a wonderful post. I would love to talk to you more about your travels.