Words from Bazaar Bizarre

This is taken directly from the Bazaar Bizarre Boston website. I think there is a great lesson to this post, and I wish others, especially those not engaged in any sort of crafting or creating, could read and appreciate the message. The original post is HERE.

The other day I posted on twitter that I tend to think of the current world of craft and its availability to the mainstream as something more serious than a trendy internet phenomenon, or something twee and insignificant in today’s industrialized world. While I may not take myself very seriously, I have a different, more serious view of the importance of making art.  Not even just the end result of the art itself, but the act of making art. The skills acquired by looking, listening, trying, failing, fixing and working – these are the skills that show your craft. I think these are important things to pass on and keep relevant. Skills and knowledge about making objects by hand are also often the first experiences that mold designers and craftspeople who can use industrialized methods to make goods on a large scale.

From the first time I started to read about, and think about the importance of making art, I loved the concepts of the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. The artists, designers, and craftspeople who led this movement were interested in the intrinsic value of things made by hand. They were anti-industrialists who wanted to preserve traditional methods and skills as a crucially important part of making art and objects for everyday use. During this era of industrialization that was rapidly increasing output of consumer goods by machine, people such as William Morris, John Ruskin, CR Ashbee, Edward Burne Jones, Eglantyne Louisa Jebb, Mary Fraser Tytler, Charles Rennie Mackintosh all worked to preserve traditional and historic methods of making everything.  From this movement schools of art and craft were created, as were guilds and associations for everything from embroidery and weaving, architecture and carpentry, painting and printmaking. They wanted to keep the work of the craftsperson as the same level of appreciation and worth as the fine artist. From CR Ashbee:

“seek not only to set a higher standard of craftsmanship, but at the same time, and in so doing, to protect the status of the craftsman. To this end it endeavours to steer a mean between the independence of the artist— which is individualistic and often parasitical— and the trade-shop, where the workman is bound to purely commercial and antiquated traditions, and has, as a rule, neither stake in the business nor any interest beyond his weekly wage”

Of course as someone invested in being part of the art and craft community, I have a great interest in, and hold high value of the talents, skills, and techniques it takes to create art and goods. I hope that by actively participating and being part of the community that supports these values, we are the second wave of the American Arts and Crafts movement. One could say that industrialization won out, but I argue that industrialized goods would never exist without the artists, designers and craftspeople who first learn by hand. It is also interesting to me that many of the recognized participants of this movement were men who were interested in several fields that were usually in the realm of everyday women. The difference of opinion even back then about what was skilled work to be valued as art (architecture and painting usually by men), to skilled work that was to be expected as everyday household chores (sewing and necessary household goods usually by women). I am not a scholar of art history nor gender studies, so I won’t digress too far into either of these topics in this post, but it is something I find interesting to note.

It is important to make art, to craft a useful object to be beautiful, to find a use for a beautiful form. These things are crucial to passing on your knowledge, and to a greater purpose preserving your cultural knowledge and style by letting it continue on by the hands of the next generation of makers. I recently did a paper-cut about the ideas of beauty, usefulness and everyday objects using a Antoine de Saint-Exupéry quote from The Little Prince. Below are two small pictures of the piece in progress. The full finished piece is part of the Tangled group show at the WSAC in Somerville. The opening is tomorrow night (Saturday October 1st from 7-10PM) and this will be one of the first times I have listed my work for sale. It doesn’t matter if it sells, but it seemed important to impart a value to my work, even if only monetary.

Spray Paint Stencil Papercu

This blog’s purpose isn’t to focus on personal politics, the economy, social justice or activism, but sometimes I feel like everything boils down to those topics.  I refuse to let anyone dismiss any art or craft as ‘women’s work’ because it involves sewing, or say ‘well anyone can do that’ because the tools and supplies are simple. Those statements don’t detract value, and they don’t mean anything. Maybe the tradition of the work is from women, maybe a key part of crafting is that anyone can learn how to do it, each in their own way.  Knowing how to construct your own clothing or make something beautiful out of a few simple supplies isn’t some bullshit fanciful hobby. It takes skill, talent, time and determination to produce these things. I want everyone to take pride in being a crafter, and I want the world to understand and appreciate its importance.  These things are worth investing in, worth supporting and being a part of, whether you are a crafter making goods, or a consumer purchasing them.

4 thoughts on “Words from Bazaar Bizarre”

  1. Thank you for sharing the bit of history and putting forth these ideas. Passionate as I am about making by hand, I often cringe at the word, “craft” because it seems to have those pejorative connotations you have mentioned in the end of your post. I’ll take your words with me as a way to rethink the word and find more pride in it. Thank you.

  2. Your essay really inspired me to take pride in my arts and crafts. Even though I’m very much an amateur, creating brings me so much joy. Thanks for your poignant and assertive words of encouragement! Craft on 🙂

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