Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Groundwork for a Crafting Community

William Morris in 1887
            Whether it is for business or leisure, the idea of creating something with a variety of supplies at one’s disposal is one that dates back centuries. It was not until the mid-19th century that crafting would be able to take on new life in a community-type setting. England’s Arts &Crafts Movement was centered around the expression of one’s individuality outside of the barriers that had been set by the factories of the Industrial Revolution. One of its leading advocates was the textile designer William Morris, who strongly believed in a need to educate the public on observing the simplicity and beauty of the world around us (a thought that may be shared by Evan Johnston and Merrill Gilfillan). An emphasis on new artistic styles would soon develop, as would a number of artisan groups that began to see crafting as more than a way of life. One of the goals of this project is to gain a greater understanding of why this is. The idea that Morris and his colleagues possessed could be tied into our discussions and writings for the course to date. It refers to the most basic forms of creativity, particularly those that have rarely or never have been a part of our daily routines.
            While the movement primarily focused on architecture and textiles, scholar Alan Crawford states that there were three central ideas behind it that might have been carried over to crafting practices as a whole. The “Unity of Art” dictates that there should be no hierarchy in this area with every creative piece considered equal. During this time period, the decorative works that Morris specialized in were considered one of the lowest forms of creativity. A “Joy in Labor” was simply the belief that anyone could enjoy what they did for a living or whatever creative process they chose. As the movement’s focal point, “Design Reform” sought to improve existing designs, particularly when public consumption was involved. One of the clearest explanations of how this might all relate to our project is given by Crawford. “I see the Arts and Crafts movement as a late episode in the history of Romanticism. It upholds the imagination over reason, feeling over intellect, and the organic over the mechanical” (24).
            Craft fairs are much more fluid in their structure. Apart from the event organizers, it is highly unlikely that there is a hierarchy of any kind. There is a freedom to make, display and sell just about anything. Feedback from potential buyers and fellow sellers becomes crucial, as it may determine one’s plans for future gatherings. In addition to shows, the internet has opened an additional outlet for putting one’s creative work out in the open. Online communities such as Craftster allow for the quick trading of tips and the presentation of step-by-step tutorials. Etsy and other online marketplaces take this further, but the interaction between individuals runs the risk of being strained. From the knowledge we currently have on the subject, we see that some type of interaction is required, no matter how and where the show is taking place. 

Crawford, Alan. "Ideas and Objects: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain." Design Issues 13.1 (1997): 15-26. Print. 

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