Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Two Craft Worlds

I've been spending more time than usual on the internet in the last few days trying to get aquainted with as much craft-related content as possible in preparation for the American Craft Council conference I'm going to tomorrow.

Last night I struck a vein of websites and blogs surrounding what is often referred to as the new indie craft or DIY movement. There is great work going on at sites like Craftser.org and Getcrafty.com (the latter of which has a great crafters forum); blogs like Crafty Synergy (that Rena told me about today, thanks!); and projects like the Indie Craft Documentary. And there are new indie craft fairs cropping up around the country like the Indie Craft Experience in Atlanta and the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago and Brooklyn. (To find listings of other indie fairs near you, check out the Indie Craft Documentary's site and look at where they're going.)

I love the spirit and attitude of this growing movement -- the anti-corporatism, the sense of providing an alternative, the breaking-the-rules approach. And I love how women are behind a vast majority of the efforts. It is great stuff.

But in terms of craftsmanship, a lot of times the actual items being made don't hold up for me. (I think this is where "craft" and "handmade" find their difference, but that's a topic for a future post.) It's a little disappointing to look at an awesome looking object only to wish that the maker had finished those seams a little better, or had used a higher-quality backing for those groovy cufflinks.

At the same time as this wonderful indie craft movement is growing, there's also a healthy old-school craft scene with its hulking faceted art glass, turned wood bowls, and purple quilted vests. We go to lots of these more established fairs where we find quality in spades. But aesthetically, frankly, there's a lot of kitsch and repetition.

Of course there are many examples of good craftsmanship coming out of the next generation of craft objects, just as there are many examples of original and beautiful works of more traditional fine craft by more established artisans. And of course there are mature artisans pushing the edges of craft, as well as young people learning the traditional forms.

The point is that it's so interesting, these two worlds. Are they merging? Is the new one replacing the old one? And if so, what is happening to the value of craftsmanship? How are new generation crafters approaching old school media? How is craft, and the craft world, changing?

It will be interesting to see what this conference has to offer this weekend. It's being hosted by an old-school craft organization that is starting to realize it needs to be courting a new generation of craft enthusiasts. I wonder what they would think of something like the Renegade Craft Fair, what they'd think of Whipup and Etsy. I wonder what they'll think of my relatively young and progressive Brooklyn point of view. In any event, I'll let you know next week -- I can hardly wait to blog about it.

Photo: covers of old issues of The Craftsman, a journal started by Gustav Stickley during the American Arts & Crafts Movement (c. 1890-1930)

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Mad said...

Looking forward to your impressions of the ACC Conference. I have all but given up on them...

susan said...

anxiously waiting to hear. ... great post amy! i think the ACC has some big changes ahead if they are going to remain viable.

Nicolette Tallmadge said...

I've stumbled over this "second" world of crafts a couple months ago through blogs and podcasts. This new world is so vibrant and brash without the....I guess I can say the hint of snobbery that seems to be creeping into the contemporary craft scene. The artists and crafters also seems to be more open to using the internet and technology to get the word out themselves and their work. But I do agree that this wave needs to mature as far as craftsmanship goes. It will be interesting to see how the "old-school" world reacts to this.