This isn’t the post I sat down to write this morning. I intended to record my next set of pleated samples, instead I have reflected on the relationship between Art and Craft. The following are observations based on my research of Sloppy Craft and Postdisciplinarity. It should be understood that I am not claiming to be ‘right’ or that I have made any definite conclusions. This post simply records my thoughts:
At first the rosettes were really tricky to form. A cylinder of paper containing the necessary folds is created, then there is a push and pull struggle as you try to collapse the structure -will it, won’t it? It is really exciting when the folds eventually contract, revealing their new form. It feels almost magical the first few times but repetition dissolves this feeling as you begin to understand how and why it happens.
I found myself admitting that I am familiar with this chain of events, new processes fascinate me. When I see objects, my mind is trying to figure out how they are made, I am willing to investigate and try it out myself. However, process led my approach might be, once I understand how it works I am likely to lose interest and move on to the next thing that grabs my attention. Perhaps this is why I have so many unfinished projects?
I wonder if this is endemic in our modern YouTube/Pinterest society? It is possible to learn and teach yourself as many processes as you have time for. Shops like Hobbycraft and a multitude of online stores tempt us with the materials required. A lengthy apprenticeship is no longer necessary: you don’t have to dedicate the rest of your life to being a ceramist just to experience playing with clay. You don’t even have to attend a pottery class. Order a lump of air-drying clay from Amazon and a few days later it will arrive at your doorstep… We can have it all! -At little cost to both time and money. Does this make you a craftsman? -I don’t think so!!!
Does this availability of knowledge and materials create friction in the Craft world? As I have considered the art/craft debate, I have been quite shocked at the how the Craft World turns on itself. On several occasions reading Crafts Magazine and the Sloppy Craft book ¹, I noticed the derision and marginalisation of the amateur, DIY crafter. Particularly in Sandra Alfoldy’s chapter: ‘Doomed to Failure’ P79¹
Perhaps availability is central to the increased popularity of Crafts, or maybe people are seeking a therapeutic antidote to fast living, similar to the Back to the Land Movement of the 1970s? Instead of feeling happy that multitudes are experiencing the joy of creation (that Industrialisation stole from the masses) many seem to be afraid of Crafts association with the amateur, although this can be countered by the number of professionals organising community craft projects and Craftivism.
Historically, a skilled craftsman commanded a certain degree of respect and power (think of Guilds and Unions set up to protect their status), and I believe this was their right: compensation for both talent and dedication. However, what if the avant-garde decided to adopt a Sloppy aesthetic? Are they undermining traditional values? I think they are and the danger of this is that now an amateur could produce the work of a professional. No wonder Craft is turning on itself, instead of concentrating on aligning itself more positively with Art.
Maybe it is Craft’s insistence of being viewed equally to Art that has led to the unkempt aesthetic? To cutting corners? To learning only what is essential? Instead of concentrating on quality of finish, the ‘idea’ behind the crafted object becomes the focus. Perhaps ‘Conceptual Craft’ would be a more suitable term than ‘Sloppy’, this would help explain that the aesthetic is secondary to the work without implying that it is unskilled?
Forgive me if I am over simplifying but I see the difference between Art and Craft as similar to the relationship between Football and Rugby. They are the same because they are both sports and they both are played with a ball, by a team. BUT you can’t play the same! You can’t pick up the ball and run with it when you are playing football (nor can you stamp on anyone’s head!) You can’t sustain an injury on the rugby pitch and writhe around the floor in over dramatized agony. Football fans are separated for fear of violence and hooliganism; Rugby supporters from both teams sit together in civilised harmony.
Perhaps what I want to say is, instead of competing against each other Art and Craft should admit they are different games with different rules. They share similarities but they fulfil different purposes. They are perceived by the viewer in different ways. An amalgamation of football and rugby would equal an entirely different game -American Football? -and what an odd game that is! It mixes the rules of football and rugby to produce something in between (that is both and neither). American Football seems to rely on the spectacular, it’s players wear costumes are designed to make them look bigger than they are and nobody really understands the rules… Maybe it is Conceptual Art in this analogy?