Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wednesday Words


This is not a book review. I haven't read this book. What I have read are a couple of articles in one of my favorite magazines, Crafts, about the sloppy craft movement. They encouraged me to seek out even more information about this phenomenon. 

Here's my opinion on crafts: there are two kinds. There are the kind you see at Saturday afternoon events in the summer and fall that are peopled by our local craftsters. I can buy cupcakes, crocheted toilet paper covers, awesome Barbie doll clothing and lots of jewelry, lots. They are a fun way to spend a cool afternoon and see your neighbors and buy a thingy or two.  Then there is the other kind. The second type of crafts that are really fine art. These fairs are held in well known big venues and have been running for years. If you have ever been to the Sunapee Fair in New Hampshire, you know what I mean. There is woodworking that glows and curves and takes your breath away. There are carved birds that could light on my trees and the local birds would ask for a mating. There is fine art to be bought, spectacular weaving, people who make exquisite and very expensive custom leather shoes. etc.. I love this type of craft. It is true art and can stop you cold in your tracks with its beauty. DD#1 and I would go to the Sunapee Fair every summer we could and would come back with items that have been in our homes for many years. I have a carved great blue heron that is one of my favorite things in the world. It just makes you want to touch it's smoothness. Jen has over her fireplace an exquisite custom hand forged piece of metal artwork. I can't even describe it but it is a beautiful  addition to the room. 

There is a place and enjoyment to be had at both these types of craft shows. Back to Craft Magazine.


And there it is again, those words, "Sloppy Craft". Now, frankly, I don't have a clue what Postdisciplinarity is or how it relates to fine craft. But I do know from the articles I have read that a lot of garbage is being sold out there as art. "Artists", faux that they be, are marketing this stuff and it is "dumbing down" fine craft and art.  Starting to sound familiar? Moaning arises about how you need to have a strong foundation and experience as a real artist/craftsperson before you can deconstruct and present garbage as art, like you see above. Then the moaners bemoan the fact that most of the Sloppy Crafters are highly inexperienced, wouldn't know an art degree if it slapped them upside the head, and are lowering the standards of the entire craft movement. They are highly skilled at marketing and social media.  Much is said about "who does it bother" and others are extremely incensed by it's existence.  Suddenly this fine art group of craftspeople is divided into groups for and against.

Many have seen this in the quilting movement with "art quilters" just not doing it like the traditionalists. ( I have seen some spectacular art quilts, BTW.)

Here are some words from Gloria Hickey, "Emerging generations of craftspeople no longer worshipped at the altar of the past.  They did not learn in apprenticeships with masters and a growing number had abandoned classrooms. They were not slaves to techniques or materials.  Young craftspeople learned from their peers or the Internet. The digital age would be to craft what the sexual revolution was to feminism." 

Dumbing down, making it fast with money as the motivation with disregard to skill and craft seem to affect more and more in our world each day. You all know you've seen this same movement in sewing. I sure have. What do you think? ..............Bunny

21 comments:

  1. I am in two minds about all of this. On the one hand I find myself getting very purse lipped over sloppy craft, dumbing down, kitting etc. on the other hand, I suspect our forebears did the same at the introduction of the Sewing Machine...

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    1. Interesting thought, Mrs.C . Another place we've seen dumbing down is in fashion itself. Sizes are all over the place and mean little. Athleisure reigns, yuk. Well,I don't mind it for a romp to the grocery but when you see it coming down the runway........Then there is the switch to small, medium, large sizing which has been documented to improve profits. On and on........

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  2. We all have to roll with the punches...if there is a market for poorly made crafts, then let the buyers and makers enjoy themselves recycling yarn and money. One day we will look back at fashion with raw edges and raggedy seams and say, "AH YES...I remember that trend like the Grunge trend of the 90's". We go to museums to see fine art and fine fashion collections and I doubt we will ever be going to see tea cosies and toilet paper covers for inspiration.

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  3. I like this series and what you post does make me think. But I am in two minds too. I believe that true artistic work takes decades of skill building on top of raw talent, and a level of commitment and dedication to the task. Great artists like Picasso show us what creativity and originality means. On the other hand naïve art, or grandma's hand knitted baby clothes have a great deal of charm.

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    1. Yes. I think the most interesting part in this movement is that it is seen by many as outgrowth of the digital world we live in.

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  4. Bunny, Another thought provoking post. My mind is all over the map, so my thoughts are definitely stream of consciousness.

    Sometimes it's liberating to just slobber around with a craft without a care. I've found that it can get my creative juices flowing when I've been stuck, so sometimes I just flow and the results are sloppy, awful, and I just pitch it.

    I aspire to be an excellent sewist(not there!), but I do have skill as a knitter. I am often saddened when I meet someone who looks at my knitting, sighs and laments that they hold the needles in a death grip b/c they're so tense that they'll make a mistake. This person just needs to lighten up and jump into something that doesn't need to be am heirloom Fair Isle jumper with set in sleeves knitted from the top. She needs to be a sloppy crafts person for a project just to loosen her up.

    A little town I love often has craft fairs on the weekend. I call them "Craptastic Craft Fairs." Like you, I visit, but I don't buy. Sometimes the problem is not their skill, but their aesthetic choices. They're having fun, probably deducting their craft costs if they're able to do it, and aren't harming anyone.

    Not everyone will want to execute a craft with an artist's eye and great skill, but they're still gaining fulfillment from the experience. The more people who wallow in craft, the better, even if "they don't know what they're doing". Craft can be elevated to art, but the fine pieces will always be rare and special. The internet interests great swaths of people in crafts, so we see greater numbers engaging, but very few in the "practice" of fine craft. It's healthy. There will always be a few of the sloppy crafters whose interest will be peaked and will one day pursue a craft with greater seriousness.

    Not a fan of gated communities in any sense, so I just choose to pass by the craptastic. As they say in the South, "Bless their hearts."

    On the other hand, I'm insensed when sloppy sewists market their patterns or courses and haven't got a clue about fit or sewing skills. Does that make me hypocritical? Maybe I feel this way because I only aspire to sewing expertise and haven't yet realized it? I know it when I see it, but can't always get there? There's no question that I'm much less judgmental about knitting. Is it because I know what I'm doing with my needles whether the two handed, one handed, or assisted with a knitting pin? There something inconsistent there that I just can't seem to pinpoint.

    So much to ponder...

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  5. "Not everyone will want to execute a craft with an artist's eye and great skill, but they're still gaining fulfillment from the experience. The more people who wallow in craft, the better, even if "they don't know what they're doing". Craft can be elevated to art, but the fine pieces will always be rare and special. The internet interests great swaths of people in crafts, so we see greater numbers engaging, but very few in the "practice" of fine craft. It's healthy. There will always be a few of the sloppy crafters whose interest will be peaked and will one day pursue a craft with greater seriousness."

    That. That is exactly what I think, but I would have never been able to express it so eloquently!

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  6. I attended one of the American Craft Council's show last month in St Paul. It's one thing to see high-end craft in a photos (like American Craft), but a whole 'nother experience to see them in person.

    WOW.

    The amount of creativity, skill, training and work that goes into these objects is incredible. And I think the artisans were able to show creativity by learning the canon of traditional techniques and .then. playing around with the techniques to move the art/craft form forward.

    I bought a < $100 item, b/c I happened by the show by accident and hadn't planned on spending $. But, I'm saving up $$$ to commission a small piece from a young artist whose work really speaks to me.

    It's really labor intensive, her first show, and not everyone at the show 'got' her work. But, I worry that she will be forced by the marketplace to speed up and dumb down her work to make a living unless people like me support her .now.

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  7. My mother always used to say "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." I think she was on to something.

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  8. Sloppy is sloppy...But, refer to above "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Lydia

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  9. I guess I am okay with just about anyone sharing the fruits of their labor for sale. Who am I to say the prosaic or "sloppy" should not be offered? If someone finds a sweater knitted on huge needles with acrylic yarn in a boxy shape attractive enough to buy at an craft fair, let them have it. Same for the "one size fits most" elastic waisted skirts I have seen proffered. On the other hand, I am a bit uncomfortable with all the cottage industry pattern producers for both sewing and knitting. I have bought a few and found the drafting dodgy and the fits somewhat inconsistent even within a brand on sewing patterns and the instructions less than informative on some knitting patterns. There are exceptions, of course, but buyer beware.

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    1. Lynn, I'm finding it's not the exception. I have two patterns by well known designers sitting on my desk and I have to ask, "did you even ask someone to proofread the instructions?" So frustrating.

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  10. I have to say the picture on the book cover is how I felt about some endeavors I no longer do. Haha!

    If people want to put their wares up for sale, I am all for it. You never know what people will buy - just look at the torn jeans trend!

    On the other hand I think people are becoming more disconnected to what it takes in terms of time and skill to create beautiful pieces. Hopefully the growing maker movement will change that perception.

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  11. The spectrum of handcrafting has two edges and a middle. I belong to several Facebook sewing groups where I have seen 'sloppy' work posted. For the sake of 'being nice' I have followed my mom's 'if you can't say something nice, then say nothing'. The middle is what I like to call 'the handmakers' journey' where we realize there's room for improvement and I'm working toward perfecting my craft. Then, there are the experienced whose expertise set the standard. It's important for the crafter to be honest with the quality of their work. I know I can be my own worst critic, but I refuse to wear or sell shoddy work. I can't imagine trying to create clothing in an era where all clothing was handmade AND handstitched. Technology provides amazing support to the hand crafter. However, technology also resulted in high consumerism. Quantity, mass production and 'good enough' has replaced quality, custom and 'well done'.

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  12. We do live in an age of instant gratification and it takes a lot of time and effort to become an expert. But we don't have to be an expert to enjoy crafting or sewing. Everyone has their own level of perfection that they will accept. Art isn't always pretty; that's not what it's about. Fine crafting is beautiful and some of it is art, but it's still seen in a different light than fine art. It is rare that fine art and fine crafts are r shown in the same galleries.

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  13. I prefer to enjoy skill and worksmanship and leave my toilet paper in the cabinet, uncovered. I tire of people making minimally skilled items and insisting it's "art". But then I never did 'get' sticking a urinal in the center of the room and calling that 'art' either. It's great BS if you can get away with it, and he did. So I guess people 'know art when they see it", and some people see it every single where, and others are a bit more choosy.

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  14. The reference, in your "about me", to learning 'handsewing from Spanish nuns, has always intrigued me. I'm not an, every single blog, faithful reader of yours, but I am always hoping to learn more about those nuns and their teachings.
    When knitting, I will typically choose patterns written in the 1930s and 1940s because I don't care for the look of bulky yarns. I consider myself to be pretty good at both knitting and sewing. I've been doing both since before I began kindergarten. fyi. I'm 65 years old now.
    The first and most important question, I would ask about the so called 'sloppy crafts' is how does one acquire a discerning eye? It's not all about what so ever one likes, there is a level of quality of both materials and workmanship that will stand the test of time.
    Unless one knows what high standards look like, how can one evaluate value and quality.
    From 'athleisure' clothing, to the duties and privileges of host and guest, to the, now common, practice of begging for money, vacations, and necessities from a wedding/baby/graduation 'registry', instead of inviting guests for the pure pleasure of their company and graciously accepting a gift, should one be given, the lack of formality in our society, has made life far more difficult than it needs to be. I see 'sloppy craft' as only one more aspect, of one failing to know what is expected.
    We only know, what we know.
    When we know better, we do better.
    Respectfully,

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    1. Gail, you can find the back story by clicking on the "Highlight" tab under the banner. Then go to the story on Hermana Esperanza. I've simplified the story some. Let me just add that it was a dangerous political time and the risk of kidnapping was high for "international" children at the time. I could tell you stories that are hard to believe but will settle for saying it was an unforgettable experience at a very unique time in history in a culture that really is fascinating. Appreciate your interest and your comments.

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  15. For as much as sloppy craft seems to be given a thumbs down here (I confess that's my knee-jerk reaction), I have to wonder how Piccaso, Jackson Pollock, Grandma Moses are viewed. Or how they would be viewed if just starting out now. IIRC when all began, their work was put down as sloppy, crude, unrefined as they began to evolve the styles they became famous for. Now their works go for huge amounts of money. Or outsider and tramp art - about 20-30 years ago, it was cheap, now it's a hot item.

    Perhaps some of these sloppy crafts makers of today are just starting the path of learning techniques and materials, and finding their voice. And I'm wondering whether in 30 years or so, any of us will be regretting passing by their work at local art shows "back when". I'm writing of those who's work we see and think WTH?!, not those making the same things thousands of others are making, like those now ubiquitous ruffle yarn scarves, wood shelves with heart cut-outs, etc.

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