A Fine Mess of Indie Craft

In recent days some much anticipated dialog commenced between two heavy weights in the world of crafting.

In this corner… wearing Amy Butler print shorts with a felt owl appliqué, weighing in at over 130,000 Craftster.org members: The Invincible Indie Craft Movement!

And in the opposite corner… wearing art quilt shorts, weighing in at innumerable pounds of ceramic vases displayed on pedestals: The Fightin’ Fine Crafts Establishment!

The exchange began with a conference held by the Society of North American Goldsmiths. Annie, from Imogene, wrote about her experience while attending a lecture entitled “D.I.Y., Websites and Energy: the New Alternative Craft”.

Much to her surprise, the speaker did not have very nice things to say. You can read her post here, and don’t miss the comment section, filled with notable reactions from both sides.

This article from Entwinements is also revealing. Here, a fine crafter suggests that the American Craft Council should take us “younger makers” under their wings, and notes, “I’m well aware there will be intense resistance to the inclusions of any of this kind of thing in our current shows, but this is the (much) younger generation, and to ignore them is at our own peril.”

That’s nice, but I think most of us fly just fine on our own, thanks.

I feel this discussion is very relevant to readers of Crafting a Green World. We are all here learning to be resourceful, and make use of things that would otherwise be discarded. In the world’s current state of rampant mass production and depleted resources, this is a noble effort to reduce our footprint through creativity. That’s an amazing concept. Dismissing it as “low craft” (as opposed to “high craft”) is completely ignorant.

You may notice that in the above op-eds, quite a lot of ruckus is made about college degrees and training, as well as criticism of aesthetics. I saw a poster the other day that said “Dissent Protects Democracy”. Does dissent protect creativity as well? Humor me for a minute: What if, years ago, at the beginning of this “new wave” of DIY, the fine crafts establishment had extended their hand in interest and support of the indie community? Do you think they would relax their strict standards for quality craftsmanship in that scenario, or expect us to conform in order to stay in their good graces? It’s interesting to explore the ramifications.

This is an oil and water situation, but shaking the bottle is good.

It makes for a tasty salad.

Written by Autumn Wiggins

This 2008 interview pretty much sums it up:

1. How would you describe yourself?
An oddly situated performer of thought experiments

2. Do you have any anecdotes about your work (how you got started, frustrating moments, or funny stories)?
At this year's Maker Faire in San Mateo, I gave a presentation on how the trend of green crafting can ultimately address the problem of consumption and waste. Dale Dougherty,the publisher of Make and Craft, later had a gift delivered to me, a staple bound book of poetry: Music Like Dirt by Frank Bidart. This is the last thing one would expect to take home from an event so focused on renegade technology. To my surprise, it was an existential reflection on the human need to make things that I now find myself going back to whenever I need some inspiration to look beyond the materials and processes of crafting.

3. What kinds of things do you do for fun?
In my spare time I enjoy amateur astronomy, outdoor adventures, collecting domain names, and hanging out at coffee shops.

4. What interesting projects are you working on right now?
I'm working to organize community involvement in upcycling, and have a few top-secret website projects up my sleeves!

5. Where do you live? Kids, pets, spouse, occupation?
O'Fallon, IL, a suburb (and I mean a totally typical suburb) of St. Louis, MO. Rather than moving to the more culture friendly urban environment, I am staying put and annoying the heck out of Wal-Mart by throwing a massive indie craft show(Strange Folk) in their backyard. I have a husband, Doug, and two sons: a 7 year old mad scientist named Jack, and 6 year old Max, who we think is an aspiring tattoo artist since he's so fond of drawing all over himself with markers. To pay the bills, I do freelance writing, mural painting, and website design, sell my handmade crafts, teach art classes for kids, and work part -time at a local coffee shop.

6. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
The concept known as "Cradle-to-Cradle" is a blueprint for sustainability that states everything we manufacture should be either biodegrable, infinitely recyclable, or intended to be upcycled. This is the basis for many of my ideas of how the crafting community can be more widely involved in solving the environmental crisis.

7. What is your favorite food/color/tool?
granola/green/sewing machine!


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  1. I’ve written about this quite a bit on my blog at lainie.typepad.com/redthread. I support all art and craft; making something yourself is never a bad thing. But I also agree that in the “alternative craft” movement — whatever you want to call it — the level of craftsmanship is often low, and the level of self-righteousness is often high. But it will level out. As new trends come along, people who are genuinely interested in quality craft will stay with it and develop more skill, and probably learn some respect along the way for knowledge and artisan traditions. The rest will move on. This is not the first craft renaissance.

  2. I have been making recycled art for over 15 years. Now it is a movement? Huh?

    I have even taught recycled art lessons (a cross over lesson of making art with recycled goods and a lesson on environmental science).

    Why is it that people think this is something new? It has been around for a long time! We have been recycling long before Al Gore created the internet, ……lol.

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