Monday, June 05, 2006

Art VS Craft Redux

Ah yes. The age-old debate. Chicken and the egg. I’ve thought a lot about this and I think I’m really a craftsperson. I don’t use the word “crafter” if I can help it because it just smacks of old church bazaars and glue guns. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those things.) And I’m not really an artist in the classic sense. I make stuff. But I don’t do it to get across A Concept or A Message. Everything I make pretty much is useful in some way. Or is very small and nice to have around if it isn’t exactly useful. I don’t have any huge desire to be displayed in a gallery and I only have so many walls and places to prop things in my home. I don’t need to sell anything so I don’t need publicity or patrons to buy my works. Art doesn’t need to fit into everyday life but my stuff does. This kind of puts me in an awkward situation sometimes. Not in my own head, but in the minds of others. They don’t quite know where I fit and most people that I meet casually (not my crafty buddies of course) haven’t got a clue what I really do or why I do it. And it’s often hard to explain so usually I cop out and say I’m a craft instructor at my local wool shop, even though I probably only teach about 34 - 40 hours total (for pay, that is) in a whole year. If I say I’m a fibre artist they want to know where I sell my work. Saying that I just stay home and create makes me sound so decadent. OK, maybe I am decadent. In which case I need more chocolates!

So I was listening to an episode of the CraftSanity podcast where Jennifer was interviewing Alicia Paulson who survived a horrible accident which changed her life and limited her mobility. She completely re-cast what she wanted to do with her job and started to embroider and create other items for sale. Now she has a small shared shop and an online website where she offers her items (handbags, baby items, pins and barrettes etc.) for sale. And she keeps up her excellent blog. Her style couldn’t be farther from mine! It’s sweet and light and bright and English country kitsch. Bravely she’s doing what she loves and making a go of it, though she has to remind herself to slow down sometimes and do some things just for herself, even if that is just sitting relaxing. One thing she said stood out for me: about having to decide what’s really important and how to achieve it and that it was the accident and resulting disability that forced her to go there. She had to reinvent herself in a way. I can relate to that after having had several problems first with my wrists that made me quit a part-time job that I liked. (It was probably 10 years before I could lift the frying pan or open a jar without pain!) And now with my neck etc. which is actually more serious but less debilitating in some ways. Sometimes I can do things just fine and sometimes I can’t. If I forget to pace myself and overdo, I pay for it later. I know my aches and pains are not even in the same ballpark as her accident but it still changed my life in a lesser way and made me think really hard about what was important. About how I can do the things I love without crippling myself totally. I’m wallowing in a little self-pity at the moment as I go through a new round of physiotherapy. There’s nothing that helps me feel better more than seeing how others have managed to pull themselves out of that old wallow. I don’t have to stay in it and get covered in mud.

On another track entirely, I found this great tutorial on how to make custom labels for your custom clothing by the brilliant Grumperina. It uses iron-on transfer paper suitable for your printer, a dry iron, satin ribbon, and a drop or two of Fray-Check. It reminded me that I have some of those transfer sheets that I bought a zillion years ago and never used. Must try this out sometime. It can’t be much worse than the printed ribbon labels I bought years ago where the printing comes off in the first wash. By the 3rd wash, they’re totally blank and completely defeating their purpose. Of course the person I bought them from recommended dry-cleaning but I hardly ever get anything dry-cleaned. Can’t even remember the last time I was there, now that they no longer have a cheap copy machine in their shop.

OK it’s nice outside. I should go out and murder me some pill bugs. They’re chomping the heck out of my beans and cucumbers.


Sharon in Surrey said...

Ahhhhhhhh Louisa, I can identify with the old aches & pains now that arthritis has attacked with a vengence - its pretty hard to spin & knit without hands!!! And I like to call us Artists. We engage in Craft because we MUST not because we Can . . .

Wendy said...

Art vs. Craft thing: Depends on if its craft with a small 'c' or Craft with a capital 'C'. Doesn't matter if you sell what you produce, from what I see on your blog you qualify for Craft with a capital-- you aren't just repeating and assembling, you are designing and creating with learned and refined skills.

Sorry about your achy neck and wrists, I hope they don't keep you from doing what you love.