I live in a Murdoch-monopoly city so in this household we buy in our information from out-of-town ;) One of the newspapers we love is the Guardian Weekly - all the best bits from the Guardian newspaper in the UK compiled into a weekly paper, presumably for the expats here in Australia. It's always a treat and we really look forward to it.
This week's edition has a wonderful article by Deputy Comments Editor, Libby Brooks, called Revolution in the Recession. It's all about the craft revival and a cracking good read as always!...Brooks' commentary on the broader do-it-yourself movement links in to the proliferation of craft communities in the UK. Workshop spaces for sewing, knitting and crochet like the Cast Off Knitting Club and Prick Your Finger in London are actually echoed around the globe (well, the privileged parts of our world). In Australia, there's the ever-fabulous Meet Me at Mike's of course, but many others have started to pop up too - we even have a great space just down the street from us called Tangled Yarns.
Apparently, this has become such a phenomenon that the thinktank Demos has published a collection of essays examining what US arts writer Bill Ivey has coined "expressive life". I really love this term - it's at the heart of everything we do as crafters, don't you think? Behind the reasons - which may be economic or social or whatever - we have a need to express ourselves as separate from cogs in the machine.
Obvious links have been made to the post-Industrial Revolution age when the Arts and Craft Movement saw an embracing of hands-on crafts. Then, as now, the ideology seems to be a respect for nature (environmental concerns have played a large part in our times), the dignity of labour (our concerns about sweat-shop labour in particular), the importance of long-garnered skills (our valuing of handmade over the mass-produced) and access to beauty for all (accessibility to pieces of beauty in the age of over-priced consumerism). As Brooks observes, the reasons are obvious:
"We are producers frustrated with never seeing the end product of our efforts; consumers weary of being bullied into buying stuff we don't need, that is badly made or doesn't fit; and would-be creators waking up to the fact that inspiration exists beyond the Sunday style supplements."
I also love the way that Brooks has highlighted craft's revolt against our internet-instant-gratification times. What we do is a slow pursuit and there is a very satisfying meditative nature to all the things that we produce. There's a wonderful quote from Richard Sennett's book The Craftsman defining craft as "the doing of good work for its own sake". Again, this comes back to craft as the "expressive life" that seems to be indelibly intertwined with self-respect through a striving for competence and meaningful engagement.
Now, before I lose you entirely with my very very long post today.... there's one more point made in this article which is my absolute favourite: craft is egalitarian.... in our consumerist times where the haves and the have-nots are so wildly exposed to the judgement of others, Brooks zeroes right in on what I find the most satisfying about craft...
"Craft reminds us of the significance of quality of outcome rather than of opportunity. Everyone shares the capacity to develop a skill, based on decent teaching, application and time - not raw talent."