Monday, July 20, 2009

Revolution in the Recession

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."

15 comments:

Christina Lowry said...

Sounds great! Nothing like a bit of crafty reading, is there? Also like the quote about craft being about learning and not taw talent. So true. Who is born knowing how to crochet a ripple blanket...

:)

Nicola said...

Thanks for sharing that Kylie. I love that term "Expressive Life" i think that describes my feelings about arts and craft perfectly. Its about expressing whats inside me, for me, by me. I craft for myself.

Gina said...

It's fascinating stuff isn't it. I didn't read the article (don't get the Guardian although I'm tempted to start again now...) so I'm grateful for a synopsis. Crafting is a relatively recent passion for me, and yes, it has developed in parallel with a desire to simplify, to challenge my own consumerism and that of others, to remove myself from elitism, to tread more lightly on the earth, to live contentedly in the present... strange to think that making a few modest objects can help in achieving these things!

Mollie & Finn said...

Fantastic post Kylie, if anyone knows of a knitting 'workshop' in Sydney can they let me know, I used to knit as a child and have long forgotten how to get started again (it's a bit far for my mum in the UK to cast me on and off!)

The Guardian Newspaper online is a great and free source of information from current affairs to crafts

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/craft

handmade romance said...

great find. sounds like a good article. i do like that last quote you shared as well. thanks.

Kickcan and Conkers said...

Oh Kylie, I was going to touch on this topic myself - I 'live' on the guardian website . Have you seen the article on wee birdy ?

Kickcan and Conkers said...

Kylie, the article I was referring to was on the fab website "wee birdy" :

http://www.weebirdy.com/

article July 14, Craft capital: London handmade happenings

This site is a real treasure trove if you're interested in life in london.

(sorry about email, I'm new to the game and my blog needs a bit of tweaking...)

jessica, a miniature rhino said...

enjoyed this - thanks for sharing...

glam.spoon said...

great quotes! thanks for getting this out there.

at swim-two-birds said...

Thanks for sharing kylie.I didn't understand some parts(can't follow the english sometimes), but it is an interesting subject and i hope we're evolving in the good direction. Did you find the two mice?

caramela said...

what joy the world has rediscovered the hand made- we spend so much time looking at reflections of life behind a variety of glasses that to actually create something with ones own hands is very grounding-I am not sure about the rest of the world but I know in my own family, while my grandmother was amazing at needlepoint, crochet, making homemade pasta etc, my mom thought these things tied her to the home and she wanted to explore her independence- I think its wonderful to be a woman now, where you don't have to equate home with loss of creativity or freedom, butwhere home can be completely fullfing and also the potential host a small business that secures the homemakers independence to a certain extent- Great food for thought Kylie-
Annamaria

Kylie said...

Thanks for your wonderful comments everyone! I wish I could respond to you all individually. I'm sorry it was such a long post but a good thing to get out there I think - it's good to recognise the importance of the handmade in the bigger scheme of things :)
So very glad you took the time to comment - thank you! Kylie x

ArtMind said...

Didn't follow it all the way 'cause of some lack of english knowledge and it being too late to look up some words.
But I do know that I love the cards with the paper doilies! :P

Alisa said...

Bravo! What a brilliant post Kylie!

I've always loved the term 'artisan' over artist for those same reasons. In my mind it is all about nurturing a skill, looking for quality in the craft you choose. Taking time and crafting something till it shines of it's own accord. The here and now feels like a wonderful resurgence of the Arts and Crafts movement. And it's just what a speedy world needs... a little zen!

Jenaveve said...

I'm reading back through some posts that I've marked as 'keepers' and this is one of those. There's so much in here... "expressive life" really summarises what we are all blogging about and achieving for ourselves.

'The Craftsman' sounds like a pretty good read to me: added to the list!