Recently my friend Jeanne Heifetz posted a link to the Daily Art Muse a web site dedicated to showing some of the best in contemporary fine craft from around the world. Oh the images here are wonderful. The work on it is curated by Susan Lumoto and chosen to inspire students, artists and decorators alike. Trust me--it does. 3000 posts. I am hooked. There is sculpture by Douglas J Fisher of Vancouver Island that seems to come out of the wood itself while also evoking memories of totem poles and ancient art. Titles like Decay of Progress and Worthy of a Deep Silence. Amazing work that I want to come back to again and again. There is the Shoe Fetish of Gwen Murphy--you have to see the pictures to understand this, totems from South Africa. So much to see. Such fabulous new ways of thinking about the world around us. I want to come back to this site again and again. Do check it out.
On the other hand I read a post by Megan Auman One Craft:An Open Letter to the American Craft Council. To understand the context of her argument, you must first know a bit about the Baltimore Craft Show in February. This show--set in the Baltimore Convention Center--is one of the largest fine craft shows in the country. Indeed it could be said the show is HUGE!! Of course it is juried--a few of the exhibitors are at the level of the Daily Art Muse--though not all. And it is an expensive show to do--my booth for 2011 will cost me over $1400 for four days of retail plus the expense of being in Baltimore for almost a week. It would cost more if I also did two days of wholesale.
As a counterpart, the Craft Council has an "Alternative Craft" section to the show--set up more as a street market with much smaller booths and a more "crafty" look to it. The DIY movement so to speak. The theory is that this will allow those who are just starting out to have a booth without paying the large fee for the booth. It is hoped that these exhibitors will attract a younger audience to the show.
Needless to say this section is not always popular with exhibitors--to put it mildly. Certainly I would be the first to agree that the craft movement needs to encourage newer talent. We also need to encourage a younger audience--after all many of those who previously purchased from us may soon be downsizing. New marketing methods and new ideas are always necessary.
But are we really "one craft"? Is there a difference between the fine craft represented by the Daily Art Muse and the "crafters" of the DIY movement? Should there be? Why does the very word "crafter" put me on edge? Should it? Megan argues that we should all be juried together--I can go for that. We should all pay the same fees--I can go for that also. And I do know that there are some new craftspeople who are very serious about their work--I am delighted that there is a younger generation--whether they are jurying with me or doing the Crafty Bastards show. (Yes, there is such a show.)
But and I still get back to the concept of "crafter". To my mind it seems that it does not imply a steadfastness of purpose. A seriousness to create the best possible work no matter whether it is a small item to be used or a wall hanging or sculpture to be treasured.
Now my large quilts can clearly hold their own against any work--insider or outsider. Fine craft or DIY. I may not be the absolute "best" quiltmaker but I have style and an audience. No one else works like I do. My heart goes into it.
The question for me focuses on my placemats.This is the crux of the issue. Like a Mother Hen, I guard them carefully. I spend a lot of time selecting fabrics to create just the right color progression. I hand finish all the bindings and use a polyester batting designed for placemats so they actually can be washed easily. They are not cheap. Oh, how many times have I had this discussion:
"What is the price of the placemats?"
"Forty", I reply with a smile in my voice.
"For one?" they ask in amazement.
"Yes," I reply. And they walk away usually whispering to themselves that they
they know where they can get four placemats for $40.
Now I sell enough placemats. Two placemats can make that special breakfast perfect. Others buy six, eight. An assortment of colors. A single one becomes a wall hanging. And they work. One craftsperson even "complained" that her mats were lasting too long.
What do you think of the DIY movement? Alternative craft? Am I just a snob? After all, we all had to start somewhere. Are fine craft and the alternative craft movement just one craft? Are we part of the same continuum? What do you think?