Monday, September 24, 2012

Slow Crafting

I recently read a wonderful post by Kestrel about the whole phenomenon of crafting magazines and programmes trying to sell a lifestyle, and how cynical they are.
It was wonderful to me because she put into words the source of the uneasy feeling I have had about the whole issue for some time. Selling the fantasy of a middle class English lifestyle where wives have time to gild pears and make cookies out of felt. Actually, I love my fantasies about English life, and will continue to enviously watch Midsomer Murders, while somehow managing to overlook the body count, class snobbery  and total lack of happily married couples!!
Hey if I lived in this house, I'd be gilding pears all day - when I wasn't making my own bread or elderberry wine of course!
 But getting back to the point - I am now in the business of crafting. People buying a whole bunch of crafting stuff is good for business. However, I still do not and will not buy into the idea of commoditising the whole business.
I grew up creating things, in a house full of creativity. This varied from my wonderful mother who carved leather like noone else, making a Monopoly set as a family using local streets and printing our own funny money -  making things from scratch. There were no 'lick and stick' craft supplies in our house.
So I bought a business that also specialises in the raw ingredients of creativity - we don't have much outside of needlework kits that is designed to take the creative risk out of crafting.
No kit, just the makings of awesome Christmas decorations
 This is quite a challenge commercially. There is such a body of support out there for commoditised, commercialised crafting, that we sometimes have to send customers to other stores to find what they want. It makes me sad.
Please don't get me wrong - I have no issue with people wanting a safe and successful introduction to creativity, and I know myself that creativity not requiring too much brain power is a perfect wind down for a busy person.
But, I feel that in today's environment, we NEED people who can be creative, solve problems creatively and who are willing to take risks. People who are willing to start from scratch.
I want to see more Slow Crafting. Like Slow Cooking - instead of opening a sachet of this and a packet of that and calling it cooking, slow cooks use fresh ingredients and enjoy the process of cooking as well as the pleasure of eating what they cooked.
Slow Crafting - the joy of "crafting from scratch" - of enjoying the process as well as the outcome. Shall we start a revolution? Or maybe an evolution?
Rider: In suggesting this, the last thing I am thinking of is some kind of elitist or separatist approach to crafting, where free hand embroidery is in and cross stitch kits are out. Much of the craftapropoganda out there is going down that road. No, I'd just like to see more risk taking, more willingness to get glue on ones manicured hands instead of using glue dots, drawing a motif instead of copying or tracing one, exploring other ways to achieve an outcome, not just the one popularised by the company that makes the product they sell to do it. :)

So, what's your take on this issue?

24 comments:

  1. I just can't stand ready made embroidery kits...you know the ones for crosstitch with all the colours and the pattern drawn out. It stifles creativity. So hat if I want my cat to be pink not orange. :p
    You don't know the thrill (yes I did use that word) of embroidery till you move away from plain crosstitch and go...freestyle, by hand not using a machine.
    The only 'help' I'd like from a craft shop is to be able to pick the fabric I want for a project and them precut large squares to order...

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  2. Gosh LadyD you are quick to pick up new posts! I was still editing it (I cannot seem to publish a post and leave it alone!) I don't know any other way than just going for it, myself, and I have had to learn to be more patient with those who want a risk free kit. And then when the really creative ones come in, they often treat me like the enemy hell bent on selling them stuff they don't need, which I am SO NOT, and it can take a while to win their trust. It's a little polarising. I would just love to see more stitchers move from cross stitch to designing their own patterns, or being willing to try embroidery. Baby steps!

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    1. I wouldn't mind the kits so much if they....erm...weren't so...twee.
      Sounds like an idea for a workshop....release your inner embroiderer. lol!

      I have to admit I'd like a silk painting kit but only so I have all the materials. Not so its gives me pre-prepared design. But then I'm an artist at heart...a creative. If that's not your bag so to speak then pre prepared is good.

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    2. Yes, kits can be good for that - like we have these starter kits for Mod Podge with five types. Ideal for experimenting with the different finishes. And six packs of little fabric paint colours, same principle.
      I don't think it's about outcomes in the sense of comparing - there are talented artists out there who work will always be amazing. But the satisfaction of changing the colours in your cross stitch pattern to better suit your taste, knowing you had some input, or making a simple quilt out of fabrics you chose yourself to go together, all of these little creative victories enrich our lives.

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  3. Some thought provoking comments. I guess there are commercialized areas in everything - quick fixes for life. We have become so time poor and often too hard on ourselves. I am someone who likes to learn the fast way first - instant gratification I guess - and then once I have mastered the easy I look at the in-depth. Without the quick pre-packaged stuff I might never get around to the intricate process of discovery.

    It’s funny – I guess it comes down to pride – which is a funny thing to say when taking the easy way out…… LOL … but I hate losing – I hate failing. It took me many many many years to realise that failure is the pathway to growth.. and I am much more comfortable with it now – but it still lingers and I still like to see that I can do something before I try too hard. Maybe that is saying too much about me! And too philosophical for this time of night!

    Thanks for getting me thinking.

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    1. Oh Beajay, what you say is SO true, of most of us I think. I think it tremendously important to get some kind of respectable outcome in order to build confidence to go on. But yup, the lick and stick stuff may increase the chance of an outcome, but it really, I feel, stunts curiosity to try something more. That glimmer of what else is possible generally comes from realising you took a risk and pulled it off, and there is a little bit of you in what you made. Of expanding possibilities.

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  4. But then you could think of sewing patterns as 'quick fixes' and that you should draft from scratch....so I wouldn't get prescriptive about it.

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    1. Exactly, it's really not about declaring things in or out. But I think it would be sad that after, say 20 years of sewing, someone hadn't extended themselves to try adapting a bought pattern at the very least. But not as a moral issue!

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  5. In England i crafted from scratch due to financial necessity .When i came to Canada it was quite a shock to find ready cut quilt fabrics made into quilts and scrapbooking embellishments pre made than added to pages,for me that just wasnt creative enough lol.

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    1. You know, I am a secret fan of jelly rolls and charm packs! I love a quick fix quilt made from these ready made sets. The way I put the fabric together is my only creative input, but it is fun. :)

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  6. I find kits a decent way of getting the hang of techniques or sometimes styles- it would be nice to have some blackwork come out actually Elizabethan styled rather than the deco-by-the-sea that tends to happen when I just wing it.

    Scrapbooking though. I can understand the lure of all the pretty paper, although I have resisted it so far, but the pre-packaged plastic embellishments make me feel downright subversive.

    Hmm, maybe there's a project in there somewhere.....

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    1. Everything makes you feel subversive, Sarah! LOL!

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  7. I think it can be a confidence thing to not want to go beyond making kits. And it suits people who are looking for an easy way to relax and be creative. I am definitely interested in what defines creativity - is following a knitting pattern more or less creative than drawing a picture of what's in your mind? It's interesting, and I don't have an answer!

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    1. Exactly! I really find the idea of these things being considered more or less creative really uncomfortable. It's not a moral issue. I am convinced that St Pete won't be going into our approach to needlework as an entrance criteria for heaven.
      What interests me is the link between the completely unskilled, prepackaged approach to crafting, and the emerging process of making one's own decisions. I don't think it is one of becoming a better person. Perhaps we are all too obsessed with outcomes, comparing results (or not comparing results) etc. Not in the sense that most of use here care, but I think we think other people do. Hmm, not making much sense, still a thought in process!

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  8. As someone who's always diving in headfirst and getting glue everywhere, I am all for slow crafting! I've always been frustrated by those ready-made kits at my local quilting store, so it's nice to hear from a shop owner who sells the raw materials.

    My dad, who is pretty much single-handedly responsible for teaching me to be creative, was always going on about how much cheaper and more satisfying it is to get one's own materials and tools and design your own ____. It's funny that as a result, I sometimes feel slightly guilty for doing embroidery since it's just following the lines (even if I drew the pattern myself)...I'll have to try free-handing sometime!

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    1. I love the idea that diving in headfirst can be defined as the slow approach! hehehe. I also have a voice in my head saying, "You could make that" whenever I see something I want to buy in the shops. Drat that voice, sometimes a girl just wants to shop!

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  9. I think people are gifted in different ways. Some people are creative, others are organized. Some people are good at math other people can sing. Actually, everyone can be creative, organize, do math and sing, excetra. But, the truth is no one finds everything easy. For some people being creative and winging it, or adding a twist to it, is difficult but they can grasp a physics concept in a minute. I think kits gives those people who struggle with creativity but still want to do it, the opportunity to exercise that lesser skill and still see some success. In the same way, calculators give those of us who struggle with basic math, a degree of success in dealing with math problems.

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    1. Yeah, I really like this way of looking at it!
      I don't have a problem with kits. I think some people are less creative than others and there's nothing wrong with that.
      And then there's the fact you can learn from kits, and use it as a springboard for creating your own ideas!

      Like this very year I learned to crochet because I bought an amigurumi kit- and now I've designed a few of my own! :)

      I think these more ready-made products reflect different skill levels. Some will progress further, some won't. And that's okay with me!

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    2. Interesting thoughts! I'm definitely not saying that kits are bad, either! :)

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  10. I must say, I struggle to understand why you'd want to knit biscuits when you could bake them and eat them! I don't buy craft magazines - I think I'm allergic to the idea! - so I'm not at all familiar with what current trends are. I just keep sewing the same patterns I've been using for years and knitting from the same Patons classic pattern books and occasionally lash out and try something new that I think up or have seen - crocheted cowls, for example - and, you know, what I end up with isn't necessarily flashy but it's functional and sometimes pretty and by and large the recipients (mostly family and occasionally friends) appreciate the object and the love that went into making it.

    I often wish I were clever enough to go freehand, as it were, and sometimes with a crochet project I will, but I'm still wedded to needing a pattern for most other things. However, I know how to draft patterns and I can't help feeling that there's no real reason to buy a pattern when I have the skills to come up with it myself. I think what I'm saying is that I'm constantly at war with myself! And sometimes that results in a stalemate. I end up not doing anything.

    Very interesting discussion.

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    1. Know that feeling. I usually compromise - if there is a pattern I will use it as a basis and apply drafting skills to make it fit, or to tweak it. Usually there is no pattern suitable - necessity is the Mother of Invention on my planet!
      Please don't let stuff like that apply pressure to you. WE women have enough pressures already without the spectre of the Perfect Crafting Wife showing up too!

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  11. Dear Mrs. C.,
    I had to let your post sink in a little while before commenting. Most of my friends kit-craft. To them it's an enjoyable dabble into using their hands, and often it's done in the company of friends, with tea or coffee and lots of chat and talking. In this way, it's a way to let off steam, and to feel creative without planning or much in the way of learning.

    When I teach friends sewing skills, it's not uncommon for some of them to freeze up or decide the juice is not worth the squeeze. For them, the minutae are less of interest than the the release and the companionship. I understand that!

    Those of us who like to make from scratch, who like to experiment, iterate, problem-solve, wing it, we do these things for the mental and manual challenge and joy of it. I suspect we find the making process more satisfying than the results. For us, acquiring and using our skills are deep parts of our identities and we feel antsy or bored when we don't have a chance to exercise our hobby muscles.

    I'd be willing to bet that other hobbies, like model-building, gardening, photography, reenacting, and so on, will break out into these groups too: the dabblers and the seriously enamoured and the various shades in between.

    What has happened with crafting, though, is that because it involves domesticity, it gets mixed up in the ongoing, eternal cultural discussion about women's identity, with all the baggage and guilt and pride and good heavens what else that brings. That's another reason I tend to avoid it. I don't want to get caught up in the guilt trip!

    Just my two cents,

    Natalie

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  12. Hi,
    I just happened upon this post (i've been admiring your Aprons) and think it is fascinating.
    I've made things since I was tiny, there were no kits, I was a huge fan of Blue Peter TV show and they were always making things out of old toilet roll tubes and sticky-backed plastic! I brought my kids up the same way, money was tight, their favourite way to spend a rainy day was with the Making Box - literally filled to the brim with bits of paper, old boxes, string, ribbon, old catalogues and plenty of glue and sticky tape.

    This kind of thing was actively encouraged at primary school but once I went to secondary school (I was 11 in 1977 so we're going back a bit) I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn't artistic, I was told not to take an 'O' level because I wasn't good at drawing. I pretty much stopped making stuff.

    I was really lucky, in my first proper job I worked with a very creative lady who taught me to knit (I'm still terrible at it!) and cross stitch. I did use kits to start with, I had no confidence and had a real issue about the things I made being good enough, I felt I'd be seen to be wasting my time if I wasn't producing something of reasonable quality.

    For me, that helped restore some confidence and I very quickly abandoned the kits and went off in my own direction. Learning to crochet last year was a revelation, it feels so 'free' to me compared to knitting - although I suspect that's very much linked to skill level.

    I've taught lots of people to crochet since, it's great because it's so portable but you can see the panic because there's no kit. My friend was totally convinced she'd never master anything creative (having been told at school they were keeping all her creative work as an example of what not to do - I know, renders me speechless). She is now on her third blanket of the year, she cannot yet get her head round instructions of any kind but if I show her a stitch she's fine. I've told her that means she's extra creative, no patterns to follow for her.

    So I can see there's a place for kits, especially if you get a little set if tools to get started, but I hope for most people they would be the start of a journey, not the final destination.
    :)

    PS - I'm not suggeting for a minute I'm particularly skilled in any of the crafts I try, I just like the 'doing' so much I try hard not to worry about the result!

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    1. Hi Jacq! What a fantastic post, thank you. We are the same age you know :). I just got home from teaching the fourth and last class of beginner patchwork and my extremely diverse class of adult students all produced fantastic results, far better than they thought they would.
      I just cannot understand the casual cruelty of teachers who tell kids they aren't good enough. It shows an appalling lack of understanding of the objectives of teaching creative subjects like Art. The purpose is not to produce artists, but to teach creative processes and thinking through Art. For me it is not about the quality of the end product my students produce, but the joy they experience in those products. Which is generally pretty moving! :)

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