This essay is about craft. What I like and what I don’t like about craft. This is the crux of what i’m doing and have been doing for twenty years. I’ve got it bad for craft but why??? It sort of plagues me and i can’t quite seem to let go. They call glitter the herpes of craft, and for me it seems here to stay.
So what do I like about craft? Craft, crafting. Making and doing, with string and buttons, streamers, glue, coloured paper, spray paint, glitter (which is horrible stuff to work with really). Stickers, don’t forget stickers, and texta and pencils, paint, wool and fabric. I have it all. Hoarded it all. And never quite seem to follow things through with it. I don’t quite seem to get there with craft because it fails and I kind of hate it also. So i feel like I fail in craft over and over again. I’m so happy i don’t have a studio anymore, it was becoming a store house for more craft materials. Now that its all packed down into the space of my bedroom, (the studio was a COVID casualty) I squarely have to deal with it.
I like craft becasue it is an escape. When you make something your attention is contained in the making. If you can settle in, really settle into it, it becomes meditation. Your hands become one with the work, your mind becomes one, everything can slip away. I have found this most in the meditative craft of observational drawing. Drawing the lines the shapes all of it drawing. Drawing is a craft. Is drawing a craft? I think its a craft. You have to know how to think to draw, its a crafting of space with your hands and mind. Its a great past time and way to think in the world. But theres others too, knitting which i admire so strongly, but have never really been able to do with any great flair, i can make a scarf, and like Liz Lemon on 30Rock take it up as Jack Donughue guesses with impeccible precision, every year, for exactly 1.5 weeks. There is very resolutely an undone scarf project in the draw of my room and its a reoccuring motifs of my life.
Lets talk about paper, paper folding and crafting, card making, decorating, scrapbooking, collaging, perhaps cleverly into origami like forms, or making pop-ups. So many possibilities in paper for design, illustration and paper made cuteness. Paper seems cute. Its rarely angry. It hardly lashes out, except for the occasional paper cut, they can be quite bad but easily healed. Paper burns but burning paper seems naughty, if you are not part of a culture that has burning paper as a ritual. Paper is ubiquitous and paper is benign. Paper is insidious and can be complicated when laws and words and contracts and legalities appear on the surface. Paper can be worth many things when printed in fine details with historic figures on it. Paper paper paper. I like old thin paper, and stationary stores, especially ones that are old, never cleaned and covered in dust, you can find the best paper in those places.
Fabric is akin to paper, similar but different, and fabric is a skin. More robust than paper, patterned, coloured, textured, all sorts of different. Much bigger. Fabric has an agency that paper dosen’t though they often equate one another. Fabric can be sewn and is the basis of clothes, sewing clothes, another craft, a professional craft is something that also interests me. I have paper patterns for fabric clothes, and carboard now to make better more solid patterns also. Sewing takes time but its worth it. Making clothes is the most fun, except when it dosen’t work out. Then its tragic. Self doubt can follow once you realise the garment doesn’t work, won’t work and you wasted all that time. I hang too much on the clothes i try to make, but I’ve gotten much better at it over the years.
Paint. Paint is easy and paint is fun, it is again coloured and holds the magic of chroma. Paint is expensive though. And another serious craft. It can be simple and easy though too, and cheap. Poster paints, on paper, just spreading colour on. Acrylic paint on canvas, a bit more serious now, but still fun and in it for the bursts of colour. Oil paint the most serious of the paints, more dignified than enamel, enamel is the rogue paint, the bastion of cheap vandals and glue sniffers. There is a place for enamel in my heart too. Watercolour. Now watercolour is fun. All those little tubes. And getting it all on the paper the right way. Each type of paint a joy, with the possibility of being a tragedy when they don’t work out.
I don’t feel i’ve ever become a ‘serious’ artist yet, i’m stuck in the ‘craftist’ phase casue I could never choose, lured in by the myriad of possibilities, and a surface approach to each one, though i did try glitter painting for 20 years. Now glitter I will write a whole essay on glitter, but just to start glitter is the best thing about craft, its very appearance defies all seriousness. Defies all gloom, existential doom and pain. There is no pain where there is glitter. There is only a trance like space of colour and texture. Galaxies of colour and little pin pricks of light. It moves as you move is it wonderful. The lure of it all. Tinsel and glitter and gah. Makes me want to vomit.
Maybe i’ll move on to why i don’t like craft...
I don’t like craft. I kind of hate craft, it makes me want to be violent. It makes me want to cry and scream and break things. It makes me rage. Where does this rage come from? Craft is so benign it seems, and thats the problem. Crafting is the space of women and children, especially girls. A billion pins on pinterest are testament to this temple of DIY. “Some girls are just born with glitter in their veins” joyful, trance like, benign and pretty glitter. A decorative affect and a blight on female agency. Most young boys will move away from craft separated from it in the socialisation of school and society. Though they love it when they get a chance to have a go. Especially sewing, the manual dexterity and the challenge of problem solving through thread and fabric is usually enjoyed though never given as a serious activity to boys very often. The sexes are divided along lines of activity and serious problems ensue. Men cut off from such simple and joyful activites become angry and agressive, at worst engaged in domestic or other violence, no place to work out their sensitivites. Some women may acquiese to their prison of pretty paper flowers, child caring, floral arrangement, interior decoration and setting up party decorations, meanly demeaning other women who have not done the same. Is craft to blame? I will be contentious and say yes. But only where its fallen into the hands of book publishers, t.v shows, pinterest, and other capitalist driven forces that seek to squeeze all they can from the enticing blend of fun and femininity craft can offer. Craft is old, and historic but craft can also be used for racial divide when co-opted into commerce. It can be culturally appropriated, lines drawn along craft bound territories of visual element and principle. Craft is as old as the racial divides it has created. Craft is worthy, craft is worthless. Craft is the creation of commerce if you would like to examine it historically for its abiltily to provide difference and worth.
So i don’t like the white world commerce co-opted craft, the one that turns women into sentimental, balloon stringing, paper doll hanging, scrapbooking, pretty dress wearing, own clothes sewing, half a scarf knitting fools. Though i admire all the effort and it really is fun... isn’t it time to wake up from the glitter fog, tying ribbons in your children’s hair and realise the world is entirely in a lot of trouble?