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Following the now-notorious Don’t Put a Bird On It: Saving “Craft” from Cuteness article in The New Yorker, there has been a lot of talk among crafters about the inadequacy of using the word “craft” as the overarching term to describe the unimaginably wide variety of things that we, as a community, make and do.
In response to the definitions presented in the New Yorker piece, Jessica from Mad In Crafts has started an interesting conversation on her blog about the many ideas that come to mind when we think of the word “craft”, and suggests that we might be better off with taking a different, more inclusive—and perhaps less fraught— approach.
If you’re a crafter or maker, I highly recommend checking out both pieces. I found myself agreeing with points made in each, and I also found it to be incredibly valuable to see so many perspectives expressed in the comments. I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited that we, as a community, are piecing together our own definitions of what it means to be someone who makes.
So, what’s your take? Are you a crafter? Or are you a maker or an artist? Or maybe something else entirely? And does that label really matter in the first place?

Haley Pierson-Cox

Brooklyn-based DIY from a Gal in Granny Glasses
http://www.thezenofmaking.com


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Comments

  1. Jessi @ Practically Functional says:

    Aah, it’s such an interesting debate! My dad is a woodworker (for lack of a better term…he builds gorgeous furniture and cabinets out of wood, but also makes bowls, pens, cups, a baseball bat for my brother, etc.) and he doesn’t have a preferred term he uses to describe himself. Usually he just says “I build custom furniture and cabinets” instead of using one term or another. But he doesn’t like being called an artist because of the connotation that his work is art instead of something functional. I think being art doesn’t preclude something from being functional, but that’s why this discussion is so interesting; everyone has a different definition of what art is versus crafts etc.
    As for me, I sort of inherited the pride in the functionality of what I make or craft from my dad, so I am also a bit apprehensive to call myself an artist or a crafter. But maybe we should just take the “crafter” label and break the stereotype a bit, because by definition I am definitely “crafting” things. They just aren’t cutesy or “crafty” and more often than not, the form follows the function. Sometimes I make horrendously ugly things that are exactly what I wanted or needed to get the job done. Just my two cents :-)

  2. zzipper says:

    Craft is what I do.. Artist is what I am..

  3. Kirby Carespodi says:

    In my blog description I say I “do creative stuff.” Of course, the end of the sentence says “while drinking heavily.” So I should probably stay out of the conversation.

  4. clancey says:

    oops, i don’t mean to be elitist: what i was going for is that you can be amazing at felting, that is your craft. you can be fantastic with glitter, and while that may not be my taste, you have refined and honed your craft. you can noodle around with some no-sew and make a lopsided “indian purse”, that may not quite be craft. but if you’re trying, and pursuing something you’re passionate about, then you’re on your way.

  5. Lori says:

    Oh this is so interesting to me. I cringed for YEARS and YEARS at the “craft” label. In my head “craft” meant kits from the store, or decoupaging wooden blanks & calling it “handmade”, or a myriad of other cutesy activities I would never be caught dead doing (oh how snobby I was). I had too many things I liked to do & make but I wasn’t an artist and I wasn’t an expert at any one of them. I just was a compulsive maker. I usually overexplained myself or just focussed on one activity when people asked about hobbies.
    Nowadays I say I make things. If the person I’m talking with wants more detail I provide it. I’m still not comfortable with the “craft” term but it’s more palatable than it used to be. I think context helps. If you’re referring to gluing stuff to doilies I’m still going to say “No, I don’t craft”.

  6. georgie says:

    A friend introduced me to someone and said I was “an artist” which was a compliment. Yes, I do crafts as in the things with glue, buttons, bits and bobs and reuse things in a crafty sense, but I also paint and create from new objects, making things as gifts and sometimes selling them. Hmm maybe a craftologist would be a good description.

  7. Tam of Ginkgo Girls says:

    This argument kinda makes me groan. I got my BFA (bachelor of fine arts) in the 90′s and was so sick of the topic “what is art” by my senior year that I vowed never to entertain the argument again. Feels like I’ve come full circle to hear the same discussions on a different label. I always inwardly laughed at the snobby art establishment that looked down at “craft”, but talked incessantly on one’s “craftsmanship”. Really? Really?

  8. gabby says:

    I always thought of a craft as something that took time and thoughtfulness and cultivated capabilities. I like it when people say I’m crafty. It feels like an acknowledgement of making and doing and thinking up. Is crafting to become krafting (like Krab vs crab) when glue guns, plastic flowers, Michael’s coupons are introduced? Like those tools do not beget true creativity, but almost? (I hope not, but it seems The New Yorker author might think so.)
    When I taught high school English in an arts and literature academy within a large high school, my students were making things all the time. Some projects looked like the teenage equivalent of holly hobby crafts, others were spectacular creations from a child developing a strong artistic eye and voice. Both kinds of projects could be valid in expressing a point of view, conveying a concept, interpreting meaning. Also, both could be off the mark, and being prettier didn’t make the grade better. The real value so many, though not all, of my students found was that creating something with their hands not only forced them to think about a book or a poem or a concept differently, and maybe find clarity they hadn’t had, but there was real satisfaction in the process and result. Many of my students did amazing work and kids who weren’t “artsy” found mucking about with glue and paint and clay and whatever they used was stimulating, sometimes relaxing, and almost always rewarding. Is that craft or art or something else? I don’t know. I think that’s why the I Make tag is resonating with me.
    Off topic:
    I was struck by the gender delineation of crafting and projects, as though the hammer and nails were best left to the menfolk. I know that when I look through blogs, often, it seems, the heavy lifting projects like backyard water tables or built-in bookcases or cool loft beds that looks like tree houses are the papa projects while the softer projects are handled by the mamas (blogger). Does making and what is made settle so easy along gender lines? I don’t think it always does. But I thoughtThe New Yorker article opened the door to a discussion about what we’re seeing in terms of gender (and race and economics though these factors were not mentioned in the article) in the make world. (This discussion has probably started somewhere long ago and I haven’t come across it yet.)

  9. alicia says:

    I’m really interested in this too, and kind of wish I could find a word besides ‘craft’ to use. Sometimes I say maker or DIY but neither of those feels like a good fit either.

  10. Jane says:

    I love the word craft because of its association with witchcraft and magic. When I spend hours and hours creating something beautiful, I definitely like to think that it is imbued with magic.

  11. Jane says:

    I love the word craft because of its association with witchcraft and magic. When I spend hours and hours creating something beautiful, I definitely like to think that it is imbued with magic.

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