Cunning, just not crafty

During an absolutely brilliant printmaking workshop I attended recently, I witnessed a scene that made me ponder. There was a moment when people were rummaging for materials to press into their artwork, and someone suggested the possibility of using sea shells. “You could… but then it might become a little crafty’”was the response. The reaction was palpable – the participants physically recoiled from the suggestion of risking ‘craftiness’.

Which of course made me pose the question to them – what is this ‘craftiness’ you fear so much?

The reaction was fascinating – nobody could quite encapsulate or articulate what this thing they didn’t want to be was. They knew it when they saw it – but struggled defining it. One person suggested that it was related to a lack of creativity, however I’ve seen some pretty creative uses for egg cartons and macramé in my time (macramé bikinis – who would have thunk it!). So I’m not entirely convinced. Does the addition of sea shells create instant craftiness? Is it the association with lifestyle magazine helpful hints and great ideas section that stigmatise craft? When I was at university doing my BA in Industrial Design, we studied William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. I wonder what Bill would have to say on the matter?

Well, needless to say, the question remained unanswered by the time I left – but I think it’s an interesting one. And if we should find that we accidentally slip over that border line that apparently lies between art and craft – shall we spiral into some kind of mind altering vortex?