As mentioned before, “the crafter”, their habitat, ecosystem and mindset are the focus of this blog. It looks like they have attracted the attention of other people also. Let’s quickly see what they had to say.
BOP Consulting in 2012, in a report called “Craft in an Age of Change”, defined a crafter’s typology in terms of the somewhat narrow parameters of level of qualification and career commitment. Hence, you could be a craft careerist (trained, committed), an artisan (untrained, committed), a returner (trained and repentant) or a career changer (untrained and inexperienced). This classification leaves me somewhat perplexed.
Alternatively, a gentleman named Ian Fillis, thought crafters to be either lifestylers, entrepreneurs, idealists or late developers. He was studying the relationship between entrepreneurial craft and tourism. Idealists “create their own market, producing premium-priced crafts objects that express the maker’s conception of beauty, emotion or some other aesthetic ideal”. By contrast, entrepreneurs are more likely to produce work that caters to conventional market demand. For some reason, lifestylers and late developers were fuzzier to define. Well, that, also leaves me a little puzzled.
Finally, Allison Ospina studied the crafter population in West Cork and described it as “drawn to the wild, empty landscapes“, millitant with a stance on nuclear disarmament, women’s liberation, environmental politics and the self-sufficiency movement. All encouraged creative people to “live closer to Nature” and reject aspects of the consumer society.” Well now…
In addition, apparently the vast majority are micro-businesses led by women juggling a family with contributing economically, often walking a tight rope between the two. Now, I can relate to that. However, I am not sure how this relates the the craft careerist, idealist or women’s liberation…
So let’s go back a bit. I have dropped my fancy career because pushing it further meant outsourcing parenting to a creche or after school club. Everybody owns their own decision and I have no opinion on people who do it, it just was not for me. This probably makes me a career changer, allegedly untrained and politically motivated. The fact that I have always made things and developed skills through trial and error is probably irrelevant, since I have no formal training. By the way, I heard that some formal craft training colleges no longer teach the practical skills. Design is THE skill to acquire while the making gets outsourced. I find that baffling.
Or maybe I am a lifestyler. Well, for me craft is a bit like a disease, you see something and the automatic reaction is “must try making that”. Pinterest is my best friend, the house bears the scars of DIY attempts and my kids have had to put up with dodgy fashion on more than one occasion. It is a mindset, you live it or you don’t, it is not a label. As per the entrepreneur bit, again, I am a little at loss. It is great to create and it is great to sell. Any sensible person would organise their business around both pleasing the market and pleasing this creative drive, if anything, to limit risk and maximise appeal – an idealist entrepreneur?
As per political commitment, this blog is not the place for a ranting and grumpy wrong-side-of-forty diatribe. However, I do believe that giving up the comfort of a career of “sit back and be told” and committing to an attitude of “doing and making” will foster deep political views about what we see as nurturing that orientation rather than undermine it. So, how Nature is looked after, how society enables and empowers, how to live rather than merely exist, requires meaningful engagement.
In the end, if one can fit into so many categories, are the categories useful? Well, no. Could you apply the same label to any regular worker out there? Well yes, we are all human beings with our own motivations and dreams. So these labels do not define the crafters or the non-crafters. I do not even think they are relevant. Should a career crafter get more support than a lifestyle one? Is an entrepreneur more important than a home-bound crafter? What is the purpose of this classification if no tangible benefits ensue?
I think in these troubled times where society and governance seem to be frailer by the day and where Nature is so out of kilt, we should ask ourselves: how do we build a healthy and sustainable society? What attitudes and habits should we instill in our children that a brighter future is possible? If we asked ourselves these questions, I think we would find that what makes a crafter a crafter(rather than cataloguing what a crafter is) would be worth nurturing and celebrating.
Mapping the craft sector in Southern Ireland
Check our resources page, if you are interested in this wonderful area…