Tuesday, July 17, 2007

craft thoughts

Phyllis George, founder of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and an avid folk and traditional arts collector said:
“Crafts make us feel rooted, give us a sense of belonging and connect us with our history. Our ancestors used to create these crafts out of necessity, and now we do them for fun, to make money and to express ourselves.”

One of the threatening philosophies in our culture today seems to be an attempt to rewrite history. While history is the domain, generally, of the victors and is told always from a biased viewpoint no matter how objective the writer attempts to be, it is still an attempt to present facts as well as interpretation. Crafts have always been a part of our history no matter where we are in the world.

At first craft was done from necessity. People needed weapons for defense and implements for hunting, fishing and gathering. Later farm tools were needed as well as tools for various other crafts that developed. Homes and furniture were needed as well.

Then as things got more settled and urgency for the finished product diminished to allow for more production time, art got confused with craft as decorative work was added. The history of craft is also the history of art especially as it affects the things that people use every day.

Today the effects of the industrial revolution allow us even greater freedom for art in craft as most utensils, furniture, wood work and fabric can be readily produced as a consumer item by machine. The craftsman woodturner? Following for instance the bowl turners of yesterday we may still attempt to craft a fine salad bowl out of beautiful woods. Yet the person buying could get as functional a bowl for less than a tenth the price at the local big box store.

Instead, we all become a part of the ongoing history of craft. The turner makes a bowl for the sheer joy of crafting a piece out of wood in the same manner as turners a thousand years ago. The buyer buys not for the salad, but for the pleasure of using a beautiful object on a regular basis. They purchase not a salad bowl but a gorgeous piece of wood lovingly crafted in the manner of a long history of craft and civilization.

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