28 Feb 2014

What will it take to make Crafting Cool?

For the longest time, maybe for all time, it has been seen to be ultimately 'cooler' to have something made for you than to have made it yourself. Designer clothes, handbags, jewellery, homewares and even food. To be seen with these ready-made products in your possession is and always has been desirable. I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to lusting after a Chanel handbag (knowing I will never be able to physically part with that kind of money for something I just put my stuff in) or an Anthropology bed throw (Arrosa Quilt anyone?) The question I find myself asking, on quite regular basis (usually when I am cruising the Net a Porter website) is...Why?

Why is it more desirable to have something made by a stranger in a factory in Asia than to use our bare hands to create something completely unique? Don't misunderstand me, I don't think everyone should make everything for themselves, or that designer products are in some way inferior, far from it. But why do so many people find it so hard to see the value in handmade products? Why if something is handmade is it seen as less desirable, less valuable than something from a brand or a fashion house?

Obviously not everyone feels this way, and certainly some high end designer products are made with as much care as handmade ones, I suppose the difference boils down to four things.

  • Environment : Lets face it a high-end designer boutique suggests high quality, high value, high prices. Craft fairs, even good ones, suggest (to some) market stall prices, and 'home-made' quality. Even a well put together display on a trestle table is a far cry from a shiny white flagship store. They do it by fooling us into believing the 'exclusivity factor' with the image that less is more. You will rarely see a shelf in Dior laden with twenty bags, three per shelf if you are lucky, a very different look from a heaving craft show stall. It is hard to imagine someone paying  (the price of a small family car) for a handbag displayed on an upturned milk crate (unless it was in the Tate modern) or crammed on a table with twenty of exactly the same but slightly different clutch bags. 
  • Branding : Many of the biggest fashion houses have been around for a long time and spend billions of pounds on branding and promoting their products. They can command premium advertising space in fashion magazines and have top models and celebrities be seen in/with their products. People know their names. Chanel, Gucci, Burburry, these brands are international and renowned. They can afford to tempt us into believing that by owning a designer product that we will be admired by our peers. 
  • The Cool Factor: Explaining this is as hard as explaining to X factor contestants why they have been voted off the show, despite their phenomenal voice. It is the difference between the popular kids and the not so popular ones. It often has little to do with quality and more to do with perception. Until a few years ago Vintage was just called 'second hand'. It is about how trends influence peoples perception. 
  • Conventionality: People in general like to be safe, they like to follow the crowd, owning a designer bag aside, they like to be considered 'normal'. Art and crafts are in general the polar opposite. Craft is unconventional, unusual, controversial, boundary pushing and unique. To some this is a little scary, they know where they are with a recognised brand, they know that people will admire their pricey purchase and it will be seen as a status symbol. With crafts they are not necessarily guaranteed that ego boosting response. 
In order to make crafting cool, we have to change the way people think about hand-crafted products. As crafter's we have to be brave about our own works worth, be braver when pricing our creations and honest about what it takes to produce our creations. If we don't value our work, why should anyone else! We need to take a good hard look at presentation and be proud to tell the story of how much love has gone into our wares (we crafts people are a rather self deprecating bunch). We need to take on the tricks of the high end designers, our customers need to know they are going to feel special and admired for their choice to be pro craft. Crafters are lucky that 'trends' have been in our favour in recent years, but trends come and go. We need to be pro-active and not let go of all the hard work that has been done to make crafts desirable to all. 

We would love to know your thoughts, leave a comment below or come chat with us on Twitter @livelovemake

Sammy xxx

6 comments:

  1. Hi ladies!

    This is such an interesting article. I wrote my dissertation on craft vs design and how craft is devalued as a women's pursuit whilst design is respected, with it traditionally being a predominantly male led profession. Not to make this a sexist rant, but I believe we need to value our design and making skills together as a process. Handmade should mean well made, bespoke and desirable. Your post is a great starting point to actually making that happen.

    Good work! xx

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    1. Thanks Francesca,
      Sounds like a fascinating dissertation.
      H & Sammy

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  2. I think crafting is definitely having a bit of a 'cool' moment right now, in no small part to Pinterest - I'm pretty sure that's where I started clicking through from diy's to discover all the great craft blogs out there. Seeing events such as the Liberty and Etsy collaboration shows a recognition from traditional 'destination' labels of smaller handcrafted businesses and by putting them in front of a different audience, hopefully people will slowly start to see the value here as well as in bigger, shinier labels. I'm trying to do a little part of my own by interviewing contemporary designer-makers - mainly because I'm so curious about (and also jealous of!) anyone with such talent they can utilise it in running a business. I think the perception of craft is only going to get better and better :) Thanks for such a great thought-provoking post :)

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    1. Thanks Verity, I agree that Pinterest and Etsy, with their classy, beautiful presentation of hand crafted items is most definitely helping to bring hand-crafted items to a higher level. I hope that the craft industry learns from these sites in terms of presentation, because I think that is the key to making crafts more desirable to the masses. Thanks so much for your input.
      Sammy xxx

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  3. Where I live, the Ministry of Agriculture runs ads encouraging people to buy unprocessed, local produce, dairy, and meat. They do this for two reasons: to support the local farmers, but also to counteract the endless flood of advertising for processed foods made by international conglomerates.

    I think crafting is in a similar bind. Crafters have to compete against a mass production juggernaut that screams it is the best way, the only way, to clothe yourself, furnish your home, and on and on.

    I was over knitting at a pub (like you do), and woman who had just started knitting struck up a conversation with me and asked some how-to questions. Her husband kept interrupting and saying, "but will you ever be able to match machine quality?". I explained what I was doing couldn't be done on a machine, that the hands methods had their benefits, but he kept blowing off my responses. Finally I lost my temper and said, "Those machines you admire so much? They're trying to keep up with ME. NOT the other way around. You're saying it backwards." I don't know if I changed his mind, but at least it shut him up!

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    1. Some people just really don't see other people point of view hey! At least you were having fun and doing your own thing. Nothing can be bad about that.
      H

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Thanks for your comment. We do read them all and appreciate the support <3
H and Sammy

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