I live in hope! The hope in which I am living, today in particular, is that the word ‘craft’ will one day not be considered a ‘dirty word’. That is often is, does not keep me awake at nights, but all the same it irritates me.
I had a conversation today with someone who practically bridled at the suggestion that ‘craft’ could be considered in any way connected with what he does. This person runs a small company making hand-blown glassware. It is beautiful and meticulous and absolutely stunning, and each piece is made by hand, and yet the manager of the company clearly thought that the association of the word ‘craft’ would be off-putting.
Another artist I know did not feel that ‘Art and Craft’ was a suitable description for the group of ‘makers’ with whom I exhibit. This group consists of a painter, two painter/printmakers, a jeweller and potter (yes some people would prefer ‘ceramicist, but she most definitely insists on ‘potter’). But no, the artist in question felt that none of this was ‘craft’.
Yet another friend was put down in such an offhanded way about her work by a smug and better known artist who dismissed her efforts as ‘more craft than art’, as if it could not be both, and as if ‘craft’ were an insult.
This sort of thing irritates me. I have a degree in Jewellery and a master’s degree in metalwork conservation, and I have worked in both professions, so my background requires the skills to create well-crafted work, and the scientific knowledge to understand and work with the objects of past craftsmen.
There is nothing wrong with the word Craft: it should embody the pinnacle of handmade achievement! And yet people shy away from it as if it is an insult. Someone suggested that this is because it had become associated with lesser and badly made objects and the glueing of eyes onto small rocks for sale in seaside tourist shops (apologies to any eye-gluers). But if I were to suggest that those who pierce the plastic covering on a ready-meal and stick it in the microwave and call it ‘cooking’, are in some way sullying the word so that it will cease to be used as description of what a fine and skilled chef does in a restaurant, you would probably say that was ridiculous.
I have left jewellery and conservation far behind, but I strive to create well-crafted paintings and prints, backed up by a growing understanding of how a whole range of materials behave and what can and can’t be done with them, and I am delighted if people say that there is a strong element of Craft in my artwork.
So, tell me what do you think? Is craft in fact a 4-letter word?