I was browsing some of my favourite blogs today, and came across an opinion piece that made me think.  It was a review of a documentary about the indie craft (or DIY) movement.  I wasn’t so much interested in the review, but the blogger expressed something, somewhat apologetically, that is definitely food for thought.  She wondered why  so much indie craft looks like crap.

Of course, if you look at some of the best of DIY (craftzine.com’s blog shows plenty) you know that there’s some beautiful and inspiring crafting going on out there.  Besides, a big part of the indie/DIY movement revolves around being ecologically responsible–creatively repurposing items to keep trash out of landfills and buy fewer new things.  Maybe these crafts need to be appreciated on those terms, instead of merely on esthetic effect and quality of workmanship.

It occurs to me that it was almost exactly 100 years ago that much of North America was experiencing a revival of the Craftsman style/philosophy popularized by William Morris in the late 1800s.  His motto was that people should “have nothing in (their) houses that is not beautiful or useful”. 

In the early 1900s, you could build your own house from a kit.  They were sold by Sears, among others.  Making your own furniture and embroidering your own household linens was seen as a way for the middle class to have beauty and art in their homes without having to have a large income.  Marie Webster designed beautiful quilts and sold kits to make them. 

I wish I had been around in 1912 or so, in Gustav Stickley’s heyday, to find out whether the traditional artisans of the time thought that Craftsman style was crap.  And I would love to be around in 100 years from now to see what we think of indie craft, in retrospect.

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