Another commenter who made a very good point, was Emma from Pumpkinsputnik. Here’s her two cents worth:
“The craft scene in general has always had the problem of defining itself properly. For a long time there has been the debate about what ‘craft’ means. Unfortunately for us, it means lots of things. To me, the word ‘craft’ conjures up images of craftsmen and women working away in a messy workshop surrounded by the tools of their trade and using their skills to make beautiful, functional, useful objects after years of learning and experience – this is what I aspire to, I don’t see myself as a craftsperson in the true sense of the word yet, for now I am a designer-maker.
The word ‘craft’ also covers all the hobbyists out there who make stuff which doesn’t necessarily take much skill and just do it for fun (although I know there are lots of skilled amateurs out there – just look at some of the knitted stuff available, and the people who can make their own clothes). I just want to say here that I don’t have anything against people being creative, it’s a great thing, but we do need to distinguish our work from theirs.
Without carefully juried markets we will always have to compete against the hobbyists (and when I say hobbyists, I mean those who don’t value their work properly but still expect to sell it next to decent, realistically-priced work), how we distinguish ourselves is down to how we market our work – using the word ‘design’ may be the way to go, or modern craft.
I’d really like to see Craft Scotland do more to help market makers in Scotland, they seem to be concentrating on selling the craft scene to overseas markets and have just announced a big exhibition over Christmas in Manchester! Which is all well and good but why aren’t they doing one in Scotland as well for goodness sake?!” Emma.
Clare Nicolson had a similar gripe:
“Times have changed. Currently in Glasgow there are no events that I feel comfortable selling my work at. Not wanting to sound too harsh, but the only way I can describe the scene right now is hobbyist makers selling at events run by hobbyist event organisers. I can’t attend any local markets because it’s impossible to sell my cushions (which retail for £45+) sitting a few tables away from makers that are selling similar, cheaper (and poorer quality) products. This ‘bargain basement’ attitude towards markets is damaging the people that are trying to work full-time as a maker. I mean, I like a bargain as much as the next person but I also know the value of someone’s time, skill and dedication to creating a beautiful product. And sadly I don’t think the majority of people currently selling at/organising/attending markets have the same perception of value.” Clare Nicolson.
Phew, loads of good points there, almost a whole other argument on its own! The name game rears its ugly head again – what’s in a name? Well, your livelihood.
Like Emma, I am really not against people being creative. In fact, I am ALL for it. I just don’t want my work to be judged alongside that of people sticking things to other things for a laugh when I’m knocking my pan in working 100 hours a week on my business. One of the problems with making ‘craft’ accessible to all is that everyone then thinks they can make a living from it.
This is fine if you are talented, bringing a unique solution to a problem which is well-designed and produced and properly priced. It’s not so fine when you are churning out bobble hats at £2.50 a pop because your auntie said she liked the one you bestowed upon her for Christmas. (Newsflash – she was most probably just being polite, it’ll have made its way to a charity shop by now. Honestly, have a rummage in her cupboard next time you’re round – GONE).
There is a line between hobby crafters and designer/makers and whilst it can occasionally become blurred, on the whole, it’s fairly easy to tell what side you fall of it. If you enjoy sticking sea shells onto lampshades, then by all means, do so in the privacy of your own home. Please, do go ahead and give them to all your friends on their birthdays.
But if you are thinking about earning some moolah from it, stop and think. Do your research. Is there really a market for this? And if there is, are you covering your costs? Making a profit? Does someone else already do this? Are you infringing their copyright? Is your idea original? Where will you advertise? What about branding? What’s your business plan? Who is your target market? Who is going to buy this and why?
See, there’s a little more to it than building it and them coming. How would you feel if you did start flogging your corn dollies you spent hours on and someone came and set up shop next door to you, making really shitty corn dollies that fall apart and aren’t even made from real corn anyway, but from Weetabix, and charged a fraction of the price you do and people BOUGHT them? How would that make you feel? Awful, I’d wager. Angry and cheesed off and disappointed and disillusioned and generally GAH. THIS is all-too-often what it feels like to be a designer-maker.
I don’t have a solution. But I do know that having events populated by stalls of this turns everyone off and causes the death of our scene. Hope is on the horizon in Edinburgh, at least, where the Fruitmarket Gallery recently held Design Market which by all accounts was chock-full of amazing design by talented and enthusiastic makers. I hope they do it again at Christmas time, as they are apparently currently mulling over. Tweet them here and ask them to do so.
And why ARE Craft Scotland putting on an exhibition in Manchester when they do so little in their own backyard for their own people? Riddle me that.