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Thinking About Art and Crafts

I’ve been watching the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement, and its questions of profit, corporate control, and the enduring effects of industralized consumer goods. Those of us who like to make arts and crafts (or, let’s be honest, dream of having time to do so) have been grappling with some of these issues for about 150 years. Essays and links follow!

In the hands of yarn bombers, knitting overflows, taking over the landscape and the city. Contrast the yarn bombers, and how they change and play with spaces, to the classic Situationist/Futurist essay Formulary for a New Urbanism, “We don’t intend to prolong the mechanistic civilizations and frigid architecture that ultimately lead to boring leisure. We propose to invent new, changeable decors….”

It's not the Wall Street Bull, but close!

Yarn bombed bull, captured by Daintytime, re-used under Creative Commons, click image for link. Thanks Daintytime!

The delightful Bread & Puppet Theater Cheap Art Manifesto. “Art has to be CHEAP and AVAILABLE to EVERYBODY.”

Is there a crafter alive with broadband who hasn’t seen  “Put A Bird On It?” But wait, there’s more! After reading about a crafter’s own tangle with “Put A Bird On It,” including extinct birds, mechanical reproduction, and copyright, I’m about to join Emily Yoffee whittling them there tobacco-planting sticks.

Embroidering your own pillowcases and having artisanal interiors has had political/social significance earlier in history. Here is an introduction to William Morris and the Western Arts & Crafts movement, the Victorian/Edwardian reaction to industrialism.

Walter Benjamin’s essay The Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction, a foundation essay on the topic, unpacking post-industrial anxiety about art reproduction and power. The end gets heavy, consider that Walter Benjamin was Jewish and writing this essay in Germany in 1936.

Emily Yoffe spends time as an 18th century US colonial re-enactor and is amazed at how different and fulfilling hands-on work is compared to her usual tapping at computers A quote: “Once humans spent most of their days doing useful things with their hands, and I realized that we were designed to get a deep satisfaction from this. As Hughes put it, “You have the feeling people were supposed to do this kind of work, rather than data entry, which is amazingly horrible.””

The Craftster 2011 Indie Craft Report peers into the state of craft today.

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