In this corner, the Bearded Battler from Blighty, William Morris!
And in this corner, perennial star of reality television, Tori Spelling!
Yeah, seems a little incongruous to me, too.
But that’s the death match New Yorker columnist Alexandra Lange pits against one another in her recent article Don’t Put a Bird On It: Saving “Craft” from Cuteness.
Lange finds Spelling’s current reality show, Craft Wars, an offense against William Morris’ leadership of the Arts and Crafts movement… oh, and Etsy is an anti-feminist horror because many of the crafters are women who make cute things.
I would posit that Craft Wars is to serious crafters (who still exist in large numbers across the country and across the world) what the funky craft projects published in Victorian women’s magazines are to the Arts and Crafts movement. In short, both ends of the spectrum have always existed side by side. Sure the average Victorian housewife didn’t have Beadazzlers and plastic mesh (although they did have something like Yankee Candles), but that hardly means every proposed – or even finished – home project was tasteful, useful, and not cute.
I would also posit that the worst aspect of Etsy isn’t the cute, it’s the plethora of buy and sell imported goods available that dilute its purpose of selling handmade items.
Am I a fan of Craft Wars? No. I’ve seen about half of a couple episodes and, well, it didn’t do that much for me. I hate the fact that there are builders who create the larger, sturdier bits while the contestants mostly decorate stuff with what the judges are pretty sure to say is nowhere near enough glitter.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s a place for something like it in the crafting world. I think my feelings were summed up best by commenter LGREYFORTWHITE, who said:
“I’m of two minds here: I had a parent who was a professional silver-and goldsmith. Family friends were all weavers, ceramicists, hand-printers, glas-blowers, metalsmiths working in all the differents media…. So, yes, I too recoil a bit when glueing pencils onto a window box is lumped into the ‘craft’ category. However, I have also witnessed acquaintances of mine start out stringing beads into nice earrings and necklaces, and become motivated to learn the full spectrum of jewellery-making techniques, or set about learning to make the glass beads by hand. So, starting off with something elementary may lead people to more engaging work. Not all of them will “graduate”, of course, but some will.”
And you know what? If even one of them does so because of watching an episode of Craft Wars, then it will have served a useful purpose.