Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Being Crafty

Obviously, if you are reading my blog you have some sort of idea by now that I like to make things, and I'm fairly good at it. Most people refer to this talent as "being crafty" although I have to say that phrase always did sound weird to me. When asked my hobbies, I hate to add Arts and Crafts to the list, because honestly, that sounds reminiscent of the crap little kids make in summer camp.

You know what I'm talking about - items concocted from popsicle sticks, stickers smacked on random household objects, bad glitter and tacky paint jobs. That stuff is cute when kids do it, but in my opinion, when adults are making it, it's just plain sad. I know I'm not the only one who thinks that way - sites such as Regretsy and Craftastrophe are very popular for a reason.

While not every bad craft (the kind that gives crafters a bad name, I mean) is bad enough to end up on those types of sites, there is a large difference between types of crafters. Personally, I've got us sorted into three categories. First, there are the crafters who make the ugly stuff. They are proud that they can make things with their hands, but they're not very good at it. They don't pay attention to patterns or styles, and they have no knowledge of color or design. Every so often they'll make something awesome, but for the most part, you wouldn't want their artwork in your home.

Second, there are the master crafters. You know who they are. Martha Stewart is way up there. Eddie Ross (who by no accident works for Ms. Stewart) is one of them too. They make beautiful things, things that you can't believe someone made with a glue gun. There are a lot of these people on Etsy if you look hard enough. Crafters strive to be like them.

Then there is the third group. That would be the group where I like to think I sit. We have a good sense of shape and color. We pay attention to detail. We look to make things that are beautiful and purposeful, instead of just making something for the sake of making something. Above all, we are secretly terrified of being lumped in with the crafters in the first group. We worry that someone will look at the stuff we make and dismiss it as "mere" arts and crafts.

I mean, anyone can say they made a necklace, but if they show up wearing this:

you're not going to be as impressed as if they walked in wearing this:

Regardless of what they made, they still are probably referred to by people who know them as being "crafty" or "into crafts."

You can order a custom appliquéd baby onesie with a tie design and expect something like this:

but be disappointed when you receive something like this:

Paying attention to details matters! Look at how the fabrics are centered in the first photo. The appliqué is curved to mirror the neckline of the shirt, and neatly outlined in a coordinating color. The second one looks like it was just thrown together in ten minutes. The outlining is skimpy and doesn't cover all the edges of the patterned fabric. The only way this could be worse would be if they just used a little Heat n' Bond and didn't bother to outline it at all! The argyle fabric isn't centered at all, and the two pieces don't line up, let alone lie the way a real tie would. Also, look at the difference in quality between the onesies. The first ones are really thick and nice compared to the second ones.

It's the difference between Gymboree and Walmart workmanship.

Say you have your heart set on a felt pillow that will bring some of the outdoors in. You know, something really springy. Would you be more excited to get this:

Or this?

Or what if you wanted a cute felt flower for your hair? Would you buy this one:

or this one?

I don't mean to sound like a snob or like I think I'm better than anyone else. That's not the point I'm trying to make here. It's just that I hold myself and my work up to such high standards, and it drives me crazy when I see people who are barely even trying get accolades. I've had people ask me to make stuff for them, and when they send me a photo, if I know I can't make it at LEAST as good as what is depicted, I will usually decline. Of course, then they ask someone else and I when I end up seeing the final product I get mad at myself, because a lot of times it's butt ugly and I know I could have done a better job than that!

To the non-crafty, there usually is no difference between Martha Stewart and Carol Duvall. Both are women who have (or had) tv shows where they make stuff. But to me, there's a vast difference, and I know on which side of the divide I want to be. It's important when combining two items to make a new one that your styles and colors don't clash. Pattern placement is important. The rule of three is a rule for a reason. Stickers are usually not art.

Of course, art is totally subjective, and someone could find my work horrible but love some of the stuff I've cited as bad examples, so you can take all this with a grain of salt.

Oh, and on one final note, just because someone makes stuff does not mean they should have their own show. (Oh man did I see a good example of this on the Ion network last week!) I am no where near the level of Martha or Eddie. Sometimes people make stuff because they truly enjoy making stuff, and not because they're out to make a fast buck. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some granny squares to finish crocheting. :)



Blogger Hooptee said...

So true! My sister always complains about not being creative (she doesn't to any kind of craft/art/music). But I tell her at least you don't have to be frustrated that you are creative, but not talented enough to make money at it! ;)

This is a great point and a great reminder - sweat the small stuff in crafting!

7:19 AM  

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