Sunday, July 15, 2012

What do you call yourself?

I have been telling Jeff that facebook has become rather boring. When I first started using it, there were some interesting conversations going on. Lately much of my newsfeed is filled with reposts of silly animal pictures or ultra conservative political views that I just don't want to give any energy to.

But yesterday, an interesting conversation was started.

A NH  fb friend who puts on an arts market in the capital city posted this as her status:

"I'm starting a campaign to eradicate the word craft fair from the American Vocabulary."

Wow, that got lots of responses! Many responders agreed that they didn't like the term and the conversation then shifted to "What are you comfortable calling yourself?"
This is a small sampling of the conversation (I left out most of the wise guy remarks).

  • What is more unfortunate is what the word has come to mean in society's eye. Craft should mean handmade art (or trade) requiring special skill... Rather than plastic needlepoint.
  • Damn you! It's people like you who have killed off the Kleenex cozy industry.
  • People who say they do crafts may not consider themselves artist, when they actually are.
  • I think we all have different ideas about what different words mean. As an "artist/craftsperson" I don't take offense to the term. Then again, as a silversmith, I would consider myself a craftsperson before an artist.
  • have you watched Craft wars? It's on TLC and we can reserve the word craft for those people. It's is absolutely horrendous. Glitter, glue guns and so on. Besides that, yes, I am an artist even if my materials are mostly socks.
  • i am fine with the term "craft" the people that matter to me know the difference between a "duck on a stick" show and fine craft.
  •  I like "artisan". It sounds more upscale than "crafter", but not quite as snooty as "artist". 
  • due to popular trends in baking, when I hear the word "artisan" all I can think of is bread :-)
  • Craft makes me think of my grandma's macramé owls back in the '70's (although how retro cool are those things now!) I like 'Indie Art' better.
  • I love etiology. 'Craft' comes from 'Kracht' in Dutch, or 'Kraft' in German and refers to strength or skill in doing or making. In addition, a 'craft' was associated with a guild, or brotherhood of workers and makers with specific and vetted, juried skills. A farrier or a cabinetmaker might be a craftsman under the first definition, and we might also name a 'League' under the second. Only in English does the word take up the concept of art or artistic ability. Nonetheless 'craftsman' or 'craftswoman' in English appears to be interchangeable with 'artist' or 'artisan', while retaining it's roots in strength and skill.

Juried groups like the League of NH Craftsmen, Piedmont Craftsmen, and Carolina Designer Craftsmen (to name just a few) are well known and respected organizations that promote fine craft. If they didn't use the term "craft fair" what would they use? If only the word "art" were used, people may expect to see paintings at these shows.

As for me, I don't get too hung up on what I call myself. Most times I am a potter. Clay artist or ceramic artist works too.
or... an artist, currently working in clay, after all, I wouldn't want to box myself in!

How do you feel about the word "craft"? and what do you call yourself?

Jeff Brown, a fine craftsman, creating a faceted tea bowl on the potters wheel


  1. At the recent farmer's market they asked me if I would return I said yes as lots of folks said they wanted other pottery I didn't have with me. They considered me a crafter, the next booth they went to was someone who takes plastic flowers and puts them in foreign made vases and they asked them if they wanted to be in the craft section.

    So I have decided I am either a potter or artist, not a crafter, I hand make pottery or hand make art, but not crafts, although they are crafted by me.

    Gary has always called craft fairs, crap fairs. Ha.

  2. I missed the part about the artisan, that sounds much better than crafter. To me crafter denotes hobby, artisan denotes profession.

  3. I call myself a potter , some days I'm not sure I qualify. The problem is not the name "Craft", it is that many of them should be called "Crap" shows instead.Too many show set a high standard on paper but if they aren't full up they start letting in things assembled from store bought dishes , glue, and shiny objects.

  4. fb has got boring- I stay on it to keep in contact with scattered friends and family, and I have my Artist Page which has brought in a few sales.

    I think what we call ourselves depends on who we are talking with.

    I'm wary of craft fairs now as the plastic flower and jewellery by kit brigade, although ok in their place, are swamping out real craftspeople.
    So Artisan Markets are fine, and galleries.

  5. I'm don't mind the words 'craft' in reference to the work I do.. artist and ceramic artist are ok too... It's when you put the word craft with 'fair'. Craft Fairs make me think of flowers glued on things and home businesses like tupperware and scentsy. I generally avoid shows like that because the price different between a manufactured thing and my work is too extreme for what people expect at shows like that.

    I like Art Festivals, Art Shows, Artisan Markets, Galleries, and the similar. It's not because I'm a snob and my work is high priced (it's not, imo), but that I feel when people shop at events like that, they expect a higher quality handmade item so they're not miffed when they don't see 'Craft Fair' prices. :)

  6. I know there are lots of crappy craft fairs out there... and some crappy art/artisan fairs too. Having been involved with the league of NH craftsmen and their annual fair for a number of years, I know that there are quality, juried fairs out there. You have to know the venue and promoters. Typically fairs/shows put on by leagues and guilds... where you have to be juried to be a member, have the highest quality crafts. They also can be tough to get into... and you have to have a thick skin when they critique your work.

  7. This is food for thought! Most of the artists I know identify themselves by their medium. ""I am a....painter...printmaker...potter....and leave the titles, artist artisan to others. The one that really ups my craw is 'crafters'.....that's the glitter and glue gun brigade.

  8. It's not the word craft that is inappropriate it's the perception. I fear being next to a " glitter and glue" crafter at a show and will probably think twice about doing that show again. However, I don't expect to see those types of crafters at an American Craft Councle show. Maybe we should come up with a new word for the hobby type crafts, my first thought would be "hobbiest.". Another way to distinguish may be to use the term professional crafts but that could open up another can of worms.

  9. Lori, you are so right about perception. There are many excellent craft organizations but the term is too often thought of as glitter and glue
    a few more I thought of are:
    Craft Boston
    Society of Arts & Crafts (Newbury St. Boston)
    Southern Highland Craft Guild

  10. Hi Meesh!

    As you know I work in a Craft, but we don't have glitter, we do have glue though and we have been know to cause a sparkle or two. (Don't give away the answer to the riddle)

    On the Facebook subject, I chose to boycott it right from the start. It just reminds me -too- much of the 70's version of Faceboook....The CB radio :-) Ya I'm old too.

    Now as for my photography and woodworking. Not sure if I qualify as an real Artist but it's probably not "crafty" (I hope)

  11. Jeff and I were just talking the other night about how facebook has similarities to the old CB radio days!

    Considering the quality of the furniture you make I consider you a fine craftsman. The LNHC includes photography... but I think that most craftsman are also artists, that's my opinion.


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