There was a recent article "All That Authenticity May Be Getting Old" in the New York Times which essentially stated that handmade just another fad. Below is the photo and some of the supporting evidence presented in the article:
"Major retailers sell vintage or handmade objects, or produce items with that look. Clockwise from top left: artisan-made felt ornaments and a mass-produced mug adorned with an owl, the totem of the crafts movement, both from West Elm; vintage pickling jars sold by Pottery Barn; wooden tops made from reclaimed railroad ties and vintage toys from India, sold by CB2; the Versailles chair, linen pillow covers made to look like vintage grain sacks and reproduction machinery gears, all from Restoration Hardware. " (see full article)
F*$@ You New York Times. What is a fad is West Elm and giant entities like Pottery Barn either pretending to be artisans, or employing etsy artists or other crafter-makers to do huge scale production far beyond the realm of sensible scale. There is a parallel with small beer brewing - there are ways you can interact with your medium and craft in a way that is prevented by industrial processes and industrial scale. I would argue that Pottery Barn, in it's very nature is incapable of being authentic. Large scale operations reliant upon global production systems exist, but let's not pretend that making pillows out of "real" Turkish flour sacks is part of the handmade movement. In addition to patting ourselves on the back and celebrating handmade goods, the handmade movement is also born of old school craft of necessity. For me, becoming a full time artist and maker was born out of needing a job and finding something I was good at (and happen to love). Inherent in scale is a whole set of values about living wage and craftsmanship and quality of life and valuing human life and work that is at philosophical and physical odds with fulfilling orders for Pottery Barn. The point in handmade for me is to recognize and directly support craftsmanship and quality while minimizing middle men and human and environmental externalities born of exploitative production relationships. Who knew making necklaces would feel so philosophically important?
Certainly Urban Outfitters got called on making a design similar to an etsy artist, seen in the photo below from Regretsy.
But there is another layer, eloquently pointed out by Regretsy, that other artists are making state cutouts earlier, and let's be honest - this has been a design since the 1970s at least. I make typewriter key and pocket watch jewelry, which has been made since the 1960s at least. At least the chain stores use plastic fake typewriter keys and aluminum watch stamped molds, so authenticity of objects matters. a lot. It's an interesting thing to ponder. I'm pretty convinced that it works itself out.The questions of authenticity and scale are on my mind as I think about goals for next year. The expected trajectory of business seems to be infinite and sustainable growth, whatever that means. As I near the capacity of my physical body and quickbooks ability to maintain the now 10 galleries in four states I work with!!!, questions of hiring people, expanding, sales reps arise. Several weeks ago while vending at Indie Mart, I met a fellow vendor who had been in business 10 years and had grown to 5 sales reps and 4 production assistants. Yes, she made more money, but she has scaled down to a scale of 1 for issues of quality of life, and she still makes a reasonable living. As a maker, and artist, an entrepreneur, this work of making real things at a sensible and sustainable scale has great meaning.
Can you tell I am reading Shopcraft as Soulcraft. The irony that the link is to a giant chain bookseller is not lost on me :)
I am proud to make things, and I am constantly amazed by the constant cleverness of all the gallery owners I work with. Each has an amazing ability to create a space that reflects their interests, passions and philosophies. We form a network of local entities that all make each other possible.
Yabette, Queen and Owner of Swankety Swank, in San Francisco, is a master of refurbishing furniture and truly artful recycling.
I always look forward to my sessions with her - we just did a big refreshment to the collection last week - go check out some of my latest designs, including pearls, finally!
Swankety Swank is also a great place to prepare yourself for the Edwardian Ball, should you need to adornments of the ruffled and feathered variety.
Need a corset?
Head to Dark Garden :)
Just two more shows left this year:
SF Thread Sunday, November 20, 2011,
11 am - 5 pm
Metreon Shopping Center,
San Francisco, CA
Saturday & Sunday, December 3rd and 4th, 2011
11 am - 5 pm
Concourse Exhibition Center,
San Francisco, CA
Lots of new items at the Compass Rose Design Etsy shop - Check it out! www.etsy.compassrosedesign.com
10% off my direct Compass Rose Design shop w/ RCRD10
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