With the dawn of the digital era comes a new phenomenon: the ability to make money several times off a piece of art work that is done one time. The people who design the games, music, and media that can be downloaded at the touch of a button deserve to be compensated for what they have created. These items don’t cost very much because we know it’s easy for them to be reproduced digitally with little or no work on the part of the producer.
Not true for the artisans who design and make their creations by hand.
Unlike visual artists who work with media that can be easily reproduced – such as paintings and photography – a craft person deals with 3-dimensioanl physical objects. Nothing is digital, materials must be purchased, and each item must be physically built/sewn/made before an order can be filled. This might sound like an obvious thing to point out, but as I watch my children gleefully download game after game onto their tablets, it seems to me we can get pretty used to the idea of cheap, pretty things.
There already exists a disparity between the pricing of handmade items such as furniture, linen, and leather goods that are mass produced, verses those items made individually by hand.
Websites such as Etsy and publications such as American Craft all strive to garner support for the crafts person. In the art show circuit, there are events that specify themselves as “Craft Shows,” drawing attention to the effort required to craft things one at a time by hand. The word comes from the German “kraft,” meaning power or ability. But when does a useful object gain entrance into the world of art? I consulted an updated version of The American Heritage Dictionary and pulled the following:
Art: High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty.
Craft: Skill in doing or making something, in a manner suggesting great care or ingenuity.
It brings to mind the Arts and Crafts Movement that started in England during the later half of the 19th century, in response to the brutal working conditions and shoddily mass produced goods. Here we have the words Art and Craft together for the combined purpose of creating designs “for the people and by the people,” a source of “beautiful objects that enhance the lives of ordinary people, and at the same time provide decent employment for the craftsman.”
None of us can find comfort in a digital chair, or dry our hands with the picture of a towel. The world still needs crafters who design and make real things of beauty, for both our physical use and aesthetic value.
What follows is a list of the artists whose handcrafted products we have purchased or admired over the years. This is by no means an extensive list of all the wonderful artisans we has come into contact with, but it’s a place to start. As always, we thank you for your support of the handcraft.
Roche Leather – handcrafted leather bags, briefcases and purses
Erika Honig: unique handcraft jewelry from northern Sweden
The Summer Winter Studio – Karen Monson-Thompson, weaver of linens
Christy Skuban – felt and polymer clay jewelry
Dawnette Davis - handmade naturally dyed silks
Applied Arts Studio – jewelry by Jaana Mattson