craft [kraft, krahft] verb, noun
1. an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill: the craft of a mason.
2. skill; dexterity: The silversmith worked with great craft.
3. skill or ability used for bad purposes; cunning; deceit; guile.
4. the members of a trade or profession collectively; a guild.
5. a ship or other vessel.
Those of you who follow Craftzine have probably seen these two articles by now, but just in case-
Don't put a bird on it: Saving "craft" from cuteness.
What's a crafter?
I read them both this morning and am a little torn. To sum, the first article says "'Craft' used to mean that something was made with a certain level of skill, something useful and beautiful. Now it means gluing crap onto other crap to make it cuter. Exhibit A: Tori Spelling's new show Craft Wars."
The second says, "So what? Making shit is cool no matter what you're making."
Somewhere I also snuck in part of this slightly obnoxious article blaming etsy for selling the false fantasy of crafty self-employment. And I can't help think that maybe the two arguments go hand in hand.
Obviously, I have no problem with gluing glitter onto stuff,
making decidedly amateur crafts,
or the general concept of cuteness.
Dawww.... he'd look great with some glitter.
And I do think that etsy has promised the moon to makers-of-things in terms of the ability to craft full time as a job (they also have stupid policies and turn a blind eye to resellers, which is why I don't sell there anymore. But that's a rant for another time.) To their credit, etsy spends a lot of time sending me annoyingly repetitive emails telling me to take better photos and write better listings and market my shit. All good advice, but they leave off something really important:
You have to make something GOOD.
Either something beautiful and well made (that's where the craftsmanship the first article laments comes in) or so hilarious and awesome that nobody cares (or both!) The first few dozen or hundred times you do something? It probably sucks. Give it to your mom or something, she'll put it with the macaroni collages. If I wanted to glitter-coat shoes as a source of income, I'd be in my yard right now testing different glues, different glitters, different shoe-surfaces, different pre-glitter-prep methods. And there would be glitter EVERYWHERE because I'd need to test drive all these things, and people would know me as the weird girl who always wears glitter shoes, and "please don't come into my home or store with those on." The first glitter shoes I made? They have required touch-ups. The glittery toed flats, meanwhile, are holding up really well, but I didn't put enough glitter in the modpodge to get a good dense coating. The ones I made my sister look brand new, but she that's because she hasn't worn them. Clearly, I am far from glitter mastery.
Yet, etsy rarely mentions the need to produce a quality product. I mean, I'm sure it's in there somewhere, under all the articles about making your own lightbox and using social media. Etsy has done a lot to make people realize that there is value in handcrafted goods, which is a wonderful thing! But..... c'mon. Not all of them. Just because you made it, doesn't mean it's good. "Handmade" does not automatically equal "well made". In etsy's crusade for the acknowledgement of true skill and craftsmanship, they've created a sense of entitlement- "I made this, you should pay for it, even if I barely know what I'm doing."
Let's play a game. Go look at the knitting category on etsy. You can sort by relevancy or recency, whatever pleases you. Count how many of the items on the first page are a) Actually handknit, b) Well made from quality materials, c) Well presented/photographed d) A price that actually is fair for the amount of work it took. I got 4. Out of 40. Granted, maybe 5 of them were yarn... so 4 out of 35. (That's counting acrylic as quality materials as long as it looks alright, since most customers don't care.) In "crochet" I got 2 or 3, though all of them were underpriced, IMO. Those are the categories I'm most comfortable judging, but I'm willing to bet it holds in many of the others as well.
.......and we wonder why most people can't make a living at it?
More and more I'm seeing the same phenomenon on Ravelry- floods of designs by newbie knitters and crocheters with stars and dollar-signs in their eyes, shootin' pics on their iphones in dark bedrooms and, if you're lucky, infringing on a few trademarks in the process (by the way: calling it "Micky Mouse Inspired Toy" or changing the name to "SquishJoe Roundpants" does not absolve you, and good luck when the trademark holders catch wind of it.)
I'm not saying you have to master a craft before turning it into a job (if that was true, no one would ever do it. I certainly haven't mastered everything to do with knitting!) And I definitely don't want to sound like the asshole discouraging new designers (quite the opposite! There's room for everybody! Let's party! Ask me anything! Let's talk photos! Or proposals!) But it's a damn good idea to get your bearings first. Try to be objective. Ask for outside opinions. Compare the quality of your photographs, presentation, product, and materials with those of established designers/artisans that you admire. Do some research. Read some books. Take a class.
And for the love of god, never let a photo like this (or a hat like this) see the light of day. Yes, it's mine. Yes, it was for sale on etsy at one point. No, it did not sell. Sigh.
Otherwise you run the risk of making very few sales and becoming disenchanted with the idea before you even get any good at it. 'Course you could always get some bitter articles out of it... I haven't seen a "Ravelry promised me fame and fortune!" one yet ;-)
So anyway, I suppose I should hop off that tangent and get back to the question... has "craft" lost it's meaning? Yeah, probably. Oh well. Shit happens. But I think "craftsmanship" and "artisan" still mean something, and that quality speaks for itself. You don't have to subscribe to the "Tori Spelling and Michael's" school of crafty thought if it doesn't suit you, and if it starts bugging you, you can always read Regretsy and cry and eat ice cream. Besides, if amateurly gluing shit to other shit makes you happy, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact it's a requirement if you ever want to get truly good at gluing shit to shit. (But it'd be nice if you wouldn't try to sell it to me until you do.)