In praise of a craft economy

February 21, 2011

embroidered denim shirt

A little funk & flash

felt work

Craft love

Several years ago, there was a European project to promote tourism in our area. They invited all the artists and craftsmen to see if, together, we could come up with some ideas for getting funding by developing the arts and crafts more in the region.

The mind-boggling result of the meeting of 400 creatives who attended the first meetings, is that the majority of the professional Artists flatly refused to work together with ‘just craftsmen’ and walked out.
Craftspeople, including wooden clog makers, weavers, potters, etc. were seen as somehow inferior to the artists and they felt that being associated with these crafts would devalue their work.

The stigma around handwork is very strong in Dutch intellectual society. I have run into it repeatedly. Crafts are seen as dabbling hobbyism. Sometimes, when a craftsperson is doing groundbreaking work, she or he can be admitted into the upper art world echelons. But this is rare. Luckily, with the rise of craftivism, crafting (the rise of old craft skills in a hip context), etc, this is starting to change. But very telling is that the Dutch version of Etsy will be called something to the tune of ‘cutesy stuff’.  Sigh.

I have been advocating the virtues of working with one’s hands to produce excellence and beauty for all my adult life. So I find that living in Holland sometimes feels less than craftfriendly.

I was so heartened recently to run into the work of Satish Kumar and others connected with his magazine Resurgence.  This loose community of environmentalists, artists, craftspeople, intellectuals, educators, writers, poets, nature lovers, etc. has a philosophy where the arts play an integral role in leading a whole, healed life. The magazine spends equal time on education, ecology and craft and explores creating small, sustainable local economies based on spiritual values.

Here is a quote from one of Kumar’s editorials in the December 2010 issue of Resurgence:

‘Being an artist is not a hobby: it is a livelihood. Moreover, a craft economy is a truly sustainable and resilient economy: indeed a, peace economy.

The sooner we embrace the arts and crafts as an integral part of our daily lives, the sooner we will be able to address the economic, environmental and spiritual issues of our time. The industrial economy is a growth economy- never enough and never satisfied-  whereas the craft economy is a dancing economy-  always active and always joyful.

 ‘The way to a fulfilled life is through the arts and crafts. They lead us out of consumerism. The practice of arts and crafts is a spiritual practice through which we honour the material world, and while we do that we develop a sense of beauty and generosity in our lives’.

3 Responses to “In praise of a craft economy”

  1. Michael Davidson Says:

    We have an international orgaisation here called preservation trade Network .IPTW
    Our artisan are stain glass makers and stonemasons ; carpenters and carvers sculptors and platerers and hands on fabricatiors of historic architecture .
    We ally ourselves with engineers and chemists and value our traditional crafts
    as meaningfulo to the historic fabric of our community

  2. Michael Drummond Davidson Says:

    We have an international organisation here for building crafts (IPTW) We are stain glass makers and stone masons ; timber framers and plasterers ; mural painters; and carpenters ; engineers and chemists
    and any alled craft that supports the preservation of historic architecture and traditional building .
    We support your inititive and united we can make a better world

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