This research points asks us to “consider why craft-produced textiles maintain a place in our society”. I would like to start my response to this with a quote from Teleri Lloyd-Jones, Assistant Editor of Crafts Magazine:
“Technologies advance at break-neck speeds and the public’s desire for authenticity grows making the role of the crafts crucial for modern life. Whether traditional or innovative, art or science, on show in a gallery window or hidden away in unexpected places, making has the power to deeply satisfy.”
The last phrase in this quote, “making has the power to deeply satisfy” is perhaps one of the key reasons for why craft-produced textiles maintain a place in our society. In an age of fast consumerism, instant makeovers and quick fixes it is perhaps not surprising that there is a growing trend to counteract this with the slow-movement of hand produced textiles and crafts.
For the maker, the concentration on the slow production of a crafted item gives them mindfulness of the here and now, a concentration that can be akin to meditation particularly with a repetitive task like hand stitching a quilt. This meditational activity counteracts the business of a lot of people’s lives and juggling of multiple roles and duties.
There is also a growing movement for sustainability, eco-friendly items and associated recycling and upcycling where the production of hand crafted items is popular both for the maker and the buyer. Altered Couture is a popular magazine that focuses on the upcycling of old clothes and a quick Google search on the term “upcycled clothing” produces over 1.4million hits.
Some businesses have made their successes on the desire of the public for items that have been made from materials that would normally be considered waste. In Esperance in Western Australia a company called Mermaid Leather was established in 1989 as a fish tannery which produces soft fish leather and a collection of wallets, belts and handbags all made from this previous waste product.
Upcycling and recycling are examples of crating with a purpose. Another craft purpose that appeals to some makers and audiences is that of Craftivism as defined by Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective:
“Craft + activism = craftivism. Craftivism might be a new-ish word, but it’s not a new concept. There’s a long, fascinating and inspirational history of craft being used to expose injustices. “
The Craftivist Collective are an international group who combine craft with activism to speak out about human rights issues and poverty. Craft is used to send messages and in exhibitions to provoke debate about these issues and empower action.
On a different scale, craft produced textiles are made in every village, town and city around the world as a focal point for social gatherings. Knitters circles, quilting bees, Stitch and Bitch gatherings or general craft groups exist everywhere as a way of building friendships through shared interests. For newcomers to a community these are often a first step into meeting people, and for some people they can be an important anchor against loneliness and depression.
In Australia a key reason for why craft produced textiles maintain a role in our society is the popularity and demand for indigenous crafted items. The following table is from Tourism Research Australia Snapshots 2011 report about visitors to or within Australia who specifically undertake indigenous tourism.
Activities by international and domestic overnight Indigenous tourism visitors, 2010
|International %||Domestic overnight %|
|See Aboriginal art, craft or cultural display||41||51|
|Visit an Aboriginal gallery||34||29|
|Visit an Aboriginal cultural centre||29||24|
|Attend an Aboriginal dance or theatre performance||26||9.5|
|Purchase Aboriginal art/craft or souvenirs||24||7.9|
|See an Aboriginal site or community||20||27|
|Some other interaction with Aboriginal people||17||19|
|Go on a tour with an Aboriginal guide||8||7.4|
|Attend an Aboriginal festival||2.9||np*|
|Stay in Aboriginal accommodation||1.6||4|
As can be seen from this table there is a high demand for aboriginal culture overall and nearly a quarter of overseas visitors (of whom there were 689,000 in 2010) purchase Aboriginal art/craft or souvenirs. Not all of these items will be textile based but there is a large market for Aboriginal fabrics and woven items.
For many inhabitants of the very remote communities in the northern part of Western Australia, north Queensland and the Northern Territories, tourism plays a key role in the continuation of their villages and the desire to maintain traditional skills and crafts.
I would therefore say there are a number of reasons why craft-produced textiles maintain a place in our society: as a channel for meeting people, a voice to expose injustices, a way to slow down, to be eco-friendly or to meet a tourist need. For many crafts people working on a small, local scale and maybe just earning enough to live on, and perhaps for many students like myself, it is more about “making has the power to deeply satisfy”.
Lloyd-Jones, T 17 August 2011. British Museum blog available from http://blog.britishmuseum.org/2011/08/17/what-is-the-role-and-value-of-crafts-today/
Corbett, S 31 August 2011. British Museum blog available from http://blog.britishmuseum.org/2011/08/31/can-craft-be-used-to-help-change-the-world/