So, today we have the first of our guest posts, something we are doing while Jane is on her sabbatical. It’s from Julia Little, and she’s wondering if its time to rebrand the world of craft. Off you go Julia…
I had two very different experiences last week, both in the name of craft. Firstly I joined a salon supper at The New Craftsmen to talk design, craft and to hear ideas from multi disciplinary designer, Lola Lely.
And the second was a trip to the Knitting and Stitching Fair at Olympia.
While one was focused and forging forward into the 21st century, the other seemed to be stuck in time. I don’t need to spell out which was which. It was such a confusing conflict, as both were championing the same thing – craft skills and creativity.
As I wandered the rows and rows of stands at Olympia selling printed fabric, large knitting needles and coloured threads (amongst the support chairs, shoe orthotics and huge magnifying glasses), I couldn’t help but feel slightly depressed about a subject I’m very fond of. Even the woman on the cat charity stand seemed flat as she shouted “Are you a cat lover?”, I apologised, smiled sweetly and said, “No, sorry I’m not”, to which she shrugged and turned away. I wanted to shout, “I’m not horrible, I just prefer dogs”, but I didn’t have the courage, so moved on quickly.
I understand that the knitting and stitching market is an age-old craft, and we need age-old craft people to pass on their skills and teach the next generation. But the next generation is going to struggle to understand why anyone would want to find fabric or yarn in a place that hasn’t moved on since about 1985.
There were signs of life in some of the demonstrations and workshops. Tree from Stitchless TV was full of energy and encouragement with her group who were making a glitzy zipped evening purse. And the Inspiration Station was showcasing some incredible pieces of work from some talented young embroiderers. More of this please!
Meanwhile, over at The New Craftsmen, Lola Lely talked of her journey from Vietnam to England as a child, and how she became a skilled designer and maker training and graduating from Central St Martins learning many disciplines along the way. Lola is one of many craftspeople that The New Craftsmen encourage, nurture, mentor and support. As Lola said, “It is very hard to work on designing, sourcing, making and perfecting a product, and to then find a way of moving it on to a commercial platform without help and advice to get it to market”.
I think in nurturing craftspeople, The New Craftsmen have recognised that we need to hear the stories of craft, understand better how things are made and respect that old and new can work together, it just needs to be guided and repackaged.
Could The Knitting and Stitching Show be repackaged for the future generation? I hope so. I’d love to return next year and see even just a few rows of stalls dedicated to future ideas, fresh colours and pattern and some new technology.
I think Julia has tapped into something we saw Selvedge’s editor Polly Leonard mention back here, it’s a conversation I’ve heard my crafting friends having too, do we need a new word to divide professional craft from (extremely important) home-spun hobbies? or is it purely about taste levels? What do you think?
Also, if you have a subject you’d like to write on for our guest post slot, just email us on [email protected]