Conversation continues from a comment

6 November 2006

Glennis responded to my entry in a comment

*What qualities do those made by master-craftsman have that differs from that made by a hobbists/novice?
I think of master-craftsman as someone who has explored in depth the process, perhaps the history of a craft and has spent substantial time practicing, learning and exploring their art form (oops-said the “A” word). A hobbyist/novice is breaking the surface but not necessarily devoted to the craft/practice by choice. The difference in the end result of the object is probably most apparent to the maker them self. I have seen exquisite works created by master-craftsman and hobbyists/novices alike-this is a difficult question for me to answer.
*Are these objects endowed with properties that are a reflection of their maker’s culture and times?
I believe this is true. I love to wander museums and look at crafts from other places and times. I always fantasize about who the maker was and the environment in which the object was made often comparing it to objects in my daily life. Could I make it? Would I? Why?
*Thus would the object have the same properties if she designed it and had it made in China/Thailand (you fill a country with low labor costs)?
NO! Don’t get me started on this one……this is a completely different thing in my book. I have seen the results of this many, many, many times. And its effects on 1.) the original maker, 2.) the end product , 3.) the marketplace.
Even if you take an object and have it made by hand here, under your own supervision there is a difference. As artists, craftsman, hobbyists, and novices
we choose our result and our path.

I do make things by hand and have no other source of income, so needless to say I’ve spent a few hours driving thinking about this. It sound to me like you are saying that there is no place in our market place for hand-made (in this case made start to finish by one person) in the US. The women in Ms. Shroff project spent from 3 mo. to a year making their panels. Lets assume that they spent the majority of their time taking care of their families and I have no such responsibilities, so I can make panels faster say one a month. Lets also asume that I want to earn $30 000 in the year, this is a modest income to pay for health insurance, a home and it’s utilites, a car and taxes. That means that I must sell 12 panels (without incurring any marketing costs or the price will go up) for $2500 each.
Do you truly think there is a market for dozen $2500 textiles this year?
If not then one needs to think of a way to make more- such as help- or faster made products. If I have some one else iron them are they still hand-made? How about having the hems hand -rolled in China? Does the cloth need to be hand-woven? I think we need a better defintion of hand-made.

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2 Responses to “Conversation continues from a comment”

  1. glennis Says:

    This is a very interesting conversation. Thank you Karren for putting it out there. It is increasingly more difficult these days to be completely self supporting as a craftsperson given our high standard/cost of living in this country. Even if you have a fairly low overhead, those costs just creep up. Hence, the high price for quality crafts and the desire to find ways to bring down the price by importing or setting up workshops in countries with lower COL and less government regulations. I wish this were not true. There definitely is a place for handmade objects in our market. It is smaller and more expensive than it used to be (what isn’t these days?). People who can afford to buy an object and have an appreciation and understanding of what went into creating the object may buy. Hence the art of marketing your work. Somewhere, I suppose there might be a market for 12 $2500 panels, but it may take some time and cost some $ to identify it. OR you MUST cut your costs and redefine your market.
    At the beginning of this conversation, I was not necessarily reflecting on works created with the sole purpose of selling them. Many craftspeople create objects without any intention of selling them- they are simply an exploration of a particular material, idea , or perhaps they are the outcome of a life experience.
    Defining “handmade”…….made by hand (or perhaps many hands) here or 5000 miles from here.
    I would love to hear more perspectives on this and learn more. I am limited by my own experiences.

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  2. RacheLyra Says:

    Maybe as artisans in a technologically advanced country we can turn to technology to fill the gap. I think of myself first and foremost as a painter, and spend a lot of time trying out different and reproducible ways of marketing my paintings – putting them onto clothing, stationary, household goods. Currently this means I spend very little time actually painting. I create a painting and then spend weeks walking it around like a watch salesman in a trenchcoat : “hey, pssst, want to buy a painting?”
    My ultimate goal is to set up a system where someone else can do this work for me and I can concentrate on actually doing the work.
    The idea of doing any larger scale work in a sustainable way, anything of high enough quality that it takes so long to do, is predicated on a high degree of skill. Maybe there is a way to make those 12 panels and then use the body of them to make money without actually using them up – selling them. They could be rented as corporate decoration or be a travelling exhibit to art galleries, commanding a door fee to view them. The trick to making traditional artisanship flourish in an industrialized society is, i think, exploiting the ways the two modes intersect.

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