Stacy Jarit and Artrider- Part 3

12 December 2006

See part 1 and part 2.
The Sea Of Gray
One looks out from the balcony above an exhibit floor and surveys the exhibitors as they mount their displays and one sees many gray heads. If one surveys the customers as they enter the show you see mostly gray heads. This is the sea of gray at the craft shows today.
Both the exhibitors and customers are predominately from the same generation. The exhibitors, developed their passion for making as an off shoot of the 1960’s. They were also looking for a different quality of life. The customers’ and collectors’ passion for the handmade comes from the same roots. These people are also in a phase of their life when they have disposable income.
The majority of women who shop ( as in most of retail, 80% of the shoppers are women) at the craft shows have an abode and are finished with most of their child rearing tasks such as college tuition, and feel like they have earned a little self-indulgence. And their svelte, youthful figures have rounded a bit. The big name designers are not making clothes for them so they come to us for something unique, colorful clothing with a strong sense of design. Or a bit of jewelry not found at the mall.
I commented to Jarit that crafts or handmade objects do not seem to be an interest of the younger people. She said that Artrider advertised for a while in a publication called Time-Out, both the print and on-line version. This publication appeals to a younger demographic, and included a coupon. When some one showed up with a coupon from TimeOut they got free admission and an exit interview. She said they were blown away by what they saw, awestruck. They had no idea that this kind of thing existed! They also said that things were too pricey for their life styles.
So Jarit and I talk about what too pricey for their life styles means. These are people with many demands on their income: cars, new homes, possibly children. It is harder to be middle class today. Yet they have iPods, computers…. How do they decide what to buy with their disposable income? I don’t think that having an exquisite handmade pot has the hotness factor of latest cell phone. Do they even have the aesthetic awareness to know what is exquisite and handmade? Is how something is made of any real importance or is it only the object and it’s price that is important?
Jarit feels that the long term deletion of art education in the public schools is now taking its toll, people have no aesthetic criteria for evaluating what they see. Visual arts education is videos, TV and movies–that is what is readily accessible. Many have no idea how anything is made, if fact they don’t believe that anything time consuming or tedious is made in this country today. How do people become passionate about handmade objects or the process today?
This is not just a national phenomena, it is overseas too. Japan, a culture with National Treasures and a four different words to define different aesthetics (iki, shibui, hade and wabi-sabi) is not renewing its ranks of craftspeople. Who should be educating people about crafts? schools, universities, museums, organizations? Schools don’t even have clay for the students. The American Craft Museum has changed its name and a lost its way . The American Craft Council is struggling to get the details of the shows even close to right so they have no energy left for educating. We are left with the crafts magazines– American Craft, FiberArts, Fine Woodworking…..
The word crafts has many different meanings, I’m not talking dictionary meanings. The American Craft Council held focus groups in several different cities to see what people thought of crafts. They were asked to bring in pictures of crafts from magazines and such. They brought in pictures of the kind of things that they might make at home. Then they were shown pictures of what we make. They could see that they were different, and asked to name what we are making all groups came up with the term “Fine Crafts”.
Coming next the final installment: What’s in the Future for the Designer Craftsmen Movement?

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One Response to “Stacy Jarit and Artrider- Part 3”

  1. Lisa Walton Says:

    Thanks for the interesting discussion

    Like


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