When people ask me what I do for a living, I don’t have a good answer for them. Usually I default to telling them I am a stay-at-home mom or a freelance writer, but neither of those labels really covers it. I do write and I do stay home with my kids, but the way I make (a very modest amount of) money is by crafting. But if I tell people I am a Crafter, they have no idea what that means. And frankly, neither do I.
Last week, The New Yorker published an article dumping on the “cuteness” of modern crafting. The TLC show “Craft Wars” took the brunt of the author’s disdain, specifically because the projects cranked out on that reality show did not fit her definition of craft. It seems that for that author, a crafter should be a person who shows exceptional craftsmanship in his or her work. Each piece should be skillfully made, sturdily constructed, beautiful, functional, and unique. That’s a tall order.
Some people talk about the two schools of craft: the old and the modern. “Old” crafters are masters of one art; “modern” crafters are jacks of all trades. But that isn’t entirely true. Way back in the 1700s, Ben Franklin hacked two pairs of spectacles together to create bifocals, he strapped pieces of wood to his hands to create the first swim fins, and he worked intricate gears together to build the first odometer. He lived 200+ years ago, but the Founding Father would have fit right in with many of today’s crafters.
Perhaps, the real problem we have is semantics. In that way, I agree with the author of the New Yorker piece. The word “craft” has lost meaning – because we ask it to mean SO much. What is a crafter? What is a craft? Let’s take a look at a few of the types of people who could claim the title of “crafter.”
Artisans become masters of their craft. They hone their skills in one focused area and produce intricate, impeccably made items. They may make multiples of a project, sometimes only making one specific item perfectly over and over again. Artisans feel proud of their personal skill level and protective of their niche.
Designers create brand new projects. They use unconventional materials or conventional materials in unconventional ways. Designers hack wastebaskets into lamps. Designers upcycle barn wood into wall art. Designers pin fabric to a dress form until the garment matches the image in their heads. They rarely make the same project twice. Designers get a thrill from the creative process.
Creators put the pieces together. Creators work from kits or patterns and make far fewer mistakes than designers. Creators feel satisfaction from a completed project and the ability to say “I made that!”
Makers are people who make. Simple as that. Artisans make. Designers make. Creators make. Inventors, artists, preschoolers all make.
The common thread that holds all these people together is the desire to create. If your hands have ever itched to MAKE something, whether it was a quilt, a batch of cookies, a robot, a necklace, or a China hutch, you are a maker.
It’s that impulse that differentiates the Makers of the world from the Consumers and the Critics. The world needs all three types of people, but right now we need more Makers. Imagine how changeless the world would be without Makers. Sometimes I wonder if that is the direction we are headed, with the balance between the Makers and the Consumers and Critics tipping.
That’s why we need to encourage the Makers, not deny them because their work doesn’t fit our personal definition of craft. Instead of qualifying and quantifying what is a “crafter,” we need more people innovating new products, more people handcrafting quality pieces, more people enjoying the process of taking disparate materials and changing them into some new. Who cares if it’s “cute” or “gourmet” or even “functional”? You made something that wasn’t there before.
Makers transform ideas into reality. And that’s magical.
So, call yourself whatever you want: Crafter, Chef, Artist, Magician. It matters far less what you are called than what you do.
And, for now, I think I have a new answer to the question about what I do for a living.
ARE YOU A CRAFTER?
If you would like printable versions of the “I make.” or “Making is magic.” graphics (without my watermark) or an “I craft.” printable (not shown) , just CLICK HERE. I have each graphic available for free download in a variety of colors.
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