Saturday, August 25, 2012

Le Craft est mort, vive le Craft!

I've been reading  "64 Things You Need to Know Now for Then" a series of articles about the digital world by Editor-at-Large for "Wired" magazine Ben Hammersley.

It is interesting and contradictory that in a book about the digital world there are at least two chapters that deal specifically with craft.  Hammersley makes  the point that the craft community had been transformed by the internet.  Small scale production from remote locations has become a viable source of income through digital platforms and online selling and marketing.  There is a large community of internet users sharing techniques and processes through online tutorials and Youtube, and as a result of increased access to practical experience there is an increased appreciation for the skills involved in making well-designed handmade things.

The resurgance of craft challenges the dominant consumer paradigm and the amplicfication of the message enabled by the digital world allows the small but signifigant audience for handmade to get in touch with the makers directly.  Hammersley says
" The return to craft is partly about shopping differently, partly about working differently but also about placing creativity at the centre of our lives.  In the end, perhaps this is its most radical feature.  the democratization of creativity is fundamental to  the shift to the digital platform.....etsy won't craft a revolution but, like so many other digital entities, it creates a patch of space in which to be, and all those little patches together, feel powerful indeed."(pp318)

This sort of reading is very helpful in the studio.  When I go down there I like to feel connected, that I'm working within a community of makers, people who use pots, and am part of the web of the history of ceramic making and use.  The tenuous threads to other artists that the internet allows gives me space to expand my thoughts for solutions and ideas far beyond the boundaries of my own skull.  The paradox in Hamersley's observation of the nexus between craft and the digital world emphasizes that necessity for artists to be creative with the tools of our time, to dive into the world of the future, and use it for our own ends.

Embracing the possibilities of the digital age makes the handmade more powerful.  Using the virtual world doesn't spell the death of texture and appreciation for handmade in favor of the machine, the point that Hamersley makes over and over again "64 Things" is that the internet as a product of human ingenuity has applications for diverse use far beyond what we have yet to imagine.