While the New Wave DIY/Alt Craft scene (as brought to light by Faythe Levine’s Handmade Nation movie) has been going strong the last 5 or 6 years, it has just recently in the last couple of years started to turn the head of the studio craft world, and as witnessed at the recent ACC conference in Minneapolis, really spun some heads Exorcist style. Myself being active in both camps, especially living in the Bay Area where Alt Craft is really prominent (and inclusivity is more the norm), was somewhat unaware of the tensions forming between. But seeing it from a different angle, especially as studio crafters are struggling to make it in this economic climate, makes me realize how all the more important it is to bring these two craft worlds together, break down the stereotypes, misconceptions, and naïveté. Help each other to progress in order to move craft forward in the 21st century.
What DIY has going for it that studio craft desperately needs is infectious enthusiasm for making, that everyone can access their inner crafter and put it out there into the world without judgement from others. The scenario of “you too can make a …”–granted not everyone will be good at it, but the fact that the average consumer is being engaged in craft and realizing that handmade has more personal value than goods Made in China. People begin to understand why handmade items are priced higher than WalMart, appreciate the skill it takes to make something special, and in turn be happy to open their wallets to purchase craft goods. As Rob Walker so succinctly stated during his marketplace presentation, “The mistake people (i.e. crafters) make is in thinking that the most important story is their story, but it isn’t…best when your story is relevant to other’s (i.e. consumer’s) lives.” Today’s consumer is more conscious of where products are made and if they are environmentally and socially responsible. This is where makers and buyers share some similar lifestyle values.
Other reasons for the success of DIY is that they align themselves with various areas of Design and fully embrace new technology. Graphic designers play a big role in marketing and promoting the fairs and events as well as selling their 2D artwork at the fairs. Fashion designers too are included in this mix, often times showcasing many designers work in onsite fashion shows. Craft shows with an entertainment aspect—music, food, and performances. And most importantly, DIY utilizes the web to its full potential, spreading buzz through social networking, blogs, websites, tweets, etc. This is where studio craft needs to catch up fast and get on the 2.0 train or be left out in the cold.
If studio craft can pick up and run with these points that make DIY successful, and in the meantime offer wisdom to DIY on how to be professional artists in the business world, we’d help elevate each other and craft to new heights. This realization has inspired me to attempt to bridge the gap in a symposium that I am organizing for the Metal Arts Guild in 2011 since the West Coast has such a rich history and larger population of both studio craft and DIY.