How being a crafter (not an artist) gave me a place in the art world

by Admin on 08/03/2013

in Guest Editors 2013

During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Abby and Stacey for the month of March.

Guest editor: Abby Glassenberg :: Blog :: Twitter: @abbyglassenberg

Butterfly Collage

“A small pile of cotton fabrics became this pair of butterfly stroller toys for my daughter, Josephine.”

When you introduce yourself to someone at a party do you ever shy away from stating that you’re a crafter? Do you imagine the images that this word brings up in people’s heads (Kindergarten? Glitter? Pompoms and paste?).

Another option, saying, “I’m an artist,” has other connotations (training, refinement, eliteness). Perhaps you hesitate to use this word, either, then, especially if you’re self-taught.

Should we be okay with this difference in perception? Should we allow it to exist unchecked?

Until I embraced my identity as a crafter I felt like there wasn’t a place for me in the art world. When I finally saw that being a crafter was an upstanding and respectable profession I was able create a successful career out of my passion for making things.

I enjoyed many long hours in my childhood drawing and painting, but they always ended in sort of empty feeling for me. The final result, even if it was well rendered, just didn’t feel like enough to me. In high school I looked at my drawing portfolio leaning up against the wall, packed with work I’d labored over for weeks, and it just made me angry. What was it for?

When we studied the Impressionists in high school I remember sitting at my desk wondering, “How do artists just paint day after day? Wouldn’t they get sick of it? Or run out of ideas? What’s the point of it?” I couldn’t figure it out.

It took me many years to get to the bottom of my dissatisfaction with fine art because I love art. I’m a hyper-visual person. I collect art and sculpture with my husband. The walls of my house are covered with original artwork. A Saturday spent at the museum or a gallery show is an ideal kind of day for me. I feel compelled to make beautiful things. Throughout college, and first jobs, and graduate school, and my career teaching middle school, I would always make things when I had time. Still, somewhere, there was a disconnect. Making art for arts sake wasn’t satisfying enough to really dedicate myself to it.

When I began sewing in earnest eight years ago I finally was able to drill down to the core of my detachment with art making. I realized that as a producer of artistic works I need the finished pieces to be useful. I needed to make craft.

I’m thrifty by nature. Turning leftover, discarded materials into something useful, and beautiful, was what would drive me forward as a maker.

Well-designed, useful and made from humble materials: that’s the recipe for my happiness.

This combination compels me to learn new skills, to stretch and create and keep going. I no longer wonder how artists make art every day for their whole lives. I totally get it.

I design sewing patterns for stuffed animals. When I think about the years to come I am filled with eager anticipation thinking of the new toy designs I’ll create. Craft is where I belong in the art world and it’s a totally great place to be. For me, craft means creating something that’s both beautiful and useful and being a crafter is certainly deserving of respect.

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