So the Arts Council tweeted a link to a crafts website this week, and I went to take a look: Citizens of Craft. I started reading through their manifesto, and was within seconds hit with WTF?
Because this is not about crafts.
This is about YOU, you wonderful, wonderful person.
This is a MOVEMENT. One aching for your glorious, sparkly participation.
I figured it was either written by a well-meaning person who had taken a short course on Marketing and a longer one on Basic Motivational Speaking, or, more likely, it was some kind of scam (as my partner said on glancing at it, “Let me hide my wallet.”). So I checked to see who was running it.
Well. It’s a government-backed initiative, according to this article:
The push for the movement came after Craft Ontario, in partnership with Canadian Crafts Federation and all provincial and territorial craft councils in Canada, started to become concerned that the ‘craft’ designation was becoming synonymous with large corporations pushing the idea of handmade.
Okay, so… these organizations think that crafts don’t get enough respect (something I couldn’t agree with more). And their solution?
Let me illustrate. Here’s item #2 from the manifesto.
#2: WE VALUE THE UNIQUE AND ENDURING.
As an authentic human being, you appreciate things that don’t scream assembly line.
Translation: I am an authentic human, unlike all you squalling orangutans out there who are do not have the wit to understand that there is something better than a mass-produced plastic copy of the Eiffel Tower. I understand what should truly be appreciated.
So… the problems with this.
- None of what is said in the manifesto (someone needs to actually look up the definition of the term, btw) relates to crafts. This is all about Me, Wonderful Me. It reads like a series of self-affirmations for the terminally insecure.
- The entire thing is based on thinly veiled (and sometimes not veiled at all) insults of The Plebes Who Do Not Have Your Superior Perception, plus those affirmations that You Are Far Superior To Them.
- Do you actually expect me to take a Commitment to Crafts seriously when the website looks like it was built on the template that half of the Cool and Current sites use (which means that in a couple of years they will look very dated)? (Oh! The Irony!)
Oh, I could go on. But I won’t.
Look, here’s the thing. Everything in the manifesto applies to me. I do some crafty things. I believe in all the principles listed. Crafts are things that should be valued, as far as I’m concerned. But this… document… as it is written isn’t about crafts, it’s about feeling good about yourself. It’s a long time since I’ve read anything that comes across with such an air of smug self-satisfaction.
It didn’t have to be this way: “We value the unique and enduring” could have been “Crafts give us things that are unique and enduring,” for example. That’s a fine thing to base a call for supporting crafts and crafters on. It’s not as personal, no, but this should NOT BE ABOUT ME.
Crafts have a long history of struggling against pompous fine arts elitism, so to some degree I can see where this is coming from; but surely the answer is not reverse elitism. I see that they’re trying to do something positive, but… wow. If this is how they do it, I want nothing to do with this “movement.”