In recent years there have been a lot of amazing projects and craft nights springing up all over the place. For everyone that’s been up in their room or round at a friends house knitting various woodland creatures and odd socks this is really a way to get out there and make connections with like minded people. We can now unite and get funny looks in old man pubs as we lightly quilt their beer mats when they’re not looking.
But in all seriousness, it really is brilliant. Not only does it make more and more skills available to the masses but it also spreads ideas and new influences in a way that is liberating and means there is tangible progress in everything from knitting to sewing to paper crafts and furniture restoration.
All it takes is for one crafter to see a new innovative technique, incorporate it into their own work and build on it, then for one more crafter to see their new innovative technique and very quickly you get a creative cycle which makes for interesting and beautiful uses of age-old skills.
Two examples from the hundreds that exist include LinocutBoy, a very brilliant man from Margate who does illustration and art prints (as well as selling start up lino kits), for all sorts of people including The Times, The British Film Institute and one of my favourites, a cover for a W.B Yeats poetry book published by Faber and Faber shown below.
LinocutBoy book cover for the anniversary edition of W.B Yeats poems. Faber and Faber.
This is a drop in the ocean though there are so many inspiring makers that I’ll need to do a new blog post just to talk about them.
Take Roanna Wells for example. What she can do with embroidery is stunning. It’s minimal, intricate, it has so much understated depth (here I go being all art school) it’s just beautiful. And to prove the rule, here I am, a crafter seeing an innovative technique and it makes me think, what if I did this on a smaller scale? What if I did a series of small embroideries that are essentially just patterns? It’s ok not to make an intricately detailed bunch of flowers! And BOOM, modern craft.
The moon – Roanna Wells 2010
It doesn’t mean that traditional embroidery is any less valuable too; it’s all about being open to everything. Roanna’s work might not be what some people like but it’s new, it’s art as well as craft (don’t let’s get started on that minefield) and it’s exciting to try pushing the boundaries. Essentially though both Roanna and LinocutBoy are still using traditional techniques from eons ago.
That is the very cool thing about modern craft – craft is old! Craft has been taught and practised as far back as people wore clothes or needed something to eat from. Were the first tools a form of craft? This is a really moving thought for me, when I’m knitting and I think that hundreds of years ago people were doing the same thing (seriously, ancient Egyptians knitted), but it has also been craft’s downfall at times because it is perhaps this ‘oldness’ that gives craft a kind of dusty, tired reputation. Doilies and toilet roll covers are all very well but actually there seems to be far more contemporary design-led work in modern craft. By that I mean that clean lines, bold colours and practicality come to the forefront.
It makes sense that people want something that they can actually use if they’re going to spend 20 hours carefully whittling it from wood or knitting it from yarn. I don’t think craft has really been seen as such a fashionable, desirable industry before though. The dreaded, ill-shapen Christmas jumper has been replaced by finest 100% woolen felt hot pads with fettucia red ribbon for baking your casserole in your vintage Le Cruset dishes (I’m being sarcastic but I honestly want Le Creuset and the finest hot pads so much). I should also mention here that the Purl Bee are masters of modern craft. I pour through their tutorials weekly, ok daily.
The best thing about this entire reinvigorated crafting scene is the community spirit and unusual level of support from would-be competitors (no come back, I’m not going all mushy). For example, I am planning the lino print workshops at the moment and I went to the Art Store on Queen Street to get some materials. After buying up half the lino print section the lovely lady (hi Sheena) at the till asked if I was doing a class. From the second I nodded she was entirely enthusiastic and supportive! She offered to put up my poster, told me to bring flyers in asap, gave good advice that a months notice is usually the norm and then showed interest in attending. It made my day.
Modern crafters are bringing new design aesthetics to age-old skills. There is a sense of community and tradition that is very much still there, if not growing at a rate of knots. It is also hugely accessible for everyone whether you’re starting up for the first time or just looking for company while completing your latest tapestry; if it can fit in a pub, you’re in! (Sorry boat builders).
As far as I’m concerned it’s the best thing to happen in ages, and if you’ve ever wanted to try anything out, now is the time to jump in!