Monday, November 02, 2009

the excitement has worn out

a word or two

Over a year and a half ago, well before the crisis, i was reading all i could about the indie movement. It was a vibrant, intellectually stimulating and challenging time.There were dissertations on the political and social implications of the movement. There were talks and symposiums on cultural studies. People were blogging about the cutting edge of crafts, what it meant to be indie and embracing slow crafting.They were creating well crafted, witty and aesthetically pleasing items.In plain words it was an exciting time.

What has happened?Where has the collective momentum gone?
Whereas before crafters were creating their items at the sound of their own individual drums now everyone seems to be following the market's dictum competing with it in a lose lose situation. If it's February it means hearts and red, and let's not talk about Halloween.
This situation has brought out the uglies; cut throat competition amongst crafters, knock offs, rip offs of other people's images ,undercutting fellow crafters. Need i continue to make the point clear?
Everyone seems to have turned into a self appointed marketing guru flashing directly from the oracle countless tips and tricks while looking down on those who do not posses the buzz word to the oracle.

There has also been a relevant diminution of ideas and worse, of quality in items.It seems that the same article gets produced over and over and you see the same things everywhere. Items get hashed and re-hashed until they become unbearably banal, as if mass produced, becoming the antithesis of handmade and the indie movement.The whole scene has become predictable and boring.
Crafting had a strong base on self satisfaction, on the pride of creating an original well crafted item.In other words an item with soul. (Read what Red Thread Studio has to say on this ).It was a community strongly rooted in in sharing ,educating and supporting. Very little of that is left.

The other day as Ruth and i were talking about this she pointed out the economy as the culprit.But i believe there's more than that. Can the economy be blamed for the sloppiness of items, the aggressive behavior of some crafters? Can it be blamed for the no questioning herd like behavior?
i believe that perhaps selling venues have their share in the outcome.i believe that many venues and crafters as well have succumbed to the siren songs of growth. I also believe that a general call to order needs to be issued.Or else...

Perhaps i just fell for the idealistic part and the intellectually stimulating component without noticing the rest. But then again were it about marketing i'd be in Wall Street, or perhaps The City which is more cosmopolitan.

neki desu

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  1. i am glad you posted about this . elaine and i had a conversation about this on the phone. i am also disgusted. a post is in the works. can we rebuild the community do you think?

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  3. Anonymous4:28 PM

    Well, Etsy need to make their cut, so they are emailing like crazy to all their members on what to do to sell more stuff...and the other sites are doing much the same. People are looking for ways to make a little extra cash (which you can't blame them for), and in the stampeed the finer art of "crafting something beautiful" is getting lost in "making something sell-able". I think I'm a bit on the fence about this one. I'm fed up seeing the same thing...but I understand the motivation - it's not everyone who can afford to create for creation sake.

  4. I totally agree! Sending you an e-mail...

  5. Thanks for the reminder that there is something more to creation than how much money it can make.

  6. great post neki.
    speaking as someone who had spent an entire life (over 30 years so far...) making objects and selling them in various markets (always made here in my studio and by hand)i haven't paid much attention to the "indie" thing. seeing myself as a little to old for that designation- kinda like being 50 and dressing like a twenty-something- i just wasn't feeling it.
    i see this conversation somewhat akin to past conversations and situations i have encountered over the years in this business (the business of making & selling craft).
    there are those who design and innovate and there are those who follow, copy, and undercut. i remind myself in my work of the need to stay fresh, to innovate, to create something sustainable that is a bit difficult to copy without quite a bit of effort. to do my best and not spend too much time looking around and very little looking over my shoulder. to not depend on anyone else to market my work the way i want to see it done (etsy and all their promotion stuff- which by the way i never get- must have that turned off thankfully) and quieting all the people (FB and otherwise) who continually want to be my guru and help me achieve my artistic goals.
    your description of the indie craft movement and feelings toward it is quite akin to what i saw and felt when asian importers started knocking off some of the very talented folk art and americana style designers and crafters in the gift, craft, and quilt markets. suddenly, all this crap was arriving at the wholesale markets- direct knockoffs of the stylings and offerings of some very fine craft designers. quality was hideous, color and design were knocked down to base levels to maximize profits and provide cheap cheap prices. sadly, the store owners (both dept. & mom and pops) ate it up and filled up stores with this merchandise and marked stuff up like crazy. small US manufacturers/makers were scrambling to save their businesses. it was so ironic- complete stores built on the folk art and americana design themed product filled with knock offs from china and asia!
    it was a new world order. designers resigned themselves to designing for the import companies, licensing, and whatever to survive. some have been fortunate to reinvent themselves as smaller studio artists- a bit older and wiser than before.
    (apologies for such a lengthy comment)

  7. ha! and i wrote this BEFORE i read your link about John...

  8. I'm so grateful I choose not to even try to sell stuff I make. What's the point?

    I'm sick to death of going into "craft" shops wherever I travel and seeing the exact same stuff from the exact same manufacturers in every single store. This isn't "craft" IMHO, it's just manufactured stuff.

    I won't even begin to discuss China's role in all this, but the Chinese have plenty of co-conspirators.

    Thanks for the post. Sally who is blogging at

  9. Thank you for this post, Neki. I think "sharing, educating and supporting" sums up the way I feel about the creative community at its best - it always amazes and delights me when someone says I've inspired them, it means more to me than admiration of my work (encouraging though that is). For me the interchange is constant, we learn, we give. But that's easy for me to say, since so far I haven't had to sell anything. Now I am thinking about craft business and discovering the pitfalls of commercial realism - creative time has been a luxury I haven't had to put a price on before. It's always worried me that it's not possible for a slow maker to earn a living by selling at prices that someone working on a factory floor can afford. I realise that's a slightly different issue to the disturbing 'driven by the market' ethos you're analysing. But I guess both are about what we value. How to keep the creative integrity and yet also generate the income that enables one to continue with the exploration?

  10. Anonymous6:24 PM

    more good thoughts above-

    Sally asks "what's the point".

    Well, for me the point is to allow myself the opportunity to create as a means of support (as opposed to joining the cubicle nation). In order to do that I have to find ways in which to sustainably exchange my work for money. There are different ways to go about this of course- AND things (the market) have changed immensely over the past couple of decades. Causing me in turn to change and adapt my methods of delivering my products to market. I still am of the belief that it is possible. Hope springs eternal.

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