I hate "Crafting" | How About Orange

November 15, 2007

I hate "Crafting"

I have to get something off my chest. The word "crafting" makes me squirm in distaste. As in, "I'm going to do some crafting now." I realize this is an inflammatory statement, and I'm honestly sorry if I've offended anyone. I imagine I'll dig myself into an even bigger hole here as I go on, and I'm going to start sounding snobbier by the second.

Here's the deal. Over time, I've realized I've begun to equate "crafts" and "crafting" with things that are not my style whatsoever. Like knitted tea cozies and wooden clothespin angels covered with glitter and silk flowers hot glued onto wreaths and pencil cups made out of popsicle sticks. Not so hip. When I hear "craft," I envision stuff like that. (Now certainly there could be outstanding examples of those items that are truly beautiful, and if you've ever made anything of the sort, I'm sure yours is fantastic and not the sort of thing I'm picturing.

I tend to avoid using the word "craft" on this blog, unless it's a cold, calculated attempt to get Google to list me when someone searches for a "craft" project. Or when I can't think of a better word. (And if I've ever linked to your project, that means I like it and it passed the coolness test in my head, even if I've referred to it as a craft.) Every single time I've used a form of this nasty word (another instance here), I grit my teeth. I'd rather say project, undertaking, do-it-yourself, or just plain "make something."

So let's talk about "DIY" (the handy little abbreviation for do-it-yourself). When pondering "DIY," I used to picture guys building stereos out of duct tape or constructing bar stools from recycled magazines and LED lights. Still not quite the thing I'm trying to find a word for, but at least it seems cooler and doesn't involve ruffles. But increasingly I'm seeing "DIY" used in nice places more popular with women, like Blueprint Magazine's blog, or Design*Sponge's "DIY Wednesday" posts. Doesn't a "decorative DIY project" sound so much more chic and modern than a "decorative craft project?" I think so.

I know this is all semantics. And I will probably continue to say "craft" occasionally in the future, at which time you will all pounce on me, especially the folks who truly love the term and feel mightily offended by the viewpoint I've expressed here. But unless anyone has a better word...

Down with "craft," up with "DIY," I say! What say you all?

100 comments:

Jade said...

First of all - this post made me laugh :) I think the word craft does sometimes leave a bad taste in my mouth(usually happens when I see the sign for a "Craft Show" at a local church). And I do sometimes get annoyed when people use the word craft show to describe an Art show, which is snotty of me...but since I sometimes equate "crafts" with pipe cleaner xmas ornaments..its no surprise.

But, if you think about "craft" as in, I just crafted this or a "craftsman", it takes on a whole different look. My father was a custom furniture designer and the word "craftsman" was part of his logo - kind of old school but definitely feels different than "I'm going to make crafts now"

Definitely all semantics, but I hear you. I do think a lot of people google "holiday crafts" or something like that, rather than "holiday DIY project"

I'll end this here, I'm getting awfully wordy :)

beckie said...

I agree, there is something about craft that makes me think old and dowdy and plaid-not good plaid but gross fabric piled in a bin after being purchased from the bargain bin.

I use the word artistic, my DIY's are artistic endeavors...

No I'm not in denial about being crafty

Special K said...

I have a similar problem because, where I'm from, "craft" denotes wooden hearts and crap like that, and it gives me the cringe too. I think it's great that a lot of people (especially women) are changing the perceived meaning of the word to mean (as it largly IS, outside of the hearts) cool, homemade stuff.

For now, I prefer to write "crrrrraft".

Betsey said...

hi there - i have "lurked" on your blog for some time but had to comment on this one. very relevant topic and one i'm sure many of us struggle with. i am constantly trying to find the "right words" to describe what i do. i make things... i am an artist... i am a crafter...
it's easy for me to feel insecure or worried that people won't take my work seriously if i'm "just crafting" -- it sometimes helps me to remember that there were generations of women in my family who did crafting, and it was an important and relevant role. and now we can decide what our role will be, what our terminology will be, etc. i think it's an interesting duality between traditional female roles and current perception of female role as being competent and strong and empowered ... so if DIY works for you, go for it. you shouldn't feel bad about making your own path :)

Jessica L. said...

I agree. Whenever someone says I'm crafty I immediately think they don't like what I made. In college our art department was completely against art that was usable and beneath them. This drove me crazy as I'm drawn to creating art that is usable (it is the environmentalist in me). When my senior project professor said my stained glass didn't look crafty, I took it as a major compliment, which I realize makes me sound like I'm contradicting myself in this comment.

Jess said...

Okay. I shall now use the word "crrrrraft" for these projects :)

Good point, Jade. You're right. I have warm, nice feelings for "craftsmanship," "craftsman," and "Arts and Crafts," that perfectly respectable movement in architecture and design around the turn of the century. I like William Morris. I like custom furniture designers. I like your dad.

I just don't like pipe cleaners!

Jade said...

Pipe cleaners and those pom pom balls that you used to glue onto things when you were a kid...definitely = "crafts" :)

Jess said...

Ooo, more people commented while I was writing my last comment. This is so interesting. I love all your thoughts.

JanelleGee said...

I agree. I hate the word "craft" for some reason and it just makes everything seem amateurish.

I do agree with the comment from jade, that craftsman takes on a whole different look and makes it seem like a real trade instead of a child's after school project.

Maybe I am strange. Maybe I am self-centered. But I prefer to be an artist.

Anonymous said...

I like to use the word "crart". A combo of Craft and Art. Because I'm pretty sure that's what it is... -kat

Elizabeth B said...

Total semantics. I have the opposite problem with implying that anything creative I might do is art. I don't care how we label the creative process. I'm just happy that there are blogs like How About Orange that challenge us to be more creative.

deidra said...

My mom is incredibly creative and always got labeled as "crafty" and hated it.

Then, I left home and my roommates referred to me as the "crafty" one. Even the interior design major.

I don't make tacky crap! So why not use the word "creative?"

Jane Flanagan said...

Great post!

In Ireland there are groups of women called the ICA (Irish Countrywomen's Association) and they do "crafts", mostly in the worst sense of the word, so I completely get the whole negative connotation.

On the flip side, if you consider folk art (quilting, weaving, potting etc) as crafts, what we do seems, in comparison, to be positively ICA-ish.

So I think there needs to be differentiation between all of them. Otherwise we all look like mutton dressed up as lamb.

Carrie said...

Oh Jess, you funny girl! I love your blog and visit it daily for inspiration. I am totally on your side when it comes to DIY vs. Crafts.

The Mouse said...

I prefer designing, as I call myself an independent designer. :)

'Crafting' makes me think of those knitted Barbie doll toilet paper covers and tacky craft public television shows *shudder*

'Crafty', IMO, has its place with children doing cut and paste, or using pom poms, pipecleaners, etc. Although, I must confess, Lovely Daughter is not overly enamoured of pipecleaners. :)

'Crafted' or 'craftsmanship' makes me think of things like stonemasons, joiners, and artisans; as well as, the Arts & Crafts movement. I adore William Morris and Arts and Crafts architecture.

Great post!

lgaumond said...

I have the same aversion to the word "craft". I like to use "artisan crafts" and "handcrafts" to try to mentally separate the things I make from the flower-painted wine bottles and similar "crafts".

Joanna said...

Jess, I completely agree with you. "Crafts" reminds me of folk art, which I loathe (sorry to lovers out there). Crafts are what I made in Sunday school; anything I make now is DIY or just plain clever (not so much).

Liz Ness said...

I'm totally cracking up over how many times you used the word craft in this post (Watch out Google!). You must have required a sizable coffee after that! (Heh-heh.)

Seriously though, this is the kind of discussion that is very familiar in scrapping circles, too. Is it a hobby, a craft, an art? I love the DIY concept because it takes away all of the baggage, I think. Also, I like to think of myself as a creative rather than an artist/hobbiest. I know that there is a history with this word, too. But, it seems a little less loaded even so.

So long live DIY and creatives!

=)

cheeky said...

Oh boy! This is funny.
It is your blog and your format to express whatever you want, and hey I'm here reading it.

I completely understand the association with "crafting". I see what you mean. I'm not sure I equate "crafts(ing)" with the things you described, although those things are not my taste either. I tend to think of it as "junky stuff" but that's only my opinion and some people really adore that style. Not me, but I don't want to criticize nor offend those who make it and those who like it. There are many artists who create "art" that is also not of my taste, yet, it is still "art". I think the key is confidence; own what you create and define your own style regardless of how others define it.


definition of Craft:
1: skill in planning, making or executing; 2: an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill.

Does that change your mind? LOL I honestly can't help but wind you up a bit about it. As you said, it's just semantics and when we associate a certain word with a specific idea, or something we don't like it sticks with us. I won't call you a snob or hold it against you as long as you don't hold it against me for linking to you a few posts ago over at my place and using the word craft to describe your blog. Yikes! I even used the word in a recent comment. Hopefully, that isn't what got you squirming? Maybe I am that person who inspired this post? (or would I be taking too much credit?) LOL I had better edit it to d.i.y so I'm welcome back here.

xo

hampton said...

i wholeheartedly agree! "craft" has kind of a cottagey, cross-stitch tissue box holder connotation. grosses me out =)

j. caroline said...

Craft is a tricky one. Houston has a gallery called the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and it has no pipe cleaners. It is an art gallery for three dimensional items. I wonder how many people show up with their lace doilies and want to exhibit?

Quilting is similarly difficult for me. It can mean a beautiful work of fabric art or it can be a combination of harvest gold, avocado and orange polyester fabric scraps that even disgusts the fabrics that participate.

And DIY makes me think of someone who can use a roller to paint a room. Not that it isn't important, but it's not all that creative.

And let me throw in another twist: sewer. A person who sews, in print, looks exactly like the system through which we dispose of our waste. Are you a sewer or a sewer? I've seen sewing machine companies use the word "sewist" but that seems a bit contrived. Not to mention, it is not found in the dictionary.

Perhaps the answer is to refer to the specific creative endeavors that you pursue? "I am a handbag artist", "I am a lace doily specialist", "I am a needle point connoisseur", "I am the world's foremost expert on the use of pipe cleaners".

I am Jen said...

I just talked about this on my blog yesterday. How weird. I was refered to as this "crafty mom in PA" in a catalog that featured one of my onesies. It bothered me because a) It's my business, not something I do in my spare free-time and b) I've worked hard for my name and to have someone overlook that to avoid competition irked me. Crafting seems old school to me. DIY sounds more modern because all the projects we do are "DIY's".

Jade said...

cheeky - I totally agree with your comment. Well said :)

Anonymous said...

This is similar to the artist vs. illustrator argument I heard so many times in art school.

I've finally decided it doesn't matter what it's called, what matter is that it's tasteful and fun. And tasteful is something that's definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Bitterbetty said...

While I can relate to the visions of tole painting and ducks in bonnets reaction to the "craft" word, I must say that thanks to the internet 2.0 movement, I feel the word has been rescued.

I agree with Jade and Cheeky that there is a connotation of "craftmanship" (craftspersonship?.. heheh)
that I particularly like about
"craft".. And the definition reflects that.

I guess I view it as a word that was hijacked for a while by "hobbyists"..

I really enjoy the ironic employ of the craft supply in the new crafts movement as well.. I mean who ever thought after the transgressions of the early 70's that felt could ever again be considered a desirable material for anything?

Now what's next for pipecleaners?

amber said...

I really, really love my pipe cleaner Christmas ornaments.

The problem is that DIY means that you're doing it YOURSELF, instead of hiring someone. So to me, "DIY" means painting your living room, builidng shelving for your CD/DVD collection, like I did, and generally doing things that you would normally have to hire someone for.

I love D*S's DIY Wednesday, but the name is inaccurate. I'd never hire someone to make me a list holder. DID YOU SEE HOW CUTE THOSE ARE?!

Alexandrialeigh said...

Well, I hate them both. Craft is housewife-y and DIY, to me, sounds like something my dad would try to "rig" (read: "fix cheaply") as opposed to something handmade and of good quality.

Heather said...

I just got an email from my sister today with the following quote at the bottom:

"The difference between art and craft lies not in the tools you hold in your hands, but in the mental set that guides them. For the artisan, craft is the end itself. For you the artist, craft is the vehicle for expressing your vision. Craft is the visible edge of art."

Just food for thought...

P.S. I love this blog and the creativity that's wrapped up in it! :)

jean said...

It's a distinction of quality, I think. Unfortunately, the word "craft" has taken on connotations of poor or inferior quality. But wouldn't you snicker if you saw a painting or a sculpture in an art gallery that you thought was absolutely preposterous? I would. I'd say: they call that "ART??"

So I think what we need to do as creative-original-innovative-makers-of-pretty-stuff is to take back the word craft. Keep making really awesome beautiful functional things with our own two hands and put it out there for the world to see. Elevate folks' opinions about what they call craft.

maryse said...

DIY to me means redoing your bathroom, or rewiring a lamp or ripping up your concrete steps with a jackhammer. that's what my husband does for fun.

i see your point about the word "craft" but i think times have changed. i remember when anything handmade was kind of dorky and not at all stylish or chic. now, when i think of a craft show, i think of all of the beautiful things i want to buy in etsy for example. sure, sometimes i'm disappointed, but i can still appreciate the effort and joy that was put into an item even if it's not very good. not all of us can be as talented as you. (by the way, i know that that last sentence could potentially come across as being snarky but that is not my intent.)

i'm sometimes described as crafty but i never take it as a negative.

furrybees said...

I think gender comes into play here too. It reminds me of an old (?) sexist divide between art and craft. Men did art for public consumption and display and women did craft to decorate their homes and make them easier places to live. However, when I look at "craft" blogs around the net, I see instances of exquisite, elegant and intelligent design that require a creative eye worthy of any good artist. Not to mention the fact that they are increasingly associated to the world of small business.

I'm really just discovering the world of craft on the internet and have felt a similar squirm at the use of the word "craft". However, some of the stuff that's out there, done in the name of "craft", makes me wonder whether women aren't reclaiming the word and defining it anew. The important thing here, though, seems to be who else reclaims and redefines the word. If it's still used as a way of subtly belittling women's creative output then the justification for squirming over its use remains.

I've been clumsily using "handmade stuff" instead of craft while grappling with this issue. But perhaps I should believe my own rhetoric and just claim the word "craft" and be a "craftswoman extraordinaire"!

Janvangogh said...

Used to work in an art supply store. Talk about snobbery between art and craft. I do think tho that there are some regional differences in how they are perceived.

DIY does sound like you pulled out a power tool.

Jocelyn said...

I like the term "craft" - to me it has all the connotations that go with 'craftsman'.

DIY, to me, brings up visions of a shoddy paintjob in the living room by someone trying to save money and not employing a craftsman to do it properly.

And calling my knitting, or my handmade books, or my crazy quilting "art" is just pretentious.

Funny how the same words can have such different connotations to different people, isn't it?

Jen in KS said...

Okay, I turned to that wizened guru that is the dictionary. A craft, according to it, is an art or trade that requires special skill, "esp. manual skill." Skill, then, is the magic word here. Bad connotations stick to the word "craft" because of its modern association with manually made things that do *not* require special skill. Things that look like they can be cranked out with little time, talent, and/or effort.

I think the word has been hijacked, therefore I think it ought to be reclaimed by those who use "special skills" to produce things of beauty. So, here is a [strangely out of character] challenge from one of your readers: Use the word more, not less. Use the word as it was originally intended; the craft comes from the skill set you use to create the art. Encourage others to use it properly, too, and the wave from this revolution can take back all things truly crafty until we're all holding hands and singing together about Cokes and flower power and whirled peas.

Or not.

Definately, probably not. Anyway, don't be afraid to use the word. The dictionary is on your side.

bec said...

i like: "i feel like creating something." or "i'm going do be creative."

Jess said...

Cheeky, I love that definition of craft. If that's craft, then I will proudly claim it.

(And I've been thinking about this "word" thing for months, so it had nothing to do with your links or anybody else's! Not to worry!! You can all use my name and "craft" in the same sentence and I won't be mad, I promise. :)

Okay. I figured out what my beef with craft is, at the heart. Some of you touched on it. It's that I'm AFRAID that if someone hears that I occasionally make "crafts," they will think I make junk. I can't control the picture they have in their minds when they hear the word, so I assume the worst. And I don't want anyone to think I make junky stuff. (Duh, who does??) Some of the graphic designers where I freelance were talking about crafts once, in a cynical sort of way, and I got really worried that maybe they all read this blog and secretly laugh at me behind me back! So you see? It's all based on paranoia.

Guys, I am loving this discussion. Thanks to every one of you for your thoughts! You all make such good points!

Jess said...

Jen in KS, you commented while I was writing my novel above. That's an intriguing challenge. I see your point. Hmmm, let me ponder this.

Karen said...

I'm totally with you on that! Of course, I feel kinda ditzy for not thinking I could use "DIY" instead of "craft"...it just never occurred to me until now, ha! I think I will make the switch in my vocabulary :)

Sandy said...

When I think of the word CRAFT, I picture something created by a person as an original work.
When I think of DIY, I picture something that someone has re-created. Like seeing something in a store and going home to make it yourself as opposed to buying it.

Brad & Kath said...

Oh, me, too, me, too. As a new "crafter" I've struggled with this a LOT. The word "craft" evokes thoughts of stenciled chickens, shabby fake flowers, loads of hot glue, and lettering done with paint pens and with dots on each corner. It just makes me cringe and be embarrassed to be associated with it.

But that's what I have to search for when looking for places to sell my wares-- craft shows. That's really what I do-- I make things, which is crafting.

So after 6 long months of chewing this over, I decided to make peace with it and do my part to take back the word and give it a positive connotation. No, I can't change the world, but I can craft well.

And so I am a crafter, and I go to craft shows, and I have a craft area of the guest room. I still cringe a little inside, but a little less every day. It's what we do, and we do it well. So maybe crafting can mean something worth being proud of!

Sew Create It - Jane said...

Here Here! I never use the word craft! I'm a quilter or a textile artist (well to non-quilters..it sounds posh!) I think of craft s as being the dust collectors that you find at school fairs. Macramé was a craft...and one that shouldn't have a revival! LOL

sara girlscantell said...

i might argue the opposite - tlc, trading spaces and the like have kind of killed the term "DIY" for me. now that i'm so deep into etsy-culture, i often think of craft and fine art in the same train of thought, and don't think of craftERS so much as i think of craftsPEOPLE.
(the words crafter, crafty or crafting do tend to make me shutter in certain occasions).

Anonymous said...

Yes! I know exactly what you mean.
As soon as I see the word craft or crafty - in my mind eye I see quilts - (now don't get me wrong I have made many quilts but there are quilts and quilts) - I see huge florals and purples and olive greens, maroon with olive green and mustard floral. Lacey things threaded with mauve ribbons. Decoupage with angels heads. Aaaagh I could keep going, do you know what I mean?????
Patricia

Elizabeth said...

I love that you brought this subject up. Until my recent discovery of blogs like yours and craftzine.com, my aversion to the idea of 'crafting' kept me from admitting my love of sewing and creating things. It was something I did, but realized that I couldn't really talk about it without being labeled 'crafty' or 'artsy'.
I'm not sure what the correct term should be, but I'm grateful for things like Indie Craft Fairs and talented Etsy sellers that are making handmade goods popular again and breaking preconceptions about what 'craft' is.

Thanks to you and the others out there like you, who've inspired me to be creative in spite of how my creativity gets labeled.

PS As a graphic designer, I appreciate your choice of Brush Script to illustrate 'Craft' for this post. In my mind, that font and the concept of "Crafting" are equally distasteful. :)

Missy said...

HA! Just a few months ago I was talking to my husband about the EXACT same thing! i like to say projects or I'm creating. . .

Jess said...

Elizabeth, I love you for noticing the Brush Script. That was my little private joke to myself.

Riverlark said...

If you visit the craft schools at Penland (NC) or Haystack, Maine, you'll find not a pipe cleaner in sight and a whole lot of people who are proud of their craft. It might be "crafting," the verb that's causing a reaction, or even "crafty."
The funny thing is that even people serious about their craft sometimes get uncomfortable with the word and start demanding credit for "art." I make books and boxes and my own definition is that if the box is empty or the book blank, then it's craft. If I add meaningful content to it, then it could be called art.

kim said...

I TOTALLY agree with you~

Good call :)

Erin said...

Yikes! I just realized that when I emailed you some pictures, I thanked you for your "crafty tips and inspiration". Let me retract that word crafty and use the word designy instead! :)

Handmade Handworked
Those words are often used for very high quality, expensive items. But, homemade sounds like cookies or potholders. DIY sounds like not wanting to pay a "craftsman" or other similar professional.
As one person mentioned, it's all a matter of perspective and context.

ros said...

I think the words that REALLY irritate me are 'crafter' and 'crafting'. The former should be 'craftsman/woman' and the latter 'making'. Handcrafts sound better to me than crafts, though I don't much mind either.

Particular kinds of craft have different connotations for me too. Paper crafts brings on a shudder as I imagine Scrapbooking Heaven, but needlecrafts evokes lovely images of beautiful knitting, or needlepoint or some such.

The things I utterly can't bear are those where the technique is the whole point. 'Look I what I did, aren't I clever!' This applies equally to wildly expensive but hideous objects (blown glass comes to mind) and to nasty cheap things made from polyester and embroidered with a 'saying'. Ewwww.

erin michelle said...

Isn't this the struggle of the century?!!

On the one hand, the pipecleaner-y stuff sounds like KIDS crafts, which one can have no beef with. Kids crafts are special, even if they are prone to be dependent on popsicle sticks and crusted in gold glitter. But adults making stuff like that, now that just.... would be weird.

Then there's the ART VERSUS CRAFT BATTLE ROYALE being argued to death in every art department in every college ever. And it's going nowhere. I knit 80 percent of my senior thesis (and none of it was truly wearabe, nor a cozy) and I expected at least the CERAMICS prof to have my back, but not really. I was a printmaking concentration, and all they wanted to do was give me shit for knitting. It was lame. I don't feel like people are looking at the big picture here, they can't get their heads out of their MFAer Big Art with a Capital A butts. The ART WORLD is not a vacuum!!!

It all just really comes down to aesthetic preferences. It's ok to only like what you like, and to find some things tacky. There's a new wave of making stuff and it's very exciting, but it wouldn't have happened without the fugly predecessors (and a lot of that is just trends, you know? Harvest gold, et al). I think quite often that some of the "icky" crafty stuff we've all seen (like you find at your aunt's houses near holidays) could be really fun with some updates (Amy Butler fabric, for example) or at least some tongue-in-cheek! But you were very diplomatic and voiced your opinion cautiously, and no one's gonna get mad at you. I like your blog a lot. I wrote you a novel. Omg. Sorry.

Suzie said...

hehe this is hilarious! I don't like people who say "artsy/crafty" (all as one word) personally. I just say that I make things. Interchangeable with "I make stuff". Like "oh I am going to make something tonight" rather than "I'm doing crafting". But then again, I don't even call my own drawings "illustrations", it sounds a bit too wanky to call my work that and also implies talent (for me it's just a hobby).

decor8 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
decor8 said...

I hear ya, the term does call to mind glitter, angel-anything, and lots of hot glue guns.

Do you like Amy Sedaris? I think she is the ultimate crafty chick, and she's pretty cute and funny how she presents it all, so to me it makes crafting seem playful. You know, something you do with the kids or your girlfriends for giggles - like carving a pumpkin - that's crafty.

I think crafty, for the most part, means "copy". Like you go to a crafts store and buy kits and books and read the instructions on how to put something together and you do it by the book so to speak. That's crafty.

When I think of creative, I don't think of crafts, I think of artists and designers, people who either translate something they see into something entirely different or who imagine things in their head and execute it via some medium, like through fiber, clay, paint, etc. In other words, they don't buy kits with instructions from the Martha Stewart line at Michael's. It's not BAD to buy kits, but if you find yourself buying kits and then you completely change the rules, then you may be more of an artist than you think.

Nice post!!

K T G said...

I would say "craft" for many of the reasons positively identified here. There are tacky crafts, like there is tacky everything. There are perceptions of every profession, then there is lingo, an excessive change of language because everything has to sound "more important."

Crafts are important. I might even say tacky crafts have an important role. People find enjoyment in doing their thing, even therapy, and they make people smile, and maybe even a couple extra bucks, renting a booth in a grade school and getting in touch with people on a Saturday in late Autumn or Springtime.

That said, I'm not likely to be attracted to cheaply made sequins-glued-to-toilet-paper-tube decorative napkin rings or such. I've been to a few fairs wondering if these people have the same eyes and sensitivity in their fingertips that I do. There's such a thing as finely made items for use in the home, and I believe they are also crafts, crafted craftily. It's kind of time to stop tiptoeing around words, or inventing corpspeak ultra-syllabic lingo for every niche so people don't think you make waste management specialties. You can't elevate everything to "art", or you might not think it's appropriate. DIY is just like the person said: rewiring a lamp or sanding your floors instead of hiring someone else. DIY cook spaghetti, or get some take-out pasta?

I just don't think there's anything to be ashamed about it, and don't forget about that word -- people probably think it wouldn't apply to them as you would apply it to them, and steal your new words, then what will you do? Glorify what you do with an even higher word? Calculate all your vocabulary? Just some things to think about. It's a perfectly good word. If people think it's such a bad word when you use it to describe what you do, you're not emphasizing what your craft actually is.

tulibri said...

That's an interesting discussion to an english-as-a-foreign-language speaker! Wow. I always thought "craft" implies something about craftmanship, skillfulness, creativeness and inspiration.

DIY to me always meant something, like, you don't call the plumber, you repair the sink yourself. Kind of "it works tho it's not perfect".

Thank you for enlightening me another detail of the English language!

tulibri said...

PS: what about the words "craftwork" or "handicraft" or "decorative arts"?

Jeanie said...

Not fond of the word "crafting" or the word "thrifting".

I could say more but I'll hold back here.

Jeanie

lori said...

This post is so interesting! For a LONG time I hated the word "craft" (or even worse: "Crafty") with a passion. I would avoid its use and especially when applied to me and the things I make and do. It seemed to lump me and my handmade endeavors in with the toilet paper cozies of craft sales in the church basement.

Lately, however, I've been much more open to the word. I think it's because of all the sites online where "crafters" definately prove it's not all crocheted toilet paper hats.

Now the only word that gets me really riled up: "hobby" when applied to my knitting/sewing/making/diying/"crafting"... HATE the word "hobby"!!

Tanya said...

I am SO glad you brought this up. Now I don't feel like such a snob. Yes, craft has too many goofy/frilly/cheesy connotations for me too. Most of what I like in the "craft" world could be considered on the design and art end of the spectrum. I might even go so far as to say that the definition of "craft" has been overused because much of what I see out there (Etsy...) actually crosses the line into what I would define as art.

Anonymous said...

I had a discussion about this recently, about the meaning of art vs. craft. Some of my grad school classmates were putting down people who use patterns or directions to make something, and I got pretty mad, because I consider my lace making and quilting to be artistic. I argued that everybody gets inspiration somewhere, and why is work less valuable if it's made using thread, or if it's made with a pattern as a jumping off point?

But then, I'd never want to call the glitter/pipe cleaner/foamies stuff "art," either. I guess I'd call that craft.

Rain Girl said...

I never comment on your blog - though I come here, like daily. But this post made me.

I think the words craft and DIY - their usage also depends upon geography :P i live in India and here both these words are pretty okay - though whenever i make a DIY :P project, people call me creative, not crafty!

Anonymous said...

Take 2 Midol and post again in the morning. :)

Jen said...

From one designer to another, I'm with you.

Wendy said...

I agree with Special K; if we all get stuck in what crafting used to be, we're doing ourselves a disservice. It's just like knitting, which used to be seen as grandmotherly and dowdy and has now become cool and chic.

I have a label on my blog that is called 'Art and Crafts' because I think the difference between Art and Crafting is sometimes hard to distinguish. (notice it's not 'Arts and Crafts'; it's a subtle difference, but important to me.) And now that I've thought about it, I think I need to change it to Crafts and Art.

Instead of having the problem with the word, have a problem with how crafting is viewed. Many people are working to change it's image.

SisterDG said...

Whatever you decide to call it, the act of making is a universal human need. All the discussion about whether it's "craft," "DIY," "design," "creative work," or whatever else is just semantics.

Sadly, it seems to be another universal human need to create smaller divisions in giant ideas, not to mention a sense of "us" and "them." I vote for making whatever you want, and calling it by every name you can, and being open to possibilities in all forms of creativity.

Miriam Heddy said...

I agree with furrybees that it's still a gendered distinction--one that survives even aside from the art/craft divide.

Craftsman suggests a professional--someone who makes a living through their craft. A craftsman crafts a *product*. It's worth noting that woodworking and metalwork have within them the idea of "work" being done, rather than leisure. And again, it's a traditionally male-gendered kind of work.

Crafts, on the other hand, have long been associated with the unprofessional--the hobbyist--the amateur and, most importantly, the domestic hearth and home. Someone who makes crafts isn't necessarily considered a "craftsman." Crafts don't suggest work, pay, or salable product, even as, more and more, women are making an independent living with their crafts.

I'm not sure how to change that, but I suspect that part of it will mean embracing "craft" and using it to describe products that are professional, exhibit craftsmanship, and are made by women.

Sara said...

I'm SO on board with you on this one. There is a big gap between "art" and "craft" and unfortunately the crafters get the shit end of the stick. My mother-in-law likes to ask me, "have you been crafting lately?" No ma'am, I've been running a business. But they just don't get it. I like your idea to just "make stuff."

Melissa said...

Completely agree! When people ask my hobbies and I say "crafting", I have to clarify. "I don't make baskets or dried flower arrangements or tea cozies." I try to stick with "I design paper goods," but sometimes folks don't get it. Maybe we need to create a new term. Like "INDIVIGINEER" or "HANDUFACTURE."

Jane who? said...

I tried to talk myself out of wading into an ongoing conversation 64 comments long, but as is usually my downfall, I just couldn't help myself.

Debate over whether to use or downplay the word "craft" has cycled in and out of our conference room conversations fairly regularly, at least for the two years I've been in the business. And although my job title may be Craft Publications Director, I'm not that fond of pipe cleaner projects, either. Personally though, if someone else finds fulfillment in making them, I'm all for it.

I studied folklore in graduate school, which makes me think I may have a slightly different view of the word "craft" than a lot of other people. The same set of criteria that lends credibility to commonly accepted folkloric artifacts like quilts, baskets, and pottery, can also sometimes be applied to those contemporary crafts many would like to consider less important. Sometimes, though, a potholder is really just a potholder. Sometimes, the things we make, we make because doing so makes us happy.

I think Betsey's right. It's up to us to decide the terminology. Most people won't care what it's called, as long as they can do and be what and who they are.

Deb M
aka mundanejane

paula said...

The thing we should all remember is, no matter what the material or the outcome; art or craft, design or diy,it's all just a person trying to make something from nothing and an idea that comes from inside them.

Lisa thedomesticdiva said...

LOL! Personally, I do not like either words...craft or DIY.

Like many here, "craft" means making stuff for your local holiday fair.

DIY really bothers me...it reminds me of deconstructed clothing--where those who don't know how to construct attempt to cover up their skill by using the term "deconstructed."

And yes, the word "sewer" doesn't work for me. Neither does "seamstress"...I call myself a designer entrepenuer (taken from Fashion Incubator) as it encompasses designer, seamstress and business owner.

With friendship,
Lisa

dottie said...

i always felt that the word craft implied a skill or trade. i think that we narrowly use the word today to mean the type of thing many describe as negative or tacky.

i'm proud to use the word craft.

Tip Junkie said...

Too Funny!! When I refer to a craft, it's usually something easy and a DIY project is usally more involved.

Great vent. I hope it worked and got it off your chest. ;)

Ryan said...

I agree whole heartedly! I almost feel as if "craft"ing doesn't relay the fact that the things made require talent & creativity.
Does that even make sense?

julia said...

On the 'craftsanity podcast' (sorry if the name makes you cringe) there was an episode with Tsia Carson (http://craftsanity.com/podcast/files/pod45.html)
who said she doesn't think about the arts vs. crafts issue in quite that way. She doesn't think she produces art or crafts, but culture and I thought that was a really good way to look at it. Culture being the larger semantic term, it includes ugly and cool.

Tara said...

I also hate the word "crafting". I always equate it with childhood things. Like when I was 9 and making cards and picture frames out of contruction paper. Or looking through the latest Highlights magazine for the "craft" section in the back to make yet another cheesy popsickle stick mobile or butterfly. :)
I'm not at all bothered by the term DIY, but I just don't use it very much. When people ask what I like to do in my free time, I just say "work on art projects". It may not be the best way to describe what I do, but it sounds better to me than "crafting" or "DIY projects".
:)

Janick - Creativadoration Blog said...

I see this subject has started quite a conversation!

I have to agree with you. I use the words craft-crafting-crafters less as possible. I prefer create-designers-DIY-handmade for example.

It just takes all the glittery and amateur feeling that the word "craft" brings with it!

Lindsay said...

Very interesting conversation you've started here. I grew up in a family of very talented women who "crafted". Knit, sew, quilt, crochet, jewelry, etc. As I create things, in my mind I'm crafting too.

If you think about those that make the crafts that we think are tacky or ugly or uninspired, is it really true? my 80 year old grandmother-in-law makes me incredibly detailed plastic canvas cross stitch things and I display them with pride, because she made them for me. They are on the tacky side, but fabulous nonetheless.

"crafting" is in our blood, our history as women. And I know that we are supposed to evolve from what women used to be, but we don't have to.

I know I'm the minority here, but I'll stick with crafting, although you can call me whatever you like :)

sewgracious said...

LOL "crafts" makes me think of "crafts" at VBS, summer camp, Brownies, etc.

Kathy said...

I had actually never thought about the semantics before reading this, but when I did, I realized that the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word "craft" is something that I would make with my kids. At the same time "DIY" makes me think of home improvement projects. Neither of these really describes my creative process. Maybe we need to invent a new term. Anyone have any ideas?

Christine said...

DIY is such a trite and trendy term. It's for people who are ashamed to call what they do what it is. If you knit, it's knitting. If it's crochet, it's crochet. Is it an art? yes. Is it a craft? yes. Is it a skill? absolutely. I think that people deliberate too much over such an insignificant thing such as a "cool" term for crafting. Is this middle school or something?

melissa said...

here here!!! this post was great...as i cringed at the tea pot cozy (i just crocheted a mug cozy) and the angel thing...(recent daughters b-day "craft") i totally agree...and actually think DIY brings a bit more pride to what i do...y'know? thanks for this great blog...i read it often and comment rarely...

Amy said...

I agree with Christine.

Liberate yourself from what "everyone" thinks.

star said...

i've struggled alot with this too and feel the same way towards the word "craft". my recent struggle is what do i call my "space" that i work in? considering it's one half of my bedroom? i usually just refer to it as my "workspace" or "creative area"....but never my craft room or space. ugh...craft. i also agree with you on the whole paranoia thing. when i speak to people at work about what i do...that's my big issue.

Peta said...

I too agree with the cringe aspect of the word craft. I have made peace with the word now though, my craft is about the process, the meaning and furthering of oneself that was so valued in the arts and craft movement. If it's good enough for William Morris et al, it's good enough for me!! Plus, there are so many inspirational crafting women who are redefining the word. If using the word craft to define what we do gives other people negative notions of our work, then that is their issue, not ours. And we can work on changing that for them. And star, call your "space" your studio. That way people will know that you take it seriously.

Natalie said...

Wow... did you ever find the hot topic!
I like craftsmanship, design, art, expression, DIY. I cringe at painted pre-fab stuff glued together, and pine cones with glitter and wiggly eyes... unless it's made by a 4 year old with heartfelt love and passion... lol.

AMR said...

I distinguish crafts this way;
There are krafts (all the crappy stuff - and I mean that in the nicest way :)...and crafts (all the skilled work).

honey said...

I like the following words:
* crafty (I like this because it has the added meaning of 'clever')
* craft room (drooling on myself just thinking about it)
*and the best* crafternoon (when my friends come over and we all work on our various projects, or our mending)

I have never referred to myself as a crafter, but I don't have any particular aversion to the word. When people ask, I say I like to make stuff. Then they usually ask what kind of stuff and I tell them.

There is also the Crafty Bastards craft fair (I think it's in Wash D.C.?), and I have a friend with business cards bearing the title "Crafty Wench" on them. How risque.

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

I'm so with you on this one!

I am a deisgner of handmade cards that have a national distribution around Australia. My cards are made with the finest imported Japanese paper and often use traditional techniques, so I like to consider them pieces of art. I hate however saying that I make handmade cards because of all the tacky stuff out there made by "crafters". I really feel like I have to justify my product, as I did just here ;)

salmonpoetry said...

interesting post, on an issue i've contemplated myself in perusing the blossoming array of 'crafty' blogs sprouting up these days, being something of a 'wordie' myself...

when i lived in England a couple of decades ago, DIY referred to stores like Home Depot, etc- I recall one called Texas Home Stores that had a big DIY neon sign on front. when i first moved there i would ride my bike back and forth by the store trying to figure out what DIY meant in association with that big box place. (finally i got it). i guess this would fall in the category of 'hulking guy with hammer and tool belt' definition...

on the other hand, i grew up in the '60s and '70s when crafts were a bit tacky- i just started sifting through my deceased mother's old craft books from that era, egads- or jejune- like the bean and pasta bead necklaces we made at summer camp.

that said, i find the arts & craft movement around the turn of last century with its reaction against industrialization and its widespread influence on architecture and design as well as a way of living to be quite inspiring (one of the earliest Arts & Crafts Exhibitions at Copley Plaza in Boston in 1897 was predominated by women craftspeople). I have a sweet little book called "Arts and Crafts ideals" that covers the whole gamut of what the term embodied back then. when i lived in Berkeley, i loved to visit the California College of Arts and Crafts down the road, which definitely was neither tacky nor jejune, and had great food to boot!

whether 'crafts' or DIY or some other term (some good suggestions in this long line of comments) kudos to all of the creative women out there working to reclaim these terms on their own terms, and adding beauty and inspiration to the world while doing so!

heather said...

HA! i wholeheartedly agree!
i hate the word too. reminds me of my southern grandmother making "things for the church bazzare" which usually including some sort of TP covering, or big bunny to put on your freshly made bed. as a person who does lots of art projects, i too refrain from the "c" word

ZolaClaire said...

I'm on your bus. To get around using the word craft (and not claim that I'm an "Artiste"), I call what I'm working on a project. It's makes me cringe to hear the word craft when it references something that is innovative / creative (unless by craft the speaker means: 1. an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, esp. manual skill: the craft of a mason.)

Anonymous said...

This is something i have never understood. My Mother and my Grandmothers and on and on, embroidered, sewed, and yes, made things out of clothespins. This was a creative outlet for them, something which they enjoyed, sometimes utilitarian, sometimes for their enjoyment only. There is no better definition of an artist. Perhaps from a more modern, sophisticated view, some of these items are "tacky", but these women lay a ground work for everything the "crafting/DIY" community is doing today. Why this label is offensive is beyond me. There was similar situation when i was a painter in art school, in which the artists always needed to differentiate between themselves and the "graphic designers", as if they weren't "real" artists. It's this kind of self employed importance that causes people to think they are better than others.

Vaedri said...

I'm far from being offended, but you do make me think. In terms of connotation, "crafting" does make me think of popsicle sticks and white glue. DIY makes me think more about construction and large-scale redecorating projects.

The terms that I think best fit (in my mind, at least) the recent movement toward things made by people at home is 'handcrafted', or 'handmade'. To me, these words imply more skill, more care, more quality. Maybe because I would associate 'crafting' more with a child's activity.

SallyF said...

ooh so glad I stumbled on this, have been doing some research around craft / DIY etc for an exhibition in the UK which asks exactly these types of questions (and also about blurring with art / design - where all that fits in too...)

For me one of the positives of using Craft is that it implies a practiced skill - not necessarily on a professional level, but with some integrity and technique at least; whereas DIY doesn't always - tho that's one of DIY's qualities too, that it comes more rough and ready often, more gritty and immediate.

For the time being I'm settling on 'making' and then it can encompass a personal meaning for everyone individually.

Oh I could go on and on... but I won't! And thank you for making me think about it again and revisit my learning curve...

I love your blog :-)

Anonymous said...

I know I'm a little late in joining the discussion, but: in defining yourself and your work, I think it's important to refer to it as "work," especially if it is a business venture. if it is for fun, call it fun.
and definitely call your space your studio or workspace. that's what it is--so be proud of it.

as for a term for yourself, i like two: the first is "maker." i think it leaves the door open to discuss the many things you create and doesn't pigeonhole you into one area. but my favorite, and the one I use to define myself is "artisan."
it means: "a worker in a skilled trade, especially in which things are made by hand."

I feel that the term combines both the art of my work (the creativity and personal stamp I bring to it), as well as the craft--that is, the standards of craftmanship I try to achieve.

thanks for the great discussion.
-Erica

feather said...

Oh, I like the word "craft!" I think its other meanings bring to it new beautiful dimensions: "crafted" as something made with great skill and care, "crafty" also meaning cunning and clever. DIY has none of these lovely connotations in my mind -- it sounds altogether too basementy; "craft" is closer to art in my head. As it should be.

Anonymous said...

I know there are a lot of posts on this already. But reading these put a funny image in my head. Has anyone seen the Saturday Night Live skit with Alec Balwdin making those chocolate balls and the two ladies who run a radio show are interviewing him. The two ladies are wearing those huge snowflake sweaters (I actually have one I wear on occasion only in my house, LOL). Anyway that is the image in my head when I hear the word craft, totally uncool. I just starting looking at all these "craft" blogs a few weeks ago and it is inspiring all the "cool crafts" out there now. I have bought pipe cleaners though, for my 1.5 year old to do her crafts. LOL.

Lovely blog.

Laura

Louise said...

I could not agree MORE!!!

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