Thinking about craftmaking…

At our last Snook night, I was asked to present 3 ideas of projects that I would like to work on around being a craftmaker. I cheated, I did nothing of the sort.

Instead, I thought long and hard about what being a craftmaker within Snook means. How I should approach the role, whether the title makes sense, how it will be interpreted, what the kind of work would involve. I presented my thoughts on this instead, and it got us all thinking …

Craft. It’s a big, broad word. We need to be careful how we use it. It’s not dangerous as such but it does bring up such strong connotations and images in peoples heads. It’s a word full of nostalgia and tradition – people tend to draw their own connections to it.

Nowadays, craft can often bring up images like this:

I know…  there is an element of pot calling the kettle black here. I suppose I could probably be considered modern-day ‘crafty’. I bake, I wear pretty dresses, I like sewing and teacups… If I was to look at myself from an outsiders’ perspective I would probably find that all this is a response to what is commercially available as ‘craft’. It’s off-the-shelf-handmade. It’s beautiful, cosy and a really interesting reflection of our attitude to the recession. In my minds eye, this is all one side of ‘craft’.

I want to get back to what I consider to be another sphere of craft; the tradition, skillset and ultimately individual objects of production. This side is experimental, relies on skills being passed from hand to hand, local materials and joy of working with something which you are considered an expert in.

I was around 6 years old when I began to be taught Lace making by my Granny Sheep. I can remember hours kneeing by the pillow, fascinated by the coloured beads on the different bobbins and the skill and precision that Granny seemed to be able to emanate; counting off and twirling multiple bobbins in her hands at once to create the intricate patterns – all the stages of which she seemed to be able to keep in her head at once. This was followed with my first own sewing machine (aged 10) which had it’s own carry case and was operated by turning a handle. Aged 20 I was offered the amazing opportunity to travel to Sweden for 6 months and study at HDK, the School of Design and Crafts in Goteborg.

At HDK, every year the entire school spends 1 month swapping design disciplines. As a product design undergraduate I was given the chance to try out another set of skills for 4 weeks. I jumped at the chance to explore the seemingly mysterious textile department, which I had been peering into for months! I learned all about the construction of textiles, and was encouraged to experiment and try out the techniques I was learning in my own way. It was here, and with my ‘Mary Papers’ project, that I began to explore the versatility of embroidery for storytelling.

What I want to get back to. What I want Snookcraft to be known for is more aligned with the traditional aspects of craftmaking; the learned techniques, patience, methodology and prestigious skill that comes from being an expert in a particular field. I want to explore the tradition of the craftmaker passing on their skill, I think that sits really nicely with what Snook stands for. I’m fascinated by how these skills have been passed down, how different techniques exist in different pockets of the world. I want to collect as many as I can.

I like sewing, but I want to learn new things. I don’t quite know what yet, I don’t know what would work for us. Perhaps I will start with sewing and then begin to explore outwards …

I was Snookcraft to look less English Teaparty and more like this:

This is a selection of products available from Present and Correct. You can see the craft, the professionalism and the skill put into the making of these, but you can also see (and feel!) that they have been put together with love and attention to detail for a specific purpose. That’s what I want Snookcraft to feel like and that’s why I am most excited about Karen joining the family – she can help to make this happen.

So, I’ve been doing a bit of thinking, and I think we have a bit more to go. Part of me want to jump in and begin making, part of me wants to step back a little and consider the best way to approach this. For me, making things with my hands has always been a very reflective process. I think that this fits in nicely with our letter writing, drawings, animations, videos and the hand-made elements of our work. What Chris Arnold called “that touch of personality that really brings it to life.”

I’m excited to begin exploring.

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