The TV channel TLC recently declared that it was “about to turn crafting on its head” with its show Craft Wars, by assembling “craft virtuosos” for “a knock-down, drag-out fight for supremacy.” As reviews roll in, it seems that the show has indeed managed to turn craft on its head, but not in quite the peppy way that TLC intended.
On the first of last month, Alexandra Lange at the New Yorker posted a scathing review of the show. In her piece, she argued that the show is an offense to all that true craft stands for, by encouraging wasteful consumption, and by separating the creation of objects from their decoration. As an example, Lange picked an episode in which people competed to make the most attractive playhouse:
The contestants … weren’t even constructing the house part: nameless team members wielded saws and hammers, while the (female) contestants added decoration to the plywood frame. It was a setup that forced them to be decorators, and it also narrowed the skill set required for a win to sewing, glueing, and painting …
It's true that this is opposed to Morris's idea of an artist-craftsman who masters every aspect of his or her trade. But does this mean that Craft Wars deserves to be dismissed as a group of people wasting their time by making things “cute”?
A blogger over at “Crafty Manalo” begs to differ. In her rebuttal to Lange's piece, she writes that it is misleading to compare small home projects and the Arts & Crafts movement writ large, then goes on to quote another commentator who summed up the potential value of the show quite well:
I too recoil a bit when glueing pencils onto a window box is lumped into the ‘craft’ category. However, I have also witnessed acquaintances of mine start out stringing beads into nice earrings and necklaces, and become motivated to learn the full spectrum of jewellery-making techniques, or set about learning to make the glass beads by hand.
If even one person is inspired to explore craft more deeply as a result of Craft Wars, the piece concludes, then “it will have served a useful purpose.”
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)