Art and Craft versus Craft Show

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Since we plunged back into the summer festivals Steve and I have been careful to select events with a more elevated perspective of what is art, handcrafted, locally made.

When we first started we were open to trying any shows… and yes, we spent a few long days sitting next to the booth with quilted kleenex boxes, and crochet toilet paper holders.  Nothing wrong with that , but is it crafts…   We began to see how fascinated people have grown with buying a ton of beads, and simply stringing them in basic runs, nothing elaborate.  They were not making the beads, or crafting a fine design.  Just string em and sell em.

Now these 3 years later we are seeing such a proliferation of bead stringers and basic jewelry sales that we are frustrated.  The elevated idea of selling your art, the work of your hands, the skills finely honed next door to a bead stringer is enough to really frustrate most artists.  And the worst is that portion of people that buy cases of already strung beaded jewelry from china and decide to sell them as their own.

I am  trying to gather my thoughts here, after reading an extensive post on facebook from a person I respect as a mentor to me.  She has been a part of the Art community in Cleveland for a while, and she understands the market.    Here is her quote:

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend at some local art fairs… there’s a lot of crap being exhibited! 
What is up with all the spoon and fork jewelry? WTF? This isn’t 1975… wood framed sunglasses> really? Too many artists [besides the bead stringers] are assembling commercial pieces parts.
Original and creative artwork is becoming an endangered species!

I agree… and i really wonder if there is a solution.  Too many shows?  Too many people out there?  Loss of knowledge or care for what makes it into events?  This is growing alarming to us as well.

I would love to hear your thoughts…. please leave me a comment about this idea.


2 thoughts on “Art and Craft versus Craft Show”

  • I don’t think there is only 1 answer here, but several things at play. Too many shows, yes- every community, neighborhood or “arts district” wants to establish and brand themselves through events. Whether it is inexperience or lack of a clear vision for an event is to blame on the part of the sponsers I don’t know; they might complain about a dearth of good quality show applicants. Some neighborhoods naturally have a more elevated sensibility because they already attract an artist or art saavy crowd. (Tremont, Cleve Hts/Cain Park, Gordon Square, Berea- those neighborhoods deliberately cultivate an ” arts and culture” community as part of their development plan). I too have noticed the proliferation of the bead-stringers and kitschy-kraft types; I think some folks think they can emulate more talented artists and crafts people with hack, short-cut or commercial stuff. That could reflect a lack of understanding on their part, but our larger system of education really cheats the arts, and I do think that many people misunderstand the difference between just “making stuff” and really devoting yourself to an art or fine craft discipline. The buying crowd that attends these events are varied too- the more sophisticated shopper might choose their events based on the quality of artisans that show there- that only works for established shows. Plus there is a newer trend of “makers” that is different than traditional arts and crafts too. These are often younger people who look at it in terms of “life hacking”- customizing or re-using exisiting stuff. Some of it might be the upcycle thing, but some of it is just an attitude of “I touched it so now I’ve made it mine”. I recently made a bit of a mistake on Etsy buying an upcycled army surplus bag that was supposed to be customized as a bicycle bag. All the guy did was include 4 commercially made leather straps along with the unaltered bag- plus he had the nerve to slap a leather tag logo on the bag to brand this item as his own creation! He did nothing other than resell a bag with non- attached straps he also did not make. He made a leather logo and attached that, but nothing else. That taught me a lesson! After decades of attending and sometimes selling at these events I still have a lot to learn!

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