Crafting has a long history- some even say we have it hotwired in our brains to create. But our yearning to create with just the right bead, the prefect fabric, or that found object comes from a movement that began with the Industrial Revolution. Just because something could be made quickly and cheaply with the aid of mechanics did not make it necessarily better or desirable. The Arts and Crafts Movement was a response to mass-produced objects, and even though the Movement itself dies out in the 30's, it's influence lingers today.
Craft in America, a mini-series debuting on PBS back in 2007, explores how arts and crafts are still relevant and impact us today. Any crafter interested in arts and craft history should give this DVD a try. This review encompasses season 1 of Craft in America.
The first episode on the DVD is entitled "Memory," and focuses on the historical ties some contemporary arts and crafts come with. various artists discuss their works, but my favorite sequence focuses on a woman whose family has historically made baskets. Originally from Africa, her slave predecessors found native plants and bushes whose leaves and needles resembled those from their native land. Mothers passed their knowledge down to their daughters and now the featured artist not only can make utilitarian baskets but also has added her own twist to make baskets beautiful enough to be considered art.
The second episode is entitled "Landscape," and focuses on how the area that you live in can influence your art. The featured Southwestern artist gets inspiration from the stark landscape of the desert, and uses both metalwork and lapidary skills to create brooches evoking his homeland. Interestingly enough his delicate jewelry pieces have ceased to be enough for him, and he segues into how he is making larger and larger sculptures out of metal.
The third episode, entitled "Community," focuses on how craftwork can both involve and create a community of people. My favorite segment is about quilting, but quilting in an area of the Southern US where race relations still boil. The quilting bee, for them, is one of the few places where women of different races, in their small town, can come together and just be. The segment evolves as the idea of "quilt" as community maker grows into a discussion on the AIDS quilt.
Although the Arts and Craft Movement had greater political and philosophical components, the idea that we have a great love for hand-crafted, well-made objects and that we need creative people to make those objects has given rise to every flea market, street fair, and artists' alley. Perhaps the economy and today's hard times has brought people back into the arts and crafts fold. In any case, I can't wait to check out season 2 of Craft in America, and season 4 is underway to debut on PBS later this year.