Sunday, July 05, 2009

Crafta-tista-liscious-ness

I think I've finally figured out what bothers me about the DIY-youth-craft movement, at least as it is portrayed by the media and occasionally as it is self-promoted. It's the same thing that bothered me about my sister-in-law when she was 22. It's probably a thing that plagues most 22 year olds, but she was the one I was hanging around with when I discovered that 22 year olds are really fucking annoying. They know everything! They find a way to agree with everyone! They know how to solve the world's ills! I'm sure I was like this too at one point, but now I am just a cold hard-hearted bitch who complains about kids today.

But as it applies to the craftina movement, these young things get so much media attention for reinventing the wheel. You know I'm no fan of rctn-Jim, that old fart who stitched the nekkid ladies. I don't care that he stitches nudies, he was just really annoying on the board. But lo, MrXStitch discovers naked stitching and it's new! That's because it's done by young people, people.

Half the time these craftalicious types don't even know their craft's jargon or you know, they use 6 strands of floss and call it "single." Or they put some dumb rap lyric on a sampler and call it hip. I recently got set off by a teenager who photographs Blythe dolls. She called them "expensive Japanese dolls." Well, real ones back in the day were made in Hong Kong, but my sister and I didn't have them in the 1970s because they were expensive. (Man, I wish I could find my old one now. I'd be rich!) Sure today they're Japanese and will set you back $60 but those aren't really Blythe dolls.

This is only one small example. I'm sure you have your own you'd like to share. And you're welcome to.

I'm thinking about starting a new blog. Old farts like me, and maybe you, stitch really "radical" things and get all smug about it. Who's in?

13 comments:

Courtney said...

I agree!!!

Silverlotus said...

I'm another one who agrees. And I find the same thing in knitting too. I wish I could offer a solution or a suggestion or something.

But, I will admit that I'm happy that younger people are crafting. I just hope they smarten up a bit and decide to keep with it. Oh, and have some respect for us "oldsters" who've been doing it since we were in our teens. :-P

stitchalicious said...

Came over via silverlotus's twitter.. so my first time here. (So forgive me for not having yet gone though the archives and knowing your blog better.)

I'm in two minds about this. First, as a mid-thirty year old who's been stitching since I was ten, I feel the pain of badly executed embroidery which gets touted as something more. And the modern craft movement has a tendancy to overtly praise people without daring to suggest improvement on technique. It does get a bit clique-y and can be self indulgent.

But at the same time... so what? It's really no different to any other hobby/interest/sport/career. The young are eager and beginners. These are people just getting into it and of course they want positive feedback. And of course we want to give it so that they KEEP doing it and get better. Why can't we be to them what our teachers were to us? I can assure you that my first needlework teacher (ummm, Mum) gushed over the wonkiest, ugliest, worst stitching ever to be inflicted on a piece of fabrc and that is part of what kept me doing it.

I had a meeting last week with a group of textile artists in my city. All over the age of fifty, all doing their own idea of beauty/perfection/interesting. Some were technically good, some weren't, but what they ALL WERE was totally dismissive of my work. That judgement, that arrogance that they showed towards me is something I've been getting from most older stitchers all my life. To move into that role now, showing the same arrogance towards the younger stitchers today? That's something I don't want to fall into and I hope others in my position avoid. Offer advice and support to get them to where we are, rather than waving a stick and yelling "Get off my lawn!"

And yes, I've taken on a -licious name. But I like it and think I'll keep it.

Annemarie said...

Notwithstanding the above comment, you know my opinion on the sort of stitching you're referring to. I don't care if other people do it, I'm not offended by it, I just don't understand why you wouldn't just write the sentiment down on a piece of paper rather than going through the trouble of stitching it. Badly.

Mr X Stitch said...

Hi,
I'm really keen to expand people's awareness of embroidery, and although on the site we tend to feature works done by "the young'uns" that tends to be because they're easier to find and more readily available online.
I've had a few discussions about some of the more controversial pieces that have been shown on the site, and I think there's some validity in showing these kind of works (on the proviso that they are well executed) as it challenges the conception that embroidery is just a hobby and not a valid art or craft form. I'm not interested in showing pieces of work that are just rude, they have to serve some function in altering people's perspectives of the genre.
My main motivation with Mr X Stitch is in reinvograting the genre. It annoys me that cross stitch, in particular, is maligned, and considered nothing more than a hobby these days. And I do believe that in order to appreciate the stuff being done today, it is necessary to recognise the work that has gone before. Unfortunately the main challenge in the internet era is to find radical works done by people in the 80s, 70s and 60s.
The example mentioned, of the naked stitching, might not be the first time it's been done, but if this particular example means that people of any age feel inspired to do something with a needle and thread, then I think that's no bad thing.
And we're always happy to take recommendations from people about stitcheries that are worth showcasing, so if anyone has any suggestions of older pieces of work that we can bring to new eyes, then please do let me know.

Bronny said...

I don't know how to respond to this post. I'm not offended by the sentiments expressed in the 'radical' stitcheries, but moreso by the way they've been stitched up. I can understand posting them on a blog, because in order to get the recognition from other stitchers of a job finished (and don't we all love that buzz) you need to show them off and they are not the sort of thing to take down to the local stitching group. I also agree that some of them are not worth the time stitching and would be better off printed off and framed - you can do some amazing stuff with computers now. The nudies offend me purely because they've obviously been charted by computer and the shading is horrendous - had the skintones been better blended, then I'd have no problem calling them art and framing them and putting them on display.
Let them stitch their 'new art', but perhaps encourage them to try better fabrics and techniques - then perhaps it won't be so offensive and 'in your face'.

Nic said...

It's a toughy.

Cross stitch in particular is never going to be 'modern' because of the limitations of the medium. And stitching bad language isn't 'subversive' - it just shows a willingness to advertise that you can swear. How very high school...

Freestyle embroidery, quilting, knitting - there's some excellent modern work out there, mostly done by older people, simply because they have the experience to *know what the rules are and how to break them or use them* to express themselves.

I'm not in the same class as most of the fibre artists, but as the "elder" member of my SnB group I'm pleased that the young 'uns are enjoying knitting and crochet so much, but I wish I could wave a magic wand and improve the quality of the stuff some of them produce whe they so proudly show it to inquiring people (we meet in a pub, we get people coming up) - and then I feel ashamed for being a snob! I have to remember some of these women have been knitting for only a couple of years, whereas I've been knitting since before all of them were born...

Donna said...

I was surprised and delighted to read the comments and find your rant had started an actual discussion.

Truly, I think the real issue is with the media covering young people. They are the ones making a big deal about it. They are ones who misapply terminology (for the most part.) They are the ones who want to exploit this ageism issue.

Personally I think anyone that wants and tries to create things, whether out of fiber and fabric or paper and ink or skin and ink or whatever, should be applauded.

As for this statement by Mr X Stitch:

My main motivation with Mr X Stitch is in reinvograting the genre. It annoys me that cross stitch, in particular, is maligned, and considered nothing more than a hobby these days.

I would suggest that you check out the Embroiders' Guild of America.
You will find many people there who know that cross stitch isn't just a hobby.

Beefranck said...

Hi there! I wrote the post that you link to at mrxstitch.com. I just wanted to say that I don't claim to have discovered stitched nudity or claim that it is anything new.

Also, Donna, we are aware of the Embroider's Guild, and Jamie (Mr X Stitch) has been lucky enough to visit the Royal School of Needlework in the UK as well. Obviously people in those organizations know that cross stitch is not a hobby and share our love for the subject.

Our goal with the site is to showcase exciting things that are being done with embroidery, cross stitching, and other needlework that we hope that this will appeal to our fellow cross stitchers and embroiderers AND the average person who has never picked up a needle. The post that is linked here is just one example of what we feature - we also feature many artists who are on the cutting edge of embroidery each week. It's all done out of love. We celebrate the things we enjoy with the hope that stitchers and non-stitchers alike will enjoy them, too.

Miriam said...

Nice controversy!

Seems to me that whenever young folks do something, they want it to be "new" or at least reinvented so they can own it, although the techniques and materials of crafting largely remain the same. One of the joys and pains of youth is the need to have something to say, to define yourself, to add something to the world, to make your stamp - whether that was about Vietnam, peace and/or love or today’s "new domesticity" or “subversive art” or counter-culture or whatever. New crafting impulses always reflect the new generation, the new crafters are a subgroup of the youngest generation who stitch or weave (or whatever) their battle cry instead of making (ahem) angsty music or angry zines or whatever. 10 years later, that reinvention is taken over by new young people who think the old reinvention is now something of a lame duck.

I like that new people get into making stuff all the time. And feel free to take up any subject matter that comes to mind. It’s fun, it keeps the discussion lively, and it keeps traditions and skills alive. I like when generations mix and younger crafters can learn from older ones. But ALL crafters ought to keep learning, and improving technique – that’s the definition of having a craft.

Between generations, it seems very silly to me to argue. Why do people who’ve been doing X or Y skill for a longer time look down on younger folks’ efforts as inferior? Isn’t it better to feed their enthusiasm and pride in what they’ve accomplished, to recognize their effort instead of being pointlessly critical? On the other side of the coin, why are the young dismissive of the skills and statements of older crafters? Just because it’s not YOUR statement doesn’t mean what they have to say isn’t equally valid and, dare I say, even subversive in its own way. It’s amazing to me that people who could be on the same page are creating conflict and tearing others down. Why not just be supportive of others’ efforts? There are plenty of people who turn up their noses at craft of all types as a bunch of pointless and outmoded hobbies. I can't see the benefit in doing it to ourselves.

LadyDoc said...

WOW!! Quite a thread!

I have been a crafter, stitcher, needleworker, all those things, all my life. I currently do cross stitch- well, really embroidery because much of what I do is from designs that integrate cross stitch with lots of "specialty" stitches, fancy fibers, beading, etc- crochet (but only in winter), tatting, quilting, and lots of papercrafts.

My exposure to young people learning our "old" crafts has been different than what others have seen and talked about here. That's because I run a craft club after school so my high school kids can learn these "hobbies" and I find that they like to learn and take guidance well. But, they are not 22, lol!

I have found that "qualified" praise is the best way to motivate young people to want to develop theirs skills- that, and exposure to better work. I am no master stitcher, but I AM a LONG way from where I started. "That's terrific for your first piece, now we're going to work on XXX" and then I show them something to strive for in their next attempt.

Some of the pieces I saw over st MrX could certainly use this kind of approval- "that looks good but if you tried *this* stitch for that part, you would get a better effect" kind of thing. Of course, it is unlikely that the criticism, as it would surely be viewed by most, would not be appreciated, but for those truly wanting to improve and develop their skills it might be both encouraging and challenging.

As for a blog for radical stitching- I would follow it with great interest, but I have too many "traditional" projects in the works and waiting in the must-be-done pile, and too much love for this kind of needlework, to want to engage in anything "radical". But for those of you interested, I say GO FOR IT!

mymarkdesigns said...

OK. I think it's GREAT that younger people are entering the xs world. What's NOT great is that (in general) they don't use/talk about Local Needlework Shops and they don't know or care to use proper terminology.

I also hate that people are running picturess through a program (like PC Stitch) and not bothering to make it look nice. It takes a LOT of time and a fair amount of talent to come up with a clear chart of a pic, and those CG designs always strike me as "lazy" stitcheries.

But the biggest, WORST thing about the new stitchers? Copyright infringement all over the place. I'm not talking about scanning & sharing professional designer's charts (they don't go to LNS so I doubt they even know about them)... I mean the Mario Brothers, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and so on. Those characters are ALL copyrighted and not up for grabs to use/reproduce, even if the chart is given away for free.

I'm happy to see the young stitchers getting attention, though... they are the ones who will keep the craft alive when we are gone.

urban craft said...

Well said! But we can go like this forever
and ever
and ever.
Thank you, though, most people generally don't like to talk about the negative things with craft and how can we become better crafters as a whole if we pretend like everything is wonderful like the fantasy land that is created by playing with dolls.