I believe that craft-produced (or hand-crafted) textiles still maintain a place in modern society as they are a way for people to express themselves, their thoughts, feelings, emotions and sense of individuality. I know from personal experience the feeling of accomplishment when finishing a project, and even greater joy if other people praise it. If it happens to be something like a dress, then I can walk out proudly knowing that no one else has the exact same one, and that my choices in fabric and construction techniques say a lot about who I am, what I like and how skilled I am at making something. Even a simple drawing gives you the freedom to express how you’re feeling inside, so every piece produced by a crafts person has a story to go with it, something a mass produced item doesn’t.
For example, this piece shown above was made by embroider Louise Gardiner for Liberty to celebrate their 140 year birthday. She explains in this post on the Craft Councils Website about how the piece was designed with a maritime theme as the shop was built using the wood from two ships. Embroidery is a very old and traditional skill, but the maritime tattoo designs used for the work gives it a very modern edge. The fact that most of the designs are hand drawn in a ‘saucy’ manner reflects Louise’s personal style. Many hours will have been spent on this piece, something that isn’t viable for mass produced items, making it truly ‘one of a kind’. This makes it an interesting piece for Liberty to add to their archives, a wonderful piece of art to show off in their store to commemorate their birthday, and a great piece of advertising as it is shown in articles on the internet and in magazines with their name proudly shown at the top.
Craft-produced texiles can also be a good way for people in poorer countries to earn a good wage and support their families. There are companies like Heartwear, discussed in Textiles Today by Chloe Colchester, that support existing crafts people and processes, helping them become more marketable and sustainable, so they aren’t driven out of business by cheap mass produced foreign imports. Mehera Shaw is another company that supports artists by using traditional Indian hand block printed fabrics, often using natural vegetable dyes, not only giving many families an income but also preserving their culture and way of life as many techniques and recipes are handed down through the generations. Yet again this way of working produces items and garments that are unique, a big selling point in today’s market of mass produced items.
Craft production by individuals and small groups can also lead to innovation. ‘Knotted Chair’ by Marcel Wonders, also shown in ‘Textiles Today’, combines high-tech modern materials, with the traditional craft of macrame. The chair is made from a carbon fibre rope knotted using a macrame technique, then soaked in epoxy resin. The chair is then held in shape whilst it dries, after which it remains solid but is still lightweight. This piece was made in collaboration with Delft University of Technology after designers were invited to experiment with high tech materials, other pieces made in the project involved knitting with glass fibres, weaving, coiling fibres or sewing fabrics then setting them in to shapes through melting or resin to make them firm and usable as furniture such as lights, tables, dividers and of course chairs. This kind of experimentation, and ‘thinking outside the box’ approach where old is mixed with new simply isn’t possible from a purely industrial approach, and can lead to ideas for new products and uses.