“Julie’s work is too crafty”.
Well, that’s okay with me. I am proud that my mom taught me how to use a needle and thread when I was in the First Grade. The next year she bought me a tiny blue plastic sewing machine and I first learned how to wind a bobbin and thread a machine on this toy. It whirred just like my mom’s sewing machine when I stepped on the little foot pedal. And it sewed like a champ! When I graduated from college she bought me a real sewing machine, which I still have, 17 years later. I busted it out of the closet the other day to stitch together some sand molds for my ceramic studio.
I spent a lot of time as a child in fabric stores where I watched my mom and learned to inspect the weave of the cloth and feel it for quality. Speaking of weave…in college I even learned how to weave on an actual loom. This was back in the 90’s when I took Fiber Arts classes before they were called “Material Studies”. Also before they were eliminated from most university art programs.
After I graduated with a degree in ceramics I started making art with paper and fabric because I couldn’t afford a large studio or a kiln to fire my ceramic work. One time at a craft fair a woman approached my work and said, “So you cut things out and glue them down?” I smiled and explained that this was handmade paper (made in my basement) and the center was a reproduction of an original collage that I made. She looked at me and repeated, “So you cut things out and glue them down.” And that’s when it occurred to me. OH MY GOD I CUT THINGS OUT AND GLUE THEM DOWN. FOR A LIVING! How awesome is that??
Okay, the fact that this is fabulous didn’t occur to me until years later. At the time I felt really small about it. Even now, I’m supposed to strive to be this big-time ceramic artist, shunning the paper crafts I used to make. I handbuild all my clay work which means I cut pieces out and slip and score them to attach. Guess what? I cut things out and glue them down…with clay.
I’m not sure when Craft became a bad word. In the 70’s when women were arriving on the art scene using the only materials they were allowed access to? In the 90’s when everyone started scrapbooking every moment of their lives? At what point did artists decide we needed to distance ourselves, to elevate ourselves, to make ourselves feel better by staying away from the C-word?
At this year’s annual ceramic’s conference I was really struggling to figure out which category I belonged in. Academic, educator, student, community artist, potter, installation artist, sculptor, craftivist…Uggh. It became so stressful trying to put a label on myself that I had an awful time because I didn’t really fit in anywhere.
I still don’t know where I fit in but what I do know is that today, if you need me, you can find me in my studio…crafting.