Thursday, January 29, 2015

Go Ahead. Make My Day.

I originally wanted to write this on Facebook as a response to a series of tweets posted by the unsinkable Jen Dziura of Get Bullish (PS- JD, be my Valentine.) However, as I thought about why the words "crafter" and "maker" cause me to bristle like an uncomfortable, manic porcupine, I realized, "Gee. I might need more room than a comment box." Better drag the old blogging platform out. Apologies. I am shooting from the hip. 
As I said, I bristle, BRISTLE, at the gender-dripping term of "crafter". Yes. It is a term that has become harshly associated with the female-gender. However, even though I understand that the implicit negative connotations are pretty sharply related to "the womens < the mens",  it's moreso the lack of specificity that needles me. Listen. Picture a woman making a quilt, and you are picturing a "quilter". Who knits some socks? She's lady and a "knitter"! Who's buying all of those Simplicity prom dress patterns? A "seamstress". The object produced doesn't have to be useful to earn a title. Even someone who makes fancy doilies is a "tatter"! So, based on those very quick examples, I have a difficult time believing that it is the gendering of the word that makes if offensive. Instead being so uninvested in your actions, process, or outcome that you can't even earn a title. You're merely a tourist. And anyone can be a tourist.
(Hey. Not hating. I've been in many a Treasure Island and Rag Shop in my day! I'll be damned if I didn't love every potpourri'd moment.)
So then, what is a "crafter"? Is it more than hot glue and pipe cleaners and lavish paper decorations for a one year-old's birthday party? I assume that "crafter" is  a shortening of "craftsperson". I'm talking guilds and journeymen and dedicating years of life into creating, ahem, crafting, the perfect rug or dovetail joint or faceted stone or whatever it is that gets you daps in your corner of existing. In this sense, we have to respect not the breadth but the depth of knowledge as well as the time and dedication necessary to developing those skills. To me, the difference between "crafter" and "craftsperson" is that idea of investment and permanence. To be a craftsperson is to have your own tools, language, and culture. It is to be specific.
A craftsperson is not swinging through Etsy just to come up on some quick side cash. Let me show you my cards, okay? I've long been employed as a professional "maker": a seamstress since college and, more recently, a jewelry designer/metalsmith. I didn't spend 10 years honing my sewing skills because it was funsies.  Craftsmanship is my food and my clothes and my house and my taxes and my ability to see my parents at Christmas. It is where I live. I am not stopping by.
Then what is the deal with "maker"? I dig that it is a great way to generalize a group of folks who are all involved in creating, definitely in the fields where you work start-to-finish. Truly, it is less gagful than the sticky-from-use term "artisan" and less elitist than simply saying "artist". I also dig that the original article that Jen was commenting on (seriously, JD, be my valentine!) has much more to do with the tech sector* than with the "Makers gonna make" sector (gag gag gag). So why the hell do I not want to be a "maker"... besides that I am a complete contrarian that hates buzzwords? Because it is just that. It's a reboot of "crafter": non-specific, uninvested. But it is also a reduction of "artisan" and "craftsman". It surrounds all and reveals nothing. It's the whole 3rd paragraph recajiggered for the small-batch authenticity renaissance. It is a reductive fucking black hole caused by marketing meeting a very simplified nostalgia. We'll lump the jewelers in with the weavers in with the carpenters, roll it around and, blammo!, a new demographic. Swing by West Elm and get that maker style for your brand, new loft!
By the way, you know a loft is really just an apartment, right?

*Also, I'm willing to accept that the current use of "maker" is derived from MAKE Magazine, which is like Popular Mechanics for our future generation except it's about how normal folks can harness technology in a kinda hobbyist way to make all sorts of cool things. I have a copy on my desk where the instructions on how to make a biome are deeply dog-earred. No hate to MAKE.