August 18, 2010
A few months ago, I saw an elderly family friend at Walmart. She immediately asked me about my daughter. I don’t have a daughter . . . she thought I was my older sister. I pushed aside the inevitable offense my pride was taking (my niece is 10 years old and it would be close to impossible for me to have a 10 year old . . . even by Mormon standards) and reminded her who I was. Even though she crocheted a beautiful blessing outfit for my little boy only two years before, her memory was not the best.
She peeked into my cart and saw that I had lots of fabric, interfacing, fusible webbing, a hot glue gun, buttons and all sorts of other craft supplies.
“Ooh, whatchu making?” she asked in her thick Belgian accent.
I showed her my own purse, a book purse made from a Shakespeare textbook. She was impressed and surprised (again, I didn’t come up with this idea! I got it from “Country Living”!). She nodded her head and poked me in the ribs with recognition.
“Ah, dat’s right,” she said. “You’re da crafty one.”
I chuckled and tried to look good-natured but on the inside I was cringing. Not just cringing, crumpling. The crafty one? The crafty one? I’ve been called worse things in my life but something about the word “crafty” burned me.
“Crafty.“ When I hear the word “crafty,“ I think of toll painted teddy bears, lace dickies and quilted hot pads covered in chili peppers. And puff paint. Puff. Paint.
Those things have their place and do take time and effort but it’s just not me. I’d like to think the things I make are a little, for lack of a better word, hipper. I know that’s misguided. It’s not like I’m making anything new . . . in fact, I’m making old stuff new again. I’ve had people call my bags “functional art” or “wearable art” which I appreciate. If you look closely, however, you’d find I use fabric, a sewing machine, glue guns . . . my purses certainly seem like crafts.
Just don’t call me crafty.
Interestingly enough, there are times when I think the word “craft” is complimentary. Specifically, in writing. I’ve been writing for most of my life. When I say that, I don’t mean that I write when the mood compels me or that I believe any poetic thought that pops in my head has merit. It means that I’ve been working. Hard. I research, I read, I think, I edit, I rip apart, I piece back together. To me, writing isn’t some fuzzy, feel-good artistic expression of my soul. It’s hard friggin’ work.
My poetry professor in college stressed to everyone that good poetry isn’t about “feelings.” It’s about craft. It’s about all the little turns of phrase, twists on meaning. It’s about a knowledge of the mechanics of your outlet and how you take advantage of that knowledge that propels you to a higher level. This kind of “craft” makes me think of “craftsmanship” . . . a word that inspires thoughts of experience, quality, integrity, excellence and most of all, hard work.
So why the snobbery towards the term “crafty”? Insecurity. We all have it. It’s easier to say, “At least I don’t use puff paint,” than to admit, “My stuff isn’t as good as I’d like it to be.” I need to face it . . . my purses and cards aren’t going to cure cancer. They are fun, silly crafts. Wearable, functional crafts that I crafted with my two hands. Not everyone gets it, not everyone will buy it. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be crafty. It’s fun to be crafty. Being crafty fulfills me.
And if that’s not enough, I’m sure there’s someone out there saying, “Well, at least I don’t make purses out of old books.”