CraftSeller Q&A: TangleCrafts (Part 1)

When I discover a new crafter or artist whose work I enjoy, I always want to know more about them – where they draw their inspiration, how their ideas develop, why a particular piece took that particular direction, why they use one technique rather than another, or any number of things about their personal ‘story’.  Sometimes an artist is especially open, and all sorts of information might be available, but many people – myself included – simply don’t know where to begin when talking about themselves and their work.  With this in mind, I have drawn up a series of questions designed to extract the kind of information that I would often like to know, and I will be asking fellow crafty types to share their answers. Continue reading CraftSeller Q&A: TangleCrafts (Part 1)

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Catching up, Craft fairs & Colours (oh my!)

At last I have time to write this long overdue catch-up post! The last month or so has been a whirlwind of non-stop activity/work for me, but in a good way. In June I re-entered the world of local craft fairs after a break of more than 2 years. I was somewhat swamped with preparation – stock was easy, but signage, packaging & presentation are a whole different kettle of fish from selling online. With a lot of work, though, I managed to get everything straight and had a really good day (including many conversations about stamp collections!).

Following on from the first craft fair, I had a busy week of collaging to replace sold stock, talks about a commission for a local independent restaurant (I’m designing & hand-binding their new drinks menu!), contact from a UK magazine about a couple of spots coming up over the next few months (more on that to follow later), plus top-up preparation for a local Vintage & Arts Market yesterday. Here I am in situ:

craft market 050714

It’s a lovely courtyard venue and we were very lucky with the weather (a fine, dry day, after very wet evening & morning preceding). Had lots of interesting conversations with customers & stallholders alike, and various possibilities have arisen from the day, so definitely another worthwhile (ad)venture. As you can see from the photo above, my display so far is largely of the make-do-and-mend variety, using display materials I already had on hand (spot the toast rack, camping plate & dishes!). It’s a work in progress, though – I’ve learned something useful and new from each fair I’ve attended so far – and having now made the decision to continue with local fairs as well as selling online, I will be continuing to work on signage, as well as swapping in a few more purpose-built props for future events (although I’m pretty sure the plate & dishes will stay!).

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Are you based anywhere near Derby/shire?  You can keep track of my upcoming events here!

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As it’s such a long time since I last posted, here is a little gallery for you of my new range of notebooks:

(Find the above notebooks & more in the TangleStore!)

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I’ve been creating ‘imaginary landscapes’ and discovering that however hard I try, there are always certain colour combinations that I’m drawn back to. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how different colours speak to us in different ways? Interesting how not only do we simply have different taste in what appeals to us, but how we can each perceive exactly the same colours from a different perspective, and draw a different inference entirely. In fact the ‘palette’ a particular artist uses is entirely a part of what makes their work recognisable.  I used to think I was somehow ‘failing’ by not catering to every possible colour preference one of my customers might have; but I’m now pretty well convinced that actually it’s more important to work with the colours that inspire you. Push yourself sometimes, of course, and try out something different just to see what happens; but mostly, I say go with the flow. 🙂

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Don’t forget to stop by the TangleStore to see what’s new!  The above is just a sampling, and although it’s a while since my last post here, there are new additions to the store regularly.   You can also follow me on Twitter – @TangleCrafts – for daily updates & other snippets that catch my eye from day to day.  And in case you missed it, be sure to check out my previous post for a special July discount coupon!

ZineCraft?

craftivism coverOh dear.  I have inadvertently wandered back into the old art v. craft debate.  In general, I prefer to avoid it but a recent interview with craftivist Betsy Greer made me consider a tangential aspect.  (It’s an interesting interview from more perspectives than this, though – you should read it!)

And then I got carried away…

Is zinemaking a craft?  Approaching this from my own perspective I would have to say that it is, even if only at a most minor level; but zines represent an extremely wide field with all kinds of subgenres and production values so I think it would be impossible to give one all-encompassing yes or no answer.  Regardless of that, here are a few aspects to consider:

  • A standard 8-page mini-zine involves hand-folding and a cut (origami? kirigami?) – this is a very basic craft, but a craft nonetheless.
  • A stitch-bound zine involves basic bookbinding skills (pamphlet/saddle stitch, stab-stitch, all kind of possibilities) – probably more likely to be utilised in a zine already focused on arts or crafts, this is inarguably using craft skills.
  • But if you simply fold each page in half and then staple it?  Stapling, I’m afraid, is not a craft.
  • And if you outsource the printing & binding to a printer?  Definitely not craft!  Here we are simply moving into the realms of basic book/let production.
  • worth something journalWhat about the content?  Well, a lot of work can go into the design and layout of a zine (or not – anyone can make a zine, with almost any skill level!) – but design and layout are skills rather than crafts.
  • What about the aesthetics, all the beautiful artwork found in some zines?  But it is reproduction rather than original artwork, as in any art book you can buy in any bookshop.  The original artwork of course remains so, but the multiple reproduced copies are clearly no longer original art.
  • And if each page of each copy is hand-embellished and/or handwritten?  Then we are moving away from zines and into the world of artists’ books.

Cut down to the bare bones, zinemaking is probably more the culmination of a number of individual skills (not necessarily craft-based), combined.

The bigger question is, does it matter what you call it?  My (slightly abridged!) conclusion to the art v. craft debate was that there will always be different perspectives of any one work.  Some questions to consider…

  • If somebody uses a particular craft technique to follow and reproduce the results of a pre-tested craft pattern, they are producing craft, not art.
  • If somebody uses a craft technique but follows their own (self-designed) pattern, is that craft or art?  Certainly additional skills have been utilised.
  • If somebody uses a craft technique but follows their own pattern, then makes minor changes or alters features so that the end result is different every time, have they produced art or craft?
  • If somebody uses a craft technique but follows their own pattern, yet unconsciously makes changes as each item is produced so that every item is utterly unique with its own character, is that art or craft?
  • If an artist uses a craft technique within an art piece, is that art or craft?
  • If an artist makes a series of similar pieces utilising a craft technique, are they producing art or craft?
  • If an artist tells you that the meaning behind their work alters the context of the craft, does that make it art?
  • What if a crafter tells you the meaning behind what they call their craft?
  • What if a crafter is unaware of any deeper meaning in their work, yet subconsciously, they are expressing something unique with every piece?

Different people will give you different answers to probably all of these questions, even when assessing the same individual case.  Does it matter if you call it art or craft?  Not to me!  Create whatever you want to create, and let other people label it whatever they like; all that matters is whether or not you are happy with what you have created.  Similarly, if you write a zine, does it really matter if one person calls it a craft and another doesn’t?  Just make a zine that says what you want it to say by whatever means suit you best, and be happy. 🙂

myo zineAnother tangent – I’ve just curated a ZineCraft Etsy Treasury full of ideas & inspiration. Enjoy!  (The Make Your Own Zine Kit shown to the left is from the FriendPrices Etsy Store – one of the many cool zine products featured in the treasury.)  Do you have a favourite zine?  Please feel free to share a link!

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NOTE TO STUDENTS!

I removed a couple of my old posts on the subject of art v. craft when I learned they were quite frequently being plagiarised by art students.  Please take note, lecturers know how to use the internet, too!  If you ‘borrow’ my thoughts, your lecturer will probably already have a good idea of where they came from. Take the questions above & give them some thought of your own, instead!

Bazaar Update

It’s been a couple of years since I last tabled at a craft fair.  I planned to get back into it last summer, but circumstances prevailed and after my dad passed away I did lose creative impetus a little.  This year, though, I’m itching to get out there and get back into the fray and have already booked into two markets, with hopefully some more a little further down the line.  I love to see what other people are making, and chat with (potential) customers in person – it’s such a different experience than selling online!

I don’t expect a high volume of sales – I know a lot of people just like to browse – but having changed focus since my last craft fair, I’m interested to see how my collage notebooks go down.  The zines & upcycled badges will still be there, too, of course!  I’m also considering branching out & making some framed collage art – something I have so far baulked at attempting on Etsy due to the extra cost and worry about potential damage when shipping bulky-but-fragile frames…

I’m looking forward to all the ‘boring’ preparation – planning different packaging, deciding on labelling etc.  There are lots of ideas bubbling around inside my head, now I just need to work on organising them into a format I can put into practice!

Are any of you out there in or near to Derbyshire (UK)?  I’d love to meet you at one of the craft fairs!  I’ll be giving away small goody bags to anybody who spends £5 or more, but if you mention this blog post, I will find a little extra something for you, too. 🙂  I have added a link to the mainpage sidebar with further details of forthcoming fairs & markets, but here’s a shortcut for you.  New dates will be added as I book them.  Hope to see you soon! 🙂  (But if you can’t make it to an event, you are always very welcome to browse the online TangleStore, instead!)

Postal Patchwork Prisms

This post is really more of a ‘show-and-tell’ for one of the notebooks I included in my last post’s mini gallery.  I was so pleased with the way it turned out that I decided it justified having a little more of a showcase:

Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (large)
Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (large)
Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (mini)
Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (mini)

The pattern began as an expansion of the pinwheel motif on the mini notebook shown right, but when expanded it takes on all new qualities.  The pinwheels combine to produce new illusions – diamond shaped colour-blocks, and an overall prismatic effect.  I realise quilters (etc) are probably quite familiar with how this process works, but it’s a lot of fun to see in action, especially when you don’t know in advance what the overall effect will be.  I love the way the colours play/bounce off each other; would be interesting to experiment with multi-tones of a single colour family, too…

Perfection isn’t perfect

norway spruce“The Spruce Fir is generally esteemed a more elegant tree than the Scotch pine; and the reason, I suppose, is because it often feathers to the ground, and grows in a more exact and regular shape: but this is a principal objection to it. It often wants both form and beauty. We admire its floating foliage, in which it sometimes exceeds all other trees; but it is rather disagreeable to see a repetition of these feathery strata, beautiful as they are, reared tier above tier, in regular order, from the bottom of a tree to the top. Its perpendicular stem, also, which has seldom any lineal variety, makes the appearance of the tree still more formal. It is not always, however, that the Spruce Fir grows with so much regularity. Sometimes a lateral branch, here and there taking the lead beyond the rest, breaks somewhat through the order commonly observed, and forms a few chasms, which have a good effect. When this is the case, the Spruce Fir ranks among picturesque trees. Sometimes it has as good an effect, and in many circumstances a better, when the contrast appears still stronger; when the tree is shattered by some accident, has lost many of its branches, and is scathed and ragged. A feathery branch, here and there, among broken stems, has often an admirable effect; but it must arise from some particular situation.”

from Woodland Gleanings by Charles Tilt, 1853