Oh 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.
- What 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. 🙂
Another 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!