Craft 2.0

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Craft is more than how we make things; it’s a thriving language in a borderless world of creative communication.  Read on how a new craft revolution came to be.

The Industrial Revolution, beginning in Europe in the latter half of the 1700s and spreading quickly to the United States, changed manufacturing forever. Machines replaced hand production, advancements in science and technology led to new uses for natural resources, and the wide availability of goods made economies boom. However, economic growth and scientific advancement came at a great cost as the boom cities and their citizens were thrown out of balance by rapid change.

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Taylor Stitch | Featured in Issue 01 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly

Out of the Industrial Revolution, the Arts and Crafts movement was born. Founded on the ideals of dignity through work and the value of aesthetics, it called for fulfilling employment for all, and signified the return of artistry over speed, beauty over accessibility. Without abandoning the advances of the Industrial Revolution, the Arts and Crafts movement restored balance. Tradesmen turned back to craft; consumers became discerning supporters of art and design. The leaders of the movement and their followers believed that every object could—and should—be of high quality and bring joy to the beholder. Through quality and beauty, they believed, people could lead more enriching lives.

Now, over a century and a half later, in the midst of the Digital Revolution, we are entering a new era of heritage craftsmanship. Though we aren’t faced with the industrial struggles of our 18th and 19th century ancestors, our age presents its own set of challenges: An overload of information. A sense of impermanence. A tendency towards isolation. We are, at once, more connected to the world than we have ever been, and yet more removed from it.

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Leslie Williamson | Featured in Issue 01 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly

William Morris, champion of the Arts and Crafts movement, advocated for meaningful and beautiful objects. He is famous for saying that art should be “for the people and by the people, and a source of pleasure to the maker and the user.” Once again, we understand the importance of pleasure and pride in craft. With so many hours of our days spent tuned into a digital existence, engaged in information and ideas, communicating by text message or email, the physical object takes on enhanced meaning. Sometimes we just want the feel of paper between our fingers; we want to turn a page.

As in the Arts and Crafts movement, we are moving away from the impersonal and toward the carefully crafted. We are rediscovering and reclaiming the physical. We want to eat small batch artisanal cheese, understanding that each bite is precious. We know that the variations in a piece of pottery tell us that we are holding something handmade, and that the spectacle of cut paper animation leaves us more charmed than computer generated images ever could.

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Taylor Stitch | Featured in Issue 01 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly

Experienced artisans are finding a resurgence of customer interest in their products and their techniques. Young artists and entrepreneurs, born and raised in the digital age, are seeking out traditional methods of craftsmanship, reviving time-honored family traditions or collaborating with expert tradesmen to endow heritage quality to new designs.

But just as the participants in the Arts and Crafts movement never forgot the advancements made during the Industrial Revolution, we know that great things happen when the craft world and the digital world come together. Because we live in this exciting age of information, we have unprecedented access to craftspeople. We can follow  the creation of a handmade table on  Instagram, add a jar of lavender honey to our CSA box through a website, learn about the latest coffee roasting technique via Twitter—and then venture out into the world to try a cup for ourselves, knowing that the best things in life are not only understood, but experienced.

This article was written by Nina Lacour and originally published in Issue 01 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly. The Mohawk Maker Quarterly is a vehicle to support a community of like-minded makers. Content focuses on stories of small manufacturers, artisans, printers, designers, and artists who are making their way in the midst of the digital revolution. Learn more about the quarterly here and sign up to receive future printed issues.

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