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Introduction: The Production, Consumption, and Meaning of Arts and Crafts

This issue discusses the production, consumption, and meaning of arts and crafts.

Tamara Watkins and Mike Mosher

Craft is political. The London Review of Books Christmas Number, 20 December 2012, has two pieces affirming that. Ramachandra Guha notes how Karl Marx wrote that colonial rule in India destroyed local craft traditions “through the brutal interference of the British tax-gatherer and the British soldier.” Neil Ascherson mentions Wanda Telakoska, promoter of traditional Polish arts and crafts who believed “beauty is for everyday and for everybody", but despite directing Poland's Bureau for Supervision of Production Aesthetics, her designs were ignored by penny-pinching factories.

The production and consumption of art in its many forms gives us insight into culture, our economy, our world, and most importantly, ourselves.

In “‘It’s Not a Hobby, It’s a Post-apocalyptic Skill’: Space, Feminism, Queer, and Sticks and String,” Emma Sheppard explores yarnbombing, or knitted graffiti.

Annaliese Pope discusses the problematic privatization of public spaces in “They Privatized Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot.”

From a vantage point in northern California, Molly Hankwitz moves us “Towards an Understanding of Fine Craft in the Age of Computers.”

Melissa Vandenberg, whose Middleland artworks were showcased in Bad Subjects #83 Election 2012, returns with imagery of “Soft Power”, both nuclear and knitted.

One of this issue’s editors once owned a badly-painted glass painting backed by aluminum foil, purchased at a Vermont garage sale, of a portly farmer in front of a holiday feast. Chrysanthe M. traces the history of more skillful works that she purchased in Senegal, and the historic women depicted in them, in “Glass Painting: the Storytelling Griot of the Signares.” Additional images can be viewed in “A Gallery of Glass Paintings of Signares.”

A few years ago, a prominent art magazine listed Mike Kelley as one of the 25 Most Important People in the “art world” in the United States, his success and failure examined here by Mike Mosher in “Mike Crafty, or Broken Toys Kelley.” Mosher also provides a flickering glimpse of grasroots, teenage backyard Super 8mm moviemaking of forty years ago in “Jimm Juback’s DANIEL BOONE: A Bow and Arrow Made of Shticks.”

Michael Powers celebrates the enduring traditions of foppishness in “And Called It Macaroni,” while artist Chad White—so merciless in Mitt Eats last issue to one Presidential candidate!—rails “Against Craftsmanship.”

Tamara Watkins provides a knitter’s perspective on the crafty political protest in “A Womb of His Own: How Political Craftivism Helps Male Legislators Realize Their Dreams of Having Female Reproductive Organs.”

Kevin Wehr uses theory to help us understand and categorize practitioners in “DIY: Decolonizing Our Lives.”

Take a break from your latest DIY project to read what our illustrious authors have to say about the production, consumption, and meaning of arts and craft.

--January 15, 2013

Image © Jane Street Clayworks.
Copyright © Tamara Watkins and Mike Mosher. All rights reserved.