Embroidery has provided a source of pleasure and power for women, while being indissolubly linked to their powerlessness. [...] Observing the covert ways embroidery has provided a source of support and satisfaction for women leads us out of the impasse created by outright condemnation or uncritical celebration of the art.
Rozsika Parker, from The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine
I'm currently working with old and discarded textiles: half-embroidered canvases, linens, leftover or unused wool from embroidery kits older than I am.
Someone once felt compelled to make these things, knew inspiration, motivation. Had an opinion and a standard of beauty. These women buried themselves in the making and the work of the work.
Some of these women I know, or knew. Most are strangers.
Some of the work is fine. Some is not.
But according to the academics and critics, all of this work -- no matter the quality of the stitching hand -- falls under the title of "Craft," not "Art."
I, and this group of ghostly women whose smells still linger on these fibers, made the choice to pick up a needle instead of a brush or a chisel. So there you are.
"Amateur" means, roughly, "lover," from the Latin amare (to love), and one of the hallmarks of amateur activity is a lack of critical distance from the object of desire. If modern art ... is grounded in searching self-awareness, then amateurism is a form of creativity that can never be integrated in to this model ... hobby crafts are on a par with such activities as stamp collecting and weekend sport -- activities done in a spirit of self-gratification rather than critique.
Glenn Adamson, from Thinking Through Craft
I've talked about labels before and figured I was over it. But it's yanking at me right now.
So I'm reading. A lot. And I'm trying to be open.
And I get that the line between art and craft is blurring more and more. And I acknowledge my shallow moments -- like when the spanking new copy of American Craft arrives in the mailbox -- when I think "craftsperson" is an incredibly hip title and "artist" is just so "everyoneisanartist" and where did I put my monocle, and my mustache wax anyway?
But then I return to these ghost women's hands, and realize most of them never had the luxury of even considering a choice between artist or craftsperson, or reading about their amateur status, or getting all hung up and depressed for two weeks when really they were probably quite "supported and satisfied" to have a moment to themselves at the end of the day to lose themselves in handwork.
But if you're like me, if there's something out there in the world, something you might ingest that could make you feel terrible, or sick, or kill some part of you ... then shouldn't you learn everything you can about it? Because maybe you'll form an opinion, emerge hairy-militant and ready to make a change, or maybe you'll come all the way 'round to acceptance, or form a new stance altogether. Maybe you'll learn to avoid it, or make a point to always flip it over to scrutinize the fleshy underbelly before kicking it to the side. But at the very least, shouldn't you be able to make a positive identification and say, "Oh yeah, that's that thing."
You don't have to get all professional on us or anything.
I mean, crap, just be an amateur.