By Sharon Massey, SCC Store Manager
In October I went with a few other SCC staff members to the “Crafting a Nation” conference in Washington, DC. It was great to be immersed in craft dialogue for two full days, and there were a range of topics that have been on my mind since returning home to Pittsburgh.
One of the panel discussions was titled Living the Crafted Life, which is something I have been trying to do for several years without even realizing it, and now I want to try and make an effort to continue. Jane Milosch, one of the panelists and a former curator of the Renwick Gallery, mentioned that for every 3 commercially-made items we buy (such as clothing and jewelry), we could buy one artist-made object. We can adorn ourselves with unique, high-quality items, rather than cheaply-made, widely-available things.
|Bryan Peterson, Shaman Brooch, found metal, copper, mixed media|
As a jeweler, I already practice this with my jewelry, and I am lucky to have acquired a nice collection of jewelry over the years. Sure, I could have bought a lot more objects at a cheaper price, but I’m sure most of it would have broken or gone out of style by now. Instead, I get to take pleasure every morning in choosing a unique piece of jewelry made by a real person, someone who in most cases I have met and whose work will never go out of style. At some point I can decide to either give this jewelry to a friend or family member, or donate it to a museum collection, but either way I’m not contributing to the cycle of wasteful consumption that our society has begun to take for granted.
I practice this idea in other aspects of my life, for example, almost all of my dishes, cups, and mugs are artist-made. Most of it doesn’t match, but I prefer it that way, because I know each piece was made with care by an individual, and each piece has a story. I think my soup tastes better out of the ceramic bowl made by a former student, it is more fun to make a martini using my handmade wooden olive fork, and my evening tea is more enjoyable in the mug I bought from an exhibition in NC.
I bet I get a lot more compliments on my handmade recycled leather handbag than anyone gets for their trendy Coach bag. Where is that Coach bag going to be in 2 years anyway? If you care enough to buy things based on commercial labeling, you probably also feel like you have to keep up with the latest trends, subscribing to the cycle of continually purchasing and discarding objects, a victim of style obsolescence.
The Living a Crafted Life conversation gave me validation for the path I am choosing, and while I have surrounded myself with craft mostly for the pleasure of owning and using handmade objects, this dialogue reinforced the environmental and ethical reasons for living a crafted life. If you’re reading this blog you probably already agree with me, but I wish that this idea would find popularity with mainstream Americans. It could significantly change our economy, as well as our environmental impact, and as a bonus, everything would look a lot more aesthetically appealing!
I plan to continue to live a crafted life, and I’m going to try and make improvements, such as buying more handmade clothing. For now, I’m educating by example, but I would like to figure out a way to tell more people about the joy of living a crafted life.