Are you "crafty" or working on your craft?

artsy fingers Not that long ago, a well-meaning acquaintance saw that I was arting and said, “Denise, I didn’t know you were crafty.”

“I’m not,” I answered quickly (and somewhat emphatically), “I’m just playing.”

Needless to say, she looked at me quizzically. And the difference is…?

I have to admit, I really don’t like the word “crafty.” For me—and I do respect that others embrace the more playful meaning of the word—but for me, crafty brings to mind popsicle sticks and primary colored yarn. And often involves children enrolled in afterschool programs. You know, where well-meaning adults drop loads of colored foam and plastic beads into the landfill—I mean, onto the craft table—and call it arts and crafts.

Also, to say someone (who happens to be usually if not always a woman) is “crafty” is to say, well…I think it diminishes them.

So there you have it: I’m an environmentalist and a feminist.

But let me ask you, where else does all that plastic go—and have you ever heard of a man with a hobby described as “crafty”?

Yet…My objection isn’t just about concern for the environment or desire for greater respect for women.

I know the word craft can be defined in a few different ways. I mean, a boat is a craft and dishonest individuals can be said to be crafty. So there’s plenty of room for this other definition of the DIY- break out the crayons “crafty”.

But craft in its truest form is such a noble thing. It’s an aspiration, even, and I think it’s important to hang onto the essence of what it means—truly means—to craft.

To engage in one’s craft is to aspire to make something…with skill, which must be developed, learned, practiced…with care, both for the object created and for who it is made for…and finally, with that intangible yet recognizable element of originality.

And damn, learning and caring is a vulnerable act! After all, what is more vulnerable than being willing to make mistakes and put your heart on the line? And dedication to one’s craft is an act of faith, too. To engage in one’s craft is to make cast after overhead cast into creative waters—and to believe that there’s something more and new to be pulled out.

I guess what I’m saying is that the very act of craft—when engaged with skill and care and originality—is beautiful. And gives value to the beauty and usefulness of the object.

 

I am not,

never have been,

or ever will be crafty.

 

But I do aspire to develop my craft.

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What do you think? Am I off the mark, here? I do see all the beautiful "crafty" work out there on the internet, and I love the explosion of creativity in the world as so many people join the ranks of DIY makers, but should we aspire to be crafty--or to be in service of our craft?