Art, hobby, and the crafting industry

This may feel a bit like I’m going on a rant. I am a bit, I guess. Hang in there with me, if you will.

I went in my studio last week for the first time in a while.

Calling this my “first shitty draft” of a book. And part of the table in my studio.

Just to clarify: My “studio” is a space I organized on the third floor of our house. It has acted as a miscellaneous storage for the past 10 years and although I have gotten rid of a LOT of stuff, it still is essentially a storage space – just with a couple of tables cleared off and the craft/ art tools I am using the most currently semi-organized nearby.

I also hesitate on the word studio because it makes it seem like I am an actual artist. I am such a beginner in visual arts (is there a word for “pre-beginner?”) I don’t feel comfortable in that title.

I was at my table trying out some things, including a new die cut set that I had purchased.  I had received a pretty large gift card a while back and treated myself to some crafting tools I thought too expensive most of the time. A die cut machine was one of those. I was disappointed in it and was almost immediately remorseful.

One of the biggest problems I have with it is that the manual die cut machine I purchased did not come with a single die. When I went to find some in the store, they were few and expensive. I bought one small set to try out, at least learn how to use it. The instructions are minimal so I assumed it would be easy enough to figure out. To some degree it was – but with my first die-cut butterfly I noticed it had etched the image into the acrylic cutting board. Was that supposed to happen? Did I just ruin my new toy?

I tried it again. Again it etched an image in to the clear acrylic. I have a problem with this. How can that be what is expected? To me, it’s either that I am not doing it right, or they are so focused on making money with the equipment, they designed machine that would immediately begin destroying an important part of the machine so you have to replace it. It’s also esthetically distressing to me. Maybe this comes from me being a writer and a bit obsessive about things, and not be formally trained as a visual artists – but wouldn’t trained artists be disturbed by the marring of this clear acrylic?

This led me to another discussion in my head as I tried these new die cuts. The difference between what is a hobby and what is an art practice? One difference, I decided, was in how someone interacts with their tools. In looking into paper crafts and arts, I saw hundreds of different items you could buy – in many different styles,

It seemed to me the craft and fabric stores cashed in on a new fad in crafting. It felt as though the whole hobby could be just buying item after item. In trying out new art techniques, I also decided that some of the items were too “done” for me. The fake ephemera? (in a book by Gwen Diehn she called these, “pseudo-ephemera) I kind of have a problem with this. I know that old paper stuff is probably getting more and more hard to find, but it seems weird to me that we buy old timey tickets and ledgers that are printed on white card stock. I liked the look of it though. And it is sometimes cheaper and easier to buy these – and more flexible.

This new die cut makes a library pocket. I loved this idea, as some of the old books I have found were library books back in the day when you would check them out with a card that lived in an envelope on the inside front cover. I cut this out of some scrapbook paper and it left an impression on my acrylic cut sheets!!!)  I could cut out my own envelopes from paper -without the die cut machine.

I watched videos online to see if I was using it wrong. It was hard to tell but it looked they their machines left impressions on their plates as well. An artist friend of mine said when she borrowed a similar machine from another artist, this happened too. They both said just to keep using it and replace it when it gets too scratched or cracks.

This is not okay with me. I am new to being an artist but I have been crafting throughout my life. Now I have a need to create. In contrast, there has been a desire to keep certain things pristine: my crayons (the sharpener never made them quite sharp enough after they were dulled), my colored pencils (they have to be sharp, people or what’s the point?!) Files don’t have to be in alpha or chronological order but they should be labeled, and if you begin to have sub-categories you should have them together in a hanging file folder, or if electric make a folder within a folder. I like certain things to be neat.

Scratching a critical part of your machinery on the first, and every consecutive time after, does not fit in this desire.  So why would the company design it like this other than to make more money on replacing parts?

This is definitely not a rant about the people who use these tools, or even those who may buy all the tools and parts as their hobby. I went into the stamping craze with enthusiasm. But my cards never looked as good as my visual artist friends, cards, and I felt that there was theory and training and practice that she maybe had over me. An artistic eye that I felt I lacked.  I lost interest in creating cards and scrapbooks, but I was constantly drawn back by some new fancy tool, or stamp, or way of doing things – as though this merchandise could make up for my lack of artistic skill.

I want to make things myself. I just don’t have the skill yet.

I had only a short time in the studio that day so I began to feel a little panicky. There wasn’t much I could accomplish in the time I had. I was all over the place with what I was trying to do. I realized that I need to get back into my studio more often and to allow for more time. And the creating will come eventually.

Okay. Rant over. Next time I will write more about making or writing then complaining about retail items.

Update 1/27/19: I have done some more research on the die cuts making impressions on the cut plates. There are discussions about this being normal, but I also found someone who said they use a silicone rubber sheet, an accessory you can purchase. On one hand, this may solve the problem of marring, but on the other it sort of proves my point about the industry creating ways to get you spend more and more money. They win, in this case. I’m going to buy a pad see if it works. It’s not THAT much….

2 thoughts on “Art, hobby, and the crafting industry

  1. Is the difference between having a hobby and being an artist the relationship to the tools?
    If it’s a hobby – you acquire (buy) tools; if it’s art – you employ (use) tools.

    Like

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