Sunday, 1 August 2010

Make it Handmade

Beky and I braved the freezing cold Melbourne weather to line up to see Make it Handmade, a documentary about Melbourne crafters by Anna Brownfield.

picture via MIFF site

It was great to see so many familiar faces up on the big screen. Lots of Northside Makers and people that I don't know personally, but I know "of" them from the craft scene in Melbourne.

What struck me about the documentary, was that it concentrated on a specific demographic of crafters. Inner city and probably from a 'WASP' background. Although there are plenty of craft or hobby groups all over Melbourne, the documentary seemed to focus on the alternative crafters. Alternative equipment, messages and methods. To many of the quilting, embroidery or community craft groups the idea of craft is not new, but to the group of people in the documentary it was new and empowering. The group of women interviewed had a similar indie feel to their craft.

There was a statement made about Etsy in the documentary and how it is now owned by Walmart and how many crafters underprice or devalue their work in this environment. I felt that etsy was slightly demonised through the assumption that they make lots of money from crafters without giving much back. For me, etsy gave me a way to open an online shop with minimal effort. It empowered me as a crafter. Perhaps now that I know what I am doing I might move away from it, but initially it empowered me. I wonder how fast the online craft world would have grown without sites like etsy.

There was also a comment made about about crafters that try to make a living from their craft, because of course craft should all be free and warm and fuzzy. But to many of my friends, selling their craft allows them the financial freedom to then make craft for themselves and their friends. It gives them the freedom and independence from the household budget that they might not otherwise have. I don't have an issue with crafters making money from their skills and ideas. But I do have issues with people copying someone elses craft while trying to make a buck.

Walking out, Beky and I both remarked that we wanted to go home and create something! I also wanted to go home and work more on building up Northside Makers, which is a kind of craft/business group that I started with two other lovely ladies about a year ago. I hope that Anna gets the chance to show her documentary elsewhere in Melbourne as I am sure it will create lots of discussion and momentum within the crafty community.

Did you see the documentary, what did you think?


Jennie said...

I didn't see the doco but it sounds interesting. The anti-Etsy, anti-business elements you mention make me think I wouldn't entirely enjoy it.

I admire/envy the free & fuzzy alternacraft crowd but realise that after nearly 18 months in the craft scene, even as a market organiser, that I haven't met any/very many of them. Odd, seeing as I live in one of the craftiest suburbs in Australia's craftiest city. Perhaps the gap between indie crafters with enough disposable income to not 'need' to make money from their craft and WAHMs who can't get to social craft-alongs without organising childcare first is bigger than I had otherwise noticed. Or I should just accept I'm not cool and get over it! ;-)

The Melbourne craft scene, and from what I've read the indie craft scene overall, is very much a middle-class white woman's game. One of my favourite craft bloggers, Oh Meaghan ( points out that in the US it's also a straight life-partnered woman's game because unless you've got a husband's health insurance to rely on (de facto homosexual parnterships generally aren't recognised by health insurance companies) a woman can't afford to leave a full time job to focus on her craft business.

Now I'm feeling guilty about how much of my creative efforts are about self-expression and self-development when there's refugee women living in housing commission flats who have to focus all their energies on the basic necessities of life with little hope of self-actualisation. More of what we/I do should be about helping victims of tragedy and supporting the disadvantaged, not just bolstering my own self-worth.

And on that note I'm taking my middle class guilt to bed.

Lara said...

For me craft is personal, not political. I really enjoyed the documentary though. I suspect that most crafters are your average woman who likes to knit or sew or crochet a bit. Not as interesting for a film proposal though! And let's not forget that many people craft for a million reasons other than as a business.
Sorry that I didn't see you at the film!

Thea said...

Interesting post Margaret. It sounds like a good doc. I'm not happy to hear that a huge cooperation like Wal-Mart has bought Etsy. But it isn't their fault that so many crafters underprice their work - that is a problem for the rest of us who are trying to make a living from craft.