Tuesday, March 11, 2008

in response...

Annie's post yesterday, and its subsequent comments, really got me thinking. So I thought I would post my response here.

I consider myself in a unique position. I come from an academic background and came up entering the traditional craft world - I have a BFA and an MFA both in metalsmithing, I participate in SNAG, co-wrote an article for Metalsmith, and I recently participated in the ACC Baltimore show. But I also participate in the indie craft world - I have a blog, an Etsy shop, and last year did 5 indie craft shows.

In thinking about why I seem to straddle the fence, perhaps it's because neither community seems to fully meet my needs. I like the sense of history and tradition that I get from the "established" craft community, and admittedly, its nice to be in a group where my seven years of higher education mean something. (I'd like to think I didn't waste my time during those seven years.) But I like the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity in the indie community that comes from both the makers and the consumers. My work is the same no matter which community I am in, and so I guess at some point last year I decided just to keep making my work, and fit it in anywhere, regardless of labels.

My experience at the SNAG conference was very positive, because the overall impression I got was "we are not alone." I met a number of young makers who are not concerned about where they fit into these boundaries, but instead are forging a path that works best for their work and their desired lifestyle. (Amy Tavern is a great example of this.) But I met many others who are confused - they aren't sure they fit into the established craft world, but feel they are over-trained and over-priced for the indie craft community. (A stereotype Bruce Metcalf reinforced in his presentation.)

I hope that is next generation of makers aren't discouraged about what went on at SNAG, but rather feel empowered to take control of the organization and mold it into something that helps define our careers and our identities over the next several decades. SNAG is ripe for a changing of the guard, and we can be that group. And I hope that same group continues to participate in indie venues as we work to educate the consumer (and the outside community) about the high level of craft and innovative work that can be found in the indie community.

I just want to end by quoting one of my students. When I asked her what she thought about the Bruce Metcalf/Andrew Wagner lecture, she said, "I didn't know there was a difference between traditional craft and alt-craft, I just thought it was all craft."

Now, if only we all saw it this way.


amy tavern said...

well said, megan. i am right there with you on all points and feel much the same about my career, straddling the fence, fitting into both worlds, and so on. looking forward to working with you and getting to know you better...

.amy tavern

annie said...

"I didn't know there was a difference between traditional craft and alt-craft, I just thought it was all craft."

right! exactly! that is why you currently hold a unique position- you are embraced in both worlds whereas that is not the case with many makers.

megan said...

amy - thanks! it was great to meet you and i hope we can work together more in the future. lets take the show on the road!

annie - i agree that many of the "old guard" don't hold that position, but i'm encouraged by the fact that my students do. i hope that as a group, we can influence many of those makers that don't currently feel that way.

Conceptual Metalsmithing said...


Hay-now said...

"My work is the same no matter which community I am in, and so I guess at some point last year I decided just to keep making my work, and fit it in anywhere, regardless of labels."


silvercocoon said...

thank-you for your coverage of the SNAG conference, for the links to such inspiring makers and work, and for your comments on the dialog that started on annie's blog. --i feel like an "outside" observer, despite the fact that i was part of the new wave craft section at the ACC show. with a BA degree in architecture and years of experience in the design world -
i have been making jewelry less than 1 year, with my own set of skills and knowledge (that is ever evolving) - and now to be trying to find the best route to sell and market it is a bit daunting. i felt the under-current of the "generational gap" in the craft world while in baltimore, but despite the fact that i have an etsy site and participated in that show - i still feel very disconnected and uncertain of where i fit in, or how to proceed .. in the craft world, or art world, or design world ... meeting you and now following your blog and the links to other blogs is like an education inself. thank you!
-tia keobounpheng

Laura Crawford said...

I would definitely consider myself one of those “confused” metalsmiths who feels she doesn’t particularly fit in in either the established craft or alt-craft world. And I think the fact that I don’t have a degree (and have no interest in getting one) is part of why SNAG has always felt so exclusive to me. So, I really appreciate your sense that it doesn’t have to be that way and that there’s space in communities like SNAG for folks that aren’t as interested in the academic side. Let’s hope things just continue getting more and more inclusive!

michelle pajak-reynolds said...

It is all craft! This elitest attitude between different art forms and education levels makes my blood boil. It reminds me a lot of the tired old arguements between art and craft. There is a sea change happening and it scares a lot of people. Change can be painful and incredibly exciting.

I have straddled the fence in many areas and media throughout my career. I've never felt that I or my work fit into any one group. Now that I'm home from SNAG and had a few days to process everything, I've decided that it's time to stop making excuses. It's time for us to step up and become the leaders that we seek.

Anyone want to join in the revolution?

megan said...

Thanks for all the comments -

Michelle - I agree! I don't think it a coincidence that next years conference is called "Revolution" - its time.

Tia - I'm so glad my blog can be of value. I love that you bring a fresh perspective, clean designs, etc. I'm completely into the "try it and see" approach, willing to go for any venue that might accept me.

Laura - I thought your post on training was really interesting. The problem with SNAG is that is not enough of a focus on interesting work, regardless of who makes it and what their background is. But I think the more people who bring that work to the group, the harder it is to ignore.

michelle pajak-reynolds said...


I'm sure the theme for SNAG 2009 isn't a coincidence. Thanks for for posting your Savannah photos. Dummy me forgot to pack my camera.

Laura and Tia,

Please come to Snag next year. I would love to meet you and discuss ways to address your concerns. There are a lot of Snag members who are in the same position as you are, makers not interested in holding a degree and makers who are not interested in teaching, and I think the best way to be included is to show up and refuse to be ignored.

alisa said...

very well stated. sometimes i think i'm straddling the 2 worlds, but most of the time i'm trying to keep my head down and just work. makers from both worlds could learn so much from each other if there were less judgement. i really think that many of these conversations need to happen or else snag will be completely irrelevant. thank you to you and annie for these discussions. i'm so happy they are going on in everyone's blogs. maybe one day i'll actually write in mine. :-)

stacey said...

thanks for the thoughtful response megan.

i often find myself wondering where i fit in since i don't have a formal degree and since much of my time is devoted to my family.

Tere @ My Precious Studio said...

You're so right on! I feel like I'm in the same boat. I have a metalsmithing degree but don't fit into the traditional "art" craft genre. I have a website, blog and an etsy shop and I love the energy of the indi-crafters. I wish these seemingly separate art worlds would merge. The traditionalists could benefit from the new energy and thinking; the alt-crafters could benefit from the skills and theory.
Keep up the great work!

Margaux said...


I feel totally aligned with everything you said in this post. You've really pinpointed it and were able to articulate how I (and obviously many others) have been feeling in navigating the various "craft worlds."

There's such an interesting buzz happening with all this… from the ACC show to SNAG, etc. It's obvious there's a major shift happening which makes me hopeful. Dialogues like this are a great place to start!

megan said...

Thanks again to everyone for commenting. It means a lot to me to know that I am not the only one who feels this way, and makes me feel really positive about the future of the field.

Hay-now said...

Hello...I was the co-presenter with Bruce Metcalf at teh SNAG conference. Just thought I'd let you know that I posted a bit on this whole topic on our site including a bit of the back-story about how this all came to be (Bruce's and my talk) and a very interesting response to all of this from Garth Johnson from extremecraft.com. Check it out if you have a moment:


Oh yeah, we just updated our whole site to reflect the current issue of American Craft that just came out and it looks pretty damn good if I do say so myself! Enjoy!

- Andrew Wagner

megan said...

Andrew - Thanks for including a link to my blog in the post.

What a tease - the site looks great, but I haven't gotten my issue in the mail yet!