Driving down the road I saw a sign for a “designer” handbags at a bingo hall. These days anything can be coined “designer” or “handmade,” so how do you know what’s quality and what isn’t? (The Pennsylvania Guild, by the way, answers this question by holding Juried Status sessions in which members’ work is judged by a panel of jurors who review the quality of the work.)
The word designer has really lost its appeal to me. To the general public “designer” means designed by some big name or no name person but really just means “made in a sweat factory in a third world country.” I’ve purchased products made outside of the U.S., of course. For instance my handbag was made in Taiwan, but it was handmade by an independent designer/maker that I found on Etsy. She’s very talented and her bags were unique and stylish, attributes that I was really looking for.
Recently I read a great article on how crafters should begin to think about partnering with industry so that they can increase production of goods but not lose the handmade quality or name. The Future of Craft in Design from the American Craft Council website has a Q&A style article with Garth Clark, asking the craft industry to embrace the designer’s business savvy ways. He suggests that crafters stop trying to make it into Fine Arts and to join the design community where perhaps a new field can emerge.
“…I am not advocating artists in the crafts leave the field entirely for design. I suggest a hybrid, making use of both worlds, including the design marketplace.”
I think this is all very interesting, and Mr. Clark has some very blunt answers that some may perceive as harsh. But when you are at a crossroads for a field and looking into ways to sustain or evolve, then you need to look at what’s available and what benefits you and your peers.
“…designers and crafters do exactly the same thing; they make vases, jewelry, furniture, mugs, hats, fire irons. It’s exactly the same class of objects. Both are designed. The difference is the means of production: Crafters work by hand, while designers employ industry. Designers have learned to have it all – some unique works, some limited works, and some mass-produced works. Crafters can do the same. And the market is gigantic and growing.”
But does avoiding mass-produced keep your work in the craft realm, or are is it just bad business? I strongly urge you to read the article and let me know your thoughts. Would you (if you are a craft-maker) consider going to mass-production if the opportunity was there, and does that change your industry?Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Diane Faye Zerr is a freelance graphic designer and author of the Faye + Co blog. She has a B.F.A. from Kutztown University and has worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, small advertising agencies, and now works from her home design studio in Reading.