Wednesday, 26 March 2014


I was recently watching a program about English Embroidery and the presenter said something along the lines of "not the work of mere housewives" and steam started rising from my ears. What he undoubdedly was talking about was beginner work. Things that are often referred to as amateurish.  And it started me thinking about the terms amateur and professional.

As I have never been paid (well not really, family don't coumt) for knitting or crochet I fall into the ranks of amateur, some might add the word talented, I couldn't possibly comment. I have embroidered semi-professionally (got paid in fabric, patterns and yarn) but I still wouldn't regard myself as professional.

I mean, I am an amateur, by the very definition of the word. It comes from one of the first words you learn to decline in latin "Amo" meaning to love (technically amo means I love, but I'm trying not to confuse things too much), it means to do something as a passtime, because you love it, the lacking expertise part is secondary, and really we need to use another word for that, "tyro" is a perfectly good word for novice or beginner, "dilletante" sounds too much like lounging around.

There is also the issue of value for work that I have been thinking about lately. Before the time of washing machines and vacuum cleaners housework without maids was long hard work, even today it's work, keepimg up with it, hobbies and a job can keep you exhausted, and some of those women, those housewives that presenter dismissed, not only cleaned and scrubbed and clothed their children, they also made things, some for charity, some for their local church (kneelers etc) and in many instances their work is considered trivial, belittled.  Yes, sometimes the colours were garish, think of the conditions, garish would stand out in firelight, garish brought a bright into sometimes drab lives, garish might have given that woman a smile, no-one can dismiss garish, it implies a playfulness that maybe we miss. Garish could also imply sales, that hank of embroidery thread that wasn't selling, thay could be got on a tight budget, but the woman could feel like she had done something, contributed.
And we forget this, these women carved time out of their days, time they could have spent doing something else, perhaps for themselves, to contribute and we then talk about this work as if it should be trivialised, and maybe they weren't amateurs, maybe they hated doing it, but we need to reframe how we think about this.

Also the world of art is strange. Many of the knitted pieces I've seen are works of art but we don't treat them as well as we should. I've seen pieces devalued in price by the seller, who doesn't seem to value their time or their work, and we let them in pursuit of cheap goods. I've seen knitted garments I'd prefer to see on my walls than some artworks that cost 100 times more.
Maybe we do need to put a price on crafts that propery reflects the work and artistry that goes on.

The other part we ignore about womens crafts is that it was the one acceptable way for women to create art. There is art to choice of colours, the work, the interplay of colours etc. And I'm pretty sure a lot of it answered an artistic yearning many women had, by making it into "useful" items they had an excuse, a reason, they could devote that time to this output, or I'm sure, in some instances, time when they could think, relax, while still technically doing something.

Two posts in one day after a few months away, well there was Christmas and then ill, I've had a cold/flu with added strep throat since early January. Plus a minor bike accident that caused my shoulder to flare, I have a few reviews that need me to add the links and check them, then they will be posted.  I'll probably set them up for once a month for a few months and may backdate a few.e