What’s in a name?

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It’s human nature. We like to name, define and label everything around us. We place things in neat little boxes and label them so we can remember them for the future.

The same silly desire to label is true for craft. Traditional. Contemporary. Fine. Indie. Heritage. They all are meant to  define craft. (What’s the difference between traditional and heritage anyway? Probably not much.)

But the problem is, by its creative nature, craft is fluid, evolving and ever-changing. Anything contemporary in style (indie included) is being defined by the work being made. The lines and perceived barriers between categories are blurry.

This intrinsic blurriness is why people struggle with defining indie craft. Because in itself, indie craft is another label fighting against any definitions that have been placed on it (see Independent Design is Clever. Practical. Power.). Once you say craft or indie craft is about design, there’s a maker ready to prove you wrong. And that’s great. It’s defining itself now. We’re living it.

dupchair by medelmanart
chair by medelman art

I like to look at indie design/craft like this. There’s an indie movement, and designers/makers within that movement are making craft. Indie is clearly broader than just craft. Everyone recognizes the importance of this new craft movement.

Handmade craft, as a whole, is great at breaking boundaries. Sure, craft is about making things by hand. Pretty simple, right? But it’s also about growing connections. It’s about community, reconnecting neighborhoods and being cognizant about sustainability.

What do you think about indie craft as a label? Do you think indie and craft are an inseparable pair when it comes to defining indie craft?

I’ll speculate more in my next post. Thanks for having me!

11 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. I have to catch myself sometimes trying to label myself. I don’t fit in one category. That is not necessarily a bad thing as long as I catch someone’s eye. Thanks for the thought provoking article.

  2. Hmm, well, I think the term ‘indie’ definitely includes more than just the craft movement.
    And I think there are also a few different levels of craft – for example, ‘indie’ craft tends to be fresh, young… whereas there is craft done by people because it is just part of their lives – like some people’s grandmothers. I wouldn’t call that ‘indie’.

    Great article!

  3. What always amazes me is no matter how much I try to define myself, my craft, my designs, I always end up with something familiar, and sometimes even comfortable. The designs I’ve created that others like the most are ones that remind them of something they’ve seen before.

    To me it is a recycling of ideas. Always changing and new. Indie craft seems like a new way to define something that people have done for centuries: making things with your hands. But we are a new generation. A generation of electronics and gadgets that do pretty much whatever we want them to. 60 years ago the gadgets were new and exciting. Now, we do a turn around and go back to that which we were created to do:

    Make things with our hands.

  4. Krysta, I think the comments about a new generation’s craft is spot on. Defining it as indie is a way for a new generation to take claim to a part of craft.

  5. I also find it interesting that even with the same word, everyone has a different definition for that label! Although I know it’s important to have a way to describe and talk about what folks do…I often just say, whatevers…no need to give it a specific name. It’s so much cooler when everyone just has that understanding of what it all is, no words needed :) In a perfect world, right? I am also struggling to define what I do exactly…it’s definitely a challenging subject…

  6. What is so exciting in all of this is that the American craft movement is thriving to a greater extent than ever before. While I call my work “fine craft,” I believe the label is secondary to the vibrant connection to the past when everything was made by hand.

    Some might call that nostalgia; but on the more pedestrian side, try telling that to a homeowner attempting to match, say, a baluster or newel post made 20 years ago to what’s available at the local Home Depot.

  7. I think that indie and craft are incredibly inseparable, but also two separate things. There is an indie craft movement, but there is also an indie music movement. They go hand-in-hand for me. You’re right on about it being about relationships – neither movement would “move” if it were not for relationships. People hear about a great band and tell other people…and the same for the indie craft movement.

    However, I believe that there are tons of people out there crafting things with their own hands that are doing because that is just what they do or they are making something that they need. It’s just natural and they aren’t trying to create “indie craft.”

    Indie craft definitely has an expression that is different from other craft, but in my mind it’s all about making things – either from necessity or create something cooler or more useful from other things. I guess I don’t like labels.

  8. Absolutely Kim! It’s all about making things. The way we define indie craft is partially a way to identify with each other. The same way fine craft or traditional craft does. Its human nature, but behind all of those labels (indie, fine, traditional) is just handmade craft. And craft as a force together is powerful.

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