A Foray into Shetland - new shawl design
New pattern: The very adaptable Joan

Craft and the art of transformation

Wearing one of my various craft and yarn industry hats, I had the opportunity to attend an interesting presentation on the state of the craft sector the other day. While I can’t reveal any detail here, except to say it is healthy and knitting is a big market, thankfully, I do want to raise an issue that came up.

Colouring craft

What do we think qualifies as a “craft activity”?

It can be hard to define what falls inside the craft sector boundaries. For example, grown up colouring books form a category that is hotly debated. Some people argue that it should be included because colouring can be a first step to craft activity but others say it doesn’t require the skills or the development opportunities that we associate with crafting.

This really made me think. My instinctive reaction was that colouring in isn’t craft but then I needed to think about why.

To me craft has a transformational element where we use learned skills and tools to change materials into something else. We take yarn, wire, beads, clay, etc and create a new item. Colouring in doesn’t offer me that same level of transformation.

Yes, there is creativity in colour choice and indeed what medium you colour in with but the change to the sheet of paper is only regarding colour or pattern.

A counter argument to me might be that someone following one of my patterns isn’t being creative so is it craft. There are a number of points here. Firstly there is creativity in choice (colour and yarn substation), then there are the skills which the knitter either already has or has to acquire and there is also the issue of any adaptations they might make as they work. Add into that the issues of knitting style and needle choice and I can make a strong argument that there is a lot more to making a pair of Hamilton Handwarmers than choosing a red pencil over a yellow felt tip.

All this doesn’t mean I am an anti-colouring in. Should I find myself with that option and, heaven forefend, no access to yarn, hooks or needles, I will happily pass the time colouring and it is this that helps me define what colouring is – a pastime like soduku and crosswords, perfectly valid activities, just not crafting.

What do you think?