One of my islands of sanity is the group I knit with, once a month, on a Sunday. There are five of us, and our meetings are very consistent. Our conversations cover the whole map, stones skipping on a water surface, each point of contact a different topic. Sometimes we circle back to a line that was dropped at the bottom of a skip. Of course we never solve the world’s problems, but we do come pretty close sometimes. And we do exchange a lot of useful knowledge.
It was reported during our last session that the answer to the perennial question of the difference between “art” and “craft” has been discovered. The answer is “six hours.” Ok – six hours? It turns out that this was the outcome of vigorous discussion at a lace-making class the other week. It seems that the inquisitive would be hand-crafter for knitting, weaving, spinning yarn, etc., will always ask “how long did it take you to make it”? Hmm. If knitting, do I include the time for knitting a swatch for gauge? If weaving do I include tying up the treadles? What about the time to review patterns, or choosing the colors and type of fiber? And then what about actual versus calendar time? Well, let’s not get too crazy here on the details. But the real crux of the matter boils down to the fact that the novice shows up in a class, and is horrified if a project can’t be completed in six hours. It seems they see a beautiful sweater in a knit shop and want to have one of their own. So, they sign up for a class and expect to be able to finish it in – yes, six hours. Or less. They aren’t attuned to the skill level, or the complexity of the pattern, or just the joy of mindful awareness when working on a project. What a horrified look on a face when I tell this type of person it took me two years to knit my lace shawl. Of course, that included all the interludes when I couldn’t bear ripping out a section I messed up yet one more time, or other lapses of time that kept me from working on it. The reaction is usually followed with a “why do it”, or “it’s easier to just buy it”. Of course, when you make a thing, it becomes your very own, and typically you can’t find it to buy it. No matter. There are people who can knit it to order for you, and isn’t that easier? (Maybe not for the one knitting on demand, but it’s a living!)
But, silly me. We are talking about a 24×7 immediate gratification society! If we need something instantly, we go to the internet – on our desk tops, lap tops, cells phones and other gadgets. There is no breath between thought. Sometimes I wonder if there is any thought. Again, I digress to the world’s problems (maybe this is a root cause?)
An attempt to educate the novice has led to the basic marketing strategy of structuring a class so that there is a takeaway – something that the participant can walk away with on the spot, and show what they made. In six hours or less. A craft that is partially pre-assembled, cookie cutter (except for maybe a choice of color or fiber type) and ready to pop out like a TV dinner in a microwave. Only they don’s call them TV dinners anymore, but you get my point.
So, there you go. No matter. The difference between “art” and “craft” is six hours.