Sunday, July 5, 2009

process vs. product

The posting about process and product brings back memories. Someone once described how, in county fairs back in the 1950's needlework was judged by how well the product matched the original idea. A stitcher would actually lose points for adding beads or being more creative, presumably on the idea that adding fanciness was a traditional tactic to compensate for mediocre workmanship. The point of the process was to make something specific that had a place in the larger context of the world, so the quality of workmanship is really what mattered.

Then there was a cultural shift, and the products of the past just didn't hit the mark anymore. No one cared how well you made something that no one wanted or appreciated. The answers of the past did not address the questions of the present. So we started experimenting, and the process became the product ('the medium is the message' is an underlying key of the times).

So we have gone through a generation (or two) of disconnection between the process of making stuff for its own sake and the idea of making stuff with a place in the larger context of the world. (This may be a definition of hobby as opposed to craft or art, but that is subjective.) We ran the significant risk of having people look at the stuff we made and saying, "Ew, why would anyone want to do THAT?" rather than "Ooh, that's a cool concept. I wonder how I can do that better for the stuff I want to make."

And here we are, come full cycle perhaps, starting to look again at the bigger picture, connecting the dots. The knitting and crochet magazines over the past few years seem to pay more attention to techniques. Not every pattern is written for the beginner. We have played with lots of ideas over the last bunch of years, and now we are looking at results. This is a cool time.

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