A rant about folk crafts

Folk art teapot in the Japan gallery at the V&A

Last Friday, having travelled to London and found myself with an afternoon to fill, I took myself off to the V&A. In the Japan gallery, I found out that ‘folk craft’ was a recognised style. Apparently it’s been around since at least the 1920s:

“The idea of ‘folk crafts’ is a modern one arising when rapid changes cause a society to look to its past for stability and guidance… Folk crafts were first discussed in Japan by Yanagi Soetsu in the 1920s.”

Basically, what the term ‘folk crafts’ means is that people try and deliberately make objects look rustic. And, as the quote above explains, they tend to be more popular when we’re worried about something. Recessions, war, cultural change; any sort of threat to the national psyche.

So I suppose that explains all the Cath Kidston sickly, twee floral prints, Kirstie’s homemade widgets and the 1950s worship we’re seeing at the moment. Where you can’t be good enough unless you do everything yourself. And it’s not enough now to just make things look a bit homespun.

Now you have to practically document the lengths you’re going to in pursuit of authenticity by liveblogging it or vlogging or doing listen-along podcasts. Where the aim is to wear yourself into an exhausted mass while smiling brightly and pronouncing chirpily that everything is just perfect and you’ve never felt better and life has never been this much fun. Ignoring the catch in your voice or the tic in your cheek as you desperately try to convince… who? Them? The audience, the people around you? Your family? Or yourself?

Is it because deep down you don’t feel like you can be good enough unless you actively play the establishment’s game and beat them at it?

Handcrafted cakes - is there too much pressure on women to be perfect?



I mean, really, stuff that!

Yes, it’s nice to get your hands dirty from time to time. But quite honestly? If it’s keeping you awake at night or making you nervous, twitchy or snappy, you really need to tell that sense of martyred competitiveness to take a running jump and opt out. Yes, it’ll probably mean your Pinterest boards go quiet and you might lose the odd follower. But the chances are that the die-hard one-upmanship crafters will probably barely notice as they’re too busy trying to keep their own heads above water.

And something new will be the next Big Thing in about 5 minutes time anyway.

Doing what you have to do to stay sane, to keep it together, hell, let’s be really ambitious and even say to stay happy… Whatever you need to do to get that equilibrium trumps what culture should be allowed to demand from you.

You’re not letting Feminism or your kids or the PTA or the Junior League down. You’re doing what’s needful. And that’s ok.

You never know, maybe you’ll inadvertently start a new trend!



I love all things fantasy, from fiction to films to games. Mostly books though. I also love cooking and plus size fashion. Find recommendations for great fantasy reads and general fangirling here! If you want to get in touch with me, the quickest way is by Twitter @dorristheloris

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