Artist, Crafter, Maker, Sloyd?

There can be a lot of confusion when trying to determine a label for the work that I do.  I utilize greenwood, meaning wood that still has moisture in it or wood that is fresh.  In most cases the wood is carried out of the forest  and processed into an object that day.  Its allowed to dry slowly and then oiled.  That is it no kiln dried lumber, no sanding.   

Greenwood as a label came about when Jeanie Alexander coined the term. http://www.greenwoodworking.com/ is her website and https://www.amazon.com/Make-Chair-Tree-Introduction-Working/dp/0918804019/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502912717&sr=1-1&keywords=make+a+chair+from+a+tree is where you can find the book.  Its a well written book by the way.    

But is this the best description of our current craft movement? 

We have seemed to abandoned the broad term of Craft.  The label Craft or Crafter has been taken over by artists who use some craft technique.

 Look at craft magazines (https://craftcouncil.org/magazine), or craft councils and you will see that they make a lot of one off items, that look a lot like art and have art priceshttps://www.facebook.com/PoconoStateCraftsFestival/.  When I look through these magazines and look at the prices to be a vendor at these shows I realize my work does not look like their work.  They are making objects to look at, mine are made to be used.  Use mine, eat off of them, cook with them, cut on them.  The scrapes, bumps ,slices, and patinas tell the story of your family.  

With the term Craft left to the artists, I feel that we lost a bit of who we are as makers of craft items. 

What is craft? 

craft

kraft/

noun

  1. 1.

    an activity involving skill in making things by hand.

By hand, not machine. This is interesting because it means our greenwood craft movement is closer to the definition of craft then the highly sanded objects d'art that the current craft guilds judge their members.   

So do we need to go outside the USA to the Swedish word Sloyd.  Sloyd does encompass everything we do, but it requires a lot of customer education and marketing to make this word a known quantity outside of the carving community.  

 I like to think that what I do with spoon carving and turning on a spring pole lathe would be considered a Heritage Craft.  

definition of 'heritage craft' which broadly incorporates: ''Practices which employ manual dexterity and skill, and an understanding of. traditional materials, designs and techniques to make or repair useful things"

And there is the ah ha word(s)...USEFUL THINGS!!! this is what we as greenwood heritage craft Sloyders need to remember.  We are making useful items.  Not one off items to sit on a mantle.  We are making the day to day useful items.  We are trying to be part of a persons everyday life.  

Heritage Craft to me echos  our farm past (Sloyd means farm house craft), a past where you had to make everything you needed to survive. Where you used the items you made.  Where you decorated it with your family's art.  Which ties into folk art.   

Folk art describes what we do too, but in a different way. To me folk art is a component of Sloyd and a component of a heritage craft.  

I feel that for the greenwood community to grow, to develop its place in the current landscape of art based craft we need to take back the word craft.

Is this by adding a word to it, Sloyd craft, greenwood craft, county craft, farmhouse craft, folk craft, or heritage craft?

 There are a lot to choose from and I feel the label will determine our success of failure as a group.  

As for me I will continue being a Heritage Sloyd Crafter who utilizes Folk and Greenwood techniques.  That should make it as clear as mud :) 

 

Jeff Kuchak