To your craft, be true…

Sharing this, because it cheered me up just now. I needed cheering up because I just watched a few (TV?) episodes of Martha Stewart “learning bookbinding” from some poor little intimidated bookbinder—who obviously agreed to work with the old bag because he couldn’t say no to the dough—and it depressed me so much…

He wasn’t explaining the principles behind anything he did (you would never really learn to bind a book by watching him), he rushed through everything, he simplified or parsed the process to the point of actually allowing bad practices to pass and doing things that bookbinders would never do…in other words, he betrayed his craft to abide by a miserly thirty-minute slot and to make some frump with her own television show look good.

And I watched her, making her own book as he made his, and you know what? She was heedless, careless, and clumsy. Even with everything prepared and pre-made for her, she slapped her book together so that it was crooked, and sticky with glue where no glue should have been. Seriously, all these years of Martha Stewart Living, and a public image that actually presents her as some kind of crafting master, and she can’t work neatly with a bit of PVA glue? Martha Stewart makes herself look good by paying other, skilled, people to make beautiful things for her, but seems, herself, to be a complete schlub. A lummox. No feel for the craft, no intelligence in her hands. Sausage fingers and the onscreen charm of a bulldozer.

She didn’t give a shit about book binding. The whole objective was to take an old and venerable craft—guild apprenticeships used to last 7 years—and render it down for material that could be used to plug up a thirty-minute crack in her program.

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13 thoughts on “To your craft, be true…

  1. I think it’s a constant struggle to be true to yourself and not let society, magazines and TV influence your endgame. It’s been hammered into our heads…..it’ all about the money!….

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  2. I think you summed up Martha very well. It’s not her “skill” but her ability to market these handicrafts and market them effectively to the general public. And the audience she’s selling to is one who wants to “dabble” in these “hobbies”. Today it’s book binding, tomorrow scrap booking, the day after little stencils of horses on the wall. That’s how I see her, anyway.

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    1. I always think of something Zappa said, about how people go back to “simple living” and craft, handmade, values, art and all that, and think they’ve started a revolution that will free them of corporate greed. What they don’t realise is that it’s so easy for big corporate money and all those soulless institutions they were supposedly turning away from to ABSORB the revolution.
      You might start with real DIY, raw material, making do, working with what you have and all that, but before you know it “Craft” is big, big money, baby, and the big business is right in there, selling you the cosy images and the heartwarming words, and you don’t even recognise that they’re there, because they’re wearing vintage aprons and passing around cake trays of cupcakes and macarons. Imperceptibly, the whole craftivism and simple living thing simply becomes another product that we are buying from Saint Martha, craft ‘diva’ and tax fraud…

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        1. Ah, thanks! It’s a constant battle…what is a blog, if not a way to reach out to others? And who wants to be reached out to by a prickly cactus? At the same time, why do this if I can’t be honest? Finding the balance between prickly and comforting is hard. Sometimes I feel like a teddy bear made with razor wire. 😉 Thank you for hanging around and understanding. xx N.

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  3. Wow…such strong judgement about a persons character–and all because of bookbinding?? Really?? Make no mistake, Martha Stewart knows how to do many things well. She has NEVER claimed to be perfect at all things. It was JUST BOOKBINDING, it was not life or death. So what if she was clumsy. Her show has never been in depth about any particular subject, as there simply isn’t time. If the man you speak of was intimidated by Martha, that’s on him, just his personality. I’m quite sure ol’ Martha didn’t specifically ask her producers to get HIM!! Oh, and if you didn’t know, this wasn’t a show about guild apprenticeships…it WAS about rendering it down to let an average joe do some SIMPLE bookbinding!! Apparently you’re the only one who missed the boat on that one. And cussing–was it really necessary? This is one of the most ridiculous and unintelligent postings ever.

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  4. I just had a conversation with a friend of mine about her recently. I was telling him it was interesting to me that Martha Stewart has a line of craft products with her name slapped on them, aisles dedicated to her “brand” in craft stores, and she always features artists on her show yet she doesn’t possess an ounce of talent for anything. When I use to work at a craft store, I always found it amusing when customers would get excited if there was a sale on her products. (…as if they were the best)

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