Society In The Modern Era Cultural Studies Essay

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Hilary Jennings the United Kingdoms Head of International Fair Trading of Crafts, recently defined craft as, Practices which employ skilled use of hand tools and an understanding of material and have their roots in traditional functional design (The Traditional Crafts Blog, 2012, online). This definition explains craft in a very narrow way, almost restricting it from modern times, which begs the question; "Can traditional crafts still have value in modern society when its mere definition rules out contemporary design and innovative progress?" It is my belief that traditional crafts are still valuable today, and that they can make an impact on society that more technological and modern crafts cannot. Many artists today use crafts as a statement. For instance, Magda Sayeg uses the traditional craft of knitting and combines it with the modern graffiti style of "tagging" famous landmarks to make a socio-political statement. I also believe crafts can have a positive effect on a community and that the processes themselves have therapeutic qualities. Historically everything was handmade, using skilfulness, expertise and persistence. Traditional crafts like knitting were a necessity, handed down through generations of families. For example, the "Smith" surname is the most common surname in Great Britain, and it stands for blacksmiths, a craft that only a handful of people still practice. The crafting within a culture reflects the tradition and history of a society. For instance, Ancient Greek pottery crafted by ceramicists hundreds of years ago can tell archaeologists a lot about the society of the time by the designs the ceramicists have created, particularly for ancient Greece in the use of Greek Gods which show a society obsessed with myth and legend. Many years later during the Industrial Revolution, machines took over most man-made crafts and traditional crafts such as wheelwrighting, farriery and wooden-tool-making were no longer a necessity. However, the Arts and Crafts Movement began in 1860; it was pioneered by William Morris and Charles Voysey and was a response to the industrial turn of the century. It became a statement against the mechanical way of manufacturing and brought back traditional crafts as a decorative form rather than the necessity it had been before. The anti-industrial movement founded by Morris and Voysey was hugely successful, although the industrial revolution continued progressing as technology advanced. 1910 saw the end of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Since then crafts such as knitting have come in and out of fashion and today is seen as more of a hobby or a past time. However there are a growing number of people becoming more interested in traditional crafts. According to the Craft Yarn Council there are 38 million knitters in the world today, a 30% increase than the previous year's study (The Craft Yarn Council, 2011, online). My decision to investigate traditional crafts was provoked by a lecture on the relevance of art. A photography student was making a point on how outdated some art can look, stating that, "Paintings by Thomas Gainsborough is as outdated as knitting… nobody knits anymore". The lecturer asked those who knit to raise their hand and to the photography students surprise 20% of the class sheepishly did so. I had been knitting under my desk during the whole debate yet was also surprised. Knitting is seen as something elderly people do to pass the time hence the knitters who had raised their hands were embarrassed to reveal their dirty little secret. This intrigued me to ask if crafts like knitting are still valuable today. The sheepish secret knitters could have just lied and agreed that the age of knitting was dead. However they showed an appreciation and respect for the craft by standing up for the ancient tradition. This made me question what knitters were gaining from knitting that was so important that they would risk being ridiculed for it. The dissertation question compliments my overall degree as my final project will be knitting based. I have always used traditional crafts whenever I could throughout my course whether it be knitting, embroiding, hand sewing or lacemaking, I have always been a strong supporter of traditional crafts because I believe it is important to keep the skills we need to master a craft alive. I will research and gather information through carefully designed questionnaires to give me an idea of the general public's view on traditional crafts and if they consider them to be valuable in modern times. My hypothesis is that traditional crafts are valuable in the modern era, but they are in new ways. I.e. now crafts are a statement rather than a necessity. Times have changed and with it so have traditional crafts.

Chapter 1:

Background of crafts and knitting.

Chapter 2:

Investigate both sides of the argument on whether traditional crafts like knitting, are valuable in the modern era. Discuss Therapeutic value, statement value, craft activism

Importance of crafts.

How peoples attitude to crafts have changed

Chapter 3:

Why I have chosen the Questions I have.

What I will get from the questions.

The findings of the questionnaires.

Recommendations

Sum up opinions

Conclusion, my opinion and suggestions

Chapter One

The traditional craft of knitting dates back to early Egyptian times where a similar technique was developed using only one knitting needle rather than the two or more knitters are used to working with today. Egyptian knitting was a type of thread manipulation to make warm garments such as socks. The level of complexity among the items they produced was surprisingly intricate and showed a high understanding of patterns, using a wide range of colours and textures. The Egyptians found a valuable craft in knitting, using it as a functioning design process, creating garments for protection against the elements. The range of colours shows that although it served a valuable function, it was also made to be aesthetically pleasing. So even in the early days of knitting, knitters were gaining something much more than just the production of something useful, otherwise they would not have developed patterns and colours. Knitting was introduced in Europe in the 11th Century and was developed by servant Muslims for Christian royal families. Far from the pleasurable pastime it is now, knitting was a burden for servants and part of their daily duties. Like the Ancient Egyptians before them, their knitting was very intricate including detailed and colourful family crests, scenes and words. Evidence of their work was found in Spain in Prince Fernando De La Cerda's tomb, where the Arabic word for 'blessings' had been knitted into a shroud in his tomb; along with designs reflecting his life story. This suggests that during this time knitting was used as a decorative tool rather than to make a functioning object like a warm garment. The value this era found in knitting was narrative storytelling; designs were developed personally for each family instead of commercially mass produced. A huge difference between then and now would also be access to knitting. Back then only royal families had knitting made for them, whereas today knitted products are accessible to everyone. By the 14th Century knitting had become much more accessible than it had ever been before. Knitting was fast becoming the social 'norm' and it was at this time that artists first depicted the Virgin Mary knitting. The most famous image was 'Our Lady Knitting' by Tommaso Da Madena. At the time Christianity was the dominant religion within Europe. The Virgin Mary is a very important figure within the Christian community and therefore images' portraying the Mother of God partaking in knitting illustrates how valuable knitting had become to this society. 'A History of Hand Knitting' by Richard Rutt suggests the artists combined the religious figure and knitting: - 'During the Fourteenth Century, paintings of the Madonna and Child began to introduce imaginative suggestions of the domestic background of the Holy Family. A few of them show Mary knitting' (1987, p.57). Depicting Mary as the ideal mother figure and therefore showing her knitting, subsequently providing clothes for her family and a means to keep warm, portrays Mary as a domestic goddess. This shows how valuable knitting was to this era that they would show a religious figure knitting without the general public thinking it was blasphemous and black listing the artist. Instead they saw it as someone to look up to and aspire to be, by knitting for their family. In the 16th Century the popularity of knitting peaked again. Jonas B. Aiken's book 'Treatise on the Art of Knitting' speaks of the first pair of silk knit stockings in England and there subsequent effect on a nation, '…Queen Elizabeth…was presented by her silk woman with a pair of black silk knit stockings…and was so delighted with them as to never wear those made of cloth afterwards' (1861, p.5). Aiken's goes on to say, 'So highly was the new fabric esteemed, that it immediately went into general use. Knitting became fashionable in every circle of society…it was eagerly and ambitiously learned and practised in princely halls and royal palaces'. At this time the royal family and wealthy aristocrats were the only celebrity the general public had. They loved hearing gossip about them and told their life stories to each other. Anything the royals they looked up to had the people wanted. Therefore when Queen Elizabeth loved her knitted silk stockings everyone else wanted them too and took up knitting to create their own. Suddenly knitting was fashionable and everyone from servants to aristocrats were finding value in knitting as a route to the higher classes. Elsewhere in Europe in the 17th and 18th Century knitting techniques progressed substantially. For instance, in Scotland colour development lead to the invention of the Fair Isle technique. Simultaneously in Ireland, on the Aran Isles, cable knitting of jumpers was developed by fishermen's wives for their husbands to wear while out at sea. The technique added bulk to their sweaters, keeping them warm in the harsh Irish weather. In 'Knitting America, A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to High Art' by Melanie Falick and Susan M. Strawn, states, 'The handknitted garments of these rustic people have developed a significance beyond their primary function of protecting the wearer against biting ocean winds…their elaborate patterns speak…of love, home, faith and work - the simple threads which form the fabric of Aran life' (2011, p.184). This shows that each country in Europe had developed knitting in their own way as a response to that country's wants and needs. Then came the Industrial Revolution and with it came knitting machines. This era saw knitting pushed into machine-made manufacturing, and suppliers opened factories and exported around the world. Even though machine knitting was in demand, hand knitting did not go out of fashion as the quality of hand knitting far outweighed the quality of machine knitting according to Lisa Bogart in 'Knit with Love: Stories to Warm a Knitter's Heart', 'The hand-knit versions were superior to the machine-made socks of the time'(2011, p.38). So even the Industrial Revolution which destroyed most traditional crafts could not halt society's love affair with knitting, and a huge historic event was about to occur that would once again bring knitting back to the forefront. In 1939, only 21 years after World War I, World War II began; it would see the death and destruction of millions. Bogart states, 'Millions of items were knit for soldiers and refugees. Wool was as important a resource as steel. In fact, steel knitting needles were considered such a necessity to World War II that they were not collected in scrap-metal drives' (2011, p.38). This proves that knitting was so valuable during this time that knitting needles were not melted down for the war effort yet objects such as cooking utensils and farmers tools were used as scrap metal. This highlights how important knitting was during the War. Propaganda posters from The Red Cross asked people to knit for the war effort, using phrases such as, 'Our Boys Need SOX' and 'Remember Pearl Harbour - Purl Harder!' This was also the first time in history that there was documented evidence that the act of knitting had positive psychological effects. According to Bogart, 'Knitting was a comfort to both the knitter and the soldier. Those at home had something to do as their worry mounted, and the soldiers of course received physical comforts' (2011, p.40). It was also suggested that the soldiers at War found great comfort in knowing the support they had at home by receiving the knitted items. Kerry Wills quoted a newspaper journalist at the time in 'The Close-Knit Circle', saying '…knitters for the war effort got at least as much joy out of their knitting - the high the habit gave them was similar to marijuana's, he proposed - as the soldiers got from donning the knitted gifts'(1968, P.23). This suggests that knitting was beneficial during the war, not only because it kept the soldiers dry and warm in the trenches but it was also beneficial psychologically. The knitters felt that they were helping the war effort while the knitted items reminded the soldiers that they had not been forgotten, a comfort to them while being so far away from home. This is another example in history of traditional crafts being valuable to a society. During the 1950s - 1960s knitting had a huge boost in popularity again as it was taught in schools as a life skill and pattern magazines were in high demand as children took what they learnt in school home to make something fashionable to wear. Knitwear was now considered high fashion as designers such as Givenchy, Christian Dior, Channel and Yves Saint Laurent all designed haute couture versions of the knitwear designs before them. These hugely successful designers brought in revenue for their responding countries which was noticed by the British government who, in 1950 started the British Wool Marketing Board which funded research into innovating knitting. According to Juliet Ash and Lee Wright's book 'Components of Dress: Design, Marketing and Image', '…renewed interest was being shown by both public and manufacturers in experiments in fibre technology…these developments meant that the home knitter now had a much wider choice of yarns…and…colour being produced'(1988, p.49). It also meant that because the new yarns being produced were synthetic they were cheaper to buy and therefore more accessible to the average knitter. However by the 1980's people's interest in hand knitting declined as machine knitted garments cost decreased meaning a person could buy the product cheaper than hand knit it themselves. While the general public put away their knitting needles and forgot about the craft, knitting still reigned in the high fashion circles. Well known sportswear brands began using knitted designs in their collections, most notably Ralph Laurens turtleneck dresses. Now in the 21st Century a knitting revival has been underway as knitting becomes an interesting and challenging hobby for all. 'The Art of Knitting, inspirational stitches, textures and surfaces' by Fran Oise Tellier-Loumagne states, 'an increase in free time has led to a major rise in interest in handicrafts' (2005, p.8).

Chapter 2

There have been many arguments on whether traditional crafts like knitting are still valuable today. To come to the best conclusion on whether it is still valuable we must look at both the evidence for and against traditional crafts being valuable to make the decision and also weigh in the effects of traditional crafts on the society as a whole. Traditional crafts value within the art world can be best looked at through the high art/ low art debate that has been on-going for decades. Some people believe that traditional crafts are not an art form whereas others believe that art can come in any shape or form including traditional crafts. In 'High Art Down Home: An Economic Ethnography of a Local Art Market' by Stuart Plattner. It states that, '…the words art and craft distinguish artists who make things that advance the viewer's vision of reality (usually paintings…)- called high art… from craftsmen who make things that have function in daily life (…ceramics…fibre…), which are called low art or crafts'(1998, p.207). The biased explanation of high art and low art goes on to say, 'In the most simplistic sense, this can be seen as the tension between theory and practice. Theory is abstract and more difficult to comprehend, requiring more specialised training, while practice is concrete and easily comprehensible'. The writer obviously believes that art should be broken up this way, and that crafts are simplistic where as art is much harder to comprehend. Crafts role within art is devalued in this explanation of it. Others do not believe that art should be separate from traditional crafts like this. In 'High and Low Thinking about High and Low Art' by Ted Cohen it states, 'If paintings are high and pots are low, What difference does it make whether both are art?...If you think that Shakespeare is better…than The Simpsons, Why do you feel a need to say anything more than that?...Why do you feel a need to distinguish the kind of thing The Simpsons is?'(1993, p.152) Cohen's thoughts on craft and art is that they are different but neither one is better than the other in any way, craft is a stand-alone thing. This shows that traditional crafts can be valued for what it is, Crafts. In 'High Art Down Home' by Stuart Plattner it says, 'This is a contested area of culture. Artists in clay, glass, wood, fibre or metal feel that their work is unjustly devalued in comparison with paintings and sculptures, while painters and sculptures feel that craftwork has no business competing with 'real' art'(1998, p.208). This suggests that it is the artists and craftsmen keeping the high art/ low art debate alive rather than the audience's opinion. In conclusion, within the art world traditional crafts are valued by some, apart from certain artists it would seem, and those that like a clear definition of art. E.J.T. Collins book 'Crafts in the English Countryside: Towards a Future' comments on the gap between craft and art getting smaller by saying, 'In terms of utility, the rural crafts tend to be functional rather than decorative, although the gap between 'vernacular' and 'creative' is closing as crafts such as blacksmithing and basket-making turn increasingly to original design work'. Craft is adapting and changing making it still valuable. 'Craftsmanship combined with entrepreneurship - is well adapted to the needs of post-industrial society' (2004, p.15). Collins is supporting this theory by saying that crafts have adapted to survive in a machine-led world. Another aspect of traditional crafts that could be classed as Art would be its role in a movement called 'Craft Activism'. This is worldwide and includes any sort of crafts used as a statement for a cause. For instance, an organisation called 'Quilting for Peace' uses the craft of quilting to raise money for charity while using images within their quilts to promote peace. Also the before mentioned knitting graffiti founded by Magda Sayeg also known as 'Drive-by-knitting' or 'Knit Bombing'. Some graffiti knitters like Sayeg graffiti knit as a socio-political statement, other graffiti knitters say they do it to liven up a dull part of town or to just brighten someone's day by making them smile. Surely this sort of Craft Activism should be considered Art, since it is non-functioning pieces being designed but work that has 'something' behind it, a complexity, like more traditional artwork. This sort of traditional craft surely proves its value in today's society by making people think and commenting on society. To keep a check on traditional crafts value from a knitting point of view, it is the knitting machine that has kept knitting commercial however hand knitting is still used for bespoke designs within the fashion industry. As described in 'The art of knitting' by Fran Oise Tellier-Loumagne, 'The hand-made look regularly returns in seasonal fashion trends; for this reason, the Parisian couture houses all maintain a network of 'makers', who may use hand-knitting, domestic machine-knitting, crochet, embroidery or other techniques'(2005, p.8). Knitting, like many other traditional crafts has adapted and changed with the times, to stay relevant. Loumagne goes on to explain about the constant progression in the knitting world, 'Knitting is no longer created just length ways but in all directions; structures are becoming more and more complex…In fact, production hardware is increasingly high-performance: the newest knitwear is now made in three dimensions, meaning without seams, and often includes complex details'(2005, p.9). These sort of technological advances are keeping knitwear at the forefront of fashion, as designers come up with more intricate and innovative designs each year. At the same time, these sorts of advances; while promoting knitting it could see negative effects on hand knitting as a technique. Hand knitting is more time consuming, requires more workers and can be more costly than machine knitting. These sort of 'production' problems have affected all traditional crafts throughout history as explained in, 'Crafts in the English Countryside: Towards a future' by E.J.T. Collins, 'Rural depopulation, technical obsolescence, changing fashions, foreign competition…a growing gap between craft and average incomes, drying up of recruits, low standards of entrepreneurship and an unwillingness or inability to adapt to modern conditions: all took their toll' (2004, p.20). Knitting as a hobby shows it has value as a pastime for people to enjoy. People find it satisfying to be able to make a unique knitted item for themselves or as gifts. As knitting as a hobby enjoys a rise in popularity nowadays, the growing knitting community have taken to the internet in their millions to swap patterns with each other, discuss knitting and make knitting tutorials for others to learn from. This means that anyone who is even slightly interested in knitting can easily access everything they need to know about it to become a knitter, adding to the number of people in the knitting community. This growing popularity is not restricted to just knitting, it seems to be the case for many traditional crafts. Collins goes on to comment on the matter, 'Some crafts are adapting to new markets and can hold their own…Unexpected factors come into play, the rise of 'green' consumerism, the influence of TV gardening personalities - even a welcome boost to besom broom making from the Harry Potter books'(2004, p.21). Collins explores some of the unique influences causing the popularity increase in traditional crafts. This shows that people find traditional crafts valuable as there is a constant stream of people still wanting to learn about crafts, like knitting. As previously mentioned knitting used to be taught widely across the UK in schools, but nowadays it is very rare that knitting is taught to under 18's in education. People must actively seek knitting courses or university degrees in it. However, this educational route is a big commitment compared to the 1980's when young adults could just try out different traditional crafts in high school before deciding that they would like to pursue it as a career. Although this still has yet to deter people from joining adult classes on traditional crafts like knitting, Fran Oise Tellier-Loumagne comments in 'The art of knitting' by saying, '…in classes of young textile and fashion designers, more than three quarters of them are passionate about machine knitting, and more recently also about hand-knitting'(2005, p.10). This type of education on traditional crafts really takes the time for the student to explore traditional crafts in depth, unlike day workshops on traditional crafts that are more like taster sessions than the 'master' classes they describe themselves as. Richard Sennett's book 'The Craftsman' talks about his theory that it takes 10,000 hours of doing a craft to master the craft as a skill. It says, 'Craftsmen take pride most in skills that mature. This is why simple imitation is not a sustaining satisfaction; the skill has to evolve. The slowness of craft time serves as a source of satisfaction; practice beds in, making the skills one's own, slow craft time also enables the work of reflection and imagination - which the push for quick results cannot. Mature means long; one takes lasting ownership of the skill' (2009, p.250). So how can anyone 'master' a craft in a day when they have not had the time it takes to learn the craft properly. These workshops are devaluing crafts by saying that they are easy to 'master'. Another aspect of today's society that shows we value traditional crafts would be the fact that there is a Crafts Council for UK; it is an independent organisation that relies on funding from the government. The Crafts Council is there to promote Contemporary Crafts to the nation, by funding new craftspeople, exhibitions and bringing crafts to people. The Crafts Council is connected to the Arts Council, so what does it say about our valuation of traditional crafts when only a few weeks after British culture was celebrated and shown to the world during the Olympics, the government made huge cuts to the Arts Council. This could show how little craft is being valued. E.J.T. Collins in 'Crafts in the English Countryside' states, 'The survival of the crafts depends on government's commitment to funding the right training to produce the skilled rural crafts-workers of tomorrow'(2004, p.19). Collins is saying that government support is vital for crafts as without it crafts could not be accessed by the masses and therefore could not progress and adapt further, losing the value of crafts for the next generation. Another threat against craft would be the dwindling number of crafts being passed down from generation to generation. E.J.T. Collins states, 'Accelerating social change has transformed the rural economies, and with it, the traditional crafts. For example, the gradual loss of the family firm has ended the pattern by which traditional skills once passed from master to apprentice down the generations. Ancient crafts have been lost, or barely survive' (2004, p.20). As society has progressed through history people now have more opportunities and do not have to follow the family business of traditional crafts they can pursue other career prospects, this is hindering the craft community. However Collins goes on to comment that craft is now seen as a viable career choice, '…Paradoxically adding respectability to craft work as a career. Although most craftspeople continue to be motivated more by philosophical commitment and job satisfaction then by money, today's new entrants are in the main, more entrepreneurial, more market orientated, and more responsive to consumer needs than their predecessors' (2004, p.22). Knitting like most traditional crafts has a negative stereotype that only elderly women knit. Evidence online, like 'dudesthatknit.com' show that this stereotype is wrong. Yes, elderly people knit but so do youths, businessmen, skiers and actors. The latter bring in more publicity for knitting as people take to knitting because celebrities like Ryan Reynolds and Uma Thurman like to knit. The idea that men do not knit is untrue though it would seem that fewer men than women knit, this is most likely due to the negative connotations. These stereotypes do not really exist outside the western world and have mainly developed because most elderly people have more time on their hands and therefore have the time it takes to knit. In other cultures traditional crafts are seen differently for instance in Vietnam craft workers have a higher average income than the national average. They have over 1.5 million craftspeople and traditional crafts contribute to poverty reductions in Vietnam. Paul Greenhalgh, director of Corcoran Museum said, 'Craft has changed its meaning fundamentally at least three times in the last two centuries, and it means fundamentally different things from nation to nation even in the western world'(Victoria and Albert Museum, 2012, online). Traditional crafts shows that it still has value in today's society through its role in the community. For instance, knitting brought a community together in a deprived part of Birmingham. The 'Creative Moments' association; was founded by Phillipa England. She noticed a high level of isolation and depression in the community and started the project of knitting a community garden, bringing together school children, local residence, knitting groups and hospital patients. Betsan Corkhill from the Stitchlinks research programme described the community project as, 'A highly successful, intergenerational community project which helped to integrate people from diverse backgrounds back into a community from which they had been previously isolated' (Stitchlinks, 2012, online). This is an amazing and valuable effect knitting has had on a society. Knitting's value on a society could include therapeutic qualities, psychological and physical benefits. Also other benefits that most of the world does not know about but researchers such as those at Stitchlinks have experimented with the positive effects of knitting on people with physical and psychological problems such as arthritis and obsessive compulsive disorder and have found that knitting has improved their condition. Within Stitchlinks research their participant's progress was recorded in 'Stitchlinks: Quotes V from knitters'. Participants with physical pain said on knitting, 'When the pain is bad it gives me something to concentrate on it gets me through the 'waiting for the tablets to kick in' time. At three in the morning it's saved my life' (2007, p.6). Another said 'Knitting helps me maintain my mobility in my hands, it is painful and difficult to get moving in the morning and without the motivation of knitting for my grandchildren, I think my fingers would long ago have seized up' (2007, p.6). Another participant said, 'My specialist noticed that the knitting has kept my hands mobile as he was expecting me to lose my fine motor movement by now'. These accounts of physical improvement because of knitting are amazing. It is surprising that this research has not been tried out across the nation for pain management. In terms of psychological research, Stitchlinks participants spoke of knitting, 'I could do it well. It made it easier to face a world where it seemed I could do nothing right' (2007, p.6). Another participant said, 'If I couldn't knit I would be in a ball rocking to cope. Knitting is a great way to ease the pain, the stress, reduce medication…Knitting is what gets me through the day' (2007, p.6). Another said of knitting, 'Knitting is something I can do anywhere with very little tools. I take my knitting on the train and other situations where I am prone to be more anxious' (2007, p.6). The calming quality of knitting is having profound effects on these participants with psychological problems. Here it would seem that it is the process of knitting that is valuable for these people. It does not really matter what they are knitting, it is the act of following a pattern and getting lost in knitting that is valuable for them. Stitchlinks research found that knitting had other interesting qualities too, such as changing people's attitudes to a more positive mind set, decreased violent behaviour in teenagers, refocused attention and kick started brain function and breaking addictions. On the latter Stitchlinks founder Betsan Corkhill said, 'The addictive nature of knitting and stitching can also be used to break destructive addictions, such as smoking, alcohol, binge eating and drugs. A constructive addiction that occupies your hands and mind is an ideal activity to replace a destructive one' (2007, p.9). So knitting is actually changing lives for the better, proving that traditional crafts such as knitting are still valuable today and are even being focused in a way that eras before us could never have imagined the positive effects of knitting.

Chapter 3

From my findings and research into traditional crafts and its values I devised a questionnaire to be completed by a sample of 15 randomly selected people. The questionnaire gauged people's perception of traditional crafts, with a focus on knitting. To get a better range and wider more varied opinions it was unwise to hand my fellow peers on the same course, the questionnaire, as they already have a strong love of traditional crafts since they chose a course that contains many modules on this topic. Using their views would therefore affect the findings of the questionnaire; it would have been a very narrow pool of opinion which would be biased and unrealistic of the views of the general public. Instead the questionnaires were handed out in the local town centre to a wider variation of people which led to less bias findings. The questionnaire begins with the question 'What do you consider to be traditional crafts?' This question was also chosen because one person's definition of traditional crafts may be different to another's. If people do not understand what traditional crafts are they are more likely to not be involved in a traditional craft or care about traditional crafts. Even those who work within traditional crafts have a difference in opinion when it comes to defining what they do. For instance the online website www.vam.ac.uk asked the leading, most influential craftspeople in the western world today to define traditional crafts and they all gave different answers that contradicted each other. For example, the editor of 'The Persistence of Craft', Paul Greenhalgh defined traditional craft by saying, 'If it is of use in the current context, it is to recognise the significance of genre-based practice in the arts. It should also be a useful category in a global cultural environment. It might even have meaning as a signifier of a socio-political outlook. But it should have nothing to do with aesthetics, and less to do with negative approaches to technology' (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2012, online). However when leading practitioner Edmund de Waal was asked to define it he gave a completely different answer: - 'Craft is a starting place, a set of possibilities. It avoids absolutes, certainties, over-robust definitions, solace…It can be beautiful'. (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2012, online) Edmund de Waal has stated that craft can be about being aesthetically pleasing whereas Paul Greenhalgh claims the opposite. He went on to say that craft is not about fighting against technology yet Caroline Roux the Acting Editor of Crafts magazine states, 'Craft has never been more important than now, as an antidote to mass production and as a practice in which the very time it takes to produce an object becomes part of its value in a world that often moves too fast' (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2012, online). Roux's opinion focuses on crafts as a response to mass production and therefore opposes with Greenhalgh's definition of traditional crafts. Christopher Frayling of the Royal College of Art, sums up how difficult it is to define traditional crafts saying: - 'If you look up the word 'craft' in dictionaries of phrase and fable, the entry will say 'see freemasonry'…this is in fact far from a secret form of knowledge, just a very difficult one to pin down'. This is why 'What do you consider to be traditional crafts?' is a question as it is interesting and revealing to see how the sample - that represent the public - perceive traditional crafts. Another question on the questionnaire was 'Do you think the government should set aside funding for Crafts?' I chose this because public opinion of traditional crafts in particular knitting is varied. A study carried out by the Arts and Crafts Council showed that public support for the arts is dropping. 44% of the public thought arts should be funded however in an earlier study in 2009, 52% of the public said it should be funded (The Craft Yarn Council, 2011, online). The public's response could be due to the recent government's budget cuts and caps on financial spending. When it comes to financial distribution among the sectors, the public wanted less money going to Arts and Crafts and more spent on health and education. This is understandable but unfortunate, as due to lack of funding a lot of galleries and crafts workshops have closed. This means that the members of the public that want to learn a craft are missing out as there is no money to fund the workshops. Asking this question in the questionnaire established whether more or less people believe crafts should be funded in today's society. In the questionnaire I asked the sample whether they knit or they know someone who knits. The results of this question show how many people knit in today's society. For those that do knit they answered two extra questions. One was 'How did you become interested in knitting?' This question reveals how people hear about knitting and whether knitting is accessible and being publicised enough. The second question for the knitters is 'Do you feel there are psychological benefits to knitting?' If the knitting participants answered 'yes' then the questionnaire findings show evidence of knitting having psychological benefits. The last question on the questionnaire was about the public's perception of knitting. The question was, 'Do you think knitting is negatively perceived in today's society?' If the participant answered 'yes' they had an opportunity to answer another question, 'What do you think could be done to change this negative perception?' This question shed some insight into what could be done to change people's opinions of knitting.

Research Results

15 participants took part in the questionnaire and the results were quite revealing about people's perception and attitudes towards knitting. The first question, 'What do you consider to be traditional crafts?' was intended for participants to define craft but only a handful interpreted the question in this way. Most of the participants gave an example of a process they considered to be traditional crafts instead. These results could show evidence of how hard it is to define traditional crafts because people chose to answer it with an example of craft rather than to describe it. The 5 participants that did describe it described

it in the same way as each other by saying different variations of, 'Making something with your hands'. This description of traditional crafts is a much more simplified definition then the before mentioned definitions the leading craftspeople of the world today gave in the Victoria and Albert Museum interview. None of the sample responses mentioned the technology vs. traditional crafts debate other than one stating that traditional crafts was an 'Old way of making things without machines'. Again only one participant mentioned whether traditional crafts could be aesthetically pleasing saying, 'like woodwork, making something beautiful using hand tools', so within their definition crafting is about making something beautiful, a far cry from Paul Greenhalgh's explanation of craft. The results of the questionnaire show that traditional crafts are hard to define and when defined by the sample, the results show a far too simplified explanation of traditional craft that most craftspeople would not be satisfied with. Question 2.a) asked, 'Do you practice any traditional crafts?' surprisingly 11 people said 'yes' they do practise traditional crafts leaving only 4 people that said they did not practise traditional crafts. This large number of people practising craft comes as a surprise because the number of craftspeople working today is supposed to be at an all-time low. 'Crafts in the English Countryside: Towards a Future' by E.J.T. Collins states, 'From nearly 2/3 of the working population in 1911, numbers of skilled and semi-skilled manual workers fell to about 40% in the 1970's, to less than 20% currently' (2004, pg.17). So the results of so many people practising a traditional craft is unusual, however if by practising a tradition craft they mean as a 'hobby' than it is not as uncommon as once thought. In fact only 1 participant stated that they practised traditional crafts as a career by answering the question with, 'I'm a blacksmith'.

Question 2 asked, 'Which traditional craft do you practice?' The most common traditional crafts practised were knitting and sewing, interestingly 3 of the 4 knitters also mentioned sewing as a traditional craft they could do. Weaving, printmaking and basketry was also mentioned as traditional crafts. Card-making was also mentioned as a traditional craft, personally I would not consider it a traditional craft and after thorough research neither does other people, card-making is considered a craft but not a traditional craft. This shows how confusing it is for people to separate traditional crafts from non-traditional crafts. The results of the next question, 'Do you think the government should set aside funding for crafts?' was surprising too. It revealed that 100% of the people sampled believe that the government should set aside funding for crafts. This is a huge difference compared to the survey carried out by the Arts and Crafts Council in 2010 when only 44% of their participants thought that crafts should be funded(The Craft Yarn Council, 2011, online). This is a really encouraging result as it could indicate a change in people's opinions of traditional craft and its worth. This could be due to the recent cutbacks within the craft community, the participants could have been affected by the cutbacks and realised that crafts are important and need the funding so that they can be accessed by all. 'Crafts in the English Countryside: Towards a Future' by E.J.T. Collins supports the importance of funding craftspeople to keep craft alive by saying, '…shows the crafts to be a positive and dynamic force within the rural economy. They play a key role in conserving the historic elements within the built and natural environment. They keep alive traditional skills' (2004, p.20). This shows along with the results that people are seeing the value of traditional crafts again.

The fourth question was, 'Do you or have you ever knit?' 9 people said they did whereas 6 people said they had never knit. Therefore 60% of the sample knit or have knitted before, that's over half the number of participants. This is also supported by the Craft Yarn Council of America whose survey revealed that 53 million people in North America knit today (The Craft Yarn Council, 2011, online). Unfortunately there has not been a similar nationwide survey on whether people knit or not in Great Britain but the results from this small sample gives a rough idea of what the nationwide numbers would be.

The knitters were then asked, 'How did you become interested in knitting?' The majority of participants said that they were taught in school how to knit. 2 participants said that their mother had taught them how to knit, 2 participants said that their grandmother had showed them how to knit, one person said that they had taught themselves and finally the last person said that they had watched knitting tutorials on the video uploading website YouTube.com and learned to knit that way. Out of the 5 participants that had learnt to knit in school, 1 had chosen a course on it, 1 had learnt it at university and the other 3 were taught to knit at primary school, it could be important to mention the participants that had learnt to knit in primary school were older in age than the rest of the participants. This is because it was part of the curriculum in those days, unlike today where it is very rare to see any traditional crafts on a school curriculum. The knitters that said they had been taught by a family member show how knitting's publicity is still reliant on people passing down the skill from generation to generation, which is a great social way of getting to learn a new skill but this way of learning to knit does not guarantee that the traditional craft will still be here from years to come. This subject is discussed in E.J.T Collins book 'Crafts in the English Countryside: Towards a Future' where it states, 'Accelerating social change has transformed the rural economies, and with it, the traditional crafts…The gradual loss of the family firm has ended the pattern by which traditional skills once passed from master to apprentice down the generations. Ancient crafts have been lost, or barely survive' (2004, p.20). A more accessible way to pass on the skills without relying on the bond between generations would be the online tutorials mentioned by one participant. These readily available lessons on knitting are accessible to almost anyone who wants to learn the skill. They can watch the videos at their own pace, pause and replay parts they did not understand, it's a truly obtainable way of learning a skill and could potentially reach millions more people than by just passing knowledge through family members. The fights between technology and traditional crafts throughout the decades have threatened the existence of traditional crafts so it is ironic that this type of technology could reintroduce knitting to the younger generations. Question 6 asked the participants that had said that they had knit before, 'Do you feel there are psychological benefits to knitting?' 100% of the participants said that they felt that there were psychological benefits to knitting. This is really encouraging as knitting has to be valuable in today's society if people receive some sort of psychological benefit from it. When asked to explain what psychological benefit they had received from knitting the majority said that they found it calming and that it relaxed them. One participant mentioned a 'psychological boost' after completing a knitting project, another described knitting as 'therapeutic'. The sample suggests there is some merit in the theory that knitting has psychological benefits. Stitchlinks is a charity that is dedicated to researching the therapeutic qualities of knitting and stitching. Their survey in a book compiled by Betsan Corkhill called 'Stitchlinks: Quotes V from knitters' collected quotes from participants of the survey that had knitted and experienced psychological benefits, each quote was kept anonymous for confidentiality reasons. One stated 'I learned to knit 2.5 years ago after I had been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. Medication did help me reign in my runaway thoughts, but it wasn't until I started knitting or crocheting every day that I really felt at peace' (2007, pg.5). Another participant said, 'I remember taking my knitting with me when I went for my weekly appointment with the psychiatrist…to take my mind off where I was…I really hated going there. Knitting helped me through this rough patch…without the repetitive action of knitting I would have been driven to more extreme compulsive behaviours' (2007, pg.5). In these cases knitting has had obvious positive psychological effects for the participants of the experiment. One participant even goes as far as to say that knitting is warding off suicidal thoughts, saying 'Knitting calms me down when I'm stressed, gets me excited when it feels like there's no point in living, gives me something to think about that is outside myself, a reason to get up in the morning' (2007, pg.6). These heart-breaking revelations show a correlation between the Stitchlinks participants and the participants of the questionnaire, providing further evidence that knitting has psychological benefits. Question 7 asked the participants, 'Do you know anyone (else) who knits?' 100% of the participants answered 'yes', even those that did not knit themselves. This is a promising result for knitting as there must be a large quantity of knitters in our society if everyone knows someone who knits like the results of the questionnaire suggests. The first part to the last question asked, 'Do you think knitting is negatively perceived in today's society?' 11 participants said that 'yes' they thought knitting was negatively perceived as opposed to the 4 participants that did not think knitting was negatively perceived. So the majority (73%) of the sample thought that the general perception of knitting was negative, this correlates with an online article from Stitchlinks.com that stated, '…study conducted by Stitchlinks.com and Cardiff University recognised that obtaining funding for a knitting study has been difficult simply because of the word 'knitting' and the particular connotations it evokes'(Stitchlinks, 2012, online). The article is commentating on the negative stereotype of knitting being only for elderly people.

Those that had answered 'yes' in the question before were given the opportunity to answer another question, 'What do you think could be done to change this negative perception?' The majority of the sample said that is should be reintroduced to the school's curriculum. This would be a great idea as it would bring awareness to knitting from a young age but it could also have the negative side effect of children disliking the craft simply because it is forced upon them. 2 participants mentioned 'rebranding' knitting in a more youth friendly way. This could be done by reaching them online and through social networking sites to make it more accessible to those that what to learn a craft. 2 participants suggested advertising knitting and 2 participants thought that craft councils should work on 'knitting awareness', these are similar ideas that could also be put to use online as a wider pool of people might see it.

Recommendation

In conclusion the research suggests that traditional crafts are still valuable to our society in the modern era. While throughout history crafts have been valuable for their functioning abilities. As we learn more about the effects of crafts on a society, the more we learn that traditional crafts value goes much deeper than just for utility purposes, for example, the research shows that the process of knitting has positive effects on the mind and body and that at this very moment knitting is helping people overcome psychological burdens, physical pain, isolation and bringing our community together not just locally or nationally but worldwide as Knitter's connect with people across countries due to their common interest. In suggestion, I would say that it seems to be a lack of knowledge about the valuable attributes of traditional crafts that is causing the negative stereotype. The rest of the traditional crafts should follow the footpath that knitting has found itself on. By combining the traditional methods and techniques of knitting with the modern world of online blogging, video tutorials and helpful websites, knitting has been opened to people that would never have had the opportunity to learn on their own and now and that the knitting community is thriving, because of this connection with technology. This change has come about because of the craftspeople. Their continued effort to modernise and pull traditional crafts into this era is the reason why traditional crafts are becoming more accessible. By bridging the gap between art and craft, people will be more aware of traditional crafts as to see a craft piece as art would give the craftsman, an artist's platform meaning more publicity through exhibitions, events and art shows. Michelle Obama the first lady of the United States is an avid supporter of crafts. Her position makes people more aware of crafts and its value, at a recent press conference she was quoted as saying, 'the arts and not just a nice thing to have or to do if there is free time or if one can afford it. Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue, they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation' (Epic, 2011, online). It's all about educating people of the importance of craft and warning them of the dangers that bestow us if we forget the importance of learning our history through craft. So while the mere definition of traditional craft rules out contemporary design and innovative progress, the craftspeople do not and as long as they continue to practice and modernise their crafts, traditional craft will always still be valuable to our society.

Bibliographic information

The Craftsman, Richard Sennett, penguin UK 2009

High and Low Thinking about High and Low Art, Ted Cohen, Wiley USA 1993

A history of hand knitting, Richard Rutt, batsford book batsford 1987

Treatise on the Art of Knitting: With a History of the Knitting Loom: Comprising an Interesting Account of Its Origin, and of Its Recent Wonderful Improvements, Jonas B. Aiken, Harvard 1861

World Textiles: A Visual Guide To Traditional Techniques, John Gillow, Bryan Sentance

Thames & Hudson, 2005

Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to High Art, Susan M. Strawn, Melanie Falick, Voyageur Press, 2011

Knit with Love: Stories to Warm a Knitter's Heart, Lisa Bogart, Baker Books, 2011

The Close-Knit Circle: American Knitters Today, Kerry Wills, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1968

Components of Dress: Design, Marketing and Image, Juliet Ash, Lee Wright, Routledge, 1988

The Art Of Knitting: Inspirational Stitches, Textures, And Surfaces, Fran Oise Tellier-Loumagne, Thames & Hudson, 2005

Crafts in the English Countryside: Towards a Future, E.J.T. Collins, Countryside Agency Publications, Wetherby, 2004

Stitchlinks: Quotes V from knitters, Betsan Corkhill, Stitchlinks Ltd, Bath, 2007

High Art Down Home: An Economic Ethnography of a Local Art Market, Stuart Plattner, University of Chicago Press, 1998

http://www.epic-usa.org/the-art-we-leave-for-our-kids/

http://traditionalcraftsblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/can-we-define-what-craft-is.html-

http://craftyarncouncil.com/know.html

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