Thursday, 3 May 2012

Unfinished Business

Sometimes I feel a bit like a deer at the edge of a forest: should I venture out into the open and show my creative secret self to everybody, or should I just slip back into the mist amongst the trees?  The onset of Craft & Design Month has brought these slightly disturbing ripples back to the surface again, reminding me that there’s only about 9 weeks now until I have to emerge from the woods and stand in full view at Fibre-East. 

Brave people like artist Sue Bulmer have not only ventured well out into the open but have documented the experience for everyone in the craft sector to learn from, which is generous indeed.  Her blog is an excellent introduction to exhibiting at the British Craft Trade Fair and is well worth reading if you’re considering going down that route.  I have been thinking about it, but I’m not sure it’s the right venue for me just yet.  The results of my craft making are a far more ‘unfinished business’. 

As a maker of what could kindly be termed ‘artisan’ mega-yarns I’m not exhibiting a finished product in the same way other crafters do.  You’d never ask a jewellery customer to finish off the ring they buy, or an art buyer to finish painting a picture.  But as a spinner, what I make is inherently unfinished, waiting for another creative spark to come along and add their own story ending to my beginning.  My contribution is only half the tale. 

People’s reactions to what I make (when they get over the scale of my yarns) range from wanting instantly to wear it, as a giant necklace or ‘dreds’, to wanting to have it just to hold,  look at and to stroke - changing it into a ‘yarn pet’.  Perhaps the latter ties in with the report ‘Consuming Craft’ (not the most elegant turn of phrase!) prepared for the Crafts Council.  It relates that buyers of craft items are looking for pieces which fulfil “..emotional – as well as functional – needs”.  

To me, it’s good that the kind people who give my yarns a try often don’t know what they’re going to do with them.  I’m not, like a painter or sculptor, being proscriptive by dictating: “ you must display it this way”.  I’m not projecting my vision into the other person’s mind: I’m allowing their inner spirit to take the exploratory journey one stage further.  Maybe one day my yarns will be viewed as pieces of art in their own right, but they will forever be ‘unfinished business’, with potential to blossom in many different ways.

I’m really not fond of the idea that small business owners should be “like Wombles” grabbing things for free, as exhorted by a contributor to the now-open-for-entry National Business Awards. It’s my belief that we should be directing business focus not to what we can get, but what we can give in relation to fulfilling “deep-seated human instincts” and creating “the value of distinctiveness”, as mentioned in the report ‘Crafts in an age of change’. Here’s wishing you a distinctively creative week ahead, packed with rewarding and fulfilling experiences, for yourself - and more importantly, for those you care for.


  1. Very interesting post. I like the idea of a yarn pet - I have a few of those!

  2. Camilla! Wonderful post - and I hear what you are saying, too, as so much of it also applies to me. As a dyer, I consider myself to be a "maker's maker". My yarn is finished - yet it is an intermediary product. It is saddening and frustrating to me that there seems to be little place for these products in many markets: craftspeople (which is how I identify myself) are excluded from artists shows/collectives/workspaces, and folks who make intermediary products are sometimes excluded from the crafts scene.

    On the upside, I love that I am effectively collaborating with other makers by supplying them with high quality, inspirational materials. I am always amazed, uplifted and humbled to see what other people have done with my yarns; by the time a project has finished, at least two peoplesworths of creativity have gone into it, and the results can be astounding. (To counter the silversmith example, I consider myself to be on the same level as someone who farms wonderful produce; you don't expect them to cook it for you too! You either cook it yourself, or go to a restaurant if you want it finished for you...)

    (P.S. Apologies for the slightly obscure link in the profile; this is the only one of your options that will work for me since my OpenID went wrong! This is Alison from Yarnscape....)