I ventured in to the arts and crafts business in my early 20s in the early 2000s. I had to teach myself everything from scratch in a time when there was very little appreciation for hand made items. I felt it a constant struggle to educate the market on the value of handmade items. As the years went by, it became easier. People began to appreciate the uniqueness of handmade/handcrafted items. The main contributor to this shift in market perception, was the emergence of craft bazaars. Crafters would come together on weekends to sell their wares together. These craft bazaars gave us the opportunity to interact with customers and 'teach' them about our individual crafts.

Now this is the back story shared by so many of us in the arts and craft business today. Although the face of craft related commerce has changed and evolved in the last 20 years, it still is similar. '
Recently, I came across an e-book titled:

Arts and Crafts Essays by the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society

Published in 1893!

I was intrigued. No way the arts and crafts scene in London 129 years ago could be in anyway relatable to us in Malaysia in this day and age.

I was so wrong!

In essence the book is a collection of essays describing various crafts of the time, written by the crafts people themselves. Many of them the same as crafts trending right now in 2021/22...

  • painting
  • bookbinding
  • metalwork
  • embroidery
  • book illustrations and decorating
  • fabric dyeing

I was not reading about old-timey crafts that have died out, but ones that are popular and continuing to evolve right now. 

What really blew my mind was the introduction which was written by William Morris. He mentions how crafts were perceived to be of lower value to classic art, and how crafts people of the time struggled with educating people of its value. So pricing and perceived value was an issue even then. Exactly like us today.

When it was discovered that this was a shared experience by people from various crafts, it became the basis of the founding of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Essentially they were set up to as a collective to help each other overcome the struggles they faced together. That eventually lead them to hold and their own group exhibitions of their crafts. Quite basically the equivalent of a craft bazaar today.

How amazing is that! Much like us, they came together as a community to support, promote and establish the crafts of its members. Strength in numbers!

It is so awesome to feel a kinship with people who were just like us from the past. We are the same and we find our strength and belonging in COMMUNITY.

It makes me appreciate and value being part off this amazing community of creatives with The Artsy Craftsy. Leaving a legacy of community for those who will come after us, as those who came before us did.

Arts and Crafts Essays by the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society

Available for download for FREE in e-book formats from Project Gutenberg 


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