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Where is the line between art and craft?

This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
Andrew WicksOCA tutor India Ritchie reports:
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has chosen to remove the category of ‘crafts’ as a recognised creative industry as part of a paper for classifying and measuring the creative industries due to be put forward in June of 2013. The Crafts Council, along with the Heritage Crafts Association and the Associated Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group are disputing this move as it will make the allocation of funding and support for craft businesses more difficult. They state that leaving crafts out of the recognised creative industries will mean that the yearly income and scale of the sector will be hard to verify as data in this area will no longer be collected by the DCMS. The craft sector in the UK comprises a wide range of independent makers and established businesses and brings in an estimated £457 million in revenue every year.
DCMS claims that the omission of crafts as a recognised creative industry will have no impact on funding and admit that the revenue generated by craftsmen and women is important to the UK economy. However, in reclassifying crafts the concern that many makers and organisations has is that the craft industry will cease to be seen as an important and robust industry, and that it is a boon to the UK economy and worthy of recognition.
The reasoning behind the DCMS’ decision is “Most crafts businesses are too small to identify in business survey data, so while there has been a crafts section in the former classification, we’ve not been able to provide GVA [gross value added] data. We recognise that high-end craft occupations contain a creative element, but the view is that in the main, that these roles are more concerned with the manufacturing process, rather than the creative process.”
Shin Azumi 01
It has emerged that much of DCMS’ business survey data is taken from annual VAT submissions, and as 88% of crafts businesses fall below the VAT threshold, it is argued that the DCMS are unable to gain a full picture of the scale of the crafts industry sector, and are therefore not in a position to make an informed decision on crafts’ classification as a creative industry. Shin Azumi 02Many craft makers studied at art schools and universities within the UK before starting their own businesses, and an additional concern is that the reclassification of crafts could have a knock-on effect on the amount of young people studying in the UK if there is a limited support system for them after graduation.
The decision to include areas such as marketing, sales and public relations instead has proved a controversial one, and has seen supporters of the crafts industry take to social networking sites in support of the movement, even setting up an online petition with over 26,000 signatures so far.
Shin Azumi 03
The Crafts Council are continuing to engage in direct talks with the DCMS over their proposed changes.
To look at the DCMS Classification Review click here.
To look at the petition against this move click here.
Images are, from the top:
Andrew Wicks
Lin Cheung
The three remaining images are by Shin Azumi

Posted by author: India
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8 thoughts on “Where is the line between art and craft?

  • Firstly, thank you India for this important blog. There has been a lot of concern, which is UK wide, on the decision by the DCMS to remove the category of ‘crafts’ as a recognised creative industry for classifying and measuring the creative industries. (As if the creative industries needed any more knocks?)
    It is hard to understand their reasoning. Unfortunately, (for all of us craft and creative practitioners) this suggests a misunderstanding of the subject. Their suggestion that crafts is, “More concerned with the manufacturing process, rather than the creative process” is alarming in itself given the intrinsic, creative nature within the craft of making and manufacture. For me, this is not simply about misunderstanding Crafts but the Creative Industries themselves.
    So PLEASE sign the petition!
    Applied Arts Scotland also has a Petition:
    Sarah Taylor CCL Textiles

  • I think that part, if not the entire problem here is that the term itself, ‘Craft’ is not well understood by the general public and civil servants and politicians are here part of the general public. They either see ‘Craft’ as a learned skill set, welding, plastering, moulding cups or making flower and chimney pots or the rather poor amateur ‘crafts’ one sees at fairs and so on. Neither is what we or the Crafts Council think of as Craft but i am sure is what is informing this decision. A wider use of the idea of designer-maker (I can remember this being discussed in a variety of places many decades ago when every tourist spot seemed to have a ‘pottery’ selling clunky stoneware mugs made by some sub-hippy who had done a weekend course and quit their job in the city for the Good Life!) might have helped and maybe there is a way for craft businesses to re classify themselves as design concerns.
    It is a worrying development on the face of it but I do just wonder if he crafts community would achieve more by re-branding themselves than by simply opposing this regrettable decision.

  • I would think the crafts community and the respected crafts organisations will be making a strong case when they have the opportunity. Re-branding…?

  • “Re-branding…?”…yup, it’s the world we live in! My suggestion would be as Designer-maker but Craft seems to have lost its caché, if it ever had one, and perhaps has to be abandoned in order for the proper level of official support to be sustained. It would seem that perhaps there are no ‘respected’ crafts organisations in the eyes of the governmental powers that be.

    • You’re probably right Peter. I have used the term ‘designer-making’ on and off over the years, as well as craft practitioner, designer….depending on the context I find myself in. Perhaps this is an opportunity!

  • I agree with what has been said above regarding the problem being that the powers that be in the DCMS have little understanding of what craft businesses are all about. As I understand it the decision is in part made on the time spent on creativity within a business and they feel that crafts businesses focus more on making so that the creative input is small. This only goes to show how little they know about crafts businesses.
    Thinking about Peter’s point about re-branding. Yes designer-maker is a term I and many others use, and design will still come under the category of creative businesses under the new proposals. However, my worry is that whatever I call myself it is the decisions made at government level regarding funding support for types of business and education pathways into such businesses will be affected. It is how they define what I do that matters not what I call myself.

  • This seemed so counter-intuitive to me, and from the comments from tutors I was not alone, that I looked it up on the gov.uk website. And this is what I found…(https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/classifying-and-measuring-the-creative-industries-consultation-on-proposed-changes)
    ‘Why we are proposing changes to how we measure and why crafts will remain a creative industry.
    We recently published a consultation on proposed changes to how we measure the value of the creative industries.
    As a result of our consultation, many people in the crafts sector got the impression that we are considering dropping crafts from the creative industries. This is not true and the purpose of the consultation is not to redefine the creative industries. The definition of the creative industries will remain the same and continue to include crafts.
    The purpose of the work is to look at how we measure the contribution of the creative industries (including crafts) to our economy…’
    (Here they admit that the wording of one part of the original consultation was misleading, especially out of context)…
    ‘So we have re-drafted this section to make our meaning clearer. The consultation now reads:
    We believe that many crafts workers are very clearly in creative occupations. However, in the official classifications, many of these workers are spread across a range of occupational and industrial codes which contain vastly greater numbers of obviously non-creative workers. To include these codes would not give an accurate value to the crafts sector, so we are looking at better ways to measure this contribution.’
    Obviously what the government say on a public website and what they really think may be different things, but if we believe what they say then any conclusion about their understanding or appreciation of what we really do is premature.
    However, from this response, it seems that the Department of Culture etc has got the message about crafts being creative industries.
    There is less than a week left (Deadline 14th June) to make suggestions as to how crafts workers can be classified in the international codes in order to show that they are creative industries.
    It seems to me that it would be worth as many people as possible contributing to the consultation. It can be reached through the link above.

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