Crafts Remade

Design © Helen McCarthy/SMK Stitching, photo © Ilex Press

Manga Cross-Stitch has featured in a number of crafty blogs and Google alerts recently, nine months after its initial UK release and six months after the US version hit the shelves. Maybe it’s because  spring is a good time to try a new craft. New beginnings all around us still awaken the urge to make and do, even in urbania.

Whatever the reason, I’m delighted by any re-promotion. Crafters, like every other kind of consumer, have a whole host of freebies available for download online, so anything that encourages them to buy a new book is good for craft writers, publishers and designers.

Even better, though, is that, right from the book’s debut, the craftbloggers have understood and been enthused by what I was trying to achieve. leethal says it’s a “super nice book” with “everything you could possibly want to know about making custom manga designs with a needle and thread.”  kath_red, writing on, thinks Manga Cross-Stitch is “better than many of the ‘how to draw manga’ books that are so popular with kids these days.”

She ends by saying “The readership will not be confined to needle-workers or manga fans, but to anyone who wishes to be creatively guided and engaged.” Since I wanted to show readers how much fun it is to use the visual grammar of manga and anime to make unique needlework designs, I was delighted to read that.

The point of craft is self-expression through creation. For some brilliant crafters, this means striving for technical excellence – I know one cross-stitcher whose work is so close to perfect that it’s hard to tell the back from the front. For many, self-expression is also about trying new things and going on new journeys.

The alt.crafts and alt.stitch movements are a dynamic response to a world of possibilities. Craftblogs and sites like Etsy and Craftster offer new avenues for display, networking and selling. Crafters find beauty in recycling fibres, other materials, ideas and modes of expression, in using craft skills honed on silk thread to make pictures with discarded audio- or videotape, in making monsters from scraps, in stitching pornography. (The Guardian and  Premier magazine, among many others,  record Oscar-winner Judi Dench’s penchant for crafting minutely detailed needlepoint with surprising design elements and slogans; she’s far from the only crafter demurely working a cushion or hanging seeded with rude words and images of copulation.)

The traditional forms and techniques are respected and loved, but are also there to be remade. All rules are up for breaking: the only thing that matters is making something wonderful from the debris. Images from the 9th Japan Quilt Grand Prix show technical mastery of an ancient form used to express a vibrant individual artistic consciousness and engagement, allied to a sense of adventure and experiment and a wide-ranging cultural sensibility.

I wanted to encourage others to become part of that process, and I’m so happy that some of the crafters I respect most think I’ve succeeded.

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