Sunday, May 20, 2007
Get Crafty: Hip Home Ec
by Jean Railla
Jean Railla's crafty philosophy can be summed up us as "making art out of everyday life". She believes crafty pursuits cannot be narrowly defined, and that anyone can embrace a lifestyle of craftiness. Embellishing a skirt. Baking banana bread. Arranging flowers. Constructing a collage. These activities foster creativity and encourage beauty.
Being crafty means living consciously and refusing to be defined by narrow labels and categories. It's about embracing life as complicated and contradictory ... It's painting racing stripes down muscle cars and driving them in homemade skirts and high heal shoes ... It's about making things with your hands. And, most important, it's about living life artistically, regardless of whether or not you are an Artist with a capital A. (p. 6)
Get Crafty embraces the radical, independent spirit infiltrating the traditional crafting community. Railla explores many faces of craft. Her book is seasoned with wit, insight, and a delightfully fresh perspective. This is not a musty, dated home ec manual.
Two aspects of this book especially captured my interest. Throughout Get Crafty, Railla places special emphasis on the importance of home. She encourages readers to create welcoming, beautiful, romantic and peaceful homes. She believes homes should be a sanctuaries, havens, and should reflect our personal tastes. Railla offers countless (frugal) suggestions for creating warm, inviting homes.
Secondly, Railla encourages her readers to practice thrift. An aspect of craftiness involves seeing potential in old things, breathing new life into discarded objects. Mass production and gross over-consumption often hurt people and the environment. Crafting, creating things by hand, repurposing or reusing objects and materials, allow us to bypass the economy of consumerism. Crafting can make a statement against sweat-shop labour. Crafting can encourage frugality. Crafting encourages imaginative problem-solving and creative self-expression.
I enjoyed reading Get Crafty, and recommend it with the following disclaimer: Jean Railla identifies herself as a feminist. She embraces the philosophy of "new domesticity" that proclaims women can "have it all". The final chapter of her book boldly proclaims "no woman is an island". I do agree with the chapter's assertion that we must connect with other people, that we should belong to a community. However, I feel Railla goes too far with statements such as this: "Once our society was organized around church and patriarchal family units. I don't know about you, but I don't want to go back to that world. I want to move forward with a ragtag army of nutty women (and men) who, even with their limitations, band together and dare to have more." (p. 120)
I believe craftiness and creativity are gifts given by God, the Ultimate Creator. If we fail to acknowledge His hand upon our creative work, we miss the point entirely. Get Crafty is an fun, engaging, inspirational book. It is jam-packed with interesting projects, recipes and ideas. Jean Railla presents her philosophy of craft in a new and dynamic way. I mostly agree with her ideas, especially regarding the importance of home and frugality. I only wish the charm of Get Crafty wasn't marred by feminist ideology.