Scrolling through various Instagram accounts for craft marketplace platforms, I noticed there was almost a ‘house style’ for images. This is despite photographs being selected by different platforms and originally uploaded by many different crafters. Neutral rules the day with plenty of white. Is this style just for the world of handmade, or, are some of the luxury brands presenting themselves in a similar manner?
Naturally, I looked at the Instagram accounts for Hermès, the world’s most famous brand of scarves, and Liberty, a store famous as purveyors of pattern and colour. And, it is easy to see – hardly any computer white and plenty, plenty of colour.
Now, how about an Instagram account promoting the work of specialist, artisan crafters. Displaying craftwork that is neither particularly homespun nor high-end, big brand luxury – I chose to look at the feed for the Craft Council.
Images chosen by the Craft Council do have more white than the luxury brands, but also considerably more colour than Etsy, DaWanda and Folksy pictures. I made a comparison with my own recent postings to Instagram and although I don’t stick rigidly to scarf photographs the overall feel of my account is most like the Craft Council.
Now I have attempted to put this insight to use. I have experimented adding and subtracting colour to one of my scarf photographs aiming to make the image more interesting.
Firstly, too much colour with no white in sight. Next near enough devoid of colour altogether. Then finally, a corny compromise – the colour pop!
“Who buys craft in times of austerity?” The answer, according to the UK Craft Council, who produced a report in 2010 just two years after the global financial crash, is older, educated women. Below is an extract from their report giving more details about the types of people who buy craft.
You may have noticed I sneakily switched from ‘handmade’ to ‘craft’ in my opening questions, which then begs the question “What is the difference between craft and handmade?” Now this report is essentially concerned with what people consider as ‘craft’ as opposed to simply handmade. Obviously, you can have handmade pastries, but I think most people frequently do consider handmade and craft to be interchangeable. However, if you dig a little deeper ‘craft’ appears to suggest a range of connected perceptions. This intriguing radar (spider) chart below shows how different words are more or less associated with craft particularly with relation to art and design.
And in the chart we see that the term ‘handmade’ features strongly as does ‘workmanship’ which is hardly surprising, but also ‘rural’, which, in the 21st century struck me as rather odd. Handmade ceramics, handblown glass and handwoven textiles are all very popular these days and don’t necessarily call to mind a rural aesthetic. For me, it transpires that my painted silk, though handmade, is often not considered craft. Also from my own experience it is not ‘older, educated women’ who are my customers in these times of austerity. Interestingly, it appears to be their husbands, sons and daughters who are buying my work as special presents. It’s heartwarming to know that even during these challenging times mums are still regarded as exceptional and merit a quality, genuine, handmade gift.