What Do You Call Your Arts And/Or Craftsy Self?

In praise of all of the Craftivists, Textile Artists, Crafters, Embroideresses, Spinsters, and Needleworkers…

Image above is Alter Image by Alanna Tyson Her post on Art vs Craft is well worth reading

I am a craftswoman, not an artist. I am a Craftivist  too. Let me tell you why…

The Personal Is Political

Words can be unexpectedly powerful. The difference between a craftswoman, needleworker, crocheter, fibre or textile artist, and artisan, etc., may be only a matter of terminology, but what you call yourself  makes a real difference in both self and public perception.

As always, the personal is political.

HAROLD KNIGHT 1874-1961 By the Window
‘By the Window’  H. Knight (1874-1961).

Fine Arts vs Common Handicrafts

The debate over what is true art and what is ‘only’ craft has been going on for a very long time, and only recently have women been able to contribute to the discussion. (I am focusing on the textile crafts primarily.)

Most of the historical discussions I have read have spent a great deal of time and energy talking about why needlecraft isn’t real art. Not surprisingly, it was mostly male artists doing the discussing.

Russian woman in her hand-painted home.

Their arguments tended to focus on three points.

  1. Textile craft is functional. It is about making household items decorative.
  2. The textile crafts are not creative. Anyone can do it, and patterns are used, which negates any creativity.
  3. Fundamentally, textile craft is a womanly pursuit. It’s a womanly grace, only suitable for well off women with too much leisure time and for young unmarried women to impress potential suitors with.

The writers have tended to say, either completely openly or by inference, that textile crafts such as needlework, sewing, weaving, quilting, etc… are just a frivolity, mere decoration of the real work of women such as spinning, plain sewing, mending, and so on. It serves to keep idle hands busy and idle women safely occupied.

Russian Spinster.jpg
Romanian Spinner and Weaver in her home.


I am not persuaded. The first argument is ridiculous. I can just imagine of it were the other way around. Then they would say something like, ‘Art has inherent practical value. Craft is merely decorative and pretty.’

As for  the textile crafts being fundamentally not creative, well, that is clearly the argument of someone who has no practical experience with craft at all.

The third argument is, I feel, their real objection to valuing women’s traditional craft in the same way they value ‘fine’ art. Crafts are the arts historically practised by women. Women do, teach, judge, and value needlecrafts. Men and their judgments have no real place here.

Needlecrafts Are Our Native Art Forms

I claim the Textile Crafts as our own native Arts. Just as an Inuit sculptor is proud to be Inuit and to identify their art as Inuit, so I am proud to be a Craftswoman, and to claim these textile crafts, such as the various forms of needlework and yarn crafts, as our own native and exquisite art forms. I do not consider it to be a compliment to be called an artist if the intent of the compliment is to say that I am not ‘just a crafter’. I reject the dichotomy of High Art  vs. Low Craft utterly.

Needlecrafts are forms of art. Just as sculpture, painting, printmaking, and photography are. So too are embroidery, quilting, lacemaking, knitting, crocheting, plaiting, spinning, weaving, and all of the other forms of art that women have created and practised throughout history.

John Everett Millais Mariana 1850 - 1851
John Everett Millais, ‘Mariana’ 1850 – 1851

Where String Is, Is Civilization

Our traditional art is often (but not always) practical as well as beautiful and that is not a weakness, it is a strength. Women’s native arts often embody, incorporate ,and elaborate on traditional forms handed down from woman to woman, generation to generation, sometimes from as far back as we can reach, back to the dawn of agrarian civilizations. and that is a strength as well.

In fact, I will go so far as to say, ‘Where String Is, Is Civilization.’

stringthings 1 final
My Card

What I Call Myself…

What I call myself varies from day to day. I think of myself as a Craftivist primarily, as craft is both personal and political for me. I also love and use the special names for women practising the traditional thread and yarn crafts; Spinster, Webster, Embroideress, Crocheteur, etc.

I take pride in my link to the women who came before me and honour their legacy.

I am a craftswoman. What are you?

Love to you all,

Baba StringThings

Radical Embroidery

Want to learn more?

TED Talk Is there a difference between art and craft? – Laura Morelli  The most interesting thing at this link might just be the discussion in the comments which shows what a strange muddled up concept this is.

Tate Debate: When is a craft an art?

Feminism and the Art of “Craftivism”: Knitting for Social Change under the Principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement

My Pinterest Board: RADICAL CRAFTIVISM  (Exploring the intersection between traditional crafts, political activism. history and feminism.)

crone spinning
Skilled Romanian Craftswoman Spinning Flax. I am amazed at how she has skillfully she has beautified all of her surroundings With her textiles!




Author: Baba StringThings

I am a middle-aged mother of three grown-up sons, a thrifty, creative, and dedicated born-again spinster, and I have a serious string addiction. I teach crochet, knitting, bobbin lacemaking, hand-embroidery, weaving, spinning, kumihimo, darning, mending, and how to upcycle clothing. When I'm not doing that I pretty much play with string. All. The. Time. And I have an unholy love of Pinterest.

4 thoughts on “What Do You Call Your Arts And/Or Craftsy Self?”

  1. Wonderful topic of discussion. I try and probably don’t succeed at being a humble person most of the time, but maybe engaging in a humble craft helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the term Craftivist. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about needlework being the natural artistic expression of women. I’ve been going through a lot of angst about whether I’m a crafter or an artist. This article has helped me see other directions I could take my needlework in terms of political or feminist expression. I will be revisiting this post as it raises a lot of possibilities. How exciting to have a new direction to explore as a Craftivist!


    1. Thank you for commenting! I see craftivisim as an integral part of my thread and yarn craft practice, and it was an amazing thing for me when I discovered the concept. I am so happy to have been able to share it with you!

      Craft On, Sister Craftavista!

      Liked by 1 person

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