Most people are not aware of the depths of the argument that between the fine craft establishment and the dominate fine art elite. I used to think about that debate more; but I’m pleased to note something about it.
Fine art is at it’s core about scarcity; fine craft is much less so; and what has come to be called crafting hardly at all. The fine craft movement, which weaves it’s way back through all of history and all nations, in it’s modern manifestation, I’m surprised to note, a lot like open source.
I hate to play that card. The term open source has almost fallen dead for me. So many people play that card in an attempt to grab a bit of legitimacy for what every scheme they are executing that involves sucking talent out of the vast pool of people on the other side of the internet; and don’t get me started on the neologism ‘democratizing.’
What is going on in the modern crafting movement, as manifested in the web, is the thing I think is coolest about the Internet. First off it has a pool of people of common interest finding each other, like a giant pot luck dinner or a stone soup. They are creating energy and knowledge that wasn’t there before; in an commons. Secondly the energy of this movement comes from the periphery; the respect of the participants faces toward the periphery.
When this works you get the opposite of scarcity based activities. In fine arts the entire community is polarized by the pervasive question of who’s at the top, who can command the premium prices, who’s hot, who’s not. In a periphery facing community the tension, the anxiety if you wish, is where on the vast periphery the next insight will emerge, the next cool trick of the trade, the next breath taking bit of design.