The Art in Craft

I wanted to be an artist for almost as long as I could remember- way before it ever occurred to me to be an architect.  And, while I found the process of building models to be rather hateful (not to mention somewhat perilous), I made my peace with it during those hours spent in studio, learning the zen of making several light, carefully precise scores instead of trying to rip through a material in one slice.  My love of art made preparing presentation drawings for a crit as much fun as design, and I experimented with a different style and even different media for each project.

However, we no longer practice architecture as a craft, but as a concept. From my very first internship, I was drawing on a computer, except for those rare moments when I could do a hand rendering for a presentation.  I found myself expressing my creative side more digitally too, migrating from drawing and painting to photography and quickly on to digital images that I could manipulate on the computer.  I still valued the handmade, though, and would export these images to craft items large and small, but now for more utilitarian instead of purely artistic purposes.  It was kind of fun to be able to meld the 3-D world with the added capabilities of digital. Then I had kids and sick parents and barely had time to keep up with life.  Handmade cards morphed into store-bought ones and if I couldn’t find it off the shelf, I didn’t bother with it.

This year, I have decided to make a commitment to art and craft as a means of reclaiming my own identity.  I made a painting for the first time in more years than I care to think about with my husband as part of a fun exercise (he needs to get back in touch with his inner artist too).  Then I decided to design and make our Christmas cards this year.  While I love to dabble in graphic design, what makes these cards special is the fact that the artwork is a painting I commissioned from myself.  High art, it’s not.  Craft and artistic expression it is.  Best of all, I had a lot of fun making it.  It is a digital painting, but created using painterly techniques one stroke at a time. Once the cards were designed and printed 3 up on a page, it was time to cut them out.  I used an X-acto blade for the first time in way too long and found it surprisingly satisfying.  This tool, one the bane of my existence, then a secret weapon for all kinds of crafty undertakings, had lain at the bottom of my art bin for years.  Scissors, while nowhere near as precise, had become the lazy substitute.  I took an odd pleasure out of having to get out my cutting mat, precisely line up an edge with a steel ruler, and once again make the series of scores that result in a precise cut.  It was mindless yet mindful all at the same time and I realized how much I missed this kind of work. 

Challenge yourself to a greater expression of your creativity and to bring out your inner artisan in the coming year.  Not just for your life as an architect but for your whole creative person.  The art of craft is something not to be lost, even if we move seamlessly between digital and 3-D life to invent new processes. We are not virtual beings, but physical ones who do our best work when we don’t forget how to translate the ephemeral and conceptual back to the tactile. 

I wish all of you a happy and wonderful Christmas and a 2012 filled with possibilities.  Please leave a comment to share your aspirations for cultivating more creativity in your life in the upcoming year.