I haven’t talked much lately about what I’ve been doing in school (besides the emotional turmoil of midterms), which is a pity because in Design History it’s starting to move into the territory that I find fascinating! Specifically, we’re beginning to cover the Arts and Crafts, and Art Nouveau movements, which sadly are only briefly covered in the book–I think I could devote a whole semester to studying it. I just love the marriage of influences (Eastern and Western), the creative and artistic energy and exchange of ideas that one perceives, and the beautiful legacy of this era in design history.
Going over the assigned reading, it struck me how closely both movement mirrors the current revival of interest in the creative pursuits that is going on right now. Aesthetics, and returning to a sense of the wonderment art can produce, and creative exploration seems so prevalent right now. Perhaps it is just me, but I can’t help but think there is a bigger movement going on that is touching so many areas. I suppose the best label to slap on it is “DIY culture”. It has influenced so many areas of the arts and created a sort of frenzy among artists of various types to reach out and express their own vision of the world (whether real or perceived).
Yet as I was reading my textbook, this paragraph caught my eye and resonated: “…art historian Herbert Read once suggested that the life of any art movement is like that of a flower. A budding in the hands of a small number of innovators is followed by full bloom; then the process of decay begins as the influence becomes diffused and distorted in the hands of imitators who understand merely the stylistic manifestations of the movement rather than the driving passions that forged it.” I can’t help but feel that we’re beginning to see the diffusion of the DIY Movement into commercialism and the greater, societal “aesthetic”. Take for instance the oft-cited Urban Outfitters, a company that peddles a wide variety of “faux handmade” items in an effort to bring the look of DIY to consumers who may not fully embrace (or understand) the concept. In a way, is Urban Outfitters (and like, mass retailers), not cheapening and causing the “decay” of the original movement in its effort to cash in?
There is no doubt that the “handmade look” resonates with quite a few people; I think in many ways the DIY culture is a reaction to the overly sleek and impersonal manufactured goods that are available to the wider market. Its a return to the feeling of “soul” in a piece because someone, not a machine, put thought into the design and process of creating those goods. I know I personally am drawn to making things myself, or purchasing them from other artisans, because it gives a feeling of integrity to the piece; that it wasn’t just slapped together thoughtlessly, nor am I just following some whim or trend without thought.
But where does the line between “bloom” and “decay” become crossed? The popularization in the social consciousness of the DIY movement has in a way, I believe, created a movement away from thoughtful creation and effort to protest against impersonal consumerism, to a more frenzied appeal to “standing out” and looking “handmade” at any cost. While I applaud anyone who does take an interest in engaging in DIY (after all, I do encourage everyone to find their creative outlet!), when mass marketers and manufacturers begin to mimic the essential “look” of handmade, have we lost the edge and have begun to witness the beginning of the end?
What are your thoughts?
To reward you all for having read through this rather tedious, muddled post (thank you if you stuck with me the entire way! hehe!), here is the Vintage Monday feature for today!! Hurrah for pretty things!
Another, pretty 1840s print! Although this one is just black and white (I think I’ve posted most of the hand-colored ones), I love the details and lines of the gowns.
I hope you have a lovely Monday, all!!!
[ Julia Kuo’s pretty little illustrations. I love how light and storybookish they are; go take a look!