Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

the smallness of craft

“Rereading and Revising: Acknowledging the smallness (sometimes) of craft” BY JESSICA HEMMINGS

Attention to the power of craft has come to dominate craftivism discourse. This article is interested in disrupting some of the claims of craftivism with a reminder that craft can remain powerless compared to the scale of the social problems that surround it. My interest in smallness is driven by a desire to make reasonable claims on behalf of craft’s power in an era when modest impact feels like an unwelcome truth in academic research. Craft research is perhaps ill positioned to expose itself as small. To see past this blind spot, I look to examples of craft practice described in novels and short stories from Chile, India and Zimbabwe: Isabelle Allende’s The House of Spirits (1985), Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance (1996), Yvonne Vera’s short story collection Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals (1992), Tsitsi Dangarembga’s The Book of Not (2006) and Brian Chikwava’s Harare North (2009). I propose that craft, in the contexts discussed here, accrues meaning through its limitations. This close reading has required me to revise the importance that I had placed, particularly on textiles in Zimbabwean fiction, in the past and instead recognize that what craft is unable to repair and recover are also components of its identity. As craft scholarship as a discipline expands, I find it increasingly important – amidst the many sincere efforts to proclaim what craft can do – to also voice what it is unable to change as a legitimate component of craft’s identity.

published in the Journal of Craft Research Volume 9 Number 2
English language. doi: 10.1386/crre.9.2.273_1
home page image: book cover of the novel Harare North by Brian Chikwava