I caught a story on NPR's "All Things Considered" this evening on my way home from work that discussed the growing importance of preserving arts and crafts in our mass-market world for Generation XY.
The story was about 27-year-old Joe Genuardi, who is seen as a bit of an anomaly. Instead of the typical Gen XY career move toward computer design or an MBA, he's chosen to become a tailor's apprentice to a master of the art, 89-year-old Joseph Centofanti. As stated in the article:
Genuardi has spent the last year-and-a-half learning to make custom suits by hand. Instead of working off digital blueprints, he drafts the clothes for each customer on life-size pieces of cardstock.
"I'm proud to be at this point where I can make this from scratch," he says of a pair of pants he's making for his girlfriend. "I don't have to buy a pattern, I don't have to go to a store and buy something off the rack."
This may seem like one of those "white elephant" stories--but I saw it as an example of the younger generations of people who are increasingly drawn to all things handcrafted. The NPR story quotes Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, who says:
"There's a growing trend amongst young people who not only want to avoid creating things or consuming things on a mass-market level, they are engrossed in the concept of craft, especially something so intimately connected to the human body."
This is a very interesting notion and may puzzle a great many of us thoroughly entrenched in the modern world ("why would you want to make a suit, when you can buy one from Target for $50.00?")
To find a possible answer to this question, one only needs to look back to the beginning of last century. The Arts and Crafts Movement grew out of the reaction to the poor-quality, mass-produced (and often unethically made) goods of the Industrial Revolution. People like William Morris, Charles Voysey, Charles Robert Ashbee and Gustav Stickley advocated the pride of producing handcrafted useful and beautiful things, the honesty of materials and the search for authenticity in style. It was known as the Art that is Life. These ideas formed the movement that circled the globe, evolving into unique expressions in different countries and cultures--but remaining true to the principles at its core.
The beauty of this idea is that it inspires people from all walks of life, who care about the "human quality" of the objects they choose to surround themselves with. It drives people to find meaning in their work and lives-- to cut, and sew, and create for the sheer beauty and "human-ness" of it.
Check out the NPR story and give it a read (or listen). If you're intrigued a little more, then consider checking out some books at your local library about the Arts & Crafts Movement, you may find yourself joining the ranks of the "young craftspeople" yet!
Photo copyright Frank Langfitt, NPR