Wormspit is a great site about silk and silkworms. It really allows for you to see the entire journey, from the bugs through to the brocade. In between, the cocoons have to be reeled or spun to get the product of the silkworm into a form that can be used for fabric. It’s fascinating to think about how much processing there is from bug cocoon to silken scarf, and that this is true of every human product. Some objects are closer to nature, so that the process doesn’t seem that complex – you chop the tree down and cut it up and then you shape it into furniture. This can be very intricate and delicate and beautiful, but somehow it’s less surprising and mysterious than something like weaving silk, it seems to me. Which makes me think again about sexism being the culprit in seeing carpentry as more reputable or respectable craft than the fabric arts…

I wonder if the attitude toward knitting in general will change if men really do become more common practitioners of the craft …again, according to this site, at least. Who knows what the “real” history is, but what intrigues me is whether a hobby will be considered more legitimate, productive, skilled, and/or interesting at times when it coincides with being popular among males.

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3 Responses to “artifice”

  1. rushmc Says:

    Sexism? Perhaps, but seems like a bit of a stretch to me. It seems more likely that most difference in the way carpentry and knitting are viewed can be accounted for by the long-term utility of their products. Most textiles, while of high utility (and, often, beauty) have a short lifespan, whereas furniture and buildings last a lot longer on average. A simple utilitarian calculation would suggest that something which is of value to the user longer is worth more, and that therefore the ability to make it should be valued higher.

    I don’t see how this relates to the gender of the producer at all, particularly given that in some societies men are highly involved in weaving, etc. I would also argue that technology has trivialized textile production to a greater extent than skilled carpentry, and that that, too, influences how they are variously perceived.

  2. drinkme Says:

    That’s an interesting point, although if that aspect were completely transferable, then high-tech gadgetry would be the least valued of all… 🙂

    I dunno, it seems as if we have a very complex relationship to the utility of the things we value. Food has a very short term utility, for instance, and at times we see cooks as very low level technicians. But in a leisurely culture at the right time with the right PR and suddenly The Chef is transformed into a most respectable artist indeed. Food is short term but highly necessary I suppose. But clothing is very high on the necessities list too, at least in climates further north and cultures further settled..

    i don’t have time to think about this sufficiently right now, so am just going to throw these random thoughts up for the moment, and maybe return to this at another time. thanks for the input, though, and i’ll try to come back to this when ideas have percolated some.

  3. rushmc Says:

    >>then high-tech gadgetry would be the least valued of all…

    Heh. Actually, I think the manufacture of high-tech gadgetry is seen by most as “magic,” since it is the end result of a long, complicated process and not a product made by any single pair of hands. Therefore, although a new cellphone may only “last” someone six months before they decide it is obsolete and needs replacing with a newer model, they continue to rate it high on their value list because they are not rating “Cellphone Model 722” but the idea of cellphoneness in their lives (a pseudo-Platonic Ideal?), which can be filled by a series of actual devices that continue to provide the designated service. (Why is this substantially different from a series of kitchen tables? I don’t know. Technology objects somehow just seem more generic and interchangeable.)

    As for food–while it does have a short term utility, it also provides a good illustration that humans are motivated by more than just utility. Somewhere between taking a pill for all our nutritional needs and eating a gourmet meal lies the added value that we acknowledge and seek out in the world. And yet there are limits: very few people will pay $700 for a hamburger–or $7000 for a suit. (Although the prices people will pay for art sort of argue against this point…)

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