11.40 Heritagization Processes of Craft and Sloyd
The paper will deal with questions concerning heritagization processes in the field of craft and sloyd in a Swedish context, and how hierarchal structures concerning textile techniques were established at the end of the nineteenth century. How and why some techniques were selected and others not, to be part of a cultural heritage will be discussed using the technique of crocheting as a point of departure. Aesthetic considerations that were made, and common concepts that still are used when talking about craft and sloyd, such as tradition, authenticity, and identity, will be discussed in connection to the actual making, to materials and tools used, human skill, the products, and the women that were practicing the technique.
In Sweden the Home Craft Movement was the main actor in the heritagization process of craft and sloyd, in collaboration with museums, ethnologists, and art historians. This forms an example of how heritage discourse making and safeguarding practices are intertwined, and how theories within the fields of art history and ethnology have been used in the process. Some ideas were important: first that craft skills were common among people in the past, and constituted a collective rather than an individual knowledge; second that every geographical place once had had its craft specialty; and third that since the beginning of industrialization, the quality and the aesthetical standard of the products had declined. The Home Craft Movement created a material conception of heritage, by ordering and selling selected craft and sloyd commodities in a network of shops. These shops served as arenas for accepted techniques, materials, designs and executions, with a thorough control of what should be on display. The movement also arranged courses and published books and patterns, distributing narratives of the selected techniques and their history.
In this paper crocheting will be analyzed as a technique that was excluded from the canon of craft and sloyd techniques in need for safeguarding. At the end of the nineteenth century, crocheting was the focus for a debate concerning work moral, home decoration, and aesthetic values. Crocheting was considered as being too modern and connected to the contemporary needlecraft culture and the international industrialization process, rather than to a long national history—something preferred in the heritage-making process. From an aesthetic point of view items that were crocheted were considered tasteless and non-authentic. The debate of crocheting can be compared to an on-going discussion on the home decoration style called “shabby chic.” The style is popular, but by some considered non-authentic, especially when it comes to the DIY-techniques used to create an image of aging on the home decoration objects. It seems as if the same arguments that were used a hundred years ago about crocheting, are used when valuing and debating what is considered to be approved craft and sloyd of high quality.
Using crocheting as an example makes it possible to understand how different assumptions were formed in the heritagization process of craft and sloyd in Sweden. In this paper it will be argued that these assumptions are affecting contemporary safeguarding practices and choices made in the cultural heritage field today. Another argument will be that studying craft and sloyd, which has been excluded from safeguarding practices and policies, makes it possible to reveal and identify actors involved, and political, economical, and cultural power relations affecting the outcome. The narratives connected to accepted craft and sloyd techniques imply ideas on who the makers were, how things were made, in which materials, with what kind of tools, which aesthetic values they reflect, and in which context the craft and sloyd was produced.