Are ‘How to’ tutorials killing Craft?

Recently Beached Librarian asked ‘Are DIY posts bad for creativity ?‘ A sticky subject, especially since one might argue that the difference between following a pattern and creating something from scratch as you go, is the difference between having ‘a hobby’ and being ‘an artist’. There is a place for both approaches, after all where does the artist learn their skill if not by learning from instructions in the first place? An old adage in art says you need to know the rules before you can break them, but your mileage may vary.

Are DIY tutorials killing craft- geengeenie.com

As a craft entrepreneur what worried me most about the proliferation of DIY blog posts was their ability to devalue professional crafter’s work. Free patterns saturate the web, encouraging wider the public to deem hand-made goods by skilled creators as worth less financially by making crafts appear cheap, cheerful and easily done. Tutorials encourage people to think ‘I could do that myself’,  wonderful,  until the logical end of that thought is ‘I can make that myself -why would I pay a trained artist or crafts person for it?’ In truth, perhaps you could make it yourself, but without investing the time, skill and inclination you never will. And that’s what we are paying Designer Makers and Artists for, their time, their skill, their desire to make the pretty things so we don’t have to.

How to Shisha stitch- tutorial image by bridgeen gillespie

The idea among hobby crafters that patterns and designs are free and don’t belong to anyone is especially irksome. It’s true that craft techniques are universal, you can’t copy-write how to knit or sew. But imagine you have created something with your own little spin, it’s something you sell and hope to make a living from but others demand you share your recipe, your techniques, your pattern that you developed. These kinds ‘how to’s’, essentially strip designer makers of any special little quirks that make their art unique. Many creators resort to selling their souls in the form of instruction tutorials to supplement income after finding no-one wants to buy their hand crafted product, but ‘hobby crafters’ out there still want to know how you did it.

 

The only profiteers from this version of craft industry are the craft supplies manufacturers and the marketers like magazines and websites. Artists/Designers/Makers come away empty-handed. The art that they make takes more than materials and instructions, it takes time, skill and accumulated experience. These things are devalued when you give away your techniques for free.

3 HARES EMBROIDERY PATTERN

So in response to Anne’s original question, Are DIY blog posts bad for creativity? Maybe they are great for creativity because they give you a jumping off point and they tell you how to make something. I postulate that the real question is ‘Are free DIY posts bad for Craft professionals?’ Do they devalue the work of artists and crafts people, making it harder for them to make a living?

What do you think ? Are DIY tutorials a good thing or not? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below:

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5 comments

  1. This is such an important topic to address. Thank you for writing this! Having done tutorials myself, I feel like I ended up devaluing my own work. Maybe I even dug my own grave in the craft professional world? People don’t want to pay for something they can get for free or can try to make themselves. The rise of the DIY culture has in my opinion ruined the value of art and crafts. Sure, there are people who understand the value of handmade still and are more than happy to pay for it but I miss the times when it was something special to be an artist. The whole thing makes me feel sick to the point where I don’t even do crafts for fun anymore. Maybe I’ll rediscover my love for it in the future but it’ll most likely be a while. X

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  2. Yes, yes, yes. I may not be a professional crafter, but I’m so glad you’ve written this. I love that people are re-embracing the idea of making things on their own (and I find that most true DIYers have a better appreciation for crafted items), but I hate the way it’s made every one else think that crafting is just a wee hobby and they they are “owed” free things just becuase they bought one tiny “expensive” (read: priced appropriately) thing from the crafter.

    From the consumer perspective, I have struggled with the question of buying/making. I know that, in theory, I could make everything I wanted *IF* I invested the time and money into learning the skill. But, I don’t want to – I’d rather focus on the few things I love and buy a few treasures. So, I buy from the professionals and die a little bit every time I hear someone taking about “dollar store DIY” (tutorials for cheap and “easy” crafts).

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  3. For me, sharing knowledge and teaching skills in no way devalues the artist or her art.
    No one has the particular skill set, innate talent, way with words, eye for color and design, ear for timbre, or palate for flavor that another individual possesses.

    If what we are sharing is how-to-do-it, I’m fine with that. Plagiarism is another thing altogether, but unless I’m mistaken, that’s not what you’re concerned with here.

    Personally, I would encourage every human being to learn what they can, to share what they’ve learned with seekers, and to grow their unique creative talents and put them out into the world. There is never enough beauty, never enough art. I would encourage every individual to hone their craft and develop their unique expression of the world.

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  4. I wholeheartedly agree. I am not against DIY blogs, I have used some myself just as a learning tool, and I have nothing against embroidery patterns being used but for use as a hobby. I learn what I can, where I can but as an artist I create my own work from scratch and just incorporate techniques that I have picked up. I couldn’t teach what I do or sell DIY packs of my patterns as my work is different everytime (even though I may repeat a design the stitching is never the same). If someone tried to follow instructions put together by me they would probably end up throwing it across the room!

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  5. Good points… maybe both, supporting people who want to start getting more creative but need some help in the beginning but as well killing arts somehow by making it easier to copy (in same or less quality…) artists work / ideas… I like to share a DIY idea or two as well but some things that I sell (not as a profession – maybe one day?) I would never tell my secrets to…
    So maybe I think they are good as long as they try to inspire instead of simply copying?

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