"Let’s MAKE: A Comparison of the "Maker" and the "Craftsman"
"Let’s MAKE: A Comparison of the "Maker" and the "Craftsman" (American Craft Council - Baltimore, MD 2020)
This year Brian Seymore Supply Group now Suryah Studio was selected to curate the “Let’s MAKE:” exhibit with the Made in Baltimore program at the American Craft Council showcase in Baltimore, MD on February 21st through February 23rd, 2020.
Made In Baltimore is a local brand certification program that supports developing makers and manufacturers in Baltimore City through branding, business development, equitable space advocacy, advertising and direct to consumer sales made through their brick and mortar space located in Baltimore’s Station North Arts District. The goal of the exhibit was to showcase a unique and compelling narrative of the contemporary makers in Baltimore to the long-standing audience of the American Craft Council.
The American Craft Council is an institution started by Aileen Osborn Webb more than 75 years ago in New York City. In those 75 years, this non-profit has been at the forefront of the preservation, cultivation, and celebration of the socio-economic impact and communal heritage of crafts. Webb recognized the place of crafts as a pillar across the global community and its essential part in the development and progression of cultural language and methods of spreading that language. The influence of the exhibit created with Made in Baltimore was one that has never been witnessed by the typical audience of these showcases. This exhibit was structured to introduce a new narrative on the identity and community of “crafts” and “craft makers” through the work of small-batch manufacturers and creative entrepreneurship that are at the forefront of the industry’s latest trends and social innovations. Through the research process for curating this exhibit, the goal wasn’t to disrupt the traditional demographic of the ACC’s audience but to provide a new perspective that would create equitable space for those “crafts” and “craftsmen” traditionally excluded from the industry standard. It is a nice tagline, but what does it actually mean?
The "Let's MAKE:" space was meant to encompass the reality of having real things, made by real people. Establishing equitable space in the context of the Made In Baltimore exhibit meant providing a marketplace that presented these vendors on a nonhierarchical structure that didn’t place one above the other because of factors, like socioeconomic status. The contributors were selected based on a variety of other factors; from intended social impact, realistic sustainability of the product, method/theory of product development and innovations made through branding, product development and/or sales strategy. Accessibility was also provided in the form of an inclusive pricing structure. The original maximum retail price cap was $200.00 — however, the final inventory had the most expensive product at only $140.00, while the most inexpensive was just $4.00.
In curating this exhibit, the most important idea that we wanted to communicate was the inclusion of not-so-new ideas that were previously excluded from past American Craft Council showcases. This exhibit included casual apparel, live plants, apothecary, dry tea blends, stationery products, and more from our "makers" that don’t fit the traditional scope of what has been considered a “craft” to the American Craft Council. However, these were an essential piece in the revitalization of what is currently considered the “standard” in that industry. These products, however, showcase just as much skill, time, effort and attention to detail that more traditional ideas of "crafts" and "craftsman" do. The only difference between modern “makers” and traditional “craftsmen” is just in the outlook of generational colloquialisms and the choice of how individuals would define themselves. The innovations and processes of craftsmanship have always been at the forefront of this industry; the language, however, is only now changing. But, in reality, they have always been and will always be one and the same.