In April 2013 the United Kingdom’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced plans to remove ‘craft’ from the list of recognized creative industries, initially claiming that craft occupations have more to do with technical skill than creativity. Concerns were immediately raised within the craft sector that such changes would cause a shift in the symbolic meaning of craft that would in turn devalue the industry and render its workers invisible. Yet precisely at the moment in which visibility was thought to be at risk, the craft sector was experiencing global hypervisibility within mainstream and online media spaces. This article examines the precise nature of this media visibility at a time of political uncertainty and contends that an investigation into the symbolic meaning of craft cannot overlook the importance of representational culture. Consequently, media studies offers a unique lens through which to examine the politics of craft and contribute meaningful responses to the following questions: how is the meaning of craft articulated in the symbolic environment at a time of political contestation? What is the role of gender in the mediated representation of craftwork? These questions inform the analysis of a specific example of representational culture: Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas (2013). This one-off episode documents Allsopp’s attempts to source handmade gifts and decorations from UK craft workers and enables the concerns above to be raised within a very specific context: the Christmas festival. Both craft and festive rituals blur boundaries between work/leisure and public/private in similar ways, which in the case of craft becomes problematic for policy-makers. In the case of Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas, this blurring of boundaries promotes problematic (gendered) hierarchies that position the work of micro-entrepreneurs as necessary, domestic unpaid labour and in so doing, privatize and deskill women’s home-based creative work.
- Representational Culture
- Kirstie Allsopp