Art, Craft, Make, Hack, Whatever

Anyone who has spent much time reading Hackaday, or in the real world in or around a few hackspaces, will know that ours is a community of diverse interests. In the same place you will find a breathtaking range of skills and interests, people working with software, electronics, textiles, and all conceivable materials and media. And oftentimes in the same person: a bare-metal kernel guru might spend their time in a hackspace making tables from freight pallets rather than coding.

Through it all run a variety of threads, identities if you will, through which the differing flavours of our wider community define themselves. Words like “Hacker” and “Maker” you may identify with, but when I mention words like “Crafter” or “Artist”, perhaps they might meet with some resistance. After all, artists paint things, don’t they, and crafters? They make wooly hats and corn dollies!

It’s fair to say that Hackaday readers would likely be on the technical end of the spectrum of hackspace members. We cover a huge range of projects, but running through them are strong themes of electronics, software, workshop time, and cutting-edge techniques. This is a moving target, and we often find ourselves on the steep uphill part of a Gartner-style hype cycle of cool projects. For instance while anything to do with 3D printing would have been a story on its own a decade ago now it’s merely another way parts are produced. You know what you like, and though some of you are sometimes a little hasty to declare that some projects are Not Hacks, we’re probably in broad agreement as to the kind of topics and projects that grab our attention.

But boundaries can be blurry. Take crafting, for instance. You won’t see any corn dollies on Hackaday, but if you were to walk past the corn dolly stand at a summer craft fair you might well stop and be fascinated by the blacksmith’s forge, or the chair bodger‘s treadle lathe next door. They’re both traditional crafts, or at least they are where this is being written, so are we being too hasty on the subject? Getting a little more controversial, textile work is most definitely a craft, but tell me that it is not also engineering when you have watched someone take some fabric, a two-dimensional medium, and fashion it by eye into a three-dimensional garment that is not only functional, but looks good. Not forgetting of course, that our textilist has also done all this effectively with the garment inside out. As a member of a hackspace with a thriving textile space it is an obvious eye-opener when I explain this to a life-long textilist, and see her understand that the rest of the space’s tools, the 3D printers and the laser cutter, are all there for her, too.

It’s easy to see why there is a disdain for activities slightly out of the line of high technology for our community. But that’s too bad. After all, when something has been built with an impressive level of skill, it’s that skill that I’m interested in, not which microcontroller board is inside. Looking into crafts is not the start of a slippery slope that leads inevitably to glue and glitter, and sometimes encountering a few things outside your normal field can help enhance your creativity.

Because in our world, if you aren’t creating, what are you doing?

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Rants

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