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The division between arts and crafts happened through many different systematic ways, but one of them shapes how we perceive and value both: authorship.

In 2019, MASP (São Paulo Museum of Art) had a show called Feminist Stories / Radical Women about forgotten or undervalued women in art. Part of the exhibition had embroideries, tapestries, and other handcrafts named under “Unknown Artists.”

Authorship and naming art was a way of dividing the artist and the artisan. While a Rothko or a Picasso can be worth a whole country’s GDP, an artisan's ceramic — or even that sock that took you one hour to Italian bind off — can’t be sold for all the time it took to be made.

When teaching people how to price their makings, coaches and entrepreneurs often tell crafters to charge by the hour or to know how much their hour is worth. That’s a funny thing to teach since value is a perception, as stated by Mariana Mazzucato in her book The Value of Everything.

If we go into fashion — a category that most of our knits and crochets fall into — that is even worse since not only does the whole fashion industry undervalue most of its workers, but also copying is quite encouraged. A 2010 TED talk from Johanna Blakley talks about “fashion's free culture” and how music could learn from it.

For centuries, textile crafts have been seen as undervalued, as they're related to old people and women, and also seen as poor. We used to buy knit and crochet magazines without ever knowing who designed those patterns. The knowledge was passed from generation to generation, away from university and academy.

But not all of it is as bad: the last decade has brought a new approach, especially from graphic designs and handcrafts: authorship and naming designs and techniques, being backed up by Instagram followers to prove the authenticity of their creations.

Kate Jones is a knitwear and crochet designer from the UK who had her designs stolen by a fast fashion brand from Brazil. Law was not by her side to prove she was copied, but her Instagram followers were: she decided to bring the subject up on the internet and had an army of followers making a case over the brand. In 2023, three designers sued Shein for “exact copies” of their work.

I watch Ravelry and Instagram playing huge parts in this change: naming the author of each design, using a hashtag for broader reach, celebrating techniques and color schemes, and also being defended by the audience is putting crafts ahead of fashion in authorship, Creative Commons, and legal rights.

When designers write a pattern, they can already set their own rules: if one makes it for sale, what are the boundaries? Is it ok for a small brand to sell it? How can it be displayed? It’s up to the designer to write the limits of using that design in a pattern.

I go back to one of Nara’s latest articles about pricing and how unbalanced it might sometimes feel to charge for a pattern. As a designer, I believe we are heading to find the best path for making it right for valuing crafts correctly, even if it feels imperfect or unfair at times.


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