Today we took Shu to the Philly Craft Show. I don’t think we’ll make that mistake again.
She kept making snarky comments about the price tags. I protested that we weren’t here to buy stuff, or judge the people who make the stuff, or to judge the people who buy the stuff the people make; but to look at what’s here to be looked at. In a burst of inspiration, I said, “You don’t go the art museum and obsess over the price tags. So don’t do that here.” She said some crap about how the stuff in art museums is amazing, so she can believe that they warrant the ridiculous price tags.
I disagree, because I would be hard-pressed to walk away from three hours spent wandering an art museum with any increase in my sense of wonder at the ingenuity of human beings. Art museums are frelling boring. The craft show is better than an art museum because:
a) You’re allowed to touch. You can touch the ceramics, try on the scarves, and tap these things with a finger nail because you’re not quite sure whether they’re made of glass or some sort of polymer resin.
b) If you still can’t tell what they’re made of, you can ask the dude who made them. Go on. He’s standing right there. Strike up a conversation. How else will you find out that this jewelry is made out of ancient bits of lace coated with metal?
c) And I swear, there’s always something interesting to learn or see. I saw a booth of brightly-colored jewelry, and was about to skip it (because I find jewelry to be pretty boring), when a guy nearby asked me if I knew what it was made of. I said no, and went in for a closer look. Frelling Barbie Doll shoes, that’s what.
Yes, I know that the prices are astounding. And that, fairly often, the artists sound wincingly pretentious. And that many of these items do not serve a functional purpose, or if they did they wouldn’t serve it very well. But if any of those things are occupying your mind while you gaze at the hauntingly beautiful scenes created in these fused glass pictures, then allow me to humbly suggest that you’re doing it very, very wrong. I go to the craft show because there is beauty and wonder (yes, that’s paper cutting) to be found. I’m not here to debate the meaning of art, because I think it’s all kind of a scam, anyway. But there are people at that show who do unusual things with unexpected materials, or unconventional things with everyday materials. Some have, apparently, devoted their lives to making the sort of kinetic sculpture which brings on a gigantic wave of nostalgia for when I visited the Franklin Institute as a kid. Others have spent their time creating items of clothing which I can only think of as “thneeds“, but without the undercurrent of pointless environmental destruction. There’s the sewing basket with a magnet hidden in the cover so that your little scissors don’t run away. There’s the jewelry made out of pennies. There’s the lighting fixtures made out of hand-made paper and nylon ribbing. There’s the triptychs with intricate paintings which are mere centimeters across.
In short, it was way cool.