Craft fairs – an attempt at beauty

During a short stay in North Norfolk recently, I suffered an attack of craft fairs. I tried everything, but they wouldn’t go away.

Funny things, craft fairs. A craft fair is really a crowd of mainly nice people with certain skills, often in a village hall, trying to persuade you to buy stuff you don’t really need, but which looks quite nice.

For this to work, you need people to have a reasonable amount of spare cash, because for them it’s a bit like giving money to charity.

But wait, I hear you say, isn’t there really a high degree of skill involved, which ought to be rewarded?

You could look at it like that. Unfortunately, however, our society is not set up to reward skill, except in certain areas, like surgery. This is why to be an artist or a craftist in 21st century Britain is unlikely to make you rich, unless you are also skilful at PR or intimidation, or are just very lucky.

There are too many people who are good at producing works of art, be they intricate bracelets or extraordinary etchings. Such work can take a lot of time, and if the creator charged his or her time at the same sort of rate as a lawyer, for example, no-one would ever sell anything.

So what are craft fairs for? They are similar to art exhibitions, in that they put work on show. And if people are persuaded to buy, maybe it’s possible to eke out a living, or supplement a pension. But the first reason for creating is the creation itself, not what happens later.

So the craft fair is a kind of indulgence. Rather like children asking their mother and father to come and see what they’ve done. And the mother and father will hand out a reward. Not a big reward: a small one. By way of encouragement.

That is why we are afflicted by craft fairs. So should we forget them and get on with the serious business of life?

I think this would be our loss. We are all in our way creators, and if we are not allowed to demonstrate this, it deprives us of part of our humanity – and it deprives everyone else of an opportunity to step outside of the daily routine and enjoy a bit of beauty. Or at least an attempt at it.

That’s my theory, anyway. Craft fairs are an attempt at beauty. And if we don’t make an attempt at beauty – inside or outside of craft fairs – what are we living for?