call your­self a home­maker?

The hand­made resur­gence has been linked to a re­newed in­ter­est in do­mes­tic­ity. But is craft’s pop­u­lar­ity re­ally all about em­brac­ing tra­di­tional roles?

Mollie Makes (US) - - LIVING GOOD READ - Words: jessica bate­man Il­lus­tra­tion: lucy atkin­son

Not long ago, the woman we were meant to em­u­late was Car­rie Bradshaw. Ca­reer-driven and in­de­pen­dent, she hap­pily shunned cook­books for cock­tail bars. But, as the SATC char­ac­ters set­tled down, it seems our as­pi­ra­tions changed with them. Now, the me­dia’s “per­fect” woman is more likely to be clad in a hand­made apron than Prada and bran­dish­ing a tray of cakes.

The craft resur­gence has come along­side the rise of the so-called “new do­mes­tic­ity,” with women ex­press­ing a re­newed in­ter­est in ev­ery­thing from pre­serv­ing to chicken rear­ing. But while some have praised this move­ment for chal­leng­ing the stigma of homemak­ing and adding value to tra­di­tion­ally “fem­i­nine” skills, oth­ers have warned of its re­gres­sive na­ture.We wanted to in­ves­ti­gate how much crafters view their hob­bies as linked to tra­di­tional roles and whether pick­ing up the knit­ting nee­dles re­ally means we’re all striv­ing to be­come do­mes­tic god­desses.

do­mes­tic bliss

Han­nah New­man Evans ( www.ma­mafrog­blog.blogspot.com) is a for­mer cater­ing en­tre­pre­neur who’s handed her business over to her hus­band to be­come a full-time mom. Craft and thrift are cen­tral to her daily life now that her fam­ily sur­vives on one salary – she makes her own toi­letries and clean­ing sup­plies as well as grow­ing veg­gies and sewing her son’s clothes. “I hon­estly find this way of life more ful­fill­ing,” she says. “I saw the com­pro­mises my fe­male bosses had to make to jug­gle work and fam­ily. Giv­ing both work and moth­er­hood full de­vo­tion is im­pos­si­ble.”

Grow­ing up with a stay-at-home mom was another fac­tor in Han­nah’s decision, a sen­ti­ment echoed by vin­tage blog­ger and for­mer makeup artist Susan Ear­lam ( www.old­fash­ioned­susie.com). “I had a fan­tas­tic child­hood and be­lieve it was down to my mom be­ing there for us,” she re­calls. “I want to cre­ate the same sit­u­a­tion for my own chil­dren.”

Susan en­joys sewing and is a pro­po­nent of tra­di­tional, old-fash­ioned val­ues. “But this doesn’t mean I want to live in a time when sex­ism was rife,” she elab­o­rates. “What I mean is per­haps a more sim­ple life – self-suf­fi­ciency, tak­ing care of my fam­ily, and them tak­ing care of me.”

embrace cre­ativ­ity

How­ever, not all crafters are so en­thu­si­as­tic about hand­made’s con­tin­ued links to the home. Kate Lampitt Adey ( www.kate­lampit­tadey.com), a tex­tile artist work­ing on a PhD the­sis about knit­ting, ar­gues that it re­stricts women’s cre­ativ­ity. “The term ‘craft’ is so en­trenched in hi­er­ar­chy... with fine arts at the top and do­mes­tic crafts at the bot­tom,” she ex­plains. “I’m con­cerned that the true value of be­ing cre­ative is over­looked by be­ing placed un­der the banner of do­mes­tic­ity. I think this rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women’s cre­ativ­ity as part of their role in so­ci­ety, rather than their in­di­vid­ual iden­ti­ties, is wor­ry­ing.”

Self-em­ployed mom-of-two Jo Gif­ford ( www.dex­ter­ous­diva.co.uk) is an en­thu­si­as­tic knit­ter and painter, but re­jects the idea of try­ing to be­come a do­mes­tic god­dess. “It’s a cre­ative out­let and my time to chill out,” she tells us. “I don’t put pres­sure on my­self for our home to be hand­made and spot­less, nor do I think up­cy­cling and cre­ativ­ity is just for women. My part­ner helps with chores, as we be­lieve it shouldn’t just be a woman’s role.”

Talk­ing to dif­fer­ent women, it’s clear that our rea­sons for craft­ing are var­ied and per­sonal – just like our rea­sons for work­ing or rais­ing a fam­ily. But one sen­ti­ment echoed by ev­ery­one is that pres­sure to con­form to stereo­types is un­help­ful – whether it’s the neg­a­tive re­ac­tions Han­nah says she en­coun­tered after giv­ing up work, or Jo’s re­jec­tion of the pres­sure to have a per­fect house.We can all en­joy and ben­e­fit from cre­ative pas­times and time spent with our fam­i­lies – and, of course, from our ca­reers, if that’s what we choose. Let’s give women (and men) the free­dom to spend their time as they wish. As Kate says: “Cre­ativ­ity in it­self is won­der­fully em­pow­er­ing... It’s re­lax­ing, it gives me con­fi­dence, and a sense of be­long­ing.”

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