Ulla-Maaria Mutanen lives in Finland and is CEO of Social
Objects, Ltd., founder of Thinglink (
thinglink.org), and author
of the HobbyPrincess blog (
The Movement for Fun
Professor Kevin Henry called me one day
from the Art and Design Department at
Columbia College Chicago. “Do you think
we’re witnessing the rise of a new craft movement?”
he asked me curiously. Henry explained that he had
been interviewing crafters for a study he was conducting. “Almost none of the crafters I spoke with
considered themselves part of a larger movement,”
he complained. “Most of them just craft for fun!”
People who are just having fun do not a movement make? Let’s first turn around and look back
at a historical precedent — the Arts and Crafts
movement at the end of the 19th century. At a
time when industrialization and minimum-quality
mass production were booming, a group of artists
and designers, activist William Morris among them,
issued a call for the revival of the lost spirit of crafting
in design, for a return to simplicity, sincerity, good materials, and sound workmanship. Morris’ group Without making a big
never evolved into a social or political organization. Rather, it was a loose community of professional deal about boycotting
craftsmen who shared the same artistic ideals. Today the story’s different. First, there’s a whole big brands or saving the
universe of coexisting artistic styles and aesthetic
ideals. Second, today’s crafters are more often
hobbyists than professionals. They’re also driven
by various personal motives.
Take my sister-in-law Kukka, who studies history at university. She lives on a tight student budget, and consume.
perhaps because of that, crafts a lot of cool stuff. She
sews her own skirts and bags, builds clever Christmas Still, it’d be a mistake to shrug crafters off as
presents out of recycled materials, and paints beauti- clueless. Beneath their innocent appearance, they
ful greeting cards. She saves her pennies, and gets are planting the seeds of change. Without making a
more delight by crafting unique creations instead of big deal about boycotting big brands or saving the
buying expensive merchandise from the store. environment, crafting changes the way we consume.
My journalist friend Liisa is another example. She It exposes us to the ideals of William Morris: the
just loves making cool things and realizing her ideas. preference for creativity, sincerity, good materials, and
Once, she made pillows with a wonderful cat design sound workmanship over wasteful mass production.
that grew so popular she had to make a whole bunch But this time the movement isn’t limited to
for her buddies. Another time she crafted necklaces a group of professional craftsmen. Instead, it’s
and swapped them for lunches with co-workers. She spreading much further and broader than Morris
also organizes crafting get-togethers. One Saturday, could have imagined in his wildest dreams. ×
she had us sew outfits for going out that night. For
her, crafting is about having fun with friends.
Then there is Stefan, who runs a yoga retreat.
Following Mahatma Gandhi’s swadeshi philosophy
of local self-sufficiency, he rejects imported mass-produced items and always tries to find a way to
support local makers and entrepreneurs. He thinks
that by setting an example for others, he can help
make the world a better place. For Stefan, crafting
is an alternative lifestyle.
The one thing that these three have in common
is the celebration of individual creativity. And that’s
the whole point. The emerging craft movement is
not about outspoken leaders or violent controversy.
Instead, it’s about regular people following their
passions and connecting with their friends.
changes the way we