I recently received an email about a new magazine called The Simple Things. It's from the publishers of Mollie Makes and as an ex-subscriber of MM (read why here), they thought I might be interested. I'm sure some of you have also received the same email. Here's the main part of it:
"As a previous subscriber to Mollie Makes we wanted you to be the first to know about the launch of The Simple Things - a new monthly magazine celebrating the things that matter most. On sale 6th September, The Simple Things features a gorgeous blend of interiors, gardening, cookery, lifestyle and crafts. [Fine, that sounds quite nice]
The Simple Things is all about slowing down and taking time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life - a walk in the country, making a warm inviting home, sharing food with loved ones, gardening, traditions worth reviving and memories worth cherishing. [Hmmm, OK]
The Simple Things is about knowing that there's no satisfaction like that at the end of a long muddy walk, [Uh oh...] no pink so pretty as freshly-cut rhubarb, [Oh no...] no perfume to compare with your own home-grown flowers. It's keeping your dad's old typewriter just because it's beautiful [Oh no. No no no no no]. It's an empty beach on a Sunday morning. It's backpedalling. It's the Simple Things." [........]
I found it difficult to make it to the end of those paragraphs without a physical, toe-curling reaction. Who on earth did they get to write that? It's a hideous piece of prose, truly. It is also symptomatic of the increasing commoditisation of craft and handmade goods and the development of magazines that cater to a so-called 'crafty lifestyle' - as also seen with Mollie Makes.
The "crafty lifestyle" that is so often espoused seems to be centred around a Kirstie Allsopp-style vision of a middle class lifestyle in the English countryside, sprinkled with Cath Kidston brand goods and knitted cakes. Where the people involved have all the time in the world to gild a pear (Kirstie again), enough room in their house to display a lot of useless stuff and enough money to spend a small fortune on craft supplies for all the 700 crafts they want to try before coming 'Top of the Show' in the village show with them all (yes, Kirstie yet again).
I am most decidedly middle class and I DO like a bit of Cath Kidston in moderation, but I find the idea of this whole crafty lifestyle depressing. Moreover, I hate the fact that the various reasons people often have for making things, such as to be sustainable, be individual or save money, are packaged into this hideous idea of a 'crafty lifestyle' and fed back to us through magazines. With Mollie Makes, I found the tone could verge on patronising with poorly written generalisations about what 'we' (all of us crafty lifestylers) liked to make or do.
And yes, I know that feeding on women's insecurities is what fashion magazines have been doing for years - but history shows that they do make you feel bad about yourself. So how might you expect to feel after reading these crafty lifestyle magazines? A bit crap that you don't make enough things? A bit like your lifestyle isn't good enough if you don't have time to gaze intently at a stick of rhubarb or don't have the space to display a useless typewriter?
What I am getting it is that there isn't just one generic 'crafty lifestyle'. It's not all about making cutesy twee things or crafting biscuits out of felt (looking at you, Mollie Makes) There are so many ways to find your creative niche and enjoy making things for yourself and others. People make things for so many reasons and we should celebrating that and encouraging that, instead of presenting just one generic lifestyle that is only relevant to about 5 people in the UK. And I bet they're all insufferably smug bastards.
And as for The Simple Things? You can read some sample pages here. I had a look and you know, it's not as heinous as that introductory prose makes out - they've done themselves a real disservice with that. I think the concept might get a bit grating/preachy after a couple of issues but I am tempted to throw in my £5 for 3 issues and see how it pans out.
I don't need to convince any of you that making things for yourself is great. It can be enjoyable and empowering, a way to feel good about yourself and a means to connect with others. If this magazine encourages more people to think about how they can introduce handmade concepts into their life than that is fantastic. Let's wait and see. In the meantime if you want to read diverse and intelligently written articles about textiles, I can highly recommend Selvedge magazine.