Posted by on Jun 18, 2013 in Making | 0 comments

Blog website owners make a ton of decisions when carving out their little corner of the web. Not the least of these decisions concerns the categories to cover. You want clear differentiation, even if you’re covering a narrow niche. If you define your niche broadly, that should be easy. So why include categories for both “crafting” and “making”?

Broadly, you could say they’re the same: you start with some kind of raw materials, and end up with a finished object. But looked at from a sort of historical or “look-and-feel” perspective, they aren’t. While people have been crafting and making things forever, when I think of “crafting” I think of sweaters and dolls and quilts and such made by loving hands at home, often with a distinctly 1950s to 1970s feel, because that’s the sensibility in which I learned my first craft. (It was crocheting, back in 1974, if anyone cares).

“Making,” on the other hand, is a word coined by the “makers’ movement,” started and energized by the first MakerFaire, put on in 2006 in California and sponsored by O’Reilly Publishing, the same people who put out the computer books with animals on the cover and MAKE magazine. Yet it, too, has much older roots. Think back to magazines such as Popular Mechanics, or Bill Hewlett and David Packard building a computer (and a company) in a garage, or even the Wright brothers creating the first airplane. While Mom might be sewing some clothes in her attic craft room, Dad might be putting together a TV in his garage workshop. (Yes, there was a time you could buy kits to build TVs; look it up!).

On the other hand, when that garage workshop focused on wood, and turned out glorious little boxes or tables or elegant pieces of furniture, we might remark without irony on the marvelous CRAFTsmanship. And at MakerFaires everywhere, you’re likely to seek people who consider themselves artists, crafters, and makers all under one roof (and sometimes they’re all the same person!). So what’s the difference?

We can’t draw the line at traditionally “male” and “female” crafts (there’s that word again!). With the Lilypad Arduino, we see the advent of soft circuits. Stitching together a cute coffee sleeve with a penguin on it may seem to be crafting – but what if you add LED eyes to that penguin with heat sensors that cause them to glow red when the coffee is too hot to drink, and green when it’s safe to drink? Is that crafting, making, or both? And more importantly, for a blogger: under what category would you write about it?

For me, the crafting vs. making line is something of a work in progress. Is putting together a model crafting or making? How about painting a water pistol so it looks more steampunk? What about putting together steampunk-style goggles from scratch, using improvised pieces? I’d like to say that I’ll know the difference when I see it – but I’m not convinced it’s quite that obvious. Even so, I believe there’s enough of a difference that each of these deserves its own category. What do you think? Is there a line between crafting and making, and if so, where would you draw it?