Okay, I give. Everyone is a buzz about Craft Wars. People magazine, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, etc. I don't think any professional crafter is doing a better job of addressing her opinion that all crafters should watch this show, regardless of reservations they have, than the Impatient Beader Margot Potter (you can read her thought-provoking blog post "Why Craft Wars is Good for Crafts"). But I thought I would also take this occasion to chime in on some of the comments I've read on Facebook and Twitter and give you my, I-was-on-the-show-and-also-I'm-obsessed-with-reality-shows spin:
Craft Wars is Unrealistic: First, let's get some perspective. Let's talk about the two most amazing creativity-based reality shows of all time (in my opinion, naturally): Project Runway and Top Chef. These shows are no more reality-based than Craft Wars. You take people at the top(-ish) of their field and ask them to... what? Make a meal out of food found in a vending machine? Make a dress out of supplies found at a 99 cent store? Of COURSE that's ridiculous. But it's entertainment. And what is really crucial to me, the person at home who NEVER aspires to cook very well or, and of this I am very certain, sew a truly beautiful/wearable garment, is this: I am watching this show because it's endlessly fascinating to me to see creative people do what they do best- create. And create on the fly. You get a really great front row seat to seeing creative people pushed outside of their comfort zone so that you, the viewer, can get a teensie, tiny glimpse into the creative process of people who do this all day long. Do you want to wear the dress made out of sunshades and dog leashes? Probably not. Do you really want to eat the "soup" made from mashed up Cheetos and coffee creamer? Not so much. Were you entertained? Riveted.
I Could Do WAY Better: Isn't that fun of reality shows? We get to sit home and not really and truly grasp what it's like to have a multitude of cameras in our faces and producers yelling for us to look this way and that, explain what we're doing all the while working with strange materials using tools we've never seen prior to that instant AND be on a time crunch. A very, very REAL time crisis, I hastened to add (remember, my episode is coming up so in all fairness, I have to admit that this post is a little self-serving). So YES, you probably COULD do better. With one hand tied behind your back. Using your teeth. I get it. I watch all those Real Housewives shows and truly believe for whole minutes at a time that I would rise above the drama if I were friends with those ladies. While on camera. In forced situations. I believe it. I really do. Whole minutes at a time. And that's the fun of watching. I get to feel a little smug here and there. I am a better person. I could do WAY better. Go me.
Tori Spelling- She's Not a Crafter!: Oh my. So much about Tori Spelling's involvement with Craft Wars on the interwebs. Here's what I know of Tori Spelling. Back in the early 90's she drove a kick-ass car. One that I exclaimed over as I pulled up to a 4-way stop in Beverly Hills. EXACTLY at the same time my then-boyfriend squealed that it was being driven by Tori Spelling. This event (me enthusing over a car while my boyfriend exclaimed over a 90210 star) portended the inevitable demise of our relationship. Okay, this has nothing to do with crafting. All good taste in cars aside, Tori Spelling says she's a crafter. Who are we to say she isn't? I would die to be invited to one of her cute parties and she has little kids. Sounds like a likely crafter to me. Even if she is committing a cardinal sin and is LYING and secretly never, ever crafts a thing... well? She's the HOST of the show, not a contestant. And please don't get me started on the legions of staffers creating impossibly perfect crafts for Martha Stewart. And I like her too. I like people who think crafting is fun and worthy of a TV show. They're my people.
Crafting Isn't About Competition: Sadly, I have to admit a little known secret. It kinda is. If you're trying to get published in crafting magazines, you have to submit (i.e. "try-out") your work and there are a LOT of people vying for that little bit of real estate. You want to be an instructor at one of those fancy, arty events? Get your portfolio ready. Oh, but you don't do that? You just craft for fun? SMART! However, while I can't speak for all the other contestants on Craft Wars- for me to get on the show? I tried out. The producers at Craft Wars didn't "discover" me and think I was super awesome and beg me to be on the show until I finally relented. I sent photos of the best craft projects I've done. I jumped through hoops. I crossed my ink-stained, glue gun burned fingers. In short, I asked for it. I was probably just this side of begging for it. I kind of, sort of knew what I was getting into it. The (very small and meek) adrenaline junkie that lives within me wanted to go head-to-head with some other crafters and mostly just for the adventure of it. To say I had done something like this. It's all in good fun. I know my crafts aren't saving the world. I know that judging crafts is a very subjective thing. And I promise that, win or lose my episode, I will not take my crafting too seriously. Never have, never will. I just do this because it's fun.
The Judges Are Meanies: Hee hee. I love this one on Twitter. Yes, the 2 episodes we've seen, the judges were quite free with their opinions. But that's what they are. Opinions. I venture that each contestant on the show has seen a reality show before. We also knew that our moms weren't going to be judges. And what fun would that be? Then every show would end in a 3-way tie. Even my own kids at ages 9 and 11 beg me for "real" critiques now when they show me things they've created. Of course I think every single thing they make should be given it's own show at MOMA but I understand their dawning realization that critques, real ones, help you grow and, done skillfully (or in the collective understanding that you're on a reality show), don't kill your creativity.
And another point- this is not a personality-driven show. You get 1 hour to meet 6 crafters. That's not much time to get to know anyone, let alone feel any kind of personal investment in them. As a contestant, this is a huge relief for me. As a viewer, this gets dangerously close to boring. Who can we hate? Who can we love? Who can we get to know? The judges. They need to exhibit some big personality. Right?
They Should Teach Us How to Make Something on Craft Wars: Wrong tree, you cute little puppies. There are a gabillion and one tutorials online. Videos, pay-per-view classes, blog posts, manufacturer step-by-steps. You can learn all day long on line or in the crafts section of your local library. And here I'll just speak for myself- enough all ready. I would never, ever watch Project Runway if they were earnestly trying to show how to inset a zipper. And Top Chef would find itself quickly removed from my DVR lineup if I had to watch a step-by-step tutorial of how to make, well, anything. I want to just lie on my couch and be entertained, feel a little smug and maybe, if I'm lucky, feel a little inspired by watching people be creative. Even if it's not in a field that I'm really into.
That's it. That's my turn on the soapbox. I will say this one last thing: I think that if you want a really good show about crafting, Craft Wars is a great start. We've tried to gather as many past and future contestants from Craft Wars as we can uncover- join our live Twitter chat every Tuesday when that week's new show airs at 7 pm PST (hash tags #CraftWars #CraftWarsVets). I have a feeling that the networks are paying attention to what crafters are saying we want. This is a quick medium, this reality show TV world. Help shape it. Make it more of what you want it to be. Voice your opinions as a crafting enthusiast. Blog about it, Tweet about it. Go ahead and give constructive criticism with your bad self.
Oh. And I should admit, if you follow my GuiltyCrafter twitter feed, I go easy on the contestants. I know each of us kind of asked for it by being on a show but I am pretty certain that every Craft Wars Vet went on the show to do their very, very best. And besides, I am afraid their mamas might be reading my Twitter feed too. I know my fellow contestants are.