I was recently watching “Craft in America“, PBS’s excellent series covering the major influences that play a part in each artist’s craft. The particularly episode I watched was episode V – Process, that looked at how an artist achieves the skill to become proficient. It profiled several artists about how they have learned their techniques. Artist Tom Joyce, was talking about how he has learned technique from a very old blacksmith. They showed them together, this very old man sitting in a chair with a blanket around his knees, and Joyce, the younger artist showing him the piece that he had worked on. The old man was very slow and careful inspecting this patterned grate but approved of the piece and said that Tom had done good work. Afterward, Joyce was talking about the fact that if these old craftsmen weren’t still around, most of the techniques would be lost as there would be nobody to pass on the information about how to create specific effects.
In episode 1 – Memory – the show discusses how craft artists carry on historical traditions in the creation of their own unique work.
“Unlike fine artists, who perhaps capture a moment in time, and are more concerned with an artistic style and technique, craft artists, through their objects, go beyond telling where we were, making a statement of who we are. Their objects will create memories for us, because the artists give selflessly of their memories in creating the objects.”
On their website I found this great article from the series on memory fragments and how we collect things, memorabilia, that are personal and evoke specific feelings or memories of people or events from our past. Boxes of old letters, ticket stubs, sports medals, and other items that are either on display as a collection or tucked away, safe somewhere where we can pull them out and reminisce. Sometimes we collect other people’s memories because it evokes a connection to the past in us that we can relate to. Materials for craft projects are often taken from found bits that are personal and evoke specific feelings or memories. I have a quilt I made for my son that has fabric from the lining of his baby sling worked into the pattern. I also collect old photographs because I am curious about who these people are and what happened that their family memories ended up in a flea market.
What is particularly interesting to me are these points and how they relate to what I do as video biographer. I think people tend to collapse what we do with videography, which according to Wikipedia “refers to the process of capturing moving images on electronic media.” While there are definitely skills associated with videography that distinguish a good videographer from one of less skill, we have always bristled a bit when people introduce us as videographers or ‘people who make videos.” Using classic filmmaking techniques and the latest digital tools, we weave together our clients’ ‘memory fragments’ such as vintage photos, memorabilia, old footage, and audio tracks with interviews, voice-over narrations, music, animations, and titles to craft a wonderful tapestry of images and sounds that share memories, impart wisdom, and mark history. These create works of art that inform, entertain and inspire – today and for many years to come.
I love the process of being able to take these fragments that our clients have, things that they know are important but don’t really know what to do with, and transform them into a story of who they are and where they came from. Like the old blacksmith passing on the techniques to younger metal smiths, if we don’t take what we know about the past and pass that on to the future, these ‘fragments’ will just occur to our ancestors as found bits without story and context.
I certainly hope they don’t end up sitting in a flea marketing where someone else may find them and wonder.