COVID19 Challenges The Canadian Year of Craft

The Canadian Craft Federation declared 2020 a Craft Year, a year-long celebration of contemporary fine craft that included exhibitions, workshops, festivals, studio tours; it was meant to be a ‘national festival promoting events from all across the country and an opportunity to create craft events and activities’ until the coronavirus spread amongst us and wreaked chaos and misery across the world. By March 2020, Canadian festivals and exhibitions were being suspended or cancelled, restrictions on movement were imposed and people started to self isolate.

The Covid 19 pandemic has impacted craftspeople in a variety of ways both positive and negative. For some, based in more populated centres, it has been increasingly difficult to gain access to their studios; whereas for others this has been a chance for an increased output of production with more time available to spend on their craft. In some instances there have been interruptions or breaks in the supply chain which has led to difficulties in gathering materials and tools to keep on creating. Furthermore, Covid has given some studio craftspeople the opportunity to look at other techniques and processes, become more inspired or refocus their skills. For those craftspeople who had been creating bodies of work for events and exhibitions the ensuing cancellation of such events has also led to objects remaining on the shelves in their studios. The impact is wide ranging.

Consumer behaviour patterns have also been altered during Covid because of economic uncertainty and how we shop has changed due to the amount of time people spend in isolation, online or with other restrictions. There has been a documented slowdown in consumerism even though people may still enjoy buying crafted objects. Craft has been gaining momentum across Canada over recent years and an online presence has expanded the market for craftspeople worldwide. As our lives become increasingly saturated by screen time people are looking to counteract our digitised way of life. Individuals have been looking for things to do from home while restrictions have been imposed and interestingly this has led to a rise in creativity. Instagram and hashtags have led to online movements such as #makeartwhileapart, #apartogether or #artistssupportpledge which are support chains for craftspeople and artists, alike.

As 2020 draws to a close, galleries and museums have re-emerged with stealth.Reinstating exhibitions is as crucial as ever to our understanding of what craft means to society, on subjects such as identity, relationships, place and popular culture. This has been an incredibly difficult year for craft but it has provided some positives that have enabled craftspeople to explore materials and continue with their production of truly fine-crafted objects whilst building some excitement for what 2021 has in store.