Craft has seen a surge during the pandemic, but turning to art amid turmoil is not new

August 2020 — Arts and crafts have seen a surge in popularity this year as the pandemic has forced many to spend more time at home.

Book cover of The Politics of Vietnamese Craft by Jennifer WayFor some, the hands-on activities are a way to pass the time in isolation or a form of self-care to practice mindfulness. Others have used their creative talents to sew masks and make personal protective equipment for workers on the frontlines or spread messages of goodwill and hope in their communities.

Turning to craft in a time of turmoil is not unprecedented, according to art historian Jennifer Way, professor of art history. People have used craft as a means for therapy and wellness, cultural heritage and political activism in periods of conflict throughout history.

Way researches the social meanings and uses people make of art, including visual art, craft, design, material culture and exhibitions in the 20th and 21st centuries. She’s especially been interested in the influence craft has in wartime.

In her 2019 book, “The Politics of Vietnamese Craft: American Diplomacy and Domestication,” she explores the political significance of craft, design and visual culture for American diplomacy with Vietnam during the mid-20th century. Her forthcoming book will look at why and how Americans have made craft for therapeutic purposes during World War I, World War II, the Global War on Terror and COVID-19 pandemic, which many consider a type of war.

Way discusses her study of craft throughout different time periods and what trends we are seeing in the current pandemic and social climate. Read more.

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