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If at first you don’t succeed, rip it out and try again: The benefits of failure among DIY handcrafters

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Failure is a vital part of the creative process – we learn through failure. However, within the current culture that publicly celebrates success and achievement (sometimes at all costs) people are often hesitant to admit their failures – failure has become not just something to experience, but a negative and stigmatizing label, something to be avoided at all costs. Because of this, our ‘congratulatory culture’ reduces the importance of the creative process (including failure), especially in creative work. In this article, we focus on people who encounter failure regularly. We study people who make things with their hands – Do-It-Yourself (DIY) handcrafters who work with fibres and textiles. In our qualitative interview study with 44 North American handcrafters (e.g. those engaged in leisure weaving, knitting, crochet, patchwork), we examine ‘failure’, how handcrafters discuss the importance of failure, and how failure fits importantly into the creative process. We present discourse offered by the studies of the creative process and the importance of ‘failure’, as well as firsthand examples from our research and ethnographic experiences. We explore the complex creative process, including simultaneously positive and negative experiences.
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Keywords: DIY; congratulatory culture; craft; creativity; failure; handcrafts

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Northern Iowa 2: Michigan State University

Publication date: June 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • We all wear clothes. We are all therefore invested at some level in the production and consumption of clothing. This journal intends to embrace issues and themes that are both universal and personal, addressing [and dressing] us all. Increasingly, as we all become accomplished semioticians, clothing becomes the key signifier in determining social interaction and behaviour, and sartorial norms dictate socio-cultural appropriateness. Following the rise of fashion theory, on an everyday level, we all understand that our clothes 'say' something about us, about our times, nation, system of values. Yet clothing is not fashion; clothing is a term derivative from 'cloth', to cover the body, whereas fashion alludes to the glamorous, the ephemeral and the avant garde. We wear clothes, but imagine fashion-an unattainable ideal.
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