Craft in America’s "Celebration" Episode

Craft in America’s "Celebration" Episode

Craft in America, table setting

Table setting with Pewabic’s Snowdrop Vases and work made by Pewabic artisans. Photo: Mark Markley

Tradition. Craftsmen maintain, disseminate, incorporate, and innovate processes and techniques that are based upon historical traditions. Out of this, new methods are born, and along with them, new traditions are created and passed down for generations. That same principle is inherent during the holidays and emphasized in Craft in America’s “Celebration” episode

We wanted to be good stewards of this art form. . . . It’s an honor to be entrusted with passing down the art to the next generation because there are many, many people that have kept the art alive this long for us and we must not drop the ball. ~ Lion dancer/artist

The art of lion dancing during the Chinese New Year in San Francisco, the presence and importance of handmade during Kwanzaa, and the practice of handmade pottery in response to industrialization and mass production are all exercised out of desire or (arguably) necessity to connect to heritage and bring meaning to the ongoing celebrations practiced today.

While it underscores tradition, Craft in America pushes the envelope in this episode by swinging the pendulum from one extreme to another. The episode features an artist that creates modern-day letterpress holiday cards that emanate traditional Edo-period Japanese woodblock prints. It also features Motawi Tileworks that, while still incorporating some handmade techniques, has been producing traditional tiles using modern digital programs and tools that have almost removed the hand from the process. 

Craft in America took a risk with “Celebration.” They spend a lot of time looking at modern-day processes and techniques that raise the question: “Is it still handmade?” But some may feel the episode loses sight of craft somewhat.  It spends relatively little time on craft itself and its importance to traditional celebrations — how handmade has always been an essential part of Kwanzaa, as well as the building of floats for the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco. Still, it is laudable that Craft in America attempted to tie in such disparate traditions in this fresh episode.

You can catch the “Celebration” episode starting this Friday. Check with your local PBS station for the schedule in your area. If you're in the Twin Cities, tune in December 23.