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Craft & Technology in the Newsagent’s Shelf:
A Look Through Magazines

Caterina Tiezzi

 

A craft-centred and a technology-related magazine seen side by side, (on my desk): they are more rare a pair than you might think! @ Caterina Tiezzi

A craft-centred and a technology-related magazine seen side by side, (on my desk): they are more rare a pair than you might think! Image © Caterina Tiezzi, 2014.

As editors of Craft, Technology and Productions Steffi and I are very happy to report that this post marks the middle point of our adventure on Unmaking Things. To celebrate this occasion this article will look at the different representations of craft and technology as disseminated among the public through the medium of magazines.

We had started this column with the intention to propose and highlight alternative case studies were craft and technology would mingle and coexist. This, we felt, would provide another voice to the commonly proposed opposition between these two worlds, that too often are seen as irreconcilable. We have reviewed museum exhibitions, explored photography and its history, and exercised our hands with calligraphy. Thanks to our contributors ― Elodie Mallet and Annie Thwaite ― CTP has considered meta-narration and DIY culture, as well as investigating notions of early modern alchemy.

With this article, we are hoping to add another dimension to our discourse, by focusing on how craft and technology are represented by newsagent-provided magazines dedicated to the general public. The intention of this post, then, is two-fold. On one hand we wish to be critical of the binary and gendered ways in which craft and technology are confined within these media. On the other hand we encourage you to use the comment function below to add examples to our list that either challenge or support our claims, all in the name of forming a rich survey of sources that need further analysis. So let’s the scavenger hunt begin!

Our survey takes place within three London’s newsagents. These have been chosen for the different geographical location they occupy, and the size of their premise. Although these factors have different impacts on the selection of titles featured in these shops, during initial research across many other newsagents in London it was noted how the number of craft- and technology-related magazines available in stores varies greatly, with some shops carrying few to none of these specific magazines.  The newsagents selected, however, are located in Brixton (South London), within the premise of Harrods’ luxury department store (Knightsbridge), and on Old Brompton Road (South Kensington), and they all feature a sizeable selection of both types of publications.

Among the many representations of craft and technology available in these shops, it is interesting to note how different material has been carefully marketed to specific sectors of the adult population.[1] Perusing through different magazine stands, craft related publications and “technology magazines” are kept separate from one another. These publications tend to be arranged in a gendered manner. By this I mean, that although it appears that these different magazines are shelved opposite to one another in different newsagent’s shops, their position is not random. Specifically craft-related magazines tend to be located next to home-decor publications and fashion magazines, inevitably positioned within the “women’s section” of these stores. Technology-related titles, instead, usually feature within the hobbies’ section after men’s dedicated publications. However, there is more than the gendered strategic positioning of these periodicals to examine.

"The Craft Section" : Craft-related publications displayed in a newsagent in London @ Caterina Tiezzi

‘The Craft Section’: Craft-related publications displayed in a newsagents in London. Image © Caterina Tiezzi, 2014.

Although they say not to judge a book by its cover, it seems this idiom would not apply to periodicals, which cyclically appear on newsstands with a precise and deliberate visual identity that serves to both distinguish a magazine and visually conform to its specific genera. As the snapshot above shows, craft-related publications tend to create a cloud of shock-pinks and paster colours, with big announcements of free gadgets that have been paired with the magazines. These gadgets usually relate directly to the magazines as they provide the material base for the development of projects described in specially devised how-to articles. Among this sector of magazines are found publications focussed entirely on knitting, cross stitching, and patchwork, but also more general publications that look at paper-crafts, home-decor or that propose varied projects that emphasise the participatory nature of their features proposed in titles such as Making, and Create.[2] 

The picture below, a snapshot of the men’s hobbies section of a magazine seller in London, is characterised by dark colours paired with contrasting tones. Black, white and red is a popular combination and so is blue, white and yellow. Bright green appears in this picture too, but more sporadically. Here gadgets are found in the form of cds, neatly inserted within publications without creating bulky packaging.[3]

"The Tech Section" : Technology-related magazines in a newsagent in London @ Caterina Tiezzi.

‘The Tech Section’: Technology-related magazines in a newsagent in London. Image © Caterina Tiezzi, 2014.

Interestingly, among the selection of publications captured in this third photo, none feature the word “technology” in their title.[4] As a topic, technology, tends to be treated in specialised publications, which focus on a particular kind of technology (i.e. Pc Pro, or Web Designer). Technology is also often written about within larger publications, where articles on technology feature next to other kinds of news. Wired provides an example of this kind of technology-writing, but stories of technology can also be read in opinion magazines as The Economist and Foreign Affairs, as the picture below shows.

Technology stories in general-interest magazines @ Caterina Tiezzi

Technology stories in general-interest magazines. Image © Caterina Tiezzi, 2014.

Craft-related publications, however, seem more happy to feature the word “craft” on their titles, as exemplified by magazines such as Making: Beautiful Crafts for Your Home, Crafts Beautiful, Papercraft, and Stitch Craft Create to name a few. Stories of craft can also be read in newspapers, although they do feature there less prominently. A word-search for the terms “craft” and “technology” on The Times, in fact, reports that the former features in 17,465 articles, against the 64,714 features on the later. Together, the two terms have appeared on this newspaper only 1453 times. What this suggests is that although both craft and technology appear on specialised and general-interest publications, they do so in different proportions, with technology being widely talked about, and craft being most present in dedicated magazines. While this is understandable, given that our days are decidedly technology-flavoured, it is saddening to see that very few examples could be easily found that treated the topics together, within the media of magazines.

While the picture constructed above shows a gendered and divided reality that sees craft and technology living separate lives on the shelves of London’s newsagents, it should be said that 1) newsagents are no longer the only sellers of periodicals, with titles being distributed in book shops or specialised stores, and 2) that different newsagents will carry specially edited selections of magazines. Because this article looked at newsagents within  very specific geographies within London, CPT would be very interested to see what periodicals of craft and technology you favour! Likewise, does your local newsagent present you with a different scenery?  Let us know and hope you are having good CTP reads here and elsewhere too.

 

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[1] Interestingly, craft-related publications often feature children-appropriate projects to be done under the supervision of a parent.

[2] Apart from these magazines, there are other academic publications on crafts, that are to be found only at specially selected newsagents. An example of this is Crafts, the magazine published by the UK Craft Council. http://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/crafts-magazine/latest-issue/

[3] Alternatively, gadgets have been made the focus of magazines as in T3, here dubbed as a ‘technology-related magazine’ showed at the beginning of this article.

[4] Exceptions: The Economist has a special publication, titled “Technology Quarterly”, but this was not sold in the shops I’ve visited. Academic technology-dedicated publications, such as MIT Technology Review (USA) clearly exist, but again these are somewhat difficult to find in newsagents outside London airports.

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Caterina Tiezzi –

Caterina graduated with a BA in Visual Studies from the California College of the Arts, in 2012. Having left the Bay Area, she’s been wandering through the land of History of Design, researching export sewing tables, and the design of payment cards. For her dissertation she is currently exploring the paths of fashion and dress history, with a focus on the design and production of clothes, in London, from the second half on the 19th century to the early 20th century. Yet her interests in technology and advertising are ever present.

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© Caterina Tiezzi, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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A Look Through Magazines”

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