Having been involved in producing recorded and live TV shows, aswell as online media, about arts and crafts for over twelve years it’s interesting to see how the media sector is developing in relation to my/our favourite pastime.
There have been a few mainstream TV shows that have ‘made it’ into the psyche of the general public, think Sewing Bee, The Joy Of Painting and Watercolour Challenge, however for the dedicated creatives, what is changing now that media is becoming so accessible?
When I think back fifteen or twenty years I have to ask myself where I got all of my craft knowledge from as I cannot remember any other source for it other than books that I leafed through at my local library.
Indeed I was such a glutton for this information that I would often check out five large volumes each month, for things that I couldn’t possibly achieve at the time, and simply read them cover to cover, drool over the amazing pictures and then return them the next month when I checked out five more.
With the advent of satellite television, cable television and the internet opening up the number of sources from which we could send and receive information there was bound to be change.
So how do we source our information these days?
Books And Magazines
I still love books. I can’t get enough of them. The smell, the images, the information – I just have to have them – but also have to ration myself or I would end up building a house from them.
I am unsure if it is the era in which I grew up, and the way in which I used to source information, however I don’t think that I will ever leave the book behind, unless they stop printing them.
The magazine format has also changed over time.
Some of the original titles that portrayed a range of crafts, such as Crafts Beautiful, are still out there and continue to be popular however more and more titles are coming onto the market that specialise in one particular genre or technique, like rubber stamping.
Indeed, the ‘bookazine’ has become a recent favourite. The bookazine is a cross between a book (because of it’s quantity of content) and a magazine as it is printed on magazine quality paper and has a paper cover. Priced at £9.99 it is also a bit above the magazine, but certainly below the price of a book.
These are often quite good to collect as they offer a way of collating lots of information into a smaller series of volumes.
Both books and magazines can now of course be accessed in electronic versions for smart phones, tablets and computers, which does indeed make them more accessible for many people, and this fact leads me onto the next source of information.
The internet has been around since 1991 but it is only really in the last ten years that it has seen large scale growth in terms of content, accessibility and ease of use.
The internet has clearly had a large impact on the ways in which we can all access information so here is a quick look at just some of these.
YouTube is your one stop shop for videos about pretty much anything; catsriding robotic vacuums, cute kittens being groomed by large dogs, movie reviews, reviews of movie reviews, a guide to the top 10 strangest planets in space (which, by the way, I had to watch before I continued writing this post) to name just a few.
It was inevitable therefore, due to it’s open-door policy that arts and crafts should make their way onto this platform.
YouTube has obviously grown significantly with content since it’s launch back in February of 2005. Indeed, if you type ‘arts and crafts’ into the YouTube search bar the return is around the region of a quarter of a million videos! Of course these are in a variety of qualities, durations and from a range of amateur and professional sources.
A good range of our favourite brands now have their own YouTube channels featuring how-to style videos showing their products and many product users and craft bloggers are now including a “vlog” (video blog) within their regular online posts. Indeed I have already created a few videos of my own with a simple home set up and plan to do more in the future.
Overall though, unless you use YouTube efficiently, i.e. find the ‘channels’ that you want and subscribe to them you will often find yourself wading through low quality recordings with any number of issues and can end up wasting time filtering out the junk before finding what you need.
There have been a number of dedicated craft tutorial websites launch – Last year saw the launch of The British Craft Network and Craft Daily (both primarily demo based) whilst this year sees the launch of not one but TWO new TV shopping channels showcasing arts and crafts equipment.
The number of tutorial websites is on the increase. Tuts Plus, for example, was launched into the range of Tuts Plus collection of websites in order to provide step by step tutorials on a range of creative pastimes.
This sort of dedicated site is not the only one though. A quick websearch will turn up a plethora for you to choose from, depending on your favourite genre.
There is no doubt that the number of people with personal blogs that are willing to share their knowledge and ideas has ballooned exponentially – indeed you are reading my little corner of the blog-o-sphere right now! (thank you for doing that).
Lots of companies are now also using blogs to help them keep up to date with the customers.
Why do we like blogs? For me it keeps me in touch with a lot of like minded people, which I guess is also why companies do it too.
Television, being the longest serving non-print media source for inspirational content, has obviously had it’s fair share of creative programming however it hasn’t always favoured the tutorial format, instead mainstream channels often favour the ‘jeopardy’ format as they believe that it makes for more exciting broadcasting and gives viewers a reason to watch week after week.
You can see the ‘jeopardy’ format in the likes of The Great British Sewing Bee, Show Me The Monet, Watercolour Challenge, Craft Wars and The Big Painting Challenge to name just a few.
In this style of show contestants are given a challenge. Their efforts are then appraised by judges (usually involving an expert and a celeb) and then one or more contestant will be ejected from the show. This will go on for several episodes until there is a victor that has survived all of the challenges.
Whilst this format does have a certain attraction, particularly for those who don’t always partake in the craft in questions themselves, has instructional themed arts and crafts programming ever made it into the mainstream (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 etc)?
Perhaps, if you think of shows such as Art Attack, The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, Art Doctor, The New Yankee Workshop and The Carol Duvall Show then you would agree that it had.
In fact, there are indeed a number of shows in the list above that ran for more than ten years. So where is it now?
Many of the popular shows that I have already mentioned are repeated regularly, even if they are over twenty years old as they still have appeal and still have the same informational content. I guess that it would be hard to do this with a ‘jeopardy’ format as the outcome will already be known so will it have the same draw as it did when it was first broadcast? Probably not.
A big bulk of the informational programming appears to have now moved into programming slots on specialist or public access TV channels. One particular area that has taken up this style of show has been television shopping.
The TV shopping arena has, since QVC began airing their shows highlighting crafting products, been established as a good way in which to be able to offer demonstrable products a ‘life’ and give users the information that they would like to have about those products that they don’t always get in a standard retail environment.
This has been so popular that there are now three shopping TV channels, dedicated to arts and crafts, currently airing in the UK with two more recently announcing that they plan to launch later this year.
QVC, Create and Craft TV and Jewellery Maker have obviously been long established in the realms of arts and crafts, offering viewers chance to buy products as they are being demonstrated on air.
The Craft Channel and Hochanda TV are, as mentioned, set to launch later this year. Both have declared themselves as being dedicated to bringing the audience products and demonstrations for the arts and crafts consumer however more information on what will be seen is still yet to appear so, as they say, ‘stay tuned’.
I have put ‘on demand’ in it’s own category as, although it is usually supplied through the internet, it can often be accessed on smart phones, tablets and smart TVs through special apps.
The on-demand service also differs from the other sources mentioned above as it often is accessed through a paid subscription service and is usually populated by content made exclusively by one production company (unlike YouTube).
On-demand services that you might recognise are Craftsy and Craft Daily.
The on demand tutorial gives us the crafter vetted information and well shot/edited video content so we can be reasonably assured that you are being taught by someone who knows their beans.
Is it worth the money? Only you can decide that as it comes down to how much you need the information that you are looking for.
At least most of these places offer a free trial or free mini videos so that you can get to know the style of video that you can expect and also can see how well the demonstrations come across before parting with your cash.
As you can see, the last ten years has seriously widened the potential access points that we have as dedicated arts and craft fans and this doesn’t appear to be in decline and it is therefore certainly an exciting time to be a craft consumer.
I am curious therefore to know what you think of all of these new opportunities to see arts and crafts in action?
We often struggle to find the time to do the things that we love, how do we therefore find the opportunity to learn what we do?
How do you get yours?
I for one will always be in favour of accessible information in whatever form it takes and hope that the increase in availability will only fuel the fire in the belly of the media and increase the quantity of arts and crafts tutorial shows seen on mainstream television.
Thanks for reading – I look forward to hearing what you have to say on this topic.
Bye for now.