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[BKARTS] rustic and artisanal (summary)

Buttonholer here, with skinny hand and glittering eye... One last observation, on the attempt to define 'rustic' or perhaps declare it to be a useless term, and then I promise to pipe down. Thanks to you-all, I think I understand how to answer the question I raised.

I was washing my hands with a bar of 'artisanal soap' bought at a craft fair, and it suddenly dawned on me why this topic seems so unnecessarily hard to get a grip on. Books, unlike soap, have never been a homemade product in a subsistence economy. Peasants made their own soap, while the wealthy bought a fine and refined product as pure (perfect) as could be. Peasant soap not only looked bad, it didn't even work as well. Peasants themselves wouldn't have used it if they'd had a choice (not to mention the labor savings). Books have always been precious objects, made for the
 educated rich and sold as much (or more) on their refined appearance and design as on the content. The readership/literacy revolution beginning in the 1840s which created the paperback (three times: 1840s, 1880s, 1930s) is the only point of comparison -- and it's significant to note that when trade paperbacks first became common (1960s?) they were called *quality* paperbacks -- as a mainstream book club for them is still so named -- to distinguish them from the badly crafted *mass market* product.

So when I say I'm trying to make a 'rustic' book and the immediate question is 'What is that?' and the exact relationship of 'rustic' to some hegemonic norm is queried ('interrogated' is the postmodern word...) it's because there is no such thing -- yet. No rustic model by which to judge the hegemonic one, which can hardly be called hegemonic without competition. The question as regards craft standards should be restated as, Ought there be? (Competition.) Or more carefully: Is the concept 'rustic' (as applied to artists books) a genuine and desirable category, or is it only a case of rationalized bad craftsmanship?

And I'm betting the
 consensus response will be: the measure of good craftsmanship is in qualities like authenticity, appropriateness of methods and materials to intent, new insight, and so forth, and has no necessary relation to a particular method or ideal (a 'fetish' -- the postmodern meaning, not anthropological), and further, the attempt to categorize individual instances is misguided. The real question is: if you make a book with unsquare covers, sewn irregularly, printed with mixed and worn type, (for example) how can you make it clear this was done on purpose for some purpose and is not to be dismissed as mere bad craftsmanship? This is what ought to be explored if the aesthetic resources and scope of the medium are to be enlarged.

with thanks to Andrew for prodding me to think again

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