One Two Three Four, I Declare A Craft War! [A Tall Glass of Shame]
Get out your glue guns and brace for a glitter bomb, TLC’s new show Craft Wars has hit the airwaves and is pitting crafty cat ladies and (possibly) gay craftinistas head to head in a competition of less than epic proportion. Last week the new show aired and I must say, the show seems like an idea that carried promise but lacks the verve and passion of such other creative competition shows as Top Chef and Project Runway. With a name like Tori Spelling hosting the show and a panel of three crafty judges, you can do the math… They wanted to be the next Project Runway, but instead ended up like a watered down craft version of Cupcake Wars, Tori is no Heidi Klum.
Check out the first season promo for Craft Wars here:
The premise for the show is simple: each episode pits three new, everyday craft enthusiasts against each other in two rounds of difficult challenges, encompassing different genres of crafting expertise. Three judges call the shots and Tori Spelling acts as host and confidante to the challengers throughout the process. Michaels, North America’s largest arts and crafts retailer, also joins Craft Wars, stocking the “Michaels Craft Closet” with apparently everything the contestants need to get inspired and build their creations. Frankly, even though there are plenty of beauty shots of that wall in the show it doesn’t seem to be at all the bounty they claim it to be. When you look closer there are maybe 6 bolts of fabric to choose from, a smattering of paints and supplies, but realistically this is anything but a comprehensive crafters dream. Normally I like watching shows where the limitations aid the creativity, but on a show based purely on crafting, the projects come off a little lackluster when the same fabric is used on both challenges to varying levels of success purely out of necessity. (Sick of the word “Craft” yet?)
Every competition show of this nature follows the formula of the big “wow moment” where they unveil what the challenge will consist of. In other shows they are led to strange locations, lift silver lids or open big boxes to reveal exotic ingredients, or are greeted with a stunning celebrity guest, here the contestants watch a loud and shoddy garage door roll up while three sad looking production assistants roll in a bunch of crap in spray painted grocery carts, most likely stolen from the Whole Foods parking lot next door. Less than overwhelmed our challengers get to run over and dig through the pile of junk be it school supplies, sporting good, pet supplies etc. and start making their homely creations out of whatever they can grab.
While TLC is showing more and more diversity in their programming these days, I feel like less and less “learning” is actually taking place on “The Learning Channel.” While I applaud them for trying something new and somewhat unexplored, I think this show fails due to the fact that other creative competition shows base their themes on things that are a hobby, but can also be a career. Crafting is a hobby, plain and simple. One CAN make a living at it, but unless you manage to become the next Martha Stewart, it is not something you can run out and get a job doing.
The joy we see from the winner of shows like Project Runway is that they are cementing a foundation for a career and have a nice chunk of startup money to get going, on Craft Wars they win ten thousand dollars which is a nice chunk of change for some felt craft project but not at all life changing. At the end of the episode the sweet payoff is more of a: “Oh good, Nancy won some cash so she can pay off that one credit card and start using it again to buy more shit from Michael’s.” I imagine these women’s homes full of unused glues, fabric knick knacks and bills. (Wait a minute that sounds like my house.)
I love that this show brings the reality competition down to the world of the everyday crafting Jane, but I wish the show was geared more to their personal talent than it is. To do anything that will read on television in the brief amounts of time typically allowed on these shows, the crafters need a lot more hands. In the end, they each get to bring one “helper” (cue: bringing in the husbands and boyfriends to build and cut crap) for the first round of competition and then the show provides them with a team of 4 people to build their vision in the Master Craft round. Crafting, I had always thought, was something that really only took one person and an afternoon to do, so while I think one helper is probably fine for a basic project, the fun of seeing them work and struggle to a successful end result is deflated by all the extra help in the last round. In the Master Craft round, they become more like team leaders than creators; their role is to direct the folks who are actually executing their concepts. Part of the appeal of reality competitions like Top Chef or Project Runway is that the competitor has to have all the basic execution skills necessary to make their vision a reality, and that is lost a bit here.
The judges on this show are a mixed bag. First we have Stephen Brown of Glitterville Studios, a multi million dollar giftware company that is gayer than gay can be and lisping glitter every time he speaks. He seems to be the judge that is nice to people at the beginning of his critique but something shifts halfway through and he becomes skeptical of everyone’s abilities to make something as fabulous as he could have done with the time allotted.
Here he is showing us how to make some tiny, hideous, glittery, party hat place card holders… Ooooo talent!
Erica Domesek is the most high and mighty of the three judges. Erica has created quite the name for herself as founder and CEO of the innovative DIY company P.S.-I Made This, and is also the author of the book P.S.-I Made This. She is the mean girl of the group that enjoys seeing people squirm when she tells them how ugly she thinks their creation is, and doesn’t seem to hold back on criticism. She lacks the truthful frankness Simon Cowell used to have on American Idol, and the playful wording that Project Runway‘s Michael Kors has when he is calling something out as ugly. She cuts to the chase and calls a spade a spade which I appreciate, but let me call her out: she is a crafting bully. I imagine a pair of shiny Gingher scissors in her hand held behind that halter top just waiting to find the next back to be stabbed into.
PS…She made it… *barf
Domesek hopes the show will help get more people on the do-it-yourself bandwagon. “A lot of people think that they’re not so crafty,” she said. “It only takes five minutes or ten minutes, maybe an hour to make something beautiful.” What does it take Erica, five minutes, ten minutes or an hour? I think this show instead will make people feel like they can do all of this crafty crap so much better. This show is less inspiration and more “Oh god Frank, look at that ugly satchel with a tennis racket bottom held together with hot glue and a dream. Little Suzy made something nicer in Home Ec from an old throw pillow yesterday and hers doesn’t look like it smells like dog pee.”
The third judge is a relief, and her name is Jo Pearson. Jo is an author, host, and has been a creative expert for Michaels for the past 25 years. She is like the sweet aunt that liked to come over and color with you when you were five. Of all the judges on the panel she is the most forgiving and ends up being a little too nice in some ways to compensate for the bitchiness from her cohorts. I must commend her, I like that even the other judges’ dreadful reactions to her opinion can’t sway her love for some of the things the contestants come up with. I think she is the sweetest for a reason, she is just that sweet and is happy with anything people create as long as they are making something they think is beautiful.
Here is Jo showing us a pretty simple but cool trick to make your own Chalkboard paint project:
At the end of the day, Tori had too much time on her hands and wanted another show to pad up her kids’ college fund, but this is the fun sort of Summer show that you can pick up and watch anytime. For those who love watching creativity blossom, it will be a nice relief from the plethora of other shows based on rich white people fighting. It’s appeal may not be broad, but it will play well to TLC’s already established audience that seems to have a better female demographic these days than it once did. For the crafter in all of us I say give it a watch once or twice, perhaps will get a little better. For the die hard reality competition fan I say skip it and go watch some reruns of Project Runway till that starts back up in two weeks!
For Extra credit this week I bring you a review of the Star Wars Craft Book, and a how to demo for a Jabba The Hut body pillow!
PS: Don’t bother watching the movie Magic Mike, my friend Scott summed it up best by describing it as a, “Flannelgraph for male strippers with dialogue by a non-english speaking hittite.” Besides, it will most likely be on TBS before the end of the year anyhow…
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