LEGENDARY CIRCUS promoter P.T. Barnum reportedly said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” So we will take last week’s negative editorial (The “Annual Ornament:” Announced by NH League of What?) from the Union Leader for what it is, more publicity for our Annual Ornament announcement.
We are also aware of the saying, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” However, we are so puzzled and saddened that the announcement of the 2019 handcrafted ornament by Meggin Dossett elicited such a seemingly random and negative shot at our organization, we feel obliged to respond.
Being selected as the Annual Ornament designer and maker is a coveted honor and something to be celebrated. We are disappointed that the Union Leader felt the need to direct its social commentary at a recognized, time-honored tradition at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, simply because of its name.
In the 32 years of our ornament program it has always been titled the “Annual Ornament.” “Annual” because a new one is produced each year and “ornament” because it is a “decorative accessory designed to enhance the appearance of something else.” We are delighted that thousands of people choose to decorate their Christmas trees, kitchen windows, living rooms, nurseries and other parts of their homes with our Annual Ornament.
The ornaments are given as gifts throughout the year for weddings, baby showers, birthdays and yes … for Christmas. We are grateful for all those who support the league by collecting these ornaments year after year.
We do not shy away from any mention of Christmas, but simply wish to provide financial opportunities to our craftsmen and Fine Craft Galleries year-round, and encourage customers to purchase ornaments throughout the year, rather than designating the ornament for just one holiday each year.
This past Christmas season, our Fine Craft Galleries and League Exhibition Gallery featured Christmas trees adorned with both our Annual Ornament and many other beautiful ornaments created by our juried members.
As for the concern with the term “Craftsmen,” we assume the Union Leader is not fully aware of the rich history and tradition of our organization, including its name. Governor John Winant created the New Hampshire Commission of Arts and Crafts in 1931; this seven-member commission, which later became the league, included women. Eighty-eight years later, the league of today has an executive director who is both a woman and a craftsman. Our board of trustees is comprised of women and men; our nine Fine Craft Gallery managers are all women and we have a body of more than 700 active juried members who are both women and men.
The definition of craftsman is “a person who practices or is highly skilled in a craft.” We believe this aptly describes our juried members.
We appreciate that many are sensitive to terms that may appear gender specific; however, until our membership should determine a change in course, we proudly stand by the name of this iconic cultural organization. Given the aforementioned editorial, we suspect the Union Leader would soundly criticize us if we changed our name to “Craftspeople,” yet today they take a shot at us because we haven’t.
We welcome the Union Leader’s interest in our organization, which is a major contributor to the creative economy in New Hampshire. As a nonprofit organization, we find ourselves at a critical point in time when we are striving to keep craft and the makers of it relevant. Our Fine Craft Galleries face the daily challenges of brick and mortar stores with the prevalence of the online marketplace.
We encourage everyone to visit us at one of our nine Fine Craft Galleries throughout the state, our 86th Annual Craftsmen’s Fair in August, or the Capital Arts Fest in September.