I can’t help but find something immensely irritating about Kirsty Allsopp. I don’t know if it’s her lecturing in interviews about how women should ‘put their man first‘. Or if it’s the way the she pronounces ev-er-y syl-la-ble so pre-cise-ly. Whatever it is, I find something a little too skin-crawlingly twee about her.
Anyway, following on from her craft/ thift programme a couple of years ago, Kirsty’s Homemade Home, she’s back with a new show: Kirsty’s Handmade Britain (Wednesdays, 8pm, Channel 4). Having missed her first series – and heard mixed reviews – I decided to put my prejudices to one side and check out how Ms Allsopp would be presenting the world of craft to the Great British Public.
The basic premise of the show is that Kirsty attempts to ‘master’ a different craft each episode (this week was baking, next week it’s papercraft), taking lessons from the experts, and then entering a competition to test her new-found skills.
Now, this premise immediately irritated me, and this time it had nothing to do with her syllables. One of the most off-putting things about craft to outsiders is the misconstrued notion that it’s difficult, complicated and takes ridiculous levels of skill.
Of course, if you’re attempting to make an entire Autumn/ Winter capsule wardrobe then you will need to know a little more than a basic straight stitch. But if you just want a new hobby and to express your creativity, then piling on this pressure to get to ‘expert’ standard is just going to suck all the enjoyment out of it.
The programme is essentially turning fun activities into competitive sports. It just all feels a bit uncomfortable and stepford wives-y, as exemplified by one 26-year-old competitive baker Kirsty meets. “I’m a perfectionist,” she giggles, daintily icing her cupcakes. “My mum’s ones are better than mine. I’m not happy, I might have to re-do them.”
Personally, imperfections and inconsistencies are my favourite things about handmade items, and not just because it makes me feel better about my shaky hands and impatient attitude. In a digital world so full of perfect, mechanical reproductions, seeing the individual marks and mishaps is almost comforting, as well as interesting. It gives them a story, a history, a personality.
One redeeming feature is the appearance of Gary, a 40-something biker who in his spare time loves baking courgette and chocolate tarts. It’s great to see a bloke rocking such a traditionally female pasttime, and his creative concoctions prove how exciting and experimental the realm of the handmade can be.
Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Kirsty’s endevours. Do you think she’s doing the craft world justice? Or just pandering to old stereotypes?