Creating a New Craft Culture–Friday 11 AM, Part 3
Round Table Discussion: Craft in the 21st Century: Identity, Choice, Meaning. Sandra Alfoldy, moderator. Panelists: Claudia Crisan, Thomas Patti, and Michael Sherrill
Alfoldy, Patti, Crisan, Sherrill
It’s about brain explosion time right about now, and the conference leaders are really on top of their game keeping presenters to task on time. For different perspectives on these presentations, don’t forget to check in with Harriete’s blog: ask harriete.
For those who remember watching Pee Wee’s Playhouse, remember that Word of the Day, that whenever the Word of the Day was uttered throughout the course of the show, you’d have to yell and make a lot of noise? Well, the words of the day here seem to be: Quality, Martha Stewart, and D.I.Y. The latter two mostly as a point of contention between what seems to be two very divided schools of makers (and perhaps generational, and very much represented here).
Moderator Sandra Alfoldy (associate professor of craft history at NSCAD University and associate curator of fine craft at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax) set up the discussion by posing her “TOP 5 Assumptions [of Craft]” and having the the panel members speak a total of 8 minutes on each issue. Here are the TOP 5 ASSUMPTIONS:
#5. You don’t need to use traditional craft materials to be a craftsperson
#4. Craft is an environmental, sustainable set of practices
#3. Functional craft is less important than one-of-a-kind work
#2. Making it by hand makes it craft
#1. The craft field is dying and DIY (insert Pee Wee scream here) will save it!
First, a brief background on the artist panel:
Thomas Patti–industrial designer and sculptor, known for his innovative use of glass and plastics to create visionary architectural systems, small-scale sculptures and large architectural commissions.
Claudia Crisan–an artist trained in metals and fibers, she owns and operates (with her husband) a small bakery and edible art gallery called Crisan in Albany, New York.
Michael Sherrill–self-taught ceramicist and inventor of a line of tools for potters and sculptors, called Mudtools®
As far as answers to the above questions, numbers 5 through 3 didn’t really bring to light anything new, esp to the makers in the group. I mean, alternative materials have been pretty hip and more in the forefront of exhibitions these days (hence, why I’ve had to create a spreadsheet of where all my recycled work is this fall so i don’t double-commit work). Craft doesn’t inherently have environmentally sustainable practices-it’s only been recently brought to light as something we should do, as seen with Ethical Metalsmiths. And Function vs One-of-a-kind isn’t about either/or, for many of makers we embrace both; perhaps we enjoy mixing it up, or one funds the other.
The real heat came in #2 & #1. In #2 arose the CAD/CAM-is-it-evil issue, in which either you get it (meaning CAD) or you don’t. Is it a mere tool, means to an end, or is it a craft in itself like ceramics or metal. Is the hand still connected to the mind–going back to Dr. Sennett’s earlier talk, the importance of an all-body engaging the mind type of craft. For Claudia, she wholeheartedly agreed that working on the computer was no different than hammering metal. And for Thomas, he disagreed and believes a tool should never be made more important than the work.
Another Pee Wee squeal here–Either you love her or you hate her, Martha Stewart, that is. Bottom line: she’s made crafting accessible to everyone, from moms to kids, and in doing so, perhaps has sparked the desire to pursue a more serious investigation into craft for the younger generation. ‘Cause as long as you’re making that’s what really important, right? And for some of us we’re living by doing this. As Thomas says, take it to the next step and push boundaries, make meaningful, well-crafted work.
claudia's edible brooch
Jana Evans wearing Crisan brooch
attendees wearing Crisan brooches (claudia 3rd in)