7:45 AM Friday: The early bird catches the worm and a whole lot of presentations here in the Radisson Plaza Hotel, Minneapolis MN. Arrived LATE last night (my need to take public transit everywhere) and signed in way too early this morning, thermos in hand. Harriete Estel Berman and I are Ready for action, and it didn’t take long for the atrium to be buzzing with anticipation (for the Thursday tours and pre-conference scoop, check out Harriete’s blog). Used to the cattle rush of SNAG conferences, it is refreshing to be a part of a smaller group here at this conference (imagine half as many or less); surprising, actually since Craft embodies so many more fields of interest than just metals. Perhaps it’s the recession, time of year, or location, but I have a feeling that after people hear about this year’s conference, the next one will have a much larger attendance. (Yes, that is an img of today’s schedule: 9+ events, not including the evening craft tours!)
Many familiar faces in the crowd, many from the Philadelphia SNAG conference that for a moment I forgot what conference I was really at, and as Harriete and I were mentally preparing ourselves, a few stopped by to say hi and wish us luck: Sienna Patti, Namita Gupta Wiggers (who will be presenting a panel tomorrow about internet marketing for which I’m SO excited), and Lena Vigna (she co-authored with Namita the recent Metalsmith article, Ornamentalism Revisited, and is curating an upcoming exhibition with a similiar feel at Miami University Art Museum).
Lena tells me that she was part of one of 7 Convenings dialogues, small gatherings of specialized groups such as curators, educators, writers, of which the participants were specially invited by ACC. Forums for people to get to know one another and begin to raise questions. This arose due to feedback from the 2006 ACC Conference. Some of the issues that came out of Lena’s curators’ forum:
-What happens when artists don’t identify themselves as craftspeople?
-Recognizing that 20th Century Craft should be regarded as a Historical movement (and move forward with 21st Century craft as a new one).
8:30 AM: ACC Board Chair, Leilani Lattin Duke, opened this years conference speaking of the themes to Creating a Craft Culture:
-Thinking about Craft and the Individual, the Community, and the Marketplace
-The Idea of Making: how it address the rapidly changing world and Crafts place in it
Dr. Richard Sennet, Keynote
8:45 AM: Keynote Speaker: Dr. Richard Sennett. A little background: Sociologist and writer, the most recently published book is The Craftsman. He founded, with Susan Sontag and Joseph Brodsky, The New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, was an advisor to UNESCO & president of the American Council on Work; teaches at New York University and the London School of Economics.
The Craftsman argues that the craftsman’s realm is far broader than skilled manual labor; the computer programmer, the doctor, the parent, and the citizen need to learn the values of good craftsmanship today.
OK, enough background, let’s get down to it–I was glad the Dr. prefaced his talk with “You’ll have to excuse me, but I’m a Night Person” (so am I, Richard; trying to speak before 10 am IS challenging)–so I forgave him for the sluggish, somewhat philosophical sputterings at the beginning, comparing computer engineers to craftsmen, and Linux as public craft. I mean, I get it since my fiancé is a techie, but many artists glaze over after more than a few minutes of techie speak.
The question of the hour (and theme for the day) is: Why is it that Mediocracy tends to dominate over Quality in our society? In the modern workplace, delivering Quality is regarded/rewarded less than delivering Results. Thus we don’t reward craftsmanship since we don’t reward quality. How do we maintain the balance of Quality and Democracy?
Craft is exploratory; in craftsmen, there is a deep relationship between problem solving and problem finding–good craftsmen want to see what opens up when solving problems. It’s about the craftsmanship in learning, in stopping to dwell on things and find out what’s interesting and possible. Unfortunately our society doesn’t look kindly upon learning at this pace.
What’s the solution?–Remove craftsmen from the need to produce Products and return importance to Process.
See what Harriete has to say on her blog here.