First ideas on craft
To me the term ‘craft’ has certainly to do with ability, skill, workmanship but perhaps even more with an attitude towards making and transforming thoughts and ideas into something tangible: I like materials and I like to work with them, to have an idea and see it coming to life into an object. To me it is like a magic transformation and whenever I am able to do that it is a small miracle, even if the object is different from what I had originally thought, I would even say especially if the object is different from what I had thought and is so to speak born to its own, independent life.
So the concept of craft still holds for me something of its etymological Old English meaning ‘strength’, as reflected in the German word ‘Kraft’: the strength to make things with one’s own hands.
I particularly like the interesting interpretation of craft given by the American Craft Council on its website: craft as a culture of making.
Some years ago the ACC and Penland School of Crafts from North Carolina hosted a three-day convention of artists, academics, curators, writers, and other craft enthusiasts to talk about the state of craft today in answer to a simple, straightforward question: Why craft now?
That debate originated a wealth of ideas and stimuli. Here are some that I gleaned from it:
- Craft as ‘the knowledge embedded in an object’ (Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez, President, North Bennet Street School)
- ‘This is the third wave of craft as we know it. The first was at the beginning of the 20th century and was called the Arts and Crafts movement, the second was mid-century in the 1960s when the handmade became part of the hippie lifestyle, and now we have the third wave which is related to DIY, alternative energy and sustainable living styles.’ (Susan Cummins,former ACC trustee and founder, Art Jewelry Forum)
- ‘The answer is always in the making. The answer is in the ancient heritage of humans and materials, and in the resilient and ingenious human spirit, which can carry us into the here and now.’ (Stuart Kestenbaum, Director, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts)
- ‘Why Craft Now? Because mass production needs to be rethought, and craft is the springboard that will put this into motion. Because craft is a seed. It is inextricable with material curiosity and human evolution. It is the foundation from which new objects enter the known universe.’ (Daniel Michalik, Furniture Maker, Brooklyn, NY)
- ‘We are currently experiencing a cultural revolution – what could be called a “back to the hand” and “back to the home” movement – as evidenced in the DIY phenomenon and the mania for home improvement and décor. Running parallel to this development is an increasingly design-savvy public with a strong appetite for creative living, a craving stoked by media figures such as Martha Stewart and reality shows focused on design. …
In addition, craft has a key role to play as a form of resistance to corporate culture and the high-tech landscape. Objects made and experienced by hand provide richly sensual antidotes to the eviscerated, simulated screen experiences we consume for hours each day. Highly invested handmade objects can assist in our sensual vigilance within an increasingly dematerialized world, helping to rouse us out of enervation and sensory numbness.’ (Suzanne Ramljak, Writer, curator and editor of Metalsmith)
- ‘The two most significant trends of our time are in technology and sustainability. … Our challenge is to find creative and humanizing ways to change the existing economic paradigm though the crafts: to a more connected, humanistic, sustainable one.’ (Chris Staley, artist and educator, Penn State University)
Key words, references, websites
Online references (all accessed on 17/07/2017)
Website of Slow Food (Italian): http://www.slowfood.it/
Website di Slow Food (international): https://www.slowfood.com/
Website of the Crafts Council: http://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/
Website of American Craft Council: https://craftcouncil.org/
Website of Penland School of Crafts: http://www.penland.org/
Website of Floor Nijdeken, creator of the project Crossover Collective: http://www.floornijdeken.nl/?section=crossover-collective