31 August 2006

Challenging Craft

In a previous post I appeared to suggest that we have been waiting years for a good conference on craft to take place. In fact, we've only been waiting since September 2004, when Challenging Craft was held at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland. Initiated by Gordon Burnett, Challenging Craft was a highly stimulating and diverse event with a full programme of refereed papers alongside key note contributions from Gijs Bakker, Mah Rana, Grace Cochrane, Kenji Toki, Jayne Wallace, Jane Harris and Paul Atkinson.

The refereed papers and the key note contributions are all still available on-line. The papers are themed under: approaching technology, hybridity, the academy, craft articulating culture and cultures of display. The website remains an extremely useful craft research resource.

Gordon Burnett was also a key driver in the Connectivity Project that co-incided with Challenging Craft. His own craft practice recently centred on Australian Cultural Issues Redefined by Digitally Crafted Domestic Objects, and is - unusually - very thoroughly documented in this website.

28 August 2006


While googling for information on how craft contributes to economic development in Africa and Palestine (which I'll doubtless post at some later date) I came across this interesting cultural phenomenon. The text and photos below are from this link.

Do you appreciate handmade arts and crafts? Are you the owner of a computer, a PDA, or, an iPod? Are you an Apple Computer fan? If so, SafariPod probably has a product that will make you smile... today, and everyday. You see, SafariPod is the real thing: a true handmade craftshouse. Not a single item here ever touches a machine of any type. Each art object here is not only useful and beautiful, it demonstrates theunique artistry of a specific Kenyan craftsman... the man who made it just for you with his bare hands.

SafariPod craftsmen make each object sold here to his own design. We determine the need for a specific type of product... say, an iPod stand. Then, we tell the artist what we need the object to do, and he then develops a design to his own taste and standard. Each of our artists have been sculpting native wildlife pieces for many years. Now, they are applying those years of thoughtful experience to creating technology accessories just for you. And, each of our objectsis made of renewable tropical woods, so as not to contribute to Kenya's horrific wood depletion problem. This makes your SafariPod object not only a wonderfully beautiful possession, but one that is also made to respect the environment.

Strange but true.

What this brings to mind is the analysis of objects developed by Jayne Wallace as part of her doctoral research into digital jewellery. She has very usefully differentiated between gadgets and non-gadgets:
Most if not all electronic, or digital appliances have a lifespan, governed not by a technological defect of the appliance, but by its function or usefulness becoming usurped by another, newer, faster, 'better' one. Such appliances are often referred to as gadgets. Gadgets do not feature highly or endure on our list of objects of personal significance. They are replaceable, therefore meaningless. Any meaning they may have once had for us is fleeting, replaceable, and transferable.
This she contrasts with crafted objects of high personal significance. SafariPods are seemingly objects that seek to bridge this divide and imbue gadgets with some sense of individualism and personal significance. But I'm sure Jayne could write about this far more intelligently than I.

22 August 2006

Craft Conferences - Canada and the US

Academic conferences on craft are like buses - you wait years for one, then suddenly three turn up at once. Thanks to Dennis Stevens' excellent blog, we have news of two forthcoming conferences - one in Houston this October, and another at NSCAD, Nova Scotia in November 2007. This is evidence of a healthy and welcome rise of interest in exploring issues of research in craft. Together with our own New Craft - Future Voices conference next July, we must try to ensure that each of our conferences reinforces and supports the others, as each has a distinctive focus within the overall field of craft research.

Neo-Craft: An International Conference on the Crafts and Modernity has been designed with the objective of further developing critical thinking, theory and history in relation to the crafts. It is the intention of Neo-Craft to not only acknowledge the vital role the crafts play in our culture and economy, but to challenge the position of craft by creating a forum for lively exchange and debate.
Dates: November 23-25, 2007
Location: NSCAD University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Seeking: Papers are sought pertaining to five conference themes:

• Crafts and Political Economy
• Cultural Redundancy or the Genre Under Threat
• Invention of Tradition: Craft and Utopian Ideals
• Craft and the Senses
• Global Craft

Deadline: October 6, 2006

Contact: Dr. Sandra Alfoldy, Email: salfoldy@nscad.ca

Shaping the Future of Craft is the American Craft Council's 2006 conference, to be held in Houston in October 2006. It aims to stimulate serious and timely debate on the state of craft in our culture. Various invited artists, curators, writers and educators will participate. The conference program will focus upon three successive topics:

• New Artists/New Work
• Contemporary Craft: Museums, Galleries, Alternative Spaces
• Scholarship/Critical Writing

16 August 2006

The politics of knitting

Anne Galloway, on her blog Purse Lip Square Jaw, has written a great piece on knitting and public politics. As she concludes in the post:

"...It is this making of culture that is so important and valuable when it comes to public politics. Knitting's strongest contribution, then, is a persistent demonstration of the ability to craft culture materially, socially and ideologically. The question that most interests me at the end of the day is what kinds of culture and politics are being crafted, and by whom?"

08 August 2006

Call for papers and exhibit proposals - NEW CRAFT - FUTURE VOICES

The first international ‘New Craft - Future Voices’ conference will be hosted by Duncan of Jordanstone College, University of Dundee, Scotland from 04 - 06 July 2007.

The conference will encourage the discussion surrounding the future of craft. It seeks to expose and articulate craft issues currently being investigated via doctoral research, post-doctoral research and craft practitioners, and to document new ways of questioning and disseminating the dialogue of craft practice.

‘New Craft - Future Voices’ will explore the relation between skill, intellect and culture within the individual vision of crafts practitioners. Under this banner, the following themes could serve as areas for discussion and exploration:

• Craft and science
• Innovation, design and craft
• Story-making and storytelling
• Epistemology of making
• Craft and the economy
• Craft and digital process
• Craft and cultural diversity
• The pedagogy of craft
• Practice and research
• Craft management
• Mindfulness
• Intelligent making
• Craft & Dialogue
• Craft and manufacturing
• Intuition, Creativity & Craft
• Craft and wellbeing

Papers and exhibit proposals on these or related topics are sought for presentation at the NCFV conference. Papers and exhibit proposals from craft practitioners and researchers and other atypical sources are of particular interest. We also welcome case studies of successful doctoral education, examples of best practice in education, craft practice from all disciplines, teaching, learning, supervision and successful programs and/or initiatives. The emphasis should be on the intellectual framework or thinking and making process of craft.

Abstract and Exhibit Proposal requirements:
Initial submission should take the form of a 400-word abstract (for papers) and overview (for exhibit proposals). The abstracts and exhibit proposals should include the nature of the research and/or practice, the methods used, and the main findings and/or outputs (the latter if an exhibition proposal). Submissions should be made through the ‘New Craft - Future Voices’ website http://www.newcraftfuturevoices.com

A maximum of 5 images can be submitted as part of an exhibition proposal, in jpeg (72 dpi).

Refereeing of Papers & Extended Exhibit Proposals:
Selection of papers & exhibit proposals will be a two-stage process. Firstly, all abstracts & proposals will be reviewed; authors/practitioners selected will be invited to submit full papers/extended proposals for a further review process. In all instances, abstract, papers and extended exhibit proposals will be blind reviewed by an international panel of experts in the field of craft (writing, practice and research).

Key dates:
Deadline for abstract: 28 September 2006
Notification of accepted abstracts: 26 October 2006
Deadline for papers: 01 February 2007
Notification of accepted papers: 20 February 2007
Deadline for full papers: 22 March 2007

For further information, please contact Louise Valentine at l.valentine@dundee.ac.uk

This conference arises from the AHRC funded project, ‘Past, Present & Future Craft Practice’, conducted at the University of Dundee. The conference in addition to the exhibition and papers will provide opportunities to hear prominent keynote speakers, and provide opportunities for rich interaction and discourse.