24 November 2006

A Place for Creative Work

I have recently returned from a one day conference in London organised by EUCLID, (UK, European and International information and services for arts and culture) entitled: A Place for Creative Work: International Responses.

"Finding the right space to work as an artist or creative practitioner is still a challenge for many. This conference brings together people from Europe and the Americas who are involved in delivering particularly innovative and successful responses to this challenge." says the opening paragraph of the conference literature. This is what it did, and it was an eye opening experience for me to hear some of the projects that are taking place around the world.

Generally there was a lot of discussion about investment in people, not just buildings, and the need to create a human infrastructure as well as the bricks and mortar. There was debate about the need to shift the current paradigm so that creative people are recognised as valuable assets, not a luxury or a drain, and that there needs to be a global creative revolution! As I was listening to this I thought about all the shopping malls that are springing up in towns and cities and the increasing similarity between each of them. I thought about the planning departments who make the decisions about what facilities we 'need' that in essence define our very culture. It seems that we need to shop....all the time...in the same shops....everywhere. So I thought, who decides that we dont need a creative community to occupy areas within a city centre? Creative communities can regenerate areas, they can be a commercial resource as well as a tourist attraction. Shawn Patrick McLearen from Artspace USA (a non-profit real estate developer) sited exactly HOW WHAT WHY and WHERE, (which included figures) for all of us to gawp at with envy. According to Keith Hackett (a freelance consultant), the EU Lisbon vision is to nurture regional distictivness. Surely art and craft has a central role to play in this vision?

Tim Jones the Director of Artscape in Canada, another non-profit enterprise, talked about building creative communities, developing creative districts and clusters and cultivating creative cities. He believed that the way forward is to be pro-active and deepen the understanding about creativity. He was the person who said we needed a paradigm shift in order to develop a culture of creativity and innovation. People he said can change the world for the better.

The director of the Media Guild in Amsterdam, Andrew Bullen talked about the Guilds aims, which are to "stimulate the innovation potential of [the Guild] and multi media creative industries by bringing together, coaching and enabling talented starters, young entrepreneurs and established professionals to develop and prototype their ideas'. like the other speakers the space they inhabited is in a central location and was rescued from demolition. And like the others, there was nothing second rate about these spaces, they are contemporary workspaces for "creatives".

I just want to discuss one of the final speakers briefly, David Panton from ACME in London. He explained Barratt (the house builders) wanted to build apartments in a prime spot that, I think, had been targeted for business use. Barratt approached ACME and between them devised a way for Barratt to build a sister block that would be used as studio spaces. Their plan was accepted.

So if like Gus Casely -Howard (this months Crafts Magazine) you are fed up with "...craft not being as glamorous as fashion, or as marketable as design, or as credible as visual art [when] we all know that the craft market has a greater potential than the fine arts market , that more people want to buy craft than painting, that a greater proportion of the public want to participate in craft", we are going to have to give some thought to space, how we get some(much more than we have at present), and how we develop creative communities.....aren't we?

22 November 2006

Knitted Ferrari

craft research
Just thought I would add this posting of a Knitted Ferrari that appeared on BBC breakfast news the other day. Any comments?

Lauren Porter’s Knitted Ferrari
Sarah Myerscough Fine Art
(Monday 27th November to Friday 1st December)

In Laurens Porter’s full size knitted Ferrari we find the fusion of the seemingly incompatible. The most aspirational of all consumer products is presented in the medium most quintessentially ‘home-spun’. The masculine is brought together with the feminine, soft with hard, young with old and the fast with the slow - this particular Ferrari was 10 months in production. If you were to ask what the opposite of Ferrari might be – could the answer be knitting?

The beauty of this piece is not just in the simplicity with which these associations and stereotypes are challenged; the positivitey with which Lauren raises these questions is just as immediate. Stressing the importance she places on using humour and optimism to put across a deeper meaning, Lauren especially wants people who don’t normally go to art galleries to see her work.

The wide appeal of this piece can be seen in the breath of interest in it - exhibited in both the British International Motor Show in the Sunday Times VIP Super Car Section and at the Alexandra Palace for the Stitch and Knit expo. ‘I get men admiring the racing lines and old women admiring the stitching’ Lauren says, and likes the way that people walk away from it with a smile on there face.

A controversial cross between a Testa Rossa and a 355, this version includes windscreen wipers, wing mirrors, low profile tires and, of course, the famous badge (here hand embroidered). Having already drawn a great deal of attention to itself, having been featured in the Times, the Sun and on BBC 1 already this year, the red knitted Ferrari will now be on sale at Sarah Myerscough Fine Art.

10 November 2006

craft research

There is an interesting discussion going on in the forum of the Craft Scotland website. http://www.craftscotland.org under "Craft in Crisis" posted by Tina. This was a recent comment by 'Duncan' "I think Liz and her question about who the credit goes to (the work or the maker) is a moot point. The work and the maker are related - but surely the work is the most important thing - many great works have been produced by not very nice people (!), but that does not make the work less important.Also, knowing what craft is and this encouraging people to come and see/buy craft is not a strong link. Perry won the Turner Prize (although avoided using the craft word) and Chihuly does 'glass sculpture'. These people avoided the craft word, and reaped the benefits, it could be argued. Potentially, had they used the craft word, they would not be where they are now. I still think this hangup on names is becoming irrelevent. On fewer people going to craft shows - correct. But fewer people go to installation shows in visual art, fewer go to photography shows by less well-know photographers than painting/photography shows by better-known artists, but that does't faze photographers - as they have high profile blockbusting photographers to carry the torch for the profession.Maybe galleries don't sell/show craft as much because it is on the whole 3D - takes up more space and is harder to show and ship than 2D works (this alos applies to the buyer). And again, the auction resale market and lack of museum shows and permanent collection reinforces this negative circle (well established by reports written by the Arts Council for England for example). What do gallery owners think about this?Yes, people should study craft like fine art. How would this get started - is this something Creative and Cultural Skills are working on? Anyone working in universities reading this who has ideas about how it would start?Duncan.

Let's start here in answer to your point. I don't know if Creative and Cultural Skills are working on this. I do know that a lot of funding is going to people who are researching craft, craft practice, what craft is and how it should be 'read' and taught. Dr Sandra Wilson has just finished her PhD looking at Craft and linking it to Goetha's theory of holism and William Morris. Very interesting reading! I am part of the 'Past Present and Future Craft Practice' project looking at the interrelationship between skill, intent and culture. My part of that is looking at the aesthetic embodied in craft by researching methodological approaches in historical and contemporary craft practices. I guess that's a start. part of my research is to develop a model for reading craft so that it can be taught )I am also a teacher and this is very close to my heart)We are having a big New Craft-Future Voives conference next year in July which hopefully will provide a voice for craftpeople and those interrested in craft. http://www.newcraftfuturevoices.com/ Take a look I agree with you that craftpeople and artists are crossing the bounderies and using each others disciplines to create their work.(Perry & Chihuly ) I also agree with you that people are afraid to use the word Craft. Isn't that exactly the point we are trying to make? That the term craft and craftsperson is no longer afforded credibility, value, or dignity? This is exactly why AHRC and other bodies are giving funding for research in this area.
No, you don't have to be a nice person to make beautiful or important 'work'. LOL! By this I take it you mean crafted objects and not art/craft. craft/art or design? Or are you blurring the three, combining them, diluting them in fact? Anything diluted is weaker than the origional. I believe craft - the craftperson, process, methodologies, methods, and product has in itself a stronger identity, than when it seeks to try to be accepted by the marketplace by diluting it's ethos and identity.
Perhapse you have a comment you would like to post in response?

Live webcast from Valencia

It's another cloudless warm day in Valencia, and we about to leave our hotel for Universidad Politecnica de Valencia for the second and final day of the Crafts in the EU conference. Above we see Chris McIntyre, Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Hertfordshire, striding across the palm tree lined campus.

Today we have two main themes - new relation models and the role of new technologies - which should prove interesting. But don't just take my word for it. As I reported in my post below, there is a live webcast from the conference. Apparently you may need to give it a minute or so for the video streaming to start. Check out the conference programme, and join us today in Valencia!

09 November 2006


A quarry worker, a maker of hand-made luxury ice cream, a tailor, and a plumber who made ceremonial swords - these were just four of the people who took the floor in the first plenary session of Crafts in the EU - New Challenges for a New Century.

Today the Craft Research blog is reporting from Valencia, Spain at the end of the first day of this pan-European conference on the future of craft in Europe. I am speaking tomorrow afternoon, towards the end of this two day event organised by Fundacion Espanola para la Innovacion de la Artesania. The organisers are to be congratulated on pulling together speakers from eleven different EU countries, all covering a range of engaging issues. But most particularly they are to be commended in succeeding on what so often alludes us in the UK - attracting practitioners from the full range of craft practices: art-craft makers through to artesans.

This seemingly eclectic mix reflects the different cultural and economic conception of "the crafts" in the south of Europe, compared with the north - itself reflecting different economic structures. It makes for some spirited exchanges, and brings home the rich cultural diversity of Europe.

Spain is at a turning point in the development of higher education and - in particular - provision for art, design and craft. This conference is helping to inform that debate, and to place it in the context of perspectives and experiences from across the EU.

The morning started on a postitive note, with a government spokesperson arguing that while craft is not properly considered in Spain, there is an urgent need to recover the craft industry's reputation, to revalue skills and embrace new business strategies. All well and good. But then the following speaker claimed that "craftsmanship needs to be understood in terms of heritage".

There is a tension in the conference (a healthy tension) between a heritage/tourist development conception of craft, and a more future-focussed consumer-savvy view. In part this cuts as a north-south divide - but that would be to overly simplify some complex issues. There are some views expressed worth taking issue with, while others make postivie points with exceptional eloquence. The conference chair - Professor Jesus-Angel Prieto - in introducing the morning's main themes said "hands generate thought - they are a form of thought".

My personal highlight of the day was Rory O'Connor of marketing consultancy True Potential in Ireland. He presented a market analysis of craft in Ireland and the market oppportunities facing practitioners. There was a clarity in the analysis and sense of future direction that was refreshing. "Craft makers," said Rory "don't provide the stories; they don't make the offer". Pointing out that the craft sector effectively competes both with low cost producers in the far east and large multinationals, he set out the challenges - but, importantly, suggested economic ways forward for the sector.

This is a conference on policy and strategies for the crafts, and as such it is very welcome and timely. Comments from some of the speakers - and indeed from many on the floor - suggest that for significant sectors of the 'craft industry' there is no sustainable future unless radical action is taken to provide new business models, marketing strategies, and professional development. However, evidence from Germany, Finland, the UK and Spain itself is suggesting strategies that may have wider application across the EU. So, let us see how the discussions go tomorrow.

Now apparently there is a live webcast of the conference somewhere. My task this evening is to track down the URL for it. Watch this psace.

08 November 2006

craft research

Tina, on the Craft Scotland forum says "The word craft is misused, misunderstood and misplaced. It is used in ways that diminish its credibility. It is vitally important we reclaim the word craft so it is understood and people will buy it, galleries will want to exhibit it and the media will want to write about it. How can we stop the word craft being misused and misunderstood?" http://www.craftscotland.org/HaveYourSay.htm Some interesting replies have been given in response. Have a look. Perhapse we could look at it here too.

06 November 2006

passing comment

A craftsperson said, "The most attractive thing about craft is the sharing of knowledge" That passing comment got me thinking.
What really makes craft attractive? Where is the beauty in Craft? Is it in the sharing of knowledge? Is it in the finished artifact that reflects the craftsperson's personal vision? But wouldn't this then mean that the beauty of craft is in the entire process, person and product combined? What do you think?