28 April 2006

DIY Craft

OK, so here's something for us to ponder in terms of our research objectives. We are looking at the "past, present and future of craft". Right now we are witnessing a remarkable cultural phenomenon which is the spiralling interest and participation in DIY crafts. Just take a look at the del.icio.us links for craft, and you will see what I mean.

Here's one attempt to pin down what's driving it - from the HobbyPrincess blog.

On the Redefining Craft blog, Dennis Stevens poses an important question:

Where is the definition that addresses craft with respect to the flurry of creativity that we are currently seeing within the DIY community?

Certainly this is craft or crafting, just not craft as we commonly know it. It is slightly reminiscent of the 1970’s craft movement, but this a remix; it is witty and it is often nostalgically ironic and it offers biting sarcasm with regard to the presumed role of domestic creativity within our culture. However, a common definition remains elusive.
A number of bloggers are addressing this field and their taglines are descriptive of the common themes among DIY craft practitioners, i.e.:

Extreme Craft: Compendium of craft masquerading as art, art masquerading as craft, and craft extending its middle finger

Craftster: No tea cozys without irony

SuperNaturale: Celebrates ingenuity, creativity and the handmade

Craftivism: Documenting the crafty life, stitch by political stitch

WhipUp: Handcraft in hectic world

New definitions of craft

In her post, Frances raises an important question - how is the role and definition of craft changing in a highly technological contemporary culture?

I've recently been reading research by Cathy Treadaway, whose doctoral research is investigating the impact of digital technology on creative textile practice. This page has links to her on-line publications and projects. In her discussion she raises Walter Benjamin's notion of aura, that describes the emotive aspect that appears to be absent from industrial product. She argues that aura comes from David Pye's idea of the workmanship of risk. Cathy's research shows that practitioners (design and craft), who are working in the main digitally, acknowledge the vital importance of hand making in the creative process. As she says (in a currently unpublished piece) "the emotional content of digitally produced artefacts therefore, resides in the perceived evidence of physical interaction of its author".

So, at the risk of summarising a very fullsome argument, craft in the early 21st century can be defined in terms of a process whereby designers provide emotive engagement for consumers through physical innteraction with materials and process. Craft may be a minor part of the development process (or not). But the definition of the fine crafts in the early 21st century is an entirely different matter!

27 April 2006

craft research

craft researchJanet Abrams comment "call me a Luddite" started me thinking about tradition and craft. The American Crafts Council have many quotes published on their website and I thought I would share a few.

" in its broadest sense craft refers to the creation of original objects through an artists disciplined manipulation of material. Historically craft was identified with producing objects that were necessary to life. Today the word craft in America has new connotations. Modern industrialised society eliminates the need to make by hand essentials for living. As a result craft has transcended its traditional role and meaning. The term craft now must be defined in the context of a society that focuses on greater efficiency by technological achievement". Paul J.Smith. Craft Today: Poetry of the Physical, Weidenfeld & Nicolson,1986.

It is interesting that Smith identifies craft as necessary to life and that he feels that is has now transcended its traditional role. I find the reference to makers and materials, something that is voiced continually in crafts writing: is this worthy of greater discussion? For instance how do we define materials? Is there a historical meaning and is it now changing and evolving into something new.

17 April 2006

Radical craft

An excellent account of the Radical Craft conference Janet Abrams, Director of the University of Minnesota Design Institute, can be found here on the Core 77 website.

She kicks the piece off thus:

Call me a Luddite, but I went to Radical Craft, the second biennial Art Center Design Conference, hoping for insights into the shifting definitions of craft and how it is evolving in an age of post-industrial design and manufacturing. With the exception of a few talks that touched on things hand-made in a digital era, however, few of the speakers addressed this fascinating issue head-on.

And finishes it with this challenge:

Could a design conference truly galvanize, challenge its audience, provoke us into action, spurred rather than dazed by the stunning variety of its speakers' agendas and accomplishments?

Now, that would be radical.

Fine Craft - a question of definition.....

I would agree with Liz that until recently 'craft' was used as a catch-all for diverse creative practices in the UK. One development that has moved us on somewhat is the publication in January 2006 of Making it to Market: Developing the market for contemporary craft, commissioned by the Arts Council of England (ACE) and authored by Morris Hargreaves McIntyre. Download the whole report here.

The report takes as its starting point this new definition of 'fine crafts' by ACE:
We examine the whole market of contemporary craft made by self-defined professional designer-makers. In accordance with Arts Council England policy we place particular emphasis on the market for contemporary fine craft. This is work that meets the following criteria:
• contemporary craft work that is cutting-edge and ensures the highest standard of workmanship
• work that must not seek to reproduce or restore, but rather must be innovative in its use of materials and aesthetic vision
• work that not only reflects the signature of the individual maker, but also demonstrates investigation of processes and critical enquiry.

Taking this definition as the starting point, the report goes on to propose a four-fold typology or segmentation of craft practices:

Segment 1 – Recognised craft and recognised designer-makers
Established designer-makers have work in significant public collections, and in solo exhibitions. They are concerned to be recognised for working in a fine art discipline and make for an international market. They make up 7.3 per cent of the sector.

Segment 2 – Progressive craft and progressive designer-makers
Designer-makers here are making themselves known for their cutting-edge work. Their work is beginning to be collected; it is intended for a national and an international market, but they sell at a range of outlets because of a shortage of dealers and high-quality outlets. These designer-makers make up 3.1 per cent of the sector.

Segment 3 – Emerging craft and emerging designer-makers
In this segment there is work by emerging designer-makers seeking to be recognised as progressive. They face a battle for survival and this often means making commercial work that subsidises more challenging work. These designer-makers comprise 4.9 per cent of the sector.

Segment 4 – Most craft and most craft designer-makers
This segment contains the vast majority of professional designer-makers – people who are driven to live by their creativity. They are generally making non-critically engaged work and are selling mainly to a local market. There are many very successful entrepreneurs in this group who make a good living from sales and commissions. These designer-makers are 84.7 per cent of the sector.

All in all, an interesting and useful piece of work that takes this question of definition forwards.

11 April 2006

Art Craft? Fine Craft? Just Craft?

I was interested to read that in Australia craft of exceptional quality of workmanship, uniquene and refined, and show a degree of problem solving, creative intellegence and innovation, is classed as 'Art Craft'. In the USA the same criteria is used to but called 'Fine Craft'. In the UK I have found no distinction in the crafts. Everything is lumped together. What do you think?