24 September 2008

Crafts as a Renewing Force of Culture - Crafticulation Day 1

By now I am sure that most people will be aware of the shooting of nine students and one teacher in Finland yesterday and it was on this somber note that the Crafticulation conference started.

Ellen Dissanayake's opening keynote adopted an evolutionary perspective of how humans are biologically prepared to make and respond to the arts. In ways that indirectly addressed current events Ellen presented her argument that our psychology which was developed in the Pleistocene period needs mutuality, belonging, meaning, developing hands on competence, and showing care about the important things in life that are not being attended to in a secular complex world. The opportunities for the above are not automatically available.

Martin Woolley from Central St Martins followed with his keynote 'Making Futures' where he challenged us to move more in the direction of science where our 'craft ethos' could put us at the forefront of developing new materials and technologies rather than waiting patiently for them to trickle down to us in the crafts. He acknowledged the argument that the crafts can be an antidote to contemporary culture whilst probably true he felt was unhelpful if we are to move in the direction that he is advocating. This would be a moving from what he described as intelligent making to making intelligence. He is also aiming to start a crafttechculture blog in the next three months addressing these issues. A lot of people are now using the expression 'craft ethos' and yet we still have to articulate what we mean by this. 

There were stronger hints of it however in the parallel sessions that 
followed. The conference is organised around three streams of parallel sessions focussing on Craft Knowledge, Craft Theory, Approaches to methodology, Gendered issues in craft and Crafts & well being. Carol Gray and Gordon Burnett from Grays in Aberdeen (see image on right) talked about connected knowing that was based on relationship and adopted an epistemological orientation. Eija Vahala from Finland also talked about how her research has demonstrated the ways in which the crafts can enhance a sense of well being and the ability of individuals to contribute positively to society. Given recent events a fitting note perhaps to finish the days proceedings.

23 September 2008

Reporting from Crafticulation in Helsinki

Here we are in the home of Marimekko - Helsinki, Finland for the Crafticulation conference that starts in earnest tomorrow. Our own Fanke Peng will be giving a paper in the afternoon on The Craft of Visual Analysis. Just wanted to alert you to more detailed reports of the event which will follow.

20 June 2008

Hear Richard Sennett at the Edinburgh Book Festival

As part of the Edinburgh Book Festival
Richard Sennett will be speaking about his new book The Craftsman - tickets £9.00

Sun 10/08/2008
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Society and Culture

What does it mean today to learn a craft, a skill or a hobby? In The Craftsman, esteemed Professor of Sociology Richard Sennett explores why we have needed practical activity, how the role of the skilled craftsman has changed over time, and what motivates individuals to become obsessive and inspired by a hobby, including his own attempts to learn the piano.

17 April 2008

A New Worldview of Craft Education in the 21st Century

Just thought I would share with you one of my abstracts that has been accepted for the Crafticulation Conference in Helsinki 24 - 26th September 2008. I am currently preparing the full paper and so any comments will help develop my thinking on this issue.


Based on PhD research this paper will demonstrate how the emphasis in craft education has shifted philosophically with different worldviews. Starting with the sensuous exploration of materials and embodied experience (naturalism) of the medieval guilds to the Romanticism of the Arts & Crafts movement (subjective idealism) and an art school education that was concerned with ‘a movement of the mind’. Romanticism however rejected reason and many have suggested that this was its major failing. One of the challenges for craft education within Universities therefore is an epistemological one - to address the nature of reason.

This paper argues that ‘Reason’ however should not be interpreted in its narrow sense of the power of the mind to think and form judgements using logic but rather in a wider sense as fully actualized human beings combining embodied experience with the unity of thinking and doing. This non-dualistic form of ‘reason’ is guided by the heart and refined through critical reflection.

To date Craft has remained impervious to the importance of the discourse and critical thinking. However, considering craft as a worldview can provide a critical framework that will enable us to articulate our uniqueness. It is interesting to note that this expanded concept of reason is central to other disciplines that advocate a craft approach e.g. the craft of archaeology.

A new worldview for craft education in the 21st century will be articulated through reference to contemporary craft practice and writing and the philosophy of Goethe, Jaspers and Dilthey.

11 April 2008

New Domestic Craft Blog

Ebba Redman an undergraduate jewellery & metalwork student here at Duncan of Jordanstone has started a new blog on Domestic Craft skills. Anyone with an interest in this area should check it out and take part in her poll and make a comment. The crotchet ring left (made by Ebba) was what started her interest in this area.

03 April 2008

Postgraduate student conference

Questions & Hypotheses is a conference for postgraduate students in design to be held this October in Berlin. Organised by the Design Research Network, the event promises to be useful and stimulating for all Masters and PhD students in design - including craft disciplines. More details from here.

11 March 2008

The Craftsman

My review of The Craftsman by Richard Sennett is here.