22 June 2010

Assemble, London :: Session 1

Rosy Greenlees opened the Assemble one-day conference where Crafts Council (CC) launch their (to be) annual research event. Crafts Council launch 3 new pieces of research today, which as Rosy noted, is their contribution craft future debates and agenda.

Professor Press urged us as colleagues to champion the values of craft and to understand better why craft is worth campaigning for in these new times, i.e. post new-labour. Craft's challenge is to connect with the concerns and interests of the world around us, leaving the urge to define what craft is behind. We have new priorities defined by the sector. How should craft connect with the 'Big Society' set by todays new political UK framework? We have a choice notes Press, seize the moment or squander it? 'It' being the opportunity for change in a way that hasn't been presented for over a generation. Press noted the priority was to refine and define objectives and priorities for the craft sector; to engage in an informed dialogue and debate.

Making Value by Mary Schwarz and Dr Karen Yair, presented key findings from one of the CC new research projects, this one a qualitative piece of research that looked at the 65-70% of makers who have a portfolio of practice and are working beyond the making, exhibition and sale of craft objects'. e.g. Barley Massey, Sheila Tegue. (Making Value in Industry Sectors, in Education and Community Settings). My interest and  interpretation of Schwarz and Yair's talk was about the various forms of knowledge offered by craft: material, social, learning strategies, creative methods.

Listening to practitioners, while interesting on individual level, there appears to be a huge opportunity for 'us' to talk, to converse, to explain what we do, how we do it and WHY we do it differently as it is very difficult to penetrate what the 'value' of craft is when the conversation is heavily descriptive.

Lynne Murray's work is worth having a look at. It is the result of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership project which looked at new ways of understanding the vaue of craft, craft knowledge and craft maker. www.tissot.ch/reality. As is the work of Tom Gallant.

On closing of this first session, what is interesting is that CC appear to have taken a stance that craft is skillful making, and while Professor Press noted that the time to define craft is over, the majority of the presentations were concerned with craft as a 'type cast' process driven experience. The intellectual intentions of the makers were lost and the big brand, 'product' or client were over-riding Craft. Perplexing. There, as yet, appears to be a failure to communicate craft as a bigger set of issues e.g craft as a strategy rather than a concern for technical dexterity.  Explaining craft and crafting beyond materiality has as yet to arise in today's debate.

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