Craft in America Symposium 2002
Craft in America Symposium Participants
May 18, 2002
- Jacoba Atlas: Senior Vice-President, Programming, PBS
- Jim Bassler: M.A. Professor Emeritus, Department of Design/Media Arts, Department of World Arts and Culture, University of California, Los Angeles
- Cathleen Collins: Consultant to Craft in America; attorney; fundraiser
- Anthony Cortese: Film editor for Craft in America
- Miguel Angel Corzo: D.Sc. President, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Ph.D. Behavioral Psychologist; Professor, Claremont Graduate University
- Patrick Ela: M.B.A. Acting director of the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles
- Sharon K. Emanuelli: M.A. Independent art historian; curator; symposium moderator, Craft in America
- Stephen Fenton: Creative Director, Craft in America
- Janet Ginsburg: Writer
- Dale Gluckman: M.A. Curator, Costumes and Textiles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- Beverly Gordon: Ph.D. Professor, Environment, Textiles and Design Department, School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison
- Barbara Hamaker: M.A. Weaver; writer; symposium coordinator, Craft in America
- David Haugland: Independent Producer, Director
- Laurie Levin: M.A. Grant writing consultant; symposium coordinator, Craft in America
- Kathy Levitt: M.F.A. Filmmaker; writer; producer
- Robert Liu: Ph.D. Co-Publisher, Ornament Magazine; scientist; jeweler; photographer; bead historian
- Bruce Metcalf: M.F.A. Jeweler; teacher; writer on the nature of craft work
- Steven Poster: A.S.C. Cinematographer, Supervising Director of Photography, Craft in America
- Howard Rissatti: Ph.D. (Former) Chair, Department of Crafts, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Carol Sauvion: Creator, Executive Producer, Craft in America
- Kenneth Trapp: M.A. (Former) Curator-in-Charge of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
- Roslyn Tunis: M.A. Independent Curator; consultant
- Hidde Van Duym: Ph.D. Director of Research for Craft in America; Arts Administrator and consultant
Copyright © 2006 by CRAFT IN AMERICA
Carol Sauvion (Creator, Executive Producer, Craft in America): Thank you first of all to Cynthia Sears. And thanks to Jon and Lillian Lovelace for opening their home to us for this day. We want to take the information that we glean here today and make this series something special that reflects the incredible wealth of talent and culture and care that people in this country have for handmade things. There are a couple of people I have to introduce. One of them is Stephen Fenton. He has helped me so much. I worked on this project for four years. This wonderful man said ‘let me look at it’ and so I faxed it to him and he faxed back ‘It’s a little stiff, let me work on this for you’ [Laughter.] and he came up with a fantastic proposal which pulled a lot of you in, including Kenneth Trapp. Thank you for being here Ken. Once I had the proposal, I went to Jacoba Atlas at PBS, (that was August of 2000), and she said, “Yes, we like this project. We like it because there are ancillary projects. We love the fact that there will be tapes, and there’ll be a book, and hopefully there’ll be an exhibition, but before we can work with you, you need a budget, a staff, and a treatment for the first episode.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll get back to you in two weeks.” [Laughter] It took me two years to do it, so we’re making progress.
Jacoba Atlas (Senior Vice-President, Programming, PBS): Absolutely.
Carol Sauvion: I’d like to introduce Jacoba.
Jacoba Atlas: Thanks, Carol. I actually thought it was a little over a year ago when you started to talk to me about it, so I’ve lost a year somewhere in this. But it’s very exciting, I’ve known Carol for a long time, mostly because at first I would just go into her gallery and look at the beautiful things that she has there and sometimes I would occasionally be able to take one home with me, which was a great thrill and then we became friends and Carol talked to me about this project. It was immediately intriguing I think partly because as all of you know far better than I just as somebody who loves beautiful objects and loves crafts, that craft is both aspirational and accessible. We have, (those of us who are not artists somehow have) a delusion that we can do this, even though we know we can’t. But it 1 seems accessible in a way that perhaps other arts do not. So, all of this fits beautifully into what the PBS mission is about. It is about diversity. It is about education. It is about reaching out to the cultural landscape. But I do have to be honest with you; visual arts on television are some of the hardest things to create. We have very limited series on PBS about the visual arts and they have been to greater or lesser degrees a success. One that we had last year which some of you might have seen was Art 21, which was a series aiming to bring contemporary artists to the American public. We’ve also had the Sister Wendy series, which came out of the U.K. These are really hard for people to watch and I think that one of the things that you’re all going to be grappling with when you talk more with Steve tomorrow about the filmmaking aspect of this, is why visual arts are such a struggle for us to accept on television. Partly it may be because they are not three-dimensional on television, partly because you can’t get the texture, you can’t hold them in your hand. These are some of the challenges that you’ll face as you turn this into television. One of the things that we’ve all learned about TV, (and, if any of you watch television, I’m sure you know this as well), it’s basically an entertainment landscape. People turn to television to be entertained. If you can be educated as well, and learn something as well, that’s great and that’s what PBS strives to have happen, that meshing between entertainment and education. And that has to be the goal of any television. We’re not a university, we’re not a college, we’re not a high school, we’re not a museum. We live in a landscape where people can watch NBC, where people can watch HBO. We have a smart audience, but they watch those things as well. So that’s part of the challenge. And what we know works is biography. What we know works is pure storytelling. Characters work, you want to know about people, as much as you want to know about ideas and things. The other huge challenge for television, which is a challenge for people who want to work for PBS, quite honestly, is the funding, and I think all of you or most of you in this room deal on a fairly regular basis with the challenge of funding and it’s a huge challenge for PBS. We get only less than 16 cents out of every dollar from the government. The rest of the money comes from individuals, foundations and corporate sponsorship. I’m sure as most of you know, this has been a tough year for individuals and Wall Street and that means it’s been a tough year for foundations and for corporate underwriting as well. So it becomes more and more challenging for filmmakers and others to find the money to do the projects that they want. It does take a certain amount of tenacity, I know that Carol has that, it takes a refusal to take no for an answer, and a belief in your own project that this has to come to fruition. I think you have a couple of wonderful things to your advantage. First and foremost is that nobody’s done this. It’s really amazing that nobody’s done this, but nobody has, and it’s something that I think most Americans love and would 2 want to see. Carol has assembled through Steve and the people who are working with him, a terrific team of filmmakers. I guess later today you’re going to see a short tape that they put together to let you know about the series. It is a wonderful tape. I watched it a couple of times and brought in my assistant to watch it as well, and it just sets the right mood right from the get-go. It’s amusing, it’s got the right attitude, it’s engaging, and it’s beautiful to look at. So, we see a lot of material that aspires to be wonderful and falls short and I’m really happy to say that this is just the opposite, it aspires to be wonderful and it is wonderful. So, that bodes very well for the future and for what you’re trying to do. There’s a wonderful quote, if I may, from the tape, that I just loved, and it’s that objects are our only original events from history. And I love that. Objects are our only original events from history, everything else is secondhand, everything else is interpretation. But you can hold something from history and I think that what Carol is doing here is helping to create the present right now and put it into the future so that there will be a history for now. And we’re happy to be a part of it. Thank you. [Applause.]
Carol Sauvion: Shan, shall we turn the meeting over to you?
Sharon K. Emanuelli, M.A. (Independent art historian; curator; symposium moderator, Craft in America): I want to thank everybody for the ready enthusiasm and the generosity of spirit with which all of you, scholars, guests, [and] filmmakers have embraced this project, and the willingness to share your thoughts and concerns and your expertise with us. I know this is because Carol is incredibly persuasive, that her convictions and enthusiasms are infectious, but it really is an honor for me to be sitting in this room with such an accomplished and talented array of individuals, and I mean that so sincerely. It is because of your support, and that of others who could not be here today, that I can believe that I might someday be sitting in my living room and watching Craft in America on my television set. Many of you, like me, were first exposed to the project with the help of that beautiful and beautifully written piece of Steve Fenton’s based on Carol’s effort at imagining an appropriate and original way to approach the subject that is her life’s work. It is an evocative, inspiring and emotional piece. From that point, work has been done to begin the process of grounding and articulating the practical content of this project. As many of you have mentioned there’s enough material for 500 hours and the more one gets into the complexities of the subject, the more one finds complexity. In this context, I am ever mindful of an adage often repeated by my mentor, Edith Wyle, founder of the Craft and Folk Art Museum, whenever we questioned her logic in developing projects, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” 3 But there is the need to harness the material and focus our efforts. We must have guidelines, we must have limits to the scope, we must know the material, and we must be able to readily define the material and activities we are presenting. So it is our job today to further that goal and in this session we will deal with the broad themes and conceptual approaches to the subject. We’re here to listen to our scholar advisors and special guests and to what they have to contribute. It’s an opportunity also for the filmmakers to understand better the nature of the subject and the practice of craft history and theory and many of its current applications. While we may not apply the technical language and vocabulary used here in the film, we must be mindful that we are making a film for a popular audience, and that we want to impart real information and further comprehension.
Carol Sauvion: We need to mention two names: Lloyd Herman, the first curator of the Renwick Gallery, who has been involved in the project since the beginning, Unfortunately Lloyd is in Boston this weekend and could not be with us. And Nicki Sandoval, who was at the Museum of the American Indian, and who is now coming back to California and starting her doctoral work at University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s driving across the country and is not able to be with us.
Shan Emanuelli: Okay. Ken Trapp: What Kind of History Are We Presenting?
Kenneth Trapp, M.A. (Curator-in-Charge of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum): In speaking about history, I’ve developed a series of thoughts and questions. For me this project represents a collective history of Americans as much as it does a collective history of human beings in that we are addressing the need of human beings to create objects by hand. Some of the questions that came to my mind as I thought about this project are, whose histories are we recording and are we presenting to the public? From what perspectives? Who tells the stories and by what authority? Who is the defined and who is the definer? To me, Craft in America has to be a series of seamless histories interwoven to tell a full rich story. Will this program be art history, decorative art history, craft history, design history? Is it cultural, social, political history? Is it American history? Material culture, technologies history, human history, personal histories? Of course, all of the above. But it’s the manner in which these histories are told and what the viewpoint is. I would like to bring to your attention thoughts about histories from my research when I was in California. There was an association called the Redlands Indian Association in Redlands, California, in which a group of philanthropic white women asked Native American women to make lace. From the beginning of the turn of the 20th century to the end of the 20th century, there was a vast sea change in how we would look at this whole philanthropic approach. I think it goes from what began as a positive to one where we would look at it almost as a negative. For example, the audacity of taking an art form 4 that is very white and western to Native Americans. Although the impulse was philanthropic, in the end it was seen as exploitive. The same thing was happening at the Sherman Institute in which young Indian boys were introduced to furniture making based upon Gustav Stickley prototypes. Obviously, they weren’t living with his furniture. So, whose stories are we telling? How do we integrate those stories, those histories of those who are the makers, those who are the users, those who are the connoisseurs? For those of you who might know something about the Arts & Crafts Movement, especially in the United States, from the interest of it in 1972 with the Princeton exhibition, “The Arts & Crafts Movement in America, from 1876 to 1916” has seen a resurgence of interest. What I find rather amazing, though, is that the movement has been largely emptied of its content. What drew me to it as a movement was a philosophy, was a human aspect of this movement, the humanitarian impulses behind it. Now it’s become a fashion statement, very much a fad. We see this in the revival of Stickley furniture; pick up the New York Times magazine, any Shelter magazine, and you’ll see how the movement has become one of the ways things look. If you go back in time, though, and think of the Arts & Crafts Movement, and the people who were actually a part of it, and who were creating the objects, they, of course, were living histories. We have given on overlay of our view of that movement largely by romanticizing it, and I think perhaps the lowest level of romanticizing is in the Franklin reproductions of Cotswold cottages, which are seen as the epitome of the good life. We also see this in the paintings of (if I may use this word advisedly) of Thomas Kinkade, painter of light, that he has chosen this quintessential Cotswold cottage as the emblematic of what life should be in all of its goodness. We are a heterogeneous society, with many thousands of craft practitioners of diverse backgrounds. How do we open up these histories to be inclusive, I know inclusive has become a cliché, certainly in the museum world. When I moved from California to Washington, I was termed “PC” very quickly and I said, ‘I don’t think it’s politically correct, I think it’s politically right that we open up the process and include people of many backgrounds.’ So it’s how to find those people. I can tell you as a curator working for the National Museum, (that is, the Smithsonian complex), finding many of these people has proven problematic. The last thing I would like to say is that, craft (as we approach it at the Renwick), represents a vast accumulation of human knowledge, from which we have drawn the information that informs all the books that we go to to learn about craft. That is, the books weren’t written and then we started the practice, it was the practice and then the books came. The glory of craft is in the union of materials with the hand, with the human need and with the idea. And for me, Craft in America will succeed if it reaches even a small part of this; because it’s opening the doors for what I hope will be future films as well as discourse on this phenomenon in 5 American art. To that end, I have proposed repeatedly since I’ve been in Washington that the postal service issue a series of stamps based upon American craft. And for those of you who have worked with the National Endowment for the Humanities, and have been asked, ‘where’s the humanity of craft?’ that was the very first question I got from the postal service. Where’s the interest in this material and where’s the humanity in it? So we have a challenge with that. Thank you.
Shan Emanuelli: Bruce Metcalf: A Theoretical Framework for Craft.
Bruce Metcalf, M.F.A. (Jeweler; teacher; writer on the nature of craft work): I guess I’m one of two people in this room who are full-time, practicing craftspeople, is that right? Along with Jim?
Carol Sauvion: We also have Nikki Lewis, who is in her first year of graduate school at UCLA in the Ceramics Department, and teaching and making pots and beautiful things. And we have Tia Pulitzer, who has just finished her BFA from Kansas City Art Institute. There has been a lot of discussion about the “graying of the craft world” so I’ve asked these two young women to be here today to prove that this is not the case. [Laughter.] Also with us today is Barbara Hamaker, weaver, basket maker, and writer who is in the process of writing the treatments for this series.
Bruce Metcalf: So there are five of us here, which is good. [Laughter.] I was thinking last night about what a practicing craftsperson would think about this series if they saw it on TV, in particular, what they would hope for, since this series will represent us, and it will be the first representation in quite some time, on the national TV scene. I guess all of you must know, but I’ll just re-state it: if you’re a practicing craftsperson, you’ve given your life over to this thing. I’ve been doing it thirty years, and it’s not just a job, it’s a calling. And that makes it somewhat different, than simply just a job where one gets money at it. There’s a passionate commitment that comes with the business that I think is difficult to explain. So the series will bear their burden of hope. And, so I was wondering, what are they going to want? There’s going to be an incredible amount of desire focused on this series, from people like myself, (aside from petty self-interest, I mean, there’ll be a lot of people thinking, oh, why wasn’t I on that show, and then they’ll think, well, gee, is this going to help me market my work? Is it going to develop a market…?) Strip all that away, and I think what is left is that practicing craft people will want the series to explain why craft matters. Why craft matters. And not just why it matters to practitioners like myself, but why it matters to everybody. And I think it does, from my experience and from my study. I think it’s true, not only of us as practitioners, but of the whole population. Which is not something I think most people grasp, or even begin to understand. I think every practicing craftsperson is committed to a project that is significant beyond the 6 immediate life. It’s also symbolic, in a really, really important way, in that it represents an alternative way of living one’s life within a broad culture that’s largely commercial, and in which production has been removed from personal experience. In other words, most of us don’t get our hands on the stuff that we use anymore, it’s all made out there. That is not the case for a craftsperson. And I think that that intimate relationship between life and production is really important. So, from the point of view of a practicing craftsperson, this series will be seen as a failure if it does not explain why craft matters. That’s what I thought last night about 3 in the morning. As an amateur theorist as well, I think that theories might be interesting to bring to the question now, because I think theory does start to approach answering that question of why does craft matter. When I look at a craft object, (like this cup), the normal approach in the art world would be to treat this as an isolated object, the thing on the wall, the sculpture on the pedestal. I think that one of the things that craft does is that to really understand it, you have to divert attention away from the object itself in two directions: on the one side about, (to use a kind of Marxist expression) conditions of production, and on the other side, conditions of reception. That is, under what conditions the object is made and under what condition the object is used, or received. It seems to me that this series is very interested in conditions of production, but largely in terms of a lifestyle, of how craftspeople are living their lives, and I think that’s fine, but I don’t know if that’s going to solve any of the real problems about why craft matters. Since I’m a student of history, if you read Ruskin and if you read Morris, you find that their primary concern was with unalienated labor, that there was this idea of an intimate connection between work and life, where work is not alienated from life, (in the Marxist critique of a factory laborer), where the worker has no real connection between the machine and the commercial production that he or she might be engaged with. The idea of the craft object is that these people actually get to determine what this thing is gonna be. Not only that, but they engage in a long, long process of apprenticeship to the material. We’re talking decades. And that, in turn, takes a degree of commitment that is rarely seen in this culture anymore. I think most people here, since you’re all professionals, you do understand commitment, but if you go to a shopping mall, and you look at how people conduct their lives and how they search for meaning through shopping, I don’t think that that’s something that normally people have accessible to themselves. And I also think in the craft object, there’s something about a passionate refusal. I think that’s really interesting. This is an object of resistance. The comparison is to the French Resistance, during World War II. These objects stand against much of the larger culture, and they are intended to do that, very clearly and very particularly, even though people might not say so. In other words, the handmade object is definitively not mass-produced. It is definitively not mass distributed, it’s not advertised in magazines. So it’s operating outside of the main currents that drive this culture, and to me that’s incredibly important, as I say because it’s both a resistance and an alternative. 7 And another thing about conditions of production is that people come to these things through their bodies. I wrote an article called “The Hand at the Heart of Craft” where I tried to rationalize and justify this business of how craftspeople become craftspeople. It’s all about an intimate experience through the body, and particularly through the hands. We all started this because we got our hands on material and suddenly a light went on. Suddenly we thought, there’s something that we can do with our lives that has to do with labor, but in particular with hand labor, and you cannot underestimate that. And that aspect of the body is interesting to me, because we all know that the main force of culture is away from the body. In my research in handwork, it appears that the human hand, and language use and acquisition, and social intelligence (and I’m thinking about Howard Gardner here) coevolved, all three at the same time. So hand use involved in tool making, and language involved in communicating how to make and use tools, and social organization in terms of how to hunt, how to gather, how to use tools, all evolved on the African savannah at the same time. But if you think about contemporary culture, we’re still social, we still use language, but American culture is much less interested in the hand, and the use of the hand, so there seems to be this kind of truncation of the third leg of that tripod. So that’s why I think craft is also extremely important, because it brings up the use of the hand, and it makes it possible, intimate and important again. I also think there are important implications with conditions of reception. I think for a lot of people who buy and use this stuff there’s…I would call it a participation in authenticity. In that, this thing is, as I pointed out, made by hand, it’s made by a single person, it’s functioning outside of all those circulations of mass marketing and mass production, and for everybody who actually buys and uses these things, they stand at only one degree of separation from the producer. In ceramics, there literally are fingerprints on these things. Look at the bottom sometimes, and you can see people’s fingerprints, the fingerprint of the maker is there, and I think people intuitively recognize that that one degree of separation is really important. It’s vital to how people understand these objects. And I think that a uniqueness is seen as an analogy to one’s own individuality, in other words that craft object stands for one’s singularity, in a world of mass production. Which I think a lot of people understand and relate to very strongly. And then for functional craft, there’s something about the experience of these things. We’re so used in the visual arts to simply regarding art from a distance, and having an intellectual or an aesthetic experience about it. But with craft, and craft that is used, you get your hands on these things. You pick ‘em up, you use ‘em, you drink out of ‘em, you know, you put ‘em on your body. Like that. And that’s a different order of experience entirely from most of the fine arts. Entirely different. Because again it involves the body, it implicates the body, and it implicates social interaction in ways that much of fine art does not do, and in fact many fine artists are very jealous, they wish they could engage people like that. 8 And then, the last thing about conditions of reception. The way I see it, the way I interpret it, is that people who buy and use these objects are actually covert supporters of resistance. You know? That they see their participation in these objects as support of this sort of nighttime activity of doing something that the larger culture doesn’t necessarily reward. And again, I think that’s really important. So when I say, what matters about craft, that’s what I think about from my own point view, as a maker and as theoretician of these objects, and if this series can communicate those points, I think it will be a success. And I think it will teach people and it’ll make people appreciate more what these objects are about, and it will serve the field and it will also serve the public in a really important way. Thank you. [Applause.]
Shan Emanuelli: Mike Csikszentmihalyi: Creativity and the Meaning of Objects.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D. (Behavioral Psychologist; Professor, Claremont Graduate University): I really am very little qualified to speak here, because I never studied craft, specifically, but I have been interested in the visual arts for a long time. In fact, I wrote my dissertation on it about 40 years ago, or so. In that study, I was interested in the conditions of production of visual art and I studied young artists and how they proceeded with their work. And, we discovered some interesting things there, a book came out of it called “The Creative Vision” which is based on how a person starts with a blank canvas and ends up with a finished painting. But as time went on, I became more interested in what Bruce calls the ‘conditions of reception’ that is, once an object is made, what will people do with it? How are works of art used, encountered, (whatever word you want to employ), in the homes of people, so we started looking, interviewing people in their homes and asking them, ‘what is special to you in this house, in this apartment?’ And, initially we started with the intention of chronicling the works of art that were being used by people in their homes, but very quickly we discovered that actually we had started with a false assumption, namely that works of art are what produce aesthetic experiences in people. It turned out that actually there was a quantity, [an] enormity of objects that people could mention as being special to them and they could talk about them with the same subtlety and involvement that one would speak about works of art. This object could be a refrigerator, an old sofa, or a plastic figurine that they received for selling Tupperware at a convention. In other words, what was so amazing after awhile was to see how people are able to invest any kind of object with a personal meaning, which is not necessarily conveyed by any of the formal qualities of the object, or the way it was made. It’s how the people related to the object, how they acquired it in the first place, what moment in their lives this object entered their radar screen, or whatever. And that allowed them to create in their homes a kind of symbolic environment which was meaningful, which represented their lives, which represented their personality, and that is in a way…I’m trying to figure out how all of this related to what you’re up to. 9 But it seems to me that it makes the connection with the experience and activity much clearer, this is what Jacoba started saying, how difficult it is to simply present on TV visual objects. But, objects are meaningful only in relation to the lives of people, so if you figure, whether on the productive end or on the reception end, there are all kinds of ties that are possible to make: why this object was made the way it was, or why it’s cherished. And, as I say, the notion about there being a one-to-one correspondence between formal qualities and the meaning it produces in the user (so to speak) is not very clear, it’s not a one-toone, I mean, we keep thinking, that if the object has this shape, it will produce a predictable reaction, or experience in the person who sees or uses it. And that’s not true, you have to understand that a person’s own (if you want to call it) aesthetics, but it’s more than aesthetics, it’s a way in which the object impacts on the life at that particular moment. We find that if you want to categorize the meanings that these objects have in people’s lives, it’s fairly easy to see in terms of, for instance, a temporal…very important is the temporal sequence. I mean, some objects are cherished because they recall the past, and these are things that you inherit, that you were given, that you bought during your honeymoon, or a particular trip, and every time you look at this object, it triggers a set of memories and experiences that constitutes your own identity, in the past. There are many objects that acquire their meaning because you are using them now, because you are involved with them, and you are constantly resorting to them. And these are objects like cups that you drink from, or a particular lathe that you keep in the basement and you use it to make things with, or photographic equipment, or climbing boots, if you are climber, and these things have a powerful…they are like repositories of your current activities, and therefore, they’re an extension of the self, in that sense. And then there are objects that refer to the future, because you have them, you are collecting them in order to express your dreams, your desires in the future. This could be books that you are collecting for a trip to Europe, or gardening equipment with which you are going to make your garden beautiful, and so forth. So, past, present, future is one way to look at the meaning of objects. And the other very important division is between self and others, some objects are definitely expressions of your uniqueness, and here personal interest, here talent will find its way of being represented through the objects you surround yourself with. An even larger part, perhaps, are objects that are connections to others, that you have to symbolize or represent your relationships, and this can go back generations, or be the little drawings that your child makes, and you attach to the refrigerator door with magnets. Whatever. These are incredibly important to kind of represent (again) concretely the network of relations that constitutes partly who you are. And of course there are enormous age differences and gender differences in this, like young people are almost all surrounded by objects that represent the self and present and as you move on in life, it becomes more other people and the past. And so, these are kind of general markers of what the meaning of objects in everyday life is.
Carol Sauvion: When I first became aware of your work, the thing that seemed most pertinent to our work was your concept of flow, and optimal experience. I think the making of a craft object is the ultimate optimal experience, and I wonder if you would speak a bit about that.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Yes, I thought that Bruce was very eloquent about that, that’s why I didn’t speak about it, but obviously, he’s describing what any creative person, or anyone who is using their skills at the borders of possibility, at the fullest of one’s possibility, experiences. I call this the flow experience, because people use this analogy of being carried by a river, of being on automatic pilot, of being able to kind of effortlessly do very difficult things. Which are all characteristics of this flow experience. I had been studying that also and actually I got to studying that by that original study of artists where I saw people, young artists, work for weeks on a canvas practically without interruption, except to kind of crash for a few hours and then get up and start again. And at that time, psychology tried to explain behavior in terms of the goals, in terms of what the end product of behavior was. And so you would expect these young artists, having finished the painting, to be really enamored of their work, and look at it, and enjoy it, or show it off, or try to sell it, and so forth, but instead, what was so amazing to me was how almost immediately the work was forgotten and put against the wall and never looked at again for a long time. Whereas instead, the artist could hardly wait to start the new painting. So it became clear after awhile, that the reward of the activity was not the end product of the painting, the reward of the activity was the production of the work itself. So that became then a question of, what is it about the activity that is so involving, so rewarding, that people are willing to devote their lives, as Bruce says, to doing these things, and sure we have learned a lot since then and there’s quite a bit of work and knowledge about the traits that make an activity productive of flow and the arts are an ideal way to get that flow experience. Others are sports or ritual or dance or music, all activities that exist primarily because they produce flow, not because of their value in any other sense, so, yes, that’s another way that one could look at it.
Shan Emanuelli: Dale Gluckman has kindly agreed to suffer through definition and the considerations of approaching many different types of activity.
Dale Gluckman, M.A. (Curator, Costumes and Textiles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art): I want to make a disclaimer here that all these definitions do not necessarily reflect the views of the management. [Laughter.] They’re very idiosyncratic, and probably there’ll be a lot of discussion about them, but I tried (coming also from a semi-non-craft background here, as a curator of costumes and textiles), tried to define these terms as best I could. So here we go. Don’t throw things, just get 11 up and leave. Quietly. [Laughter.] Okay. If my definitions are perhaps a little different than the standard ones, I don’t know, for me I divided [craft] nto studiobased, workshop-based, culture-based and home-based. And those are just working terms. Studio-based to me involves artists who usually have some kind of formal art training, and their production is either a primary source of income, or they’ve made a serious commitment to it and they’d like it to be their primary source of income, and that functionality is not necessarily a value in this. And that there is this concept of the single artistic genius, a concept that infuses the so-called fine arts in our culture. A variant on this to me was workshop-based (and studio-based to me is somebody [and you might disagree], but to me is somebody like Peter Voulkos), but then I thought there’s another type that doesn’t quite fit into that, and that I defined as workshop-based, and that may include formal art training, or apprenticeships, it is a source of income, but functionality is much more highly valued, and the hand of the craftsman in particular is highly valued and I was (just off the top of my head) I was thinking of somebody like Sam Maloof, just as an example. Culture-based, which often is defined as traditional crafts (and I avoided a little bit the word traditional, because it’s such a very complex word, and because we often, when we hear the word traditional, we think of something (a.) that’s dead and (b.) that doesn’t change – that’s not really true – so I would call it culturebased for want of a better term), that involves usually a long apprenticeship, or what I call generational training, your father, your grandfather, your greatgrandfather, you learn it generation from generation, generational training, and it functions for personal use, or for local use, or for export in the tourist market and it can be an income generator, whether that income is in commodities or whether it’s in monetary form, it’s nevertheless a product that’s often sold or traded in the market, sometimes quite widely sold. And it’s guided by traditional aesthetic styles, but it can incorporate and involve over time, and bring in other styles. And that there’s a certain flexibility of creative expression, individual expression, but it’s within a sort of balloon (shall we say) or under an umbrella, of the way we do things, the traditional style that is usually related to [or is] culture-specific. And then I defined amateur as home-based, with no formal art training, usually nothing applies to everyone, of course. It’s usually for personal pleasure, its functionality is valued and it’s not a primary source of income. Now, what to me distinguished additionally the four above was that…the main difference was intent. To me, in studio-based craft, the idea is to create an object of beauty or express an idea, or an emotion, that is the artist’s internal mechanisms being expressed in some way, the artist’s reaction to the world around him, or to his internal feeling (his or her). Whereas in the workshop, it was the idea of creating an object of beauty, but an object that is functional. How to create a beautiful coffee cup. And in culture-based crafts, the object is to create a functional object which may or may not be beautiful, but often is very 12 beautiful, sometimes to the eyes of outsiders, sometimes it takes an outsider to say ‘that broom is just gorgeous’ and everybody says, but it’s the broom! I am reminded of a wonderful quote the Balinese have, which is ‘we have no art, we just do things the best we can.’ I thought that was really getting at the heart of what craft is about, and this human desire to make something beautiful, (I think it relates to what Bruce was talking about) to satisfy an inner need and this relationship between mind, body, and hand, mind, and object and to avoid boredom. And I often think that variation and style is just that the craftsperson or the artist got bored and they wanted to change things, do something a little different. Then, there are the interactions between studio, culture and amateur crafts. There is a certain fluidity between the three, and the working concepts of one infuse the other: culture-based crafts can become studio crafts I mean, there are certainly people whose traditions began, or histories began, within traditional or culture-based crafts, and they became studio artists. An amateur can evolve obviously into a studio artist or be a component in culture-based art, just because something’s traditional doesn’t mean that people can’t practice it just for their own pleasure, in their home and [for] their own personal use as opposed to making it for the market, say. And one example that comes to mind is Japanese baskets, which went just in the past few decades, from a culture- or amateurbased, or needs-based craft into a studio craft. So today, you get people who…that’s what they do, is make these beautiful baskets to sell, and they sign them and so on. And maybe 50 or 100 years ago they were unsigned and were considered just again ‘what we do.’ So things can change within one person’s life and also over generations. Now I want to talk a little bit about folk crafts, [which I] think have had a profound influence on the craft movement. And I was thinking about Soetsu Yanagi, the founder of the Japan Folk Art Museum. He visited the United States in 1929 and ‘30 at Harvard. Then again in 1952 and ’53, with Hamada and Bernard Leach, he visited Black Mountain College, where Marguerite Wildenhain was teaching at the time, the Archie Bray Foundation, where Hamada demonstrated (there’s this wonderful picture in a book I found of a young Peter Voulkos watching Hamada build a pot), and he also came to Los Angeles, to Chouinard. And he made, I think, a wonderful statement. Yanagi said, “We must clearly understand, that in the world of arts, especially crafts, there is another way of approaching the kingdom of beauty beside that of genius.” And I thought that was a very interesting quote, because he was the opposite side of the Bernard Berenson concept of the male creative genius as the basis of post-Western renaissance art. And I thought about this because in my own institution, (a so-called fine arts institution), there is a constant tension and struggle between craft and fine art that goes on and I recognize that a lot of this is…they’re still carrying (to me) the baggage of Bernard Berenson. And Yanagi was trying to free us from that. 13 It’s important to identify the commonalities and differences between the hand craft movements and the industrial craft movements, for example Arts & Crafts Movement and the Bauhaus. They both sprung from a belief in artistic communities, the beauty of everyday objects, especially early Bauhaus and Gropius, and a desire to provide an aesthetically pleasing and cohesive environment for the middle class. It turned out in most cases the middle class couldn’t afford what they produced, but that was another story. Yet there are also very profound differences, obviously the Arts & Crafts Movement began as a reaction against the machine, (which was seen as the destroyer of beauty and of this human connection to product), and the Bauhaus embraced the machine as a creator of beauty. I also found a wonderful quote by a woman named Mary Emma Harris (who was at Black Mountain in the ‘50’s when Yanagi, Hamada, and Leach were there), and she said “Unlike the ideology of the Bauhaus, which stressed the machine aesthetic of a flawless form, and a respect for the new process developed through technology, Zen Buddhism taught a respect for the meditative nature of repetitive actions, such as that of the production potter. It also provided an aesthetic which recognized the beauty of the irregular or the flaw in the handcrafted object.” Yanagi, Hamada and Leach compared the egotism of the American artist and the importance of self-expression, experimentation, the intellect and control over nature, with the Japanese folk craftsman’s respect for tradition, his search for simplicity, and his reliance on intuition. They also examined the Western concept of making an object and the Eastern concept of the object being born in the craftsman’s hands. I think for me that summed up the two. I guess the point I’m bringing out is that Arts & Crafts and Bauhaus went like this…(hands diverge)…and to us today they appear as opposites in their approach, yet they stem from the same roots and they have actually infused each other, if you look at the people who left Europe and came to the United States, many of them had Bauhaus training, but they ended up at places like Black Mountain and Cranbrook and hand vs. machine, it’s almost a false dichotomy, in a sense. But I thought that it was an interesting point to bring out. And also I wanted to mention one thing that I thought you should [include] in the film. Craft is also a means of communication across cultural and linguistic divides. And I was reminded of a piece of research I did many years ago for someone where I went and I looked for traditional crafts production in the Los Angeles communities. And one of the things that came out of it was, as I found embroiderers in the Greek community, and weavers in the Lithuanian community, they were really curious about what the other community was doing (at one point we talked about a possible exhibition, which unfortunately didn’t materialize), they said, ‘we would love this, we want to see what another community is doing. There was a communal language between them that they could use as a bridge to getting to know each other. And I thought it was an interesting experience to see that. 14 The Arts and Crafts Movement itself, getting back to the historical side of things, idealized the pre-industrial past, and I think that’s important to think about this in terms of how you define traditional crafts, how much of it is idealized, how much of it is…the reality of how people practicing those things actually see themselves (Ken touched on that). And that the American crafts movement was really a search to find a distinctly American art, and that’s why they looked at Native American styles for inspiration, for example, as well as the Medieval, Asian, Folk and Colonial styles. One aspect of the Arts & Crafts Movement in England, and here, was the desire to provide a means of income for genteel women, which may have ended up being a lace group or another permutation. For example, the Royal School of Needlework in England was started to provide work for women of the middle classes and upper classes who had either lost their husbands, or for some reason had no means of support. And they either had to live off a male relative or turn to prostitution, there was literally no profession for them, and this was a way to give them an income with dignity, and at the same time, allow them some creative expression, the workshop of the Royal School of Needlework was run completely by women. And Hull House came out of that same desire. My last sentence is do not forget the Wiener Werkstatt, which was modeled on the Arts & Crafts and the work of people like Macintosh, but to my mind is a bridge between the arts and crafts ideal and the Bauhaus, and actually had a wide influence in the United States that’s often forgotten but that’s recently come to be recognized. Thank you. [Applause.]
Robert Liu, Ph.D. (Co-publisher, Ornament Magazine; scientist; jeweler; photographer; bead historian): I thought that this breakdown was really heuristic – a great way to look at everything in a compact way. But I think it also brings to mind, (because I’m a person that’s as interested in ancient, ethnographic, as well as contemporary), that…we tend to look at…I mean, this is Crafts in America…but, crafts, every craft has a history, a tale, thousands of years long, so therefore, we can learn a lot by looking at ethnographic groups as well as ancient. I mean, there’s nothing more immediate than taking the most common of objects, like a bead or a spindle whorl in your hand, and right there, if you know something, you can tell so much about the culture or the person that owned it…how…you know, the touch of the human hand is right there, there’s nothing more immediate. And what interests me, (and I think we ought to maybe put a little bit of this in it), is, for instance…we look at traditional crafts as rigid, they’re not that really rigid, I just finished a study on silver torques of the Miao, a Chinese minority. I only had a sample, and I had some literature. And since my Chinese is that of an eight-year-old, I can’t go there, really. So I decided to see, what does it mean? This is really rigid, these are beautiful torques worn by about 9 million Miao or Hmong hill tribes in China and the Golden Triangle (Burma, Laos and Thailand). But when you start looking at them, they’re full of variations, they’re beautiful honest crafting, and this is the best of crafts, I think, that we want to bring up. There is nothing more evocative than the human hand applied to something that is meaningful, worn by their fellow people, and they don’t do this for ego, but they insert a little bit of 15 themselves and a little bit of twist here or there, and I think this is something we want to be aware of.
Shan Emanuelli: I would like to introduce Miguel Angel Corzo, and I would also like to say that he’s going to address a little bit of our “Future” topic in terms of education.
Miguel Angel Corzo, D.Sc. (President, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): I have to confess that I was delighted to see myself labeled as scholar [Laughter.] and when I negotiate with my faculty, I will make sure that they see that it says ‘scholar’ here [Laughter.]. I really come to the crafts through one person who’s in this room, and that’s Elaine Levin. Because, Elaine, (more years than she and I want to remember), introduced me to crafts in America. First in a very simple fashion: she hoped that I would be able to design a potter’s wheel for her. And when I failed at that, then she said, ‘Well, maybe then I can explain to you some of the beauty of these things. And as I was looking at the title of Craft in America, I started thinking, “America’s a very big continent, and if we are going to address crafts in all of this continent, then it’s a very daunting task.” I also thought that one of the things that might come out of this is a better understanding of what this country is about through crafts. Because crafts bring to the world (and particularly American crafts bring to the world), a very different sense of what crafts in other countries are. And I was trying to define for myself what this meant, and why was it that craftsmen who came from other countries to the United States would suddenly take on a very different dimension. And as I’ve asked artists around here what it is that makes crafts in the United States such a specific, special thing, I can only really say that maybe it is a sense of freedom. That freedom really permeates, in crafts, well beyond what we understand it to be, because we’re used to it. So that when you work in a different country, and you come here, and you suddenly feel that freedom, then it’s an artistic freedom that allows you to go completely outside your own limitations, and look at no limitations. And that’s a message, I think, that’s very important to convey in a program that deals with this, because it is a very powerful message about art and about a society that allows art to really expand in these directions. I guess that another main thought that comes to this is, how is the United States linked to the rest of the world through its art? And, for a presentation on a television program, I think that that also takes a very magnificent dimension, because if we extend the threads of the crafts in this country to the rest of the world, I believe that we are going to see (particularly in the latter part of the 20th century), we’re going to see that there is a connection of our crafts here with everything that’s out there. And as Mr. Liu was saying before, it takes generations, centuries. So there is this continuous thread running from all of these countries into the United States, and coming to an efflorescence and a blooming that happens here, which is truly amazing. If we’re able to convey this, I think we will have really gotten to the point where an understanding of the 16 crafts, and of what this country has been able to produce, really means. We shouldn’t talk about ethnicities or about cultures or about origins. We really should talk about the creative mind that exists throughout the whole world and that has converged somehow with a big bang here in the United States and really taken on that extraordinary dimension. I think that there are anecdotal references to the culture (or to the past cultures), and we can see it in basket weavings, or in ceramics, or in jewelry, or in every other form. And you can detect something formal about that. But I think that there’s another dimension, which is a spiritual dimension that one should really be looking for and trying to convey. Because that’s what crafts are about: they’re about the spirit. They’re really about the capacity to create something that transcends the intellect and goes into the emotion. And that’s really of all the world. So, the possibilities of making the reference to other continents, and making the reference to the use of certain types of materials, I think will enrich tremendously visually and intellectually and aesthetically, but the explanation of why things seem to blossom here in a different way will be more significant. In terms of education, I imagine that I have to be an advocate of education in different ways. One of them, because the grants and the fellowships that allow people from the United States to travel abroad, and to see other cultures and to understand other aspects, is certainly something that flourishes strongly and that allows for growth. But one of the things that I have noticed is that, although in crafts we have African and Hispanic influence here, I haven’t really seen the African or Hispanic formal education really come into our United States level of education. And the tradition seems to go more from mother to daughter or father to son than through the formalized system. And that’s something I think that we should think about and try to explore. I think that now we’re trying to structure our education in a way that is non-linear, that is more modular, that is more inter-disciplinary, that responds better to our society, because that’s what the students want. They really want to explore a variety of forms and embrace work that defies categorization. So, through education and what is going to be happening a little bit in the future, is that we’re going to encourage this type of cross-disciplinary study and experimentation, while really maintaining the skills the traditional media demand. Maybe some of the things that have defined crafts and artists (in the past), are things such as function and utility and beauty, site, community, audience, studio practice, competition. The dialogue that has to be engaged between the artist and society and between the artist and his or her own soul. It’s an intellectual rigor that has to be connected with the hand and there is, I think, a unique intelligence to craft that is essential to the development of the artist as a whole. We can address diversity because craft makes the physical values and aspirations of one’s culture, society, history and locale aware. We are able to transform raw materials into work that serves and reflects human life. And these 17 are ways of acknowledging one’s past and one’s tradition. I think that if we are able to make the linkage between one’s tradition and the future and show that crafts is that linkage, then we will have reached what hopefully will be this amazing experience of looking at the world in this moment of history through crafts. Thanks. [Applause.]
Carol Sauvion: There were two things that struck me about Miguel Angel’s presentation. I’m so used to considering the diversity of influences going into our craft culture, and Miguel Angel seemed to be talking about how we have now our own craft culture that is going out and into the world. So that was a new way of looking at it. And the second thing was that he said that things went from the intellect to the higher plane, the emotion, and I think in our culture we think of the intellect as the highest plane and the emotion is something that we tend to negate a lot of the time, so that was interesting to me.
Barbara Hamaker, M.A. (Weaver; writer; symposium coordinator, Craft in America): I’m a working craftsperson, and I can’t tell you how many people say to me, ‘Well, why don’t you hire somebody to do that, well, why don’t you get three or four people to knock those out for you?’ Because all they think about is, because I’m making a living at this, that I’m interested in the money, and it’s not the money, it’s the doing of it. And I think that people in our culture are so brainwashed into thinking that they have to make money, I mean, we know we have to pay the rent, but it drives me crazy that people don’t understand that internal process of how driven we are to work with our hands. And I think that’s…I know Carol knows that so well, and I know that that’s so much a part of this project, is trying to reveal that about craftspeople. I’m a weaver and I’ve known Jim Bassler for many many years, and that process of working with the threads, of learning how to spin, of going through all of that. The people that look at the crafts from the outside only see the product, and so what we need to depict in this film so much is the meaning derived from the process. And I see the meaning of life as what is missing in our culture and in our mass media today.
Jim Bassler, M.A. (Professor Emeritus, Department of design/Media arts, Department of World Arts and Culture, University of California, Los Angeles): I retired two years ago from UCLA, from a department of design, which became a department of design media arts. And before that, when I’d been chair of the department, it had been the Department of Art Design and Art History. And so from art design, art history, the art historians wanted out – they didn’t want to be with people who made things. And they would tell you in the elevator, that, [Laughter.] you don’t belong on campus. And then the division between the art faculty and the design faculty was a problem. The department of design, for many years, had some sort of craft components in it, we had jewelry making, we had furniture making, industrial design, fiber. I was in the fiber area. Ceramics. I 18 might have forgotten something. We even had fashion, glass. In fact, when I was chair, glass was voted out. I was the only person who wanted to keep the glass program in the program. But it was really a territorial kind of thing, where the pickin’s are so slim, that everybody’s sort of fighting over these little things. And they wanted glass out so the ceramics could blossom. But anyway, the point is, that I retired two years ago, I was recalled by the department because of the demand of the students, who are now in an electronic kind of program. And they found that the students demanded some kind of other activity other than looking at computers. And they didn’t believe that was going to happen at all and they recalled me because my studio, (or the large room in which I worked for many years), was still sort of vacant up on the fourth floor. And it had never been taken over by anybody. And it still had all the stuff, so it was sort of like going into some sort of Dickens period, walking into the room, and there’s the loom, and I reinvigorated, and the students, the demand was amazing, where 50 or 60 students would come in for…I would take about 22 students. There’s another department on campus, which is now the department of World Arts & Culture, which was formerly the dance department. And they too had asked me to teach something to the students, and I came up with a course called Design Processes World Cultures, which allowed me then to service those students. A lot of them were dancers; a lot of them were just sort of searching for some kind of direction. And so these were very successful courses that I could go on teaching forever, because the demand is there, students really sort of trying to figure out how things are put together. And I would approach it in a very simple kind of way. Also, I’d been telling somebody at the break about one of the things that I did that I thought worked quite well and it was introducing to the students this book, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, which has to do with Viet Nam. And I presented that to the students to see if indeed…because they’re so divorced from objects. And I was sort of saying, we’re talking about things, and are there things that you carry with you, and how would you make those things in your mind visible. And this was a silkscreen project, and it was very, very successful, because what those students brought, in other words, memories they had, they brought in photographs of family, they brought in photographs of dead parents or relatives. It was just a very amazing kind of thing to see the idea of objects, how they thought of objects, and how they brought it in and made a project out of it. So, anyway, that’s what I’m doing.
Beverly Gordon, Ph.D. (Professor, Environment, Textiles and Design Department, School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison): I have a comment that came out of Dale’s remarks and I appreciated the thanklessness that came out of the categorizations, but the hierarchy which still informs so much of the way we think, where the (in what you were calling the studio-based arts) I think you said, they express ideas. And then we had the other categories, and I don’t presume you necessarily meant the others don’t. But I think that what we really need to stress is that the home-based arts, all of them express ideas, they may not be as self-conscious about what those are, but they all express ideas and that is exactly what we need to have come forth in 19 something like this because we too often buy that hierarchy that says, one is about ideas and the other is not. And there are incredible amounts of thinking and ideas embedded in every traditional art and in everything that we do. Ideas about…[someone mentions something] right…and I’m not critiquing that that is a difference, I’m just saying that we need to stress that they’re all ideas.
Steve Fenton: When you talk about ideas, could you define the full scope of ideas?
Beverly Gordon: I guess as I’m thinking about it, it’s that if a Hopi potter makes a pot, there are ideas about the universe in that pot, what is the relationship with the earth, there are ideas about everything that are in there, what the designs might be, the very processes of making it, and those are ideas as much as I am making a selfconscious comment on a world event or something like that.
Steve Fenton: If we go to the home-based idea, if I go to a bead store, for instance, and I buy several tubes of Delica beads, and I’m going to string a necklace, am I doing ithat consciously or subconsciously with an idea? Or am I doing it just….
Beverly Gordon: I would argue there are ideas about what’s beautiful, there are ideas about what’s meaningful, there are…it may not be a narrative, but there are certainly….
Steve Fenton: So there may not be a philosophical idea in the sense of big issues, but it’s also what looks good and what feels good, in terms of, as a design issue.
Kathy Levitt: But it’s also the idea of making something. You know, when you go to buy those tubes, it’s like you didn’t go out, you didn’t decide to go someplace and buy a necklace, you decided to make a necklace. So there’s that intentionality with it that I think is important, that connection of making things that is part of that process, is what you were going for. And that in itself is an important idea.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Something resonated from Dale’s talk. She used the phrase idealizing preindustrial practice or something like that. That was a concern of mine in coming here. I was wondering to what extent is the definition of craft a traditional, preindustrial one, because I’m also interested in emerging forms and I was starting to think, where is handicraft done now in emerging forms of craft? If you think about customizing cars, customizing low-rider bikes, making surfboards…there are craftsmen who spend all their time developing new forms of surfboards, and so forth. And video equipment, sound equipment, where you put together the 20 things yourself…computers, and the work that some young people spend customizing and doing their own chips, putting these in the computer, dedicated chips for doing different things. So, I wonder if that’s stretching too much, the way you’re thinking about it, or not, because it seems to me that there is a continuum of involvement with objects through the hand and through the mind, which is not limited to the kind of historical tradition of forms. And I don’t know if that’s too far afield or not.
Kenneth Trapp: One of the things that amaze me is how rich the handcrafted traditions are in the United States. There are pockets of activity that rarely receive attention beyond the makers. I’m thinking of bladesmithing right now, which would fall within wrought iron, or forged iron; decoy carvers, which fall under decorative, nondecorative [and] certain basket traditions. But they often don’t perk up, even in our own field. I’m going next week to Flagstaff to an exhibition called Trappings of the American West. There’s a whole cowboy culture, which I’m now working on an exhibition, that encompasses leather, metalworking, fiber, but it falls out of most museum or publications except for those who already have the vested interest in it. The traditional cowboy arts association in Idaho is taking the idea of tradition into cowboy culture. When we say tradition, they’re following rather rigid decorative vocabularies. But bladesmithing in particular, is one that’s, no pun intended, forging new art forms within a very ancient methods; new forms, new ways of handling metals and the marriage of materials. I think there is more at work here than we are aware of.
Howard Risatti, Ph.D. (Chair, Department of Crafts, Virginia Commonwealth University): I think the notion of “homo faber,” man the maker…I understand that when instant cake mixes came out, they were not very successful, and they learned that if you didn’t have the eggs in the package, so you didn’t just add milk and water, that women felt they were making the cake. And that’s why we still have these things today. So this desire to make things I would say is very important. And I think that that’s somehow making the necklace is not the same as just buying one. The other thing about the new forms, though, it seems to me, [is] that we’re so used to industrial production, but that also has, as Bruce said, the standardization. And people like to: one, make things and two, to have individual things, so you do customize an automobile that’s a prefab thing that you take and you do something else to. Now I think that when we talk about crafts, though, we’re talking about something else that’s not just that. Because I think we’re talking about certain kinds of objects that fulfill a certain kind of function. And this function is pretty much trans-cultural, trans-spatial, trans-temporal. I mean, I don’t have any trouble recognizing a Chinese pot, or a pre-Columbian pot. King 21 Tut’s chair was perfectly obvious as a chair. We didn’t say ‘what is this thing for?’ So, there’s that ‘something else’ and so I think that it’s not quite just inventing new forms, I think that’s a side issue here. And I would also say, just to comment on what Bruce said earlier (and I think this ties in) is that the modern period is then about the revolt against the authority of tradition. And I think that crafts have resisted that. And in some sense that’s one reason why they don’t have the prestige of say, painting and sculpture in the fine arts. But there is this tradition, this continuity that’s involved in the crafts, in making, and so I think that’s another aspect that’s going on here.
Kathy Levitt, M.F.A. (Filmmaker, writer, producer): I want to say that a big part of the tradition of craft is about function. And that these were things that were developed for function. And so involved in that is the notion of invention as well. And that’s why I think it’s important to look at this question of customizing cars, or computers, or whatever as part of that too, because it’s about inventing, recrafting things, with that aspect of invention and making it your own. And it has that functionality that connects to crafts, so I think that really deserves some attention.
Roslyn Tunis, M.A. (Independent Curator, Consultant): I’d like to address the idea of including in some way either separately or as part of the continuum the indigenous crafts or art of this country. And I really liked what Dr. Corzo said about the threads going out. Of course they’ve come in and there’s this incredible fusion going on now and has been going on, actually for a long time with the bringing of the glass beads to this country and Native Americans incorporating them into their work. And now I am doing this exhibition on Native Americans who are working in glass. And they are doing studio glass. Working at Pilchuck, going to universities. And so there’s this total cross-cultural thing that’s going on that I think that really we should address and that I think is very, very exciting. The other thing is that not only are crafts marginalized, as we have discussed, but native crafts of course are marginalized, and then women’s crafts within native cultures, for instance, basket making is marginalized. I think that needs to be addressed. And when you talked about the idea, and you addressed it as well Steve, the idea goes beyond the idea of making something useful or beautiful. The idea goes back to the tradition of going out at the right season and collecting the right grasses, of curing them properly, of telling the stories, of telling the prayers that go along with the collecting of the grasses. And then having the next generation watch as you do this and passing the stories, not only how to make a basket, but the stories within the basket and the larger context. And so I’d like to somehow suggest that we incorporate that. When Jacoba mentioned the last line in the film: “Objects are the only original events from history,” I remember John Ruskin’s statement which was, 22 “Civilizations tell their stories in three books: the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art, and only the last is reliable as truth.”
Robert Liu: We were talking this morning about these very issues, and I think that you cannot have a discussion about crafts without bringing up the question that as much as we are recognizing and using and integrating the cultures of the whole world in what we do, we do have a terrible tendency to not give credit to anybody that can’t defend themselves. We have taken every culture’s ideas, forms, [and] used them for ourselves. If you just look at contemporary crafts today, some of the best-known people, anyone with an historical sense can see that they are stealing right and left from Iranian pottery or things that anybody with any art history can tell. And, we don’t have to make a big thing about it, but we have to say that artists have to be a little bit more honest about where they get their ideas from and their inspiration. Most of the time they say ‘Oh, I invented it.’ Of course it’s not. We’re all stealing. But this is never brought out. You can steal from ethnographic cultures because they can’t get a lawyer and put an injunction on us. But we can’t go to someone recognizable and able to speak up and do this. So I think this has to do with your discussion about inclusion of Native Americans. But every culture that we desire, we covet, we like, and we want to somehow incorporate this into our work. Many people are doing this as a sign of respect rather than just copping someone’s designs. But I think this is an issue that has to be discussed in any kind of a major coverage of the crafts.
Shan Emanuelli Robert, does it go the other way?
Robert Liu: If you look at the San Blas Indians, they’re using the imagery of airplanes or tourists. Is that stealing? No. They’re observing these weird creatures coming into their culture and they’re saying, ’Hey, that would make a nice image.’ That’s a lot different than our saying “The next year’s couture is going to be involving San Blas themes and let’s see what we can use of it.” But I don’t think “they” meaning the outside world exploit things aesthetically like we do. And all I want is for us to be cognizant of that.
Janet Ginsburg, M.A. (Television producer, Writer, art curator): You’ve all sort of touched on this a little bit with the idea of craft in America. I mean, in a sense, America is the first sort of little experiment in globalization. Except for Native American crafts, nothing is really native here. It came from somewhere, it mixed, it evolved. Can you talk a little bit about that? I mean as it relates to what you’re seeing today? I mean something happened that made craft in America different than craft in Europe, craft in Asia, craft anywhere else. What is it?
Robert Liu: I forgot in my notes. Someone, YOU [Miguel Angel Corzo] said… [Laughter]. You talked about the artistic freedom in this country. That should be extended to the fact that we can do anything in this country without the slightest qualification. You can start a business, you can be anything. That’s because in America it’s permissible. Right? That same artistic freedom is a two-sided sword. Because the fact that you can go out and do anything art-wise, (whether it catches on with the public or not), means you can use anything. At the same time, we do exploit others; we don’t give much credit, especially those who become rich and famous. So, I think this is one aspect of American craft that’s distinctly that. We know so much. We don’t have a long tradition. Most of us don’t know beans about Native American or Pre-Columbian cultures. So, therefore, most of the time, if we use something, we aren’t even conscious that we may be stealing an idea from somebody.
Miguel Angel Corzo: Well, I don’t completely share your point of view, and let me explain why. I think that there is in art something that brings an influence. For a long time when we heard how African “primitive” art (already the name is repugnant), primitive art was influencing Picasso or influencing a certain series of artists. It wasn’t really plagiarizing; it was recognizing that there are things that can be interpreted in different ways. What I was addressing when I spoke about what happens in this country, I think [it was] maybe more represented by an image of bringing threads from around the world and then weaving them. The result is not a traditional fabric. The result is something that is totally different, because all of these threads that come together here, when they coalesce, then they create something different. And it is that condition of freedom of creation that makes that weave look totally different. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s stolen, it means that it’s influenced. And I think that we are much richer because we have so many influences, and we don’t have the condition of repeating what was made before, which some cultures do.
Robert Liu: I think that’s very true. The best of work that takes careful consideration of other influences and using it is fine, but there is also very much a fact that we do appropriate things, and I think when you were talking about home-based arts. There’s this whole phenomenon in America that people want to learn lifelong. They want to know how to do things. They want to have meaning in their lives. And most of them go and take a workshop and learn a technique. And so you have this long series of someone that just learned the technique saying “I’ll go out there and teach this to a class,” and then you have twenty little teachers fanning out with the same idea, and I think in a sense you have this danger that people don’t realize that what was taught to them was something that might have been very laboriously arrived at. It may have taken elements of other cultures, 24 and instead they just realize that this is something I’ve paid for. I own this now. I can give it away, and I can use it. And I can make money.
Shan Emanuelli: Jim, do you have a response?
Jim Bassler: Yes. I’ve got a couple of examples. One is in the early 1970’s, my wife and I moved to Oaxaca, Mexico, just to escape Nixon and the Viet Nam War. And we just thought it would be a very exciting life. And at that particular time, [in] the weaving village Teotitlan de Valle a designer from the Southwest brought a Navajo rug down to have it repaired. And it was amazing to see how the influence of the Navajo rug design began to be translated into the traditions of Teotitlan until today you can have as much Navajo as you want along with Mitla and all that and it’s a wonderful kind of marriage of these ideas going on. And so I think that’s sort of interesting. And then also, in teaching art history, (I teach this course on the textiles of the Americas), it’s interesting to see the influence of the Inca on the civilizations that they conquered. So that you begin to see the Chimu and the Chacay. In time, the influence of the Inca on their imagery begins to…but it still stays Chimu because the Chimu hold on to a certain part but also the Inca does something else. And I just think it’s been going on forever. I go to Bali and I see an idea and I come back and explore that idea. But with new materials, with new dyes and all that, it becomes my own, I feel.
Bruce Metcalf: I think part of what is being discussed here is the issue of ownership, of cultural ownership. That is what I think Robert raised. And as soon as you start talking about ownership, I think what comes into consideration is profit and loss. It seems to me that theft occurs when there is a party that loses. And maybe that’s how I would try to draw the line between influence and theft. And, of course, you [Roslyn Tunis] know all about how American Indians, especially in the Southwest, suffered from Anglo exploitation of jewelry and jewelry styles. It’s almost sickening to see what happened. A lot of what happened in that issue was really about profit and loss. It was about Anglos going in and seeing that they could exploit these people, and then actually leave the people out of the cycle of exploitation and just use the imagery and have the stuff made offshore, which actually occurred the way I understand it. It seems to me that a great deal of what happens in American craft is not so much about profit and loss, though. It is about influence. It is about the process of exchange, even though it may be one-sided, that occurs constantly between 25 cultures. It’s unavoidable, and no amount of posturing and putting up signposts is going to stop that process. It’s simply going to occur whether we want it to, or let it, or say it’s good or bad. It’s going to happen. From my point of view American craft, of most of the kinds that we’re talking here is a hybrid. It is a new invention. It is not actually a traditional form. It’s a nineteenth century invention in response to industrialization; of people trying to come to terms with new conditions of culture. And one of those responses was to divorce hand making from necessity. The way I think about it was that before industrialization there was no material culture that wasn’t made by hand. It was simply not an issue. To speak of something being hand made would have been absolutely pointless. But to speak of it against the pervasive background of industrialization suddenly to say something is made by hand has meaning, and it has particular meanings. So the way I regard it, American craft, and in fact craft in any industrialized country in the world is a new form in response to industrialization, and you can’t understand it and you can’t speak of it clearly without making that point and without underlining it a couple of times. Because of that, because of the divorce of hand fabrication from necessity, it’s different from traditional things although it does carry many, many of those traditional knowledges and references and looking back to past cultures many of which don’t even exist anymore. So, it’s a hybrid, and it’s a new hybrid. It’s new in human experience, and therefore interesting because of that.
Roslyn Tunis: I totally agree with you, and the influences can be inspirational or appropriation. And there’s a big difference between the two. So, the appropriation is taking it and having it made offshore, or having it made in Mexico, or just even by another American person. And so inspiration has happened internationally, and even in this country before any European even set foot here where natives were exchanging ideas and sending shells from the coast to the interior and so forth. And then incorporating all these other materials, but always made by hand as you [Bruce Metcalf] said. And then when the new technology came in, like metal, these things became more elaborate, like the totem poles. The totem poles in the North were very, very simple before the tools came in.
Howard Risatti: I just want to quibble a little bit with Bruce. I absolutely agree with him and I absolutely agree that the Industrial Revolution is the issue here, and the machine. I’ve been just doing some writing about design, and the design profession seems to me to do what hand craft had done before, except it accommodates itself to the machine which has all kinds of other things that happen. But I think that we see, we receive hand made objects differently today because of the machine. So this is a question of reception. But I think Dale’s [Gluckman] comments about different kinds of crafts has something to do with 26 the notion that there are people who still make objects by hand indifferent to the machine. And that’s a kind of continuing tradition, and even a folk tradition. But then there are these craft people who are educated I think in a university context who are aware of these issues vis-à-vis the machine and make objects against that background of the machine. So, I’m only quibbling around the edges here, but I think that helps clarify why there’s a continuing tradition of craft that’s traditional, and based on tradition maybe like Sam Maloof. But then there are other people who are making thing that engage the issue of the machine and its anti-hand, anti-individual attitudes.
Shan Emanuelli: Miguel Angel, do you think about that in terms of the future of your university and what they’re teaching? The machine versus hand?
Miguel Angel Corzo: Well. I think that it’s vital to the future that these traditions of craft continue, but I’m also trying to understand what it is that a new form of craft can take place given that we have new materials that we haven’t yet explored as being used for the production of crafts, including electronic materials. And that may take us into another hybrid where we might just discover that we have craft objects that are completely alien to what we’ve seen so far because they take on a new dimension.
Hidde Van Duym, Ph.D (Director of Research for Craft in America; Arts Administrator and consultant): I just wanted to pick up on Bruce’s comment. I think it’s an ongoing battle between the industrial process and handmade. I’m thinking of, for instance, memory books. People who want to make the most personal thing: an album of the family. You go to a Michael’s store and there are mass-produced materials to create your personal memory book. So that struggle; it seems almost as if industrialism or technological processes or mass marketing are nipping at the heels of anyone who wants to do something personal. So I think it’s an ongoing struggle in our society to somehow or other combat being co-opted by the impersonal processes. And I think one of the things that would be nice to see discussed is that tension that comes all the time. I’m talking about what you [Bruce Metcalf] were describing as the resistance. I think it’s an ongoing item of resistance.
Anthony Cortese (Film editor for Craft in America): As somebody who does their craft with machines, I feel as if I should defend us.
Shan Emanuelli: Anthony is the editor.
Anthony Cortese: I just think that craft to me is: if something starts with the question, ‘What if?’ it becomes craft. If you are just going about the motions and doing your thing, whether you’re using the machine or your hands it’s just you going about the motions. But if you are trying to create something using tradition and innovation and the materials at hand, then it’s craft.
Shan Emanuelli: I think one of the issues we are coming up to now is: are we talking about all the meanings of craft or are we talking about handcraft in this film? I think that the idea was to talk about handmade handcrafted objects as opposed to things that are not, but certainly the terminology covers much more than that.
Steve Fenton: Then you do have the question of a Sam Maloof, who takes handcrafted to a degree or starts with machine crafting and then goes into the handcrafted. And at what point is it a handcrafted object, and at what point is it a machine-crafted?
Beverly Gordon: Well, I think this is all a knotty issue, and doesn’t make sense to be purist because technologies have always been changing in any so-called traditional culture. But the other issue that I was going to bring up was that it is stated in the prospectus that the primary viewfinder for this series would be studio craft, and as we’ve been talking about, that does skew it. And what we’ve been talking about is this: people have talked about craft as if it’s always functional, and much of studio craft is not functional. And I don’t have a solution here, but I think we should put it on the table. The issue is: if that is really going to guide the series that studio craft is the focus, it’s going to mean that some of these other issues may not be dealt with. And “Is that still on the table or not” is really a question that occurred to me as I was thinking about this.
Carol Sauvion: I think the focus will be individual expression. I don’t see it being specifically studio craft. When I think of studio craft I think of people who have been trained in university, and who taking a material knowledge and expressing some kind of intellectual concept with it, versus someone who is perhaps making something because they need it: a quilt to be used, or a pitcher to be used. I think that ‘studio craft’ is too narrow in the terminology that we are using here today.
Shan Emanuelli: One of the things I would like us to do is address what we think to be the important themes that should or could encompass all of the episodes.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: The one thing that is emerging, or a dialectic emerging here is that between the kind of universal human need to express one’s self and to work and get lost in the activity and the other one is the notion of diversity and cultural tradition. And the two sometimes seem to be pulling in different directions but I think they are both essential. The unity of human consciousness versus the diversity of culture. That’s one type of theme that can be illustrated and revisited across everything.
Kenneth Trapp: For me, the unifying and overarching theme in this series would be, as Mike [Csikszentmihalyi] said ‘the universal need to create, to use our hands to express ourselves.’ I would ask that we not use the word ‘lifestyle’ because I think it makes everyone else living a life and we become quaint. The issue of quaintness though I think is something that does bother me in the level of practitioners, the number of them and the activity. There is, to me, within this diversity a rich unifying text, and that is, the need to create.
Janet Ginsburg: I think part of what’s important here is to give the historical perspective, to talk about the changing nature, and the evolving nature of craft in America.
Roslyn Tunis: I guess one of the themes could be these threads, as Miguel Angel [Corzo] put it, the cross-cultural fusion, globally, and within this continent, and going both ways.
Robert Liu: Jacoba [Atlas] said the first thing is it’s hard to make craft a visual phenomenon. A television phenomenon. And therefore, part of our job is really to show this whole thing that we are talking about how important it is process both intellectually and manually. That probably will be addressed later, but that is probably one of the most difficult things to do.
Janet Ginsberg: What Mike [Csikszentmihalyi] was talking about earlier, and Bruce [Metcalf] also, I thought they book ended each other so brilliantly. The object as an object really becomes the touchstone, and that the stories that can be told either happen from the artist creating this thing and it’s a completely different set of stories for the people who are actually using it or living with it.
Shan Emanuelli: Craft is a touchstone to human experience.
Janet Ginsburg: Well, the object. In other words, how you would tell the story. Because, as was pointed out, and Jacoba [Atlas] is absolutely right about this, if you just see, and here is a picture of a pot and here is a picture of a moving pot, it won’t resonate for the viewer because they have no relation to it. And what they’re interested in are the stories of the people on either end of this that had a relationship to it.
Beverly Gordon: I want to go back to the issue of process and questions. The visualization of process is one thing, but I think the real key thing is the meaning of the process. I used to demonstrate weaving, and peoples’ comment that would come by all the time was ‘How long does that take?’ Not being able to understand that it could be meaningful not just as a means to an end, but as an experience. And I think that’s not necessarily self-evident unless that is stressed, so I would say that as a part of that visualization it’s always the meaning has to be the satisfaction, the depth of that.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: It’s interesting that we studied flow (some of my colleagues from Italy actually) in these Thai highland villages in Thailand where the women weave all the time and that is part of its tradition but it’s also individual expression and all that. And the neat thing…this reminded me when you [Beverly Gordon] said, people asked ‘how long did that take?’…well, these women are so involved in what they are doing that they have traditionally children interrupt them when it’s time to cook dinner because they are so lost in what they are doing that they don’t realize that the day has gone by. So these kids are up in the hill watching for the men to come back from the fields and then they run down and say, “Mother, it’s time to cook.”
Kenneth Trapp: Process is a part of work, and work is a part of process. Yes, the theme is what Bruce said: ‘It’s a calling.’
Howard Risatti: I think when we were talking about the evolving nature of craft, I think one of the things we forget, and Bruce [Metcalf] was talking about this is that before the Industrial Revolution and before the capitalist system we are involved in, people thought about the amount of time spent on things differently. So, we think things should be efficient, we need to get things done quickly, we think about computing the amount of money towards the amount of material, what you can charge for an object. And we’re talking about a different world in which craft evolved, and when you’re talking about third world countries, Thailand or someplace, they’re still not dealing with these issues. And that’s why craft seems so strange today. So I think we need to keep that in mind as a value. So when you spend all this time making something, it means something, and there’s a value that’s being communicated. Just like the person who tries to make their own necklace with beads. So, it’s communicating values. It’s carrying on certain kinds of values. And, again, I think these are resistant to the revolt against tradition, which is involved in making things quick and making things fast. I mean, we have now a slow food movement, which is obviously against fast food. Or when somebody spends time to put a meal on the table and have everything right. There’s a certain value that’s being communicated, and it’s a value about humanism and being in the world, in a certain way. And I think this is what we are talking about here. And I think this is strange to our society.
Bruce Metcalf: Actually, my next published paper will be a thesis that craft is embodied sympathy. For those of you who know art lingo, Arthur Danto came up with this idea that art is embodied meaning. And what I’m proposing is that craft, especially useful craft, is embodied sympathy, and that the object is really about a gesture toward others of helping. Which is, I think, kind of what you’re [Howard Risatti] trying to get at: a humanist value that functions outside of cash economy, that doesn’t really have anything to do with making money, or, is only peripherally involved with making money. It’s more about caring, much more about caring.
Jim Bassler: That’s very hard to communicate. To students. This idea of “Why do you do this? It’s sort of this deeply personal kind of journey. It’s the journey that I’m enjoying. And when I finish this, I’ll move on to another journey.
Hidde Van Duym: Connecting with Bruce [Metcalf], but Miguel [Angel Corzo] called this. He said there’s a unique intelligence to craft. And I think you referred to Gardner’s types of intelligence? I think that’s a wonderful remark because we have now a whole series: craft as a different value system, craft is embodied sympathy, and then craft has a separate unique intelligence. And I think we are grasping for something that we know has been either lost or exists in other forms and that we are trying to find in this series. So I just want to bring forward Miguel’s remark that craft is a unique intelligence of its own kind.
Elaine Levin: I was thinking that the way you express that visually, about it being humanistic and a different value system, is through the stories of the artists, who, through their impulse to live this kind of life, really visualize what you are saying. And there are many stories about crafts persons who, through what they do, and how they react to what they do, really embody that concept.
Dale Gluckman: I’m trying to figure out how to formulate this. Touching on all these themes is this idea of craft as a human need (and how that functions and plays out on so many levels) and also as a societal need. In both cases, what is craft’s role within society and within the human psyche and the human expression, and how that functions.
Mihaly Csikzsentmihalyi: When I was thinking about these new emerging crafts it was amazing that almost all of them seem to be oriented more toward leisure than necessity. I mean, so it’s more a display of, I hate to use lifestyle, you [Kenneth Trapp] say let’s not use it, but, in many ways it’s more that than it is necessity.
Howard Risatti: I’d like to stress that there is a continuity here at least as I see it, and that’s that crafts have always been made better than they need to be to function. When we talk about function, that’s one thing, but people make things, and, as I think David Pye says ‘They spend great amounts of useless work on useful things.’ And things are made better than they need to be to function. And I think that continues today as well. So there’s a continuity there. And there’s a value that’s being expressed by that, that I think still has value today. That’s something that craft does. I mean, this does not happen in fine art (painting). Craftsmanship and skill is not applied anymore. It can be left out of the equation. And certainly in industrial culture and machine culture, it isn’t. I mean, we make things just good enough to sell.
Dale Gluckman: It struck me that in talking about studio craft in America, do not forget that there is an international quality to that and that there are studio craftsmen working in Europe, and Japan, and Australia, and Tierra del Fuego or whatever, and that there is a certain internationalism. You are right in trying to look for the uniquely American quality, but also to be aware that much of that is not uniquely American. It may be uniquely Western Europe and American, but there is an internationalism to this.
Roslyn Tunis: I want to go back to something you said Janet [Ginsburg], and also Bruce [Metcalf] about the touchstone being the object. Each of the objects around this table tell a story. And, I think objects as story-tellers: about the person who made them, the person who acquired them, the memory it has for each, and then the memory for each of us of sharing it. And so I think the storytelling aspect of passing down history through objects, which will remain for hundreds of years.
Dale Gluckman: So much of the studio craft tradition that we are discussing here really has its origins in Europe and in England, more so initially as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. I’m not an expert on this so I’m a little bit at a loss, but, I think you need to bring that out in some way that the Arts and Crafts Movement started in England, Art Nouveau started in Europe, Bauhaus was Germany. Yes, these things came to America and part of the story is the search for an ‘American’ expression of these craft ideals.
Bruce Metcalf: I was thinking about your [Janet Ginsburg] question relating to the evolving nature of craft and what that has to do particularly with American culture today. And then what I was saying in my first speech about how I think craft matters. As a teacher, one of the things that certainly I noticed and many of my colleagues noticed is that there is this really deep hunger on the part of kids coming out of high schools for something that you might call an authentic experience, but I don’t think that really gets to the heart of it. I think in a lot of ways, in spite of America’s wealth and all our privilege, one of the things that a lot of people have to deal with is a kind of demoralization. I think there are a lot of people who are struggling with the problem of trying to invent meaning, and they don’t find the normally available meanings that are given to us through commercial culture are satisfying anymore. And kids are particularly sensitive to that because they’re at that stage of life when they’re trying to assemble an identity and they’re not necessarily satisfied with those given solutions that Mom and Dad and the malls and TV and movies and computers necessarily offer us. So the kids that come into the crafts programs tend to be, as I say, deeply hungry, and, in a funny way, kind of demoralized. So the word that I think of that craft may be for is a kind of remoralization. And that has to do with getting the whole body back in the picture. Employing the whole body both in terms of making these things and in terms of using them. And it has to do with trying to figure out what it means to be a citizen of the world where so much is given and so little is made. It also has to do, (I personally don’t like the word) but it has to do with the spiritual, I think. It’s not a word that I would use personally, but I think some people would. I think it has to do with explaining your place in the world.
Barbara Hamaker Going along with what Bruce said I think what I am assuming will be revealed through the stories is a way to lead a meaningful life, and of honoring the living of a meaningful life in a way that I don’t see happening in our culture today. And I’m not sure that we can speak it and teach it as much as we can reveal it. And just in the work that we’ve done so far in the interviews you can see that coming out. But I think that it is so important to honor that. There’s another concept, a psychological concept of an “I-Thou” relationship and an “I-It” relationship. And I’m not qualified to say a lot more about that now, but I think that that’s important to explore in this series. I also think it’s important to reveal the nature of creativity in a way that only perhaps the Process segment can do. I’d just like to say another thing because I’m also a basket maker. When I’m weaving with soft fabrics, soft threads, sometimes I need a change of texture and I will go outside and make baskets. And my hands were getting all bloody because I was using bougainvillea, so I put gloves on, and I couldn’t make the baskets. And I realized that I was getting information through my fingertips, and I had to take the gloves off. So that’s something that, in a way, can’t be taught, but can be revealed through the interviews with the people.
Kathy Levitt: I think that it all relates as well to this idea of another kind of intelligence. Another level of that. These kids come to you hungry for that because, I think, so much of that kind of intelligence is devalued in this world. We don’t have ceramics in the schools anymore. We don’t have weaving. We don’t have the accessibility of working in wood or making things anymore. And I think that that’s a terrific loss. And so that when kids come to you when they can choose more freely this is a time when they are seeking to connect maybe with a kind of intelligence that they’ve been devalued or cut off from.
Jim Bassler: I want to say something similar to what Bruce [Metcalf] said. Students are coming to me all the time. This is why they seek something out. And there are so few offerings like that on campus. But they’re also dancers, and they’re also artists. They’re not just craftspeople, they’re just people seeking something that is going to give them an experience that fills something within them. And just one other thing real quick. I don’t know the validity of this story, but Susan Petersen told it to me about Hamada giving a workshop many, many years ago. And the workshop was filled with people who had little Hamada pots. And Hamada went around and looked at each one of them and finally said: “Why is this one the only one that has love?” And it happened to be Susan Peterson’s and she said “because that’s the only one that had been used.” And all the rest had been on pedestals giving tribute to this but also showing it off as a Hamada pot, and not including it, embracing it in your life. The way you look at it and have some kind of knowledge about wanting to include it in your life I think is very, very, important. So it doesn’t become some status thing within your home. It tells something about you. I’ve traveled, or I’ve done this, or I’ve got money. Or, I can afford this thing. Now, one other really horrible story was one in which I was on a panel up in San Francisco and a young man there who has a very successful gallery on the East coast, sells his work through the internet and he’s a photographer. He takes absolutely beautiful photographs of compositions, which also include the window of his home or a couch or something like that and he said that he had lost sales through the Internet because the person couldn’t buy all the objects that were in the photograph. In other words, the public being so unsure of their aesthetic that they need the whole composition. And I said ‘does that include buying you window frame or buying your couch along with it?’, and he laughed. So, there’s a problem there.
Cathleen Collins (Consultant to Craft in America; attorney; fundraiser): I want to say something from the audience’s point of view because I’m your audience. I’m not a craftsperson, I’m an acquirer of lovely art, I’m not a student of it, the way you all are. And, I think that some of the comments that were made earlier about the other side of the equation, which is the receiving end of it. I think Bruce [Metcalf] said that, and Mike [Csikszentmihalyi] spoke to it as well; about why an object means something to the person that has it. We’ve talked a lot about why it means something to the person who is creating it, but what makes me love it is a very personal story, and I think that is something that is important. You are going to have to touch on that for your audience: because your audience is going to want to know. Yes this is a wonderful experience, but they are going to feel a little worried that they can’t do that. But they want to participate in the experience. And I think it will be important to tell the second side of the story, which is the receiving end of it, and why that texture is important. Because that will make everyone watching it say ‘Yes, I’m part of this entire experience. I may not be able to make it, or I can make a little something, but nothing of that value. But I am part of it by receiving it and loving it and making it a part of my daily life.’ I just throw that in because it needs to come out a little bit.
Robert Liu: I just want to finish out the thoughts that Steve and others have addressed about machines versus crafts. I don’t think the machines are an enemy of craft. If you look at the number of machines that many craftspeople have, especially metal smiths, and some metalsmiths used machinery exclusively to make their crafts. So, it’s just another tool, and fact is this ironic paradox if you’re a metalsmith and your work looks too sloppy, or shows too many marks of the human hands, it doesn’t reflect well on you. You have to make things that look like they were almost made by machine but the person knows you made them and you finished it just as well as a machine. So I don’t think machinery is negative in that sense.
Shan Emanuelli: Okay, this obviously is just to start with. I don’t want anyone to feel limited by it, but these are the things we have addressed. And what we want to do in a practical manner is to try to see what else should be included, what is less important. Perhaps some of the themes we’ve talked about as overarching themes can be applied in one of these segments if that comes up in your minds. We have a special request from Steve Fenton that we keep in mind, that, since this is for a public that may not have experience with the subject and that we want to draw in, if there are things that illustrate and tension or a conflict that might be of interest (such as the appropriation vs. inspiration issue, which he thinks would be of interest) then would you bring it up? Right, Steve?
Steve Fenton: Well, I think that a lot of the discussion this morning was very good discussion. It’s not necessarily something that someone who’s sitting at home, looking at TV Guide and deciding well, shall I watch Episode II of Craft in America or should I watch Law and Order , are necessarily going to turn to Craft in America, based on that. What I’d love to hear is some inclusion of issues that a person who is basically unknowledgeable in the subject might be interested in and find intriguing, and at the end of an hour would say, ‘Wow. That was kind of interesting. And I’m now more interested in the subject because it’s more relevant to me as an individual.’ That’s what I’d love to hear. So, if that’s possible, that would be great.
Elaine Levin: I’m glad you said we could freely interpret what you wrote because I have a feeling that I did. But I think that a lot of the visuals that I have and the way I’ll be talking about them also relates very much to some of the discussions that we had today, and some of the tensions and some of the conflicts that we brought up today. Memory of course, is a recalling of past experiences. And, some philosopher said that if we don’t know the past, we will constantly repeat those experiences, probably to the detriment of our lives. But, in terms of art, that is not all bad. Because, artists in a sense, borrow only what they need from the past and then they transform and they manipulate and they adapt it for a more contemporary expression. So, in order to know how that happened, I’ll be speaking strictly to ceramic past history because that is my field, and we will rapidly survey the prominent movements and styles from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. A survey of any subject like this is like jumping from mountaintop to mountaintop with no time to explore intriguing valleys or rivers or streams below. And so, this should leave us slightly breathless, and, if you blink, you might miss a decade or two. [slide show begins] This is an Anasazi white ware jar from 1050 to 1300 AD. And we begin with Native American ware because even though there was no interest in Indian pottery of the Southwest or even the ware of the Indians of the Northeast by any settlers, Spanish or English, during the Art Deco period of the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties, the geometric designs of ware of this sort found an echo because it was a period in which lines and patterns began to dominate. This is a red ware slip-trailed plate from the seventeenth to early eighteenth century. And it was the prevailing style of seventeenth century European ware, and that style of course arrived with the potters who sailed from England. It was very simple and direct for a frontier settlement. The slip-trailing designs on earthenware clay were very appropriate for the basic needs of settlers in a new land. John Leidy, Pennsylvania 1796. But, as the colonists, and then the citizens of a new country became more prosperous, new immigrants arrived with more recent and more decorative European ceramic techniques. The German lettering on this Pennsylvania Dutch plate reads rather plaintively “Fortune or misfortune is our breakfast every morning.” The Moravians and Gottfried Aust, 1795. At about the same time as the previous plate a group of potters from central Europe landed in Pennsylvania and they found the state much too crowded. And so they made a long march to relatively less settled North Carolina around the area where Winston-Salem is now. And in doing so they began a very lengthy functional pottery tradition in that state. And this religious group, which was called the Moravians, took slip-trailing and floral designs to a higher level than the previous work. Moreover, they believed that they did God’s work by being craftsmen and training others to learn the process. So, you have a spiritual element already in American tradition. William Tucker, Philadelphia, 1830. We’re jumping a little bit here. By the early nineteenth century, entrepreneurial potters like William Tucker of Philadelphia saw an opportunity to invade the porcelain china import market by producing homegrown porcelain ware in a factory setting. He didn’t even argue about whether it was good or bad to produce ware in a factory setting rather than hand crafted at that particular point in our history. Earthenware was the most available clay, so searching for kaolin deposits to make porcelain required extra ingenuity, but that is also part of the American tradition. The ware was modeled after French Empire style with an exaggerated handle, but the indentations on the foot were a Tucker American innovation. We jump to the Arts and Crafts Movement and Mary Louise McLaughlin. By the 1870’s the impact of William Morris’s Arts and Crafts Movement in England, as we talked about, it was a revolt against the factory production of crafts, and especially pottery, found an echo in the post Civil War period of America. One result of the war was a rising urban middle class. And there were women who enjoyed a little more leisure at that time, and an eagerness for artistic pursuits. This innocent-looking lady introduced and taught china painting decoration, the prevailing technique for decorating ceramics. And, like knitting and embroidery, an eager group of artistically inclined American women in Cincinnati could justify learning to paint on clay vessels as a home art. McLaughlin didn’t know anything about china painting, but she taught herself. And it’s the use of mineral paints on top of a glaze. And it’s an old process used first in China. She experimented, and, because she didn’t know how it was done in the past, she produced an American variation on the technique. Then, very graciously, shared her knowledge and taught both china painting, and another technique, under glaze painting, which is also an old technique that she figured out how to do, and she wrote about it and she taught others. It’s interesting because she had no source to go to to find out about these techniques. There was no literature on it, and the potters, the men potters who were working in factories, were not about to give her any information. This lady, a friend and an enemy of Mary Louise McLaughlin, also from Cincinnati, took McLaughlin’s two procedures to the next level, and, with the help of her wealthy father and his financial backing, she opened a workshop for ladies who desired to learn and practice china and under glaze painting and eventually be paid for their artistry. Maria Nichols established the Rookwood Pottery of Cincinnati of which Ken [Trapp] has written a great deal on and will forgive my very short explanation of it. It was established in 1880 and it soon became a business with a business manager producing pottery in the Arts and Crafts tradition hand-thrown by men and hand-decorated by women. Onward to Art Nouveau: the Art Nouveau style initiated in France around the 1890’s gave a new impetus to the interest in floral designs of the Victorian era. But, it was asymmetrical and very much influenced by Japanese art. It emphasized the organic in nature through these very fluid flowing lines and exaggerated the swirl of tendril and vines. This Rookwood vase, by the ladies who painted Rookwood pottery and designed by the company designers, adapted the swirling French style into a more vertical and less exaggerated American version. And it should be noted here that this idea of adapting worldwide influences is very much a part of American artistic expression. This is the work of Artus Van Briggle. The vase is called “Despondency” and it’s from 1904 and it is in the Art Nouveau style. Artus moved to Colorado. He had formerly worked at Rookwood as a designer, but he had tuberculosis, and he felt perhaps he could lengthen his life by moving to Colorado. And he opened a pottery there. And this design of a figure encompassing the lip of a vase interprets French Art Nouveau but is also a psychological statement: despondency over his illness from which he shortly died. This is the work of George Ohr from around 1900. George Ohr was labeled “The Mad Potter of Biloxi.” He interpreted the Art Nouveau style using multi handles as tendrils and he manipulated the clay very freely, particularly for that period. And, in doing so, he emphasized its malleability, and it’s a characteristic that we’ll see in work fifty years later around the nineteen fifties. Adelaide Alsop Robineau at the wheel. One result of the Arts and Crafts movement was the impact of women in ceramics. At Rookwood, women were decorators and designers, but their hands never touched raw clay. Adelaide Alsop Robineau was the first woman to learn throwing on the potter’s wheel, divorcing herself, and, eventually other women, from that dependence on male potters. She launched the concept of the studio potter: the person who handles every aspect of the work, in contrast to the factory potter where one person handles only one aspect of the many different procedures. This is Adelaide’s triumphant vase. It’s called the “Scarab” vase and she produced it in 1910. It took her a thousand hours of carving with a crochet needle. Anyone who has handled a crochet needle knows that it’s rather tricky, and to apply it to the surface of clay is even trickier. What’s really important about it is that it earned her a first prize at the 1910 Turin International Ceramic Exhibit. She was the first American and the first woman to receive such an honor. We skip rapidly to Art Deco and the work of Waylande Gregory. The left is “Burlesque Dancer,” and the right is “Nubian Head” and it’s from 1928. The countermovement to the Arts and Crafts and the Art Nouveau styles was Art Deco, an attempt to accept technology and the machine. Waylande Gregory designed and produced figurative sculptures in multiples for the Cowan Pottery of Cleveland. His sculptures were influenced by Cubism and Picasso’s attention to African arts, and were very stylized and impersonal, and showed the sophistication of French decorative arts, which was a big influence at the time. Gregory’s work here is in black and gold, and it also reflected the extravagance and the elegance of the 1920’s before the crash of 1929. Making a big contrast to Gregory’s work is when Modernism makes its appearance. This is Grace Luce with “Fish Woman” of the 1930’s. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) and the FAP (Federal Arts Programs) were legislated in the 1930’s to relieve some of the stress of the economic downturn that began in 1929. A number of flourishing ceramic workshops were established; one in Cleveland continued the interest in the figurative sculpture but how different the subject matter at this time because this shows a poor woman selling fish and it really reflected the difficulties of the Depression on American society. So we have this reflection of an economic situation coming into ceramic work. Contrast to that is Marguerite Wildenhain, her portrait here. She represents the influx of European potters such as the Natzlers and Maja Grotell and a number of others who arrived just before or at the beginning of World War II. In her baggage Marguerite brought the principles of the Bauhaus, the Arts and Crafts school established in Germany in 1919, where she trained. This is a milk jug of 1923 that she produced as a student there. The Bauhaus believed that ceramics was a fine art, on the same level as painting and sculpture and other materials. Moreover, it was important to produce beautiful, inexpensive work for the masses so their lives would be enhanced. And we touched on that subject. One of the reasons that idea was so prevalent at this time was because of the Russian Revolution and the fear in some social circles that if the masses weren’t, perhaps placated is the wrong word, but at least having objects in their home that were satisfying, perhaps they too would feel that their lives were not satisfying. So something had to be done in terms of objects for a large number of people. Marguerite Wildenhain again, with “Coffeepot,” in 1945. When Marguerite settled in Northern California around 1942, she taught the importance of being a crafts person devoted to that lifestyle. And this is where Bruce’s [Metcalf’s] discussion about devoting yourself to a certain kind of life comes in. Because her work spoke at this time to the simplicity of design and glaze as form follows function, her philosophy among other factors energized the studio pottery movement that we see still at work today because we have all these pitchers and coffee cups on the table that are part of that same movement that she inspired so clearly and dramatically. She was a very impressive speaker and very impassioned about her feeling about a crafts lifestyle. In great contrast we have the nineteen fifties and the influence of Abstract Expressionism, and of course Jackson Pollock’s painting of “One,” 1950. Up to this point, the perfection of functional form dominated with some interest in figurative sculpture, but the advent of Abstract Expressionist painting coupled with a new knowledge of sixteenth century Japanese folk ceramics that emphasized the plasticity of clay in an asymmetrical context, and Picasso’s manipulation of thrown forms ultimately came together in the work of Peter Voulkos. Voulkos’ seeing beyond the perfection of form and beyond the traditional concepts of function as emphasized by Wildenhain and others during the nineteen forties and fifties led to his literally and figuratively overturning our ideas of function. This is Peter Voulkos’ “Rondina.” And it’s 1958, and it is assembled, thrown, coiled and altered forms in a very spontaneous and intuitive approach much like the Abstract Expressionist painters dealt with paint. Voulkos opened what some considered a Pandora ’s Box to influences that ceramists had previously handled much more timidly. An emphasis on clay’s plasticity a là George Ohr and Japanese ceramics, the emphasis on the process, and the character of the material as seen in Abstract Expressionist painting motivated Voulkos and others such as John Mason and Paul Soldner, all of them working for a time at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles in the mid-nineteen fifties. Robert Arneson “Diet Cola,” 1965. Voulkos opened the door, and Robert Arneson walked in with Pop Art. Not just a six-pack, but an icon on several levels. An image with cultural connotations for a cola-guzzling society with social references because it speaks to the diet-conscious society striving for model-like thinness, and incorporating surrealism and humor giving human qualities to inanimate objects. All of this in one six-pack of diet cola. Arneson with “Crazed” 1972. The psychological implications of Artus Van Briggle’s vase titled “Despondency” is updated and more aggressive with this artist’s portrait expressing personal exasperation, frustration and anger. At the same time the title “Crazed” is a pun on the crackle glaze, which is, I think, a little hard for you to see, but it’s all those lines that run through the white glaze. It’s humorous enough to somewhat undercut the seriousness of this emotion. Arneson was also reacting to all the turmoil of the nineteen sixties which began to find expression in the ceramics of the nineteen seventies. No doubt many of you remember Grant Wood’s “American Gothic’” 1930. Many segments of society began, in the sixties, to question the relevance of customs and attitudes and beliefs. Artists looked at past art and saw some revered images such as this one that had relevance for an earlier decade but now were no longer germane. This is Howard Kottler “Look Alikes” of 1972. So, one way of borrowing from the past was to adapt and manipulate the images. And, in doing so here with not-sosubtle humor, Howard Kottler suggests a sexual orientation that was certainly a taboo subject for public discussion at that particular time. A few other examples of diverse directions and influences: William Harnett with a painting called “My Gems,” late nineteenth century. A number of ceramists saw possibilities in nineteenth century still life paintings. You can barely see the book that is lying on the table in the left hand lower corner. Richard Shaw with “Jar and Two Volumes,”1978. Realism and Super-Realism were very important movements in the nineteen-seventies in part because of Watergate. The public was asking ‘What is real? What is the truth?’ Shaw’s objects had to be touched to be certain that they were made of clay. He uses decals that he made himself, and he also uses china paints. It’s that updating of that technique important to the women decorators of the 1880’s, and it’s used here and helps the artist confuse our perception of what is real. Italy in the Della Robia style, Sixteenth Century: Italian altar ceramics of that era surround the Holy Family with an arch of flowers and fruits, and in doing so make references to the agricultural culture of Italy at that time. This is Karen Koblitz “Homage to Della Robia,” 1988. This American artist studied and worked in Italy for a number of years, and, as a ceramist, her still life assemblage pays homage to the clay vessel instead of the Holy Family, which she enshrines in a Della Robia sixteenth-century style arch. No doubt you recognize the Mayan temples of Guatemala. The cultural diversity of America has given permission to artists to be influenced by any world culture or any artistic tradition. And so, the architecture of the Mayan temples of Mexico and Guatemala have cast a mysterious spell. This is Patrick Crabb, 1999. The Mayan temples embodied religious rituals and appeals to the gods of that culture. And the artist recognized that and the fact that this was an architectural wonder and a symbol of a vibrant culture. And, like Karen Koblitz, he elevates the clay vessel to an honored position for his tribute to that past. And so we come full circle with a Mimbres bowl of 1050 to 1150 AD; eleventh century from the Southwest. The designs circling the rim and the animals in the center all held symbolic importance for that culture. And then we have Diego Romero with the “Chongo Brothers” of 1996. He is a Southwest Pueblo Indian trained at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, and UCLA; but he’s taking inspiration from his ancestors to express contemporary Native American issues. The Chongo brothers represent the Indian people in situations at times autobiographical and based on his family members and generally the experience of Native Americans. And he also uses the geometric patterning and symbols found on the ancient ware. And so, Memory has shown us that the objects from our American ceramic tradition were sensitive to political, social and economic conditions as well as aesthetic movements and styles. And so, contemporary ceramists have borrowed from that past in ways that enhance the present. I’ve shown the mountaintops in hopes that the survey will nevertheless confirm the richness of this one exciting and important direction for American ceramics. [Applause.]
David Haugland (Filmmaker, director): I have a question generally to the experts in the room: to talk a bit of how they would articulate or conceive of memory in the context of craft. This morning we had such a rich discussion of various points of view that all seemed to come together very nicely and were complimentary. I’m hoping that now, with Memory and the other themes we go into, we could have that same kind of ‘dumping’ if you will, of information, because it would be very helpful as we try to integrate that into…exactly what Memory means and how it influences, or from different perspectives, how Memory plays a role. Because I’m sure that as everyone read the documents in terms of the proposal and how it’s written, maybe questions came up to them or interpretations of Memory and that kind of thing. From my perspective, hearing the spectrum of takes on Memory would be very helpful at this point.
Roslyn Tunis: I was just saying to Elaine how much I appreciated her presentation because it showed us images from the past and the correlation, not the appropriation but inspiration from the past. And I thought that was an excellent presentation for that. And, I’m hoping that, as part of what we do for Memory, that we can continue to do that; because I think it will give the public a greater appreciation of contemporary craft when they see that it didn’t come out of a whole cloth, that it came from somewhere else and it’s part of a continuum.
David Haugland: I understand what you are saying and I appreciate it as well. But I think there’s a difference between memory and history, and I’d like to hear that discussed because I think they are quite distinct, and from my perspective, I’d like to get a sense, as in other things we’ve discussed today, where those boundaries may be, or where they may overlap.
Carol Sauvion: I think that Mike, in one of his books, discusses this. Am I correct? That memory is history through a personal experience. Maybe you [Mike Csikszentmihalyi] can say it better than I…
Mike Csikszentmihalyi: I think that is what I would say. It is personal history. That sense of having a book, that Bible that has the name of your great-great-grandparents in. It’s something that every time you look at it or you show it to your children you open up a whole perspective on the past of which you are part of that whole river or stream of human experience and it’s part of you. And anything that can convey that becomes very precious. In thinking about ceramics: in our studies, it’s really interesting how cherished objects often are the most fragile ones. Glassware and ceramics being among the most valued because they can break so easily. Anytime you can show somebody that you have part of this set of ceramics whereas your sister has already broken hers [Laughter.] but yours are still intact. This becomes something that reflects on you personally. You are in a sense defeating entropy. Defeating time eroding shape. Time is always reducing everything to ashes. So, having something that is both personally connected and resisting the erosion of time becomes very precious.
Kenneth Trapp: When I think of Memory (and I want to apply it to the tangible), the Memorial Quilt comes to mind immediately; the Aids Memorial Quilt. But, there’s that whole tradition of memory quilts. You speak of glass and ceramics, Mike. Textiles, too, in particular, are fragile, and seem to carry, for me a greater memory because of the intimacy we have with them. I was struck by the early things you showed Elaine [Levin], because to me they were both memory and history. The transference of techniques or decorative styles, let’s say, from Germany to the low countries to Pennsylvania to North Carolina. For me, it was difficult to know when one began and one stopped. Memory for me was much more personal. It might the transference from father to son, say, within the potting industry. It could also be the collective memory from a village or from a region of a country. So, it’s not always quite as clear where one begins and one ends. But there are specific objects or categories that carry memory more than history. And those are the personal associations with textiles, with quilts.
Beverly Gordon: I think that Memory is a somewhat problematic beginning of the series. It implies that everyone has a memory of these things, which they don’t. And brings up, if you talk about controversial issues, what we perceive as memory but may just be invented. Nostalgia or something. It’s not really memory; or romanticizing the past. I wasn’t sure why you chose memory as opposed to history because some of the subsets that were on here seem more to be history than memory. Or, maybe Memory would come in later in the series, and not to start with Memory. I don’t know. I’m just throwing this out for conversation because it implies that we do have a memory that we may not have.
Steve Fenton: I think from a structural standpoint for the series it’s not only important to start off with something of a historical perspective to set the framework of craft in America, but also what makes it memory beyond history is that this is also a place to expose the personal connections which is the basis of why craft is important to us all. There is a relationship of individuals to items, to objects that have been passed on through the years from generation to generation that is also part of this episode. It’s the idea that whether it’s the quilt that has been handed down both historically and interpersonally within a family or the antique rocking horse that’s up in the attic that belonged to a previous generation that now gets passed down. That’s the connection that takes it beyond just history in this first episode.
Patrick Ela, M.B.A. (Acting Director of the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles): One thing I’m struck by is: memory I would associate more with the memory of the maker or of the craftsperson, and history I might associate more with the keeper of the object having been made. When you were talking about the oneon-one nature of memory, I was thinking maybe of a master craftsperson passing on techniques and skills that would be innovated. Whereas, history, this Diego Romero, I loved that slide. This is a person living in a living tradition. He’s part of a living memory that goes back hundreds of years and there’s a tyranny of traditional forms that he’s breaking away from. And that’s like living in a memory, and I think a lot of other contemporary craftspeople are striving to be innovative and break away from memory, and to establish themselves as unique makers. So, it’s a very politically and emotionally charged topic, memory, I think. And I think if it were focused maybe on the maker, it would make more sense to me, than on the keeper of the objects made in the past.
Barbara Hamaker: I just wanted to relate a personal experience as a weaver, in the late eighties, when I was working at Ornament. Some people who Robert [Liu] knows travel back and forth to Afghanistan and I can’t remember if it was a photograph or a slide. I don’t think I saw the actual rug. But, I’m used to thinking of hand woven Persian rugs and rugs from Afghanistan as being incredibly traditional beautiful prayer rugs. I don’t know what the patterns mean, but I relate to their beauty. And I saw a picture of a rug with Russian tanks woven into it, and was so stunned. And I thought, ‘My God, this is history. I’m living in history!’ And to me, that’s something that this Memory episode will capture for the broader audience. I’ll never forget it. It was a very stunning experience. And I’m sure potters and jewelers and other people will have similar experiences with their own craft. But I think that that’s something that we need to capture in some way in this episode.
Elaine Levin: I’m not sure I made the point. In fact, I know I didn’t. There’s a feeling in America that has been dissipated somewhat. It’s that we don’t have a tradition, that there’s no worth to the objects that were made in the past. We don’t have the kind of tradition that Japan or China or some European countries have. And I think it’s important to, in some way, emphasize that we do have a tradition, that there is something that we can look back at. I think in recent times we’ve recognized some of that. The other thing is, in terms of ceramics, I don’t want to let people leave here and think that this is the only direction that ceramics has gone in. There are many, many different directions, but this is the one that we are talking about today. And so, I want to put that in that kind of context.
Laurie Levin, M.A. (Grant writing consultant; symposium coordinator, Craft in America): I too am not a craft person per se, so I’m seeing this from the point of view of the viewer. For me, the whole idea of memory and history is sort of like a dialectic. The memory re-channels the history. It passes through me and I create my memory based on fractals of history. It’s an interactive kind of relationship between those two concepts, and for the viewer, I think you are almost compelled to draw the viewer in by talking about personal memory so that they can resonate with some of the larger concepts that you are going to be talking about.
Shan Emanuelli: And as a culture, it seems to me, we are living the memory-consciously or not-of what has happened to condition current times. And, in a sense, craft now is a result, as Bruce [Metcalf] was elaborating earlier, of the changing conditions of life in the United States in the nineteenth century. There’s memory to history. We do think about history in terms of the way that we live our lives now. Most of us do.
Patrick Ela: I was going to say that I was at the 18th or 17th annual UCLA powwow last week, and many weavers from different Navajo trading posts were weaving American flags as emblematic of September 11th. And they were beautifully woven. I didn’t see any lazy lines, but they were the real thing.
Barbara Hamaker: I think that coupling with that, I think that we have not discussed pre- and postSeptember 11th, but I think that that’s something that Carol and I have talked about, and how that will impact this series in some way.
Shan Emanuelli: I guess for me this conversation raises the question: do we want a history of craft involved in this project, or do we want to be back to a more just thematic emphasis. Do we want to give that context or do we not.
Carol Sauvion: I think we need to give that context. It is absolutely imperative that people understand how this fit into our past, and how it has survived, and how it exists today; and then, what is the future of it?
Shan Emanuelli: Do we have to have the same memory to talk about it as Memory?
Carol Sauvion: I don’t think so. Does every historian have the same perspective when they write a book about history?
Beverly Gordon: My response to that is perhaps what I was trying to get at earlier when I raised this issue about history or memory, which is: it’s very easy to have platitudes about the past and oversimplifications and then almost create the myth that we have certain memories all together. Of course, I am a historian so I like to understand where we come from. But I think it’s important to be as respectful of the complexity as possible. That’s what I was talking about, about memory. I don’t know how you can tell the whole history because it’s big. You don’t have a lot of hours. And I think the idea of using personal memory is a good one, but it still isn’t always an accurate reflection of everything. You just need to be careful, that’s all.
David Haugland: Because we’re living in a multi-cultural society, I think that Memory is much more appropriate in terms of a label than is history, because if we were to do history, my concern is that history typically is told from a point of view. And it’s interpreting perhaps other cultural or individual interests; whereas if we’re looking at telling stories grounded in craft and about craft, then in a multi-cultural environment, isn’t [it] Memory that can be inclusive of a broader spectrum of experience and reflection whether it happens to be Indian crafts or grounded in German heritage, or whatever else it might be? Isn’t that potentially a more even-handed way of looking at and telling those stories? I mean, my concern is that history typically comes from a point of view. And, if we’re doing a point of view, that’s fine. But it’s a very different approach.
Howard Risatti: I’d like to say something. I thought about this category when we first talked about it. And I thought it maybe would be a good time to present a structure, as Steve [Fenton] has suggested. And I also thought though about the idea of a human memory rather than this other kind of memory or history. So that you could talk about crafts and suggest that these things are things that happened a long time ago, and they still happen today and so this becomes a part of a kind of human memory and that would be a way of then focusing in on this point in this country and show a connection that’s trans-temporal, trans-spatial, trans-cultural. So you already have your multi-cultural basis here because containers are containers all over. And these things are established very early on, it seems to me, in the history of crafts, and continue to the present. So, that would be a way of talking about a human memory here in a larger, almost genetic sense. It could be the idea that this memory is in the hand. I mean, you remember and you learn techniques with the hand to make the object. And the techniques remain fairly constant in many ways. And so the hand could be a focus to talk about the object and that could be a consistent thing that runs through at least the first episode, but I think through most of these episodes. So the hand could be a focal point as a visual element combined with an object that the hand makes. So there would be a memory that’s embedded in the hand and in the mind that produces and comes out in the object that we see. That would be how I think it as a human memory. Then you could talk about people’s particular objects: that mine is different from yours, but they fit within the same category. And that would bring us up to other issues, other episodes.
Shan Emanuelli: Rather than pursuing anything to do with [how] the Industrial Revolution conditioned the changing nature of how we see craft?
Howard Risatti: I think those are all there, aren’t they? Because what we’re talking about is the Industrial Revolution is the thing that obliterates the hand. So the hand becomes under pressure because of the Industrial Revolution and that can be a counterpoint to this, but the theme starts early with the hand and the object and the making and this kind of memory which then is called into question, I think with the Industrial Revolution. I think that’s what Bruce is saying and I think it’s an issue that we deal with in the present.
Kenneth Trapp: On the other side is, potters and weavers, metal smiths who speak about the memory of their materials. So, you could, no pun intended, weave that into this. If we’re talking about the makers and the consumers as memory, the materials themselves have that inherent quality or aspect to them. I’ve just been dealing with a group of potters in Minnesota. I’ve asked them questions, ‘How did you know that this particular spout would turn?’ The memory was within, in the clay, as the fire matured there was a certain turning, or this would happen, not fully expected. Or the memory that’s already inherent in the sheet of metal. What I find fascinating is if we’re talking about memory, these makers are infusing that material with the very word that we are discussing, as though it has a life. There’s a life force within the material.
Shan Emanuelli: Future now? OK. I’m going to ask Mike if he has thoughts to start with.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: I’m interested in Future partly because…I’m trying to figure out whether, for instance, my youngest son is a craftsman or not. And I can explain what I see him doing and see whether this is within the parameters of discourse here. He teaches, actually at MIT, but what he does is, he builds robots. And each robot he builds from scratch, I mean, he welds the steel, he puts in the computers, the parts that he actually collects himself. The last piece he did was one, that some of you may have seen on CNN, it’s called the “Afghan Explorer”. He took a lawnmower and outfitted it with actually much more powerful motors to be like a lunar landing vehicle. Let loose in Afghanistan, it can go up and down mountains and it has two-way TV screen and videos that are connected to satellite in Aspen, so that if it meets anybody in the desert, it can start talking to it and talking back and forth, and this is all within the notion that we are getting censored news, we don’t know what’s going to happen out there. We should be able to democratize and popularize information and this is one way of doing that, using technology as a way of communicating with people who otherwise would not know what they are thinking about.
Shan Emanuelli: He teaches art?
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: He’s in the media lab at MIT. So, using kind of technology, in a kind of creative way. He doesn’t think of it as art. He doesn’t think of it as knowledge. The closest is the use of technology to create something, which is new, which has a purpose, which interacts with our life in a way that we otherwise wouldn’t have it. So to me this sounds a little bit like craft and it’s not something that has been done before in the same way, but it’s the same kind of human attempt to use whatever is at hand to make something which expresses the best of what one can do, and has some kind of purpose. Not necessarily artistic aesthetic purpose and not a utilitarian purpose. It’s kind of in between. So, I was just thinking. On the extreme, it seems to me that could be seen as craft and as the future. I don’t know.
Laurie Levin: Are you trying to bust through our categories of what’s craft and what’s art, and what’s invention? Maybe that’s what the Future is, it’s crossing boundaries in terms of the categories traditionally thought of as one or the other.
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi: Yes. I mean, these things keep changing. For instance, in Italy, during the Renaissance arte meant not art but craft. It was how you did things with your hand in a beautiful way. Leonardo DaVinci was painting furniture and crafting and so was Botticelli, so were all these people doing craft as well as art. It’s only with Mannerism and a little later with Romanticism that the two get separated. And then the Arts and Crafts Movement tries put it back together. I don’t think we need to consider these categories as eternal. So, making surfboards by hand, and to a group of connoisseurs who know what’s a really excellent surfboard, that is closer, and so is customizing low-riders and cars and so forth. I think it’s interesting also the fact that most of these examples I come up with are different in terms of they are not as functional as crafts used to be. Surfboards are being used in a kind of athletic, leisure, but also creative. There a whole culture around surfing that is not like jogging. It’s a culture. And so there are these things that are breaking into new directions through craft nowadays.
Hidde Van Duym: Children’s toys are in that same category. Galleries carry toys, real toys, but they’re very, very specially made. I’m just filling in the gray areas of all these boundaries, and I thought of children’s toys being in that same category. I think toys have served as model for creative crafts a great deal.
Robert Liu: Somehow your outline suggests that if we look at each of the traditional craft fields and look at where people are probing, that is also within what we want to say about the future of crafts, right? Like, for instance, take rapid prototyping, which is an industrial process whereby you design something in a computer and then, through various means, this is made into a three-dimensional object. Jewelers are now doing this. Is this germane to what we’re talking about? Future crafts? It has a pizzazz to it that the audience would really love. And the fact that maybe one percent of craftspeople have the capability to come on to this kind of technology. Wouldn’t that fit in?
Anthony Cortese: I don’t think we can explore the future without discussing how technology of that sort fits into the future of craft. I think you’d be selling the show short if you did.
Bruce Metcalf: There is an incredible amount of different things going on with the interface between craft media and hand fabrication and different computerized technologies. And some of it is really, really amazing. So, it would be logical if you want to talk about the future. The issue that then becomes interesting, and there are a lot of people approaching this question in different ways. The speculation is that as computer technologies become more pervasive, does that change the role of the craftsperson to a designer, to somebody who simply makes a plan and has the machine render it. At which point, as far as I am concerned, it would cease to be craft. That’s certainly a question that’s worth entertaining.
Robert Liu: To take it further, there are people who are doing so-called virtual jewelry.
Bruce Metcalf: I thought that was pretty bogus.
Robert Liu: Which, to me, is virtual nothingness. That’s also a possible direction.
Laurie Levin: So the linkage between fabrication and object has this sort of inextricable bonding there and if you separate it, it’s no longer craft. Is that what you’re saying?
Robert Liu: That would take out all the European tradition of the master designing the piece and being made, whether it’s in fabric or glass, which has been ongoing for decades in Scandinavia.
Bruce Metcalf: Those are made by hand. A friend of mine named Janice Lesman Moss is now working with computer controlled looms. And what she can do is draw up the fabric on a computer. She strings up the loom, and then there’s some technology about having the colored thread being changed. I didn’t see enough of it to know what’s going on. But basically, once the loom is set up, she turns it on. And that’s all she does.
Patrick Ela: They did that earlier in the century with Jacquard looms.
Bruce Metcalf: With the Jacquard looms, right. This is much more complex.
Dale Gluckman: But with the Jacquard loom you still have a weaver throwing the shuttle back and forth. You just eliminated the drawboy.
Bruce Metcalf: This is a Jacquard loom with the powers increased by a factor of ten. And it’s amazing. And what’s interesting about it is that it builds on the traditions of hand weaving, and, from her point of view, her design sense is completely informed by her experience of making these things by hand, but, the weavings she’s now working on are not made by hand. She’s a designer now.
Barbara Hamaker: It seems to me that in the Future episode the one thing we must explore is materials. And how in past, present and future, the craftsperson is informed by the materials they work with. And, how, throughout this whole five episode series that’s going to play a part in what we talk about. And I think that we would be remiss if we didn’t explore everything that we can possibly imagine in the Future episode because that is what’s going to inform the young people and bring in the kids that are looking.
Anthony Cortese: Part of my point was just to let the viewer decide and sort out for themselves what is craft and what’s not. But you say the direction things are going in and the tools that are at people’s disposal now, and let the viewer decide. You could raise that question, and the answer could be no, this isn’t craft. But I think that’s perfectly fine.
Barbara Hamaker: I think part of what would be wonderful to do in this film is to actually ask the questions, not tell the viewer the answers. And present the problems that we are actually grappling with here.
Patrick Ela: The conversation just strikes me as being discussions almost about a second Industrial Revolution where there are these new things happening with the interface of technology and computerization and robotery, or whatever the right word is. It sounds very reminiscent of some of the discussions that were happening a hundred years ago and whether somebody’s a craftsperson or a designer and if there’s a pejorative implication. Many people who work in craft media don’t like to be called craftspeople, they like to be called artists. There’s an issue of money: if it’s more money is it art? If it’s less money, is it craft? These are all old things, but they seem to be gearing up for a new iteration.
Dale Gluckman: Along these lines, the definition that we’ve been kind of working with here it seems to me, is pretty much the Arts and Crafts definition. If it’s made by hand. And the Yanagi tradition that if it’s made by hand you can see the work of the person who made it and it’s imbued with a certain moral quality and so on, which is fine. I’m not criticizing. I’m just saying that one of the questions to be posed for the future is: ‘Is that definition going to have to change?’ Are we going to either lose the term craft entirely and are we going to have to redefine craft as the craftsperson as the one who designs it and the computer as the one who makes it. There may be some real changes in the definition of what we’re dealing with and maybe even the disappearance of the term entirely. I don’t know, but (we need) to pose those kinds of questions for the future.
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi: From my point of view, the way a program like this could be really successful is not so much in providing historical information or theoretical ideas about what’s craft and not craft but more opening up to the viewer possibilities of seeing the things around them, of interacting with the world around. Getting involved with activities that they would never have thought they could do. To appreciate objects for their integrity and for their uniqueness, that seems to me is a more, I hate to say educational, but more useful kind of program.
Beverly Gordon: Something just occurred to me that maybe others of you have thought about before, but almost to go in the opposite direction, talking about robotics, and so forth. The craft here has been defined in terms of lasting objects. Sometimes we talk about craft in terms of things like baking or cooking or more ephemeral things that are the products of our hands and that are involving materials, but they may not last. Perhaps that’s the past and it may be the future as well. That we have cooking, baking as leisure now, as opposed to as necessity, but the same way we have craft as leisure past time and not necessity for some people. I’m just throwing this out because it just popped into my head. Where are the boundaries? Are you really in these fixed media? One question is ‘Does it move into things like robots?’ and the other question is ‘Does it move into things that have been with us for a long time but that are more ephemeral?’
Kenneth Trapp: When I think about the future, I’m reminded that we’ve had this discussion about the hand. One question would be: ‘Will the human hand become superfluous in light of technology?’ But that aside, there’s also another phenomenon. With increased leisure, we find more people in their later years turning to activities, whether you want to call it amateur, hobbyist, or whatever. There is an outlet for them. We have a turned wood show at the Renwick now. And, we’ve been having demonstrations in the gallery two days a week. We made a discovery which we thought would happen, but not to the extent that it has. And it’s the men in particular who come as repeaters to watch demonstrations who are saying to us ‘I’m retired. I retired at an early age. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’ve found my discovery.’ Quilters are telling us the same thing. So I think it’s the level of the activity that we are looking at. How highly professionalized is it? How far do we want to go into the so-called hobbyist or amateur (I prefer amateur) impulse? So, when I despair that technology might take over, we have no idea what the socio-political climate will be in our country in a few decades. It may be that we are actually reviving ancient techniques just to survive. We could be sitting here making predictions that will totally undone by history. I’m going back to something that Beverly [Gordon] said. I don’t know those of you who grew up in the fifties. I remember the fifties. We were supposed to be flying through space by now in those little helicopters and popping pills because eating was a nuisance. No one ever predicted ethnic foodies, the slow food movement, that sort of thing. Artisan bakery movement. So, what we thought would be so secure in our future was so way off.
Steven Poster, A.S.C. (Cinematographer, Supervising Director of Photography, Craft in America): We are in an amazingly dangerous period now in the world where we’re losing more and more freedom on a daily basis. Paul Krugman, who writes about economics for the New York Times said, ‘History has repeatedly made fools of people who have tried to predict future technological developments, let alone the implications of these developments for long-term growth.’ I thought that was germane to what we are talking about.
Dale Gluckman: One more thing about the future. Again, being aware of the pitfalls of prediction. And I’m not really predicting. But it struck me that when Ken [Trapp] was talking about guys who have retired early, and have now discovered woodturning and whatever, which is terrific, there’s this huge baby boom generation that’s teetering on the brink of retirement (literally), and, again, that’s going to play out over the next twenty years or something, thirty years. Are some of those people going to turn to crafts and even if it’s only as a hobby, but probably for many of them on a fairly sophisticated level? In other words and infuse that maybe crafts are not really dead and dying, but that in fact they are going to have another revitalization as there is this huge population with means and leisure and so on and that it may just turn out to be quite different than we expect. That it’s :not going to die.
Barbara Hamaker And not only that, they are grandparents, so they will be affecting the younger generation in some way, even if the grandchild says ‘What in the hell are you doing?’
Robert Liu: There’s always a jump, a generational jump. You don’t care what your parents do, but your grandparents are interesting.
Roslyn Tunis: You talked about the viewer. A few people have mentioned it. We haven’t used the word “collector” yet. And the collector, whether it be an individual or a museum, is going to be the Future. Who’s going to be keeping it? Who’s going to be maintaining the history of craft and what it is? And so I think we really need to address the collector, whoever that may be. And how crafts are documented, the history of crafts, the memory of crafts, the technology of crafts, the change, the definitions, the objects themselves and the stories that they tell.
Dale Gluckman: That reminded me. In reading over this, I guess it’s from being a museum curator, I thought about the voice of the collector. I thought of all the other ways craft can fulfill your life if you are a craftsperson, or if you enjoy them in some way. As a collector, crafts can create an incredible life journey for you as a person. As a person collecting things, learning about them, learning about process, meeting artists, opening your eyes to ancient versions of the modern things you collect, whatever it is. Leading you back to archeology in a thousand ways. Just as collecting art of any kind can. And a lot of people don’t realize that if they are not natural born collectors. It can be, in the best of senses, an interactive process. And you don’t have to be a multi-zillionaire to collect craft.
Kenneth Trapp: We’re a cheap date. [Laughter.]
Dale Gluckman: Yes, we’re a cheap date. [Laughter.] Textiles are even cheaper, let me tell you. So I think that it may be something very interesting to bring across at some point. This perspective of the collector. Trying to implant in the audience what that can mean and how it can enrich your life and how it is feasible to do.
Roslyn Tunis: That will definitely connect the viewer. What does this mean in my life?
Dale Gluckman: And how I can participate in this? I’ve seen all this stuff and it’s so exciting, but I could never be a glassblower or whatever, but I can participate in a different way.
Roslyn Tunis: And also, what’s the difference, never mind between the definitions, whether it’s craft as fine art or craft as hobby, or whatever. How can I even become part of the dialogue? Do I go to a street fair; do I go to the ACE shows? Do I go to a museum shop? How do I know? How would I feel comfortable in even beginning that process? And I love your idea about it helping to connect people. Whether it’s his or her own personal history, or the history of the world.
Dale Gluckman: Or meeting the collectors. I’ve talked to people who collect textiles: ‘Oh, it’s taken me to Central Asia’ or ‘I’ve met all these people in Washington.’ They would never have had this world had they not been captivated by a shmatta somewhere and started this journey.
Robert Liu: This is actually already happening because I’m going to touch upon this. People who are specifically interested in things made of one medium. There are groups of collectors that come and follow the shows around the country. And some even travel abroad to do this. And usually they tow along their husbands. They do the collecting and buying. And so, it’s very much a phenomenon whereby they are able to interact with the makers. There’s this real immediacy. You can even commission things. It’s just that where do we put this? Do we put it in Community; do we put it in Memory? Whatever it is, if there’s no audience out there to appreciate it, what’s the use in making it?
Shan Emanuelli: Beverly is going to speak about Community.
Beverly Gordon: One of the advantages of being one of the later people in the day is that much of what I was planning to say has already been touched upon so I can kind of move through it quickly, but it shows how interrelated these themes certainly are. I also was going to start by saying that craft is often what we have left of times gone by, or people gone by or what we know about something from the past. I think that’s been adequately addressed. Although, it runs so deep. I once heard a presentation on Paracas mantles, those are textiles from Pre-Columbian Peru, and by really looking very closely at the way they were constructed, we could really learn all sorts of things about the structure of the civilization that produced them. That there were apprentices in the workshop, and so forth, by a real close examination and so sometimes that’s the best way we can touch other times and places and have a sense of community with them. There are some ways in which we use crafts as absolute symbols of the people who produced them and the best example I can think of for that is the Shakers and one of the Shaker sisters saying, ‘I hate it that I’m being remembered as a chair.’ [Laughter.] And that that is the thing we are best known for and not really our belief system, (although we could argue that their belief system was in fact encoded in it), but the crafted object so much embodies the people who made them, whether it’s an individual or a community. And we learn to understand other people through their craft, sometimes in an almost pre-verbal way. When I was a teenager, I spent untold hours at The Museum of the American Indian in New York. It was in Harlem, and nobody was ever there but me. And I really came to know the people through the things that were there. They spoke to me in a way that I didn’t have words for. I didn’t understand how to verbalize it, but I got it. I got it in my body. I got it in my fingers. In other words, the energy that they put into those things came through to me. A single object can represent a community of interest. I have a copy of a book that I’ve written on the table over there where there’s picture of an anti-slave holder potholder. It was the anti-bellum anti-slavery movement putting its belief in an object that was actually then sold and passed on, and it calls through time even today. We certainly have communities of place represented in crafted objects, or belief, or experience. I believe I’ve already mentioned the anti-slavery quilts, but we can go into quilts further. There were presentation quilts for individual churches that they’d give to the minister, and perhaps they’d put the names of the people, and that whole community of that church or that group of people became embodied in there. Also, quilts were given to people going away, making the journey westward. And the whole group of friends that might have worked on that became so embodied in that crafted object that it still stands as a testimony to a community. The AIDS quilt has been mentioned, the shared community today. Certainly, craft helps create community and further its cohesion on so many levels. And again, we’ve talked about some of these. There are communities of producers. Whether it’s the memories you might have of being at camp as a child and sitting and making pots with other children and that sense of the community that was created at that time. Or people from around the world who gather around to work together on their individual baskets, or whatever. I have an image in my own mind, if I had slides today, of Guatemalan weavers who tie each of their weavings around a single central pole and they’re all around it in a circle working on their own, but as a community. And that is forming a cohesion among them. The community might be within a family passing traditions from mothers to daughters. Discovering things of one’s ancestors. Things that have been already mentioned today. Craft classes, for example, in some Native communities now where they are teaching to bring back traditions. Especially for powwow regalia for example, learning how to do bead work And among Indians, there are NEA grants for passing on things as apprentices. It helps cohere the community, preserve it, and even continue to create it. The community of producers of what we have been calling amateurs are among the strongest communities that I know. Guilds, organizations of, sometimes hobbyists. I know it best from the fiber world, and it’s incredibly intense there. In the early seventies, I guess it was, I went to my first Handweaver’s Guild of America meeting, and they had chartered a plane. And these women took over the plane. I had never seen anything like it. It was the strongest sense of ‘We are bonded as a group because we are so passionate about this interest.’ And people came alive in that setting, and still do, and will flock to annual conventions. I certainly hope that somehow that will be included in these films because it is so intense. And there are such deep friendships that show through. And sometimes, this is a way that individuals within that community context find their own voice. And I can think of a quilter that I know in Wisconsin who was really brought up in a very traditional, sort of self-effacing manner. But she did start to quilt. And somehow she found her way to Paducah, Kentucky where the quilter’s annual show is, and it gave her her voice. She has now become the most incredible advocate for what women do in quilts. Not just women, but primarily women. And it was that community that allowed her to do it. That discovery of the community of interest. And we talked about the community of collectors. This has been mentioned very well. It has historical roots: china collectors who were collecting those china pieces that we saw earlier today. If you collect, sometimes it’s a bond with people who are very different from yourselves. And they can take you, as Dale [Gluckman] was saying, deeply into another world. I’m thinking of some collectors I know of Southwest Indian pottery who got drawn in, and became deeply engaged in the lives of the people who made it, and had friendships that will take them forever on, and are life changings. These kinds of things are very common. Sometimes the sense of community is a little (I don’t know if I want to use the word) bogus, but, we think we know who people are through their crafts, or we’ve had these craft projects like the Indian lace project that was mentioned this morning, or the people who went as Arts and Crafts reformers, to Appalachia and had them start weaving things they didn’t ever make before. And then people think they have a sense of community with the people who made them which may not be an entirely true one; but it still speaks to people who then get into it deeply enough, who learn about it, who would become a part of that. And even when there are people in those groups who have had something foisted upon them, it, in turn, becomes their tradition. It in turn becomes a part of their community. So, their descendants may treasure that because it was still what their ancestors did. So, we have very complex situations going on in these types of communities. There’s a depth of how far out Community can go. And it can start again, with things that may not be entirely genuine, and then become genuine over time. We can have communities of heritage, which has been talked about perhaps in Memory. I know an Oneida Indian man who went out and started collecting Iroquois beadwork as a way of learning where he came from and who his people were. That would be his community of heritage. Or my colleague Sonya Clark, who does (among other things) beadwork, who is an African-American from the Caribbean. She began to find her own long-term heritage by going to the Yoruba culture in Africa. Her work takes off on ideas of the head and ideas that come from that culture, and it’s been generation upon generation through different places, from Africa to the Caribbean to the United States. But it is her community of heritage and it has given her a huge amount of both creative passionate fire, but also a sense of belonging to something much bigger than her own individual place. Sometimes we make things as a group, and again, this community of guilds and so forth is a way of really forging that community. People making things for bazaars in the past. Sitting around doing their work, and, it’s not all in the past. I recently was at a senior citizen’s complex where there were some women making some things for their annual Christmas Bazaar. They had work parties, and at these work parties, even today, they were having the time of their lives dressing up in silly hats, really having a sense of joy. And that’s an ongoing kind of community, which happens around the craft production. Sometimes I think that studio craft people, the people who have more isolated studios may have less of that, ironically than the more amateurs. But there are still professional organizations and so forth. The kinds of communities I have spoken of so far, (you could certainly go into any one of these in great detail) relate to a community of people and bonding with other people and that sense of belonging and togetherness. But I think that they’re other kinds of community that may extend not just to other people, but also to place, for example. I know Landscape is coming next, but Roslyn [Tunis] mentioned before basket makers having to go out to the land to gather things at the right time, the right time of year, the right way of relating to the material. If you are digging up clay for a pot, certainly among Southwestern potters, it’s something you have to do in the appropriate way. It’s your mother. There’s a community of place, a community of belonging that can come through craft, which is so deep. It’s not just a superficial community. It’s a depth of community. But again, it needn’t be a person who has lived in a place for eons. I have a friend who lives in the city of Milwaukee who’s a basket maker and she knows every place in the city of Milwaukee that has wild willow, or whatever else she might use; and knows that place like her friend because of her connection through the craft, and then organizes her year around it and has brought other friends into it, and then it extends in fact to other people as well. So, I think that Community is connection. And I was going to end with something that was a theme for us this morning, which is about our bodies. While we might not think that we are in community with our bodies, through craft, we have a sense of connection with the body: the rhythms of work, the smells of materials in some cases, the soreness of certain muscles. The sensual pleasure of touching things, and so, I think that community is a broad concept about connection, belonging, and togetherness; and we can find it in just about any aspect that we look at. [Applause.]
Carol Sauvion: Beverly, you have talked about something that has been not a conflict, but a point of contention as we’ve gone along. And that is, what craft do we talk about? Helen Bing is a donor to the project, and when she gave me money for the project she said ‘You must work with people whose work is of great excellence.’ In other words the people who are doing the finest work. Nanette Laitman, whom I spoke with last week and who donated money to the Archives of American Art to talk with craft artists around the country, said that the word “craft” denigrates the artist and that this project, as I described it to her, was too commercial. So, do you think there’s a problem for us to include some of the things you have just described in this project?
Beverly Gordon: Well, I have several responses to that, hundreds maybe. [Laughter.] One thing is perhaps to problematize that. To problematize that. To use it. We were saying maybe we have to use some of these conflicts right out there. And that whole issue of only the work of the finest people; you say that on one hand, yet, even in the prospectus, who is the audience? The audience is these makers, who may be at various levels of fine-ness. But they’re the ones who are excited. What we are talking about if we are talking about the meaning, the meaning may transcend the product. Maybe if this is about the process, it’s not only about the product. So, that’s one way to problematize it. And then the whole issue of what is craft. That is a tricky one, and we’ve heard that in terms of ‘is it robots? Is it bread?’ Perhaps we can look at the underlying impetus, and use that. And then you can use fine producers and their work as profiles, but why not profile the hobbyist, some of whom do fabulous work. It’s not one thing or the other. It’s everything. Certainly, I would think if you were talking about the community of craft, that community is not elitist. It would break my heart if somehow that were not somehow really clear.
Carol Sauvion: So, let me ask the other scholars, if I may. Ken [Trapp] I was going to ask you next. How do you feel about this?
Kenneth Trapp: I have definite feelings. My interest in a Dale Chihuly doesn’t preclude my interest in the hobbyist, or an amateur. I thought this was about a rich fabric of makers, a rich fabric of consumers, clients, whatever you want to call them. If we ignore the very groups that Beverly [Gordon] talked about, I think we are going to have a very dull video. I think we’re going to have something exceedingly elitist. I have problems with that.
Bruce Metcalf: I would like to amplify that a little bit. It seems to me that craft has a lot of meanings and that if you focus only on the professionals, you are going to get a very narrow range of possible meanings of both the objects and the activity, and the reception. That’s only one aspect of what craft is and can be about. I think that by concentrating too much on the idea of quality, you could miss a tremendous amount of the range of meaning.
Carol Sauvion: You are the scholars. You are people whom we look to for guidance, and you are saying it’s OK to include the non-professional in this series.
Beverly Gordon: I think it’s more than OK. I think it’s imperative. It’s imperative.
Dale Gluckman: We speak with one voice.
Beverly Gordon: When I was talking about problematizing: If someone says, ‘we only want you to talk about the finest.’ You need to bring out that this is an issue. And that whole thing: we denigrate with the word craft. All these definitions, somehow, they have been problematic because they are all charged. You don’t need to resolve it. You don’t need to come up with the right definitions, but to somehow admit, or put out there that some people find the word craft demeaning. And to put out there that some people who make craft don’t want to be associated with the hobbyists, because they think it demeans what they do. To put that out there is what I’m talking about. Not necessarily to have an answer.
Roslyn Tunis: I want to address a couple of points. One is about the donor, the donor of the funds. And we do need donors, I understand that. The donor making decisions as to what this is all about is very problematic. And, so I think that donors need to understand that there is a broader perspective. And, often the donors are the collectors of the so-called “fine art” of craft. And, naturally, they would like to have their artists promoted. But, as I mentioned to someone, hearing many years ago from Wayne Higby trying to define the different aspects of craft. And talking about crafts with a big C and crafts with a little c. And all the different size c’s in the middle. And that’s what we’re talking about. If anything, craft is really a very democratic process. And so, if we start saying only certain kinds of craft can be “elevated” to PBS, then we’re defeating this whole purpose. I think it was Dale [Gluckman] who started to identify the different: ‘What is craft? What is design?’ etc. I think that definitely does need to be addressed, and not in a very pedantic way. But that these are possible types of ways of looking but there’s definitely blurring of the lines between all of these. And between types of materials and technologies. And, we are not going to give you a finite definition of what is craft.
Patrick Ela: That was a very nice presentation you [Beverly Gordon] made, by the way. You talked about all kinds of things: family, workers, classes, collectors, adherents, heritage, sense of place, all these different things. It seems to me that crafts are lost or invisible to the broader public because the words are old words. It seems to me that what we are collectively talking about, is a style of living or a commitment to authenticity or some type of substance that is interpreted differently by professionals and semi-professionals and hobbyists and so on. But it’s about a commitment to living in an authentic way. We’re trying to, in this series, I would think, embrace and enlarge an audience. And the more connected the audience feels with the idea of quality or authenticity or professionalism, that’s the big community. I think all of these communities that you mentioned are part of a group collectively who are committed to a style of living, or an authentic pursuit of existence here on earth. They imbue the objects like you found at the Museum of the American Indian, where you didn’t have to speak the language; the energy of the maker came through to you. It seems to me that that’s sort of collectively what we’re dealing with here.
Beverly Gordon: Lifestyle?
Patrick Ela: I know it sounds pejorative and lightweight and everything, but I think that’s really what it is.
Beverly Gordon: I wouldn’t think it’s lifestyle, because some people are living their whole life around the crafts, and some people are not. Some people have that more compartmentalized into some piece of it. That’s not their lifestyle. But it is…
Patrick Ela: No, but it’s a gradation of involvement with these types of objects. And some people are wholly committed to them and live their life part and parcel for that. And others are tangentially involved, but if you’re interested in it, you seek out makers of authentic objects. If you’re not interested, you go to Sears or somewhere and you get whatever you need. It’s to me, very much about lifestyle, this whole discussion.
Carol Sauvion: I think that it’s also an economic issue. I know, often art students will buy a small piece of an artist’s work just to have that piece because they can’t afford to buy something of a greater size. So I do think partially all of this is economic.
Shan Emanuelli: Well, that’s often the motivation, don’t you think? To make things for yourself that you can’t afford to buy.
Carol Sauvion: Partially, I agree with you, Shan.
Robert Liu: I sense that we’re dancing around that bad word “quality.” Just because there are so many levels of practitioners, does this mean that we’re going to let everybody in, or are we still want the best of every level?
Shan Emanuelli: May I answer that? I think what we’re talking about here is telling stories, not necessarily looking at the objects.
Robert Liu: I find that really disturbing.
Shan Emanuelli: I don’t mean that there will be no objects. But I do think that when you are talking about community, how many objects can you look at from that community anyway? And we’re talking about the role of craft in their lives. We’re not talking about what fine objects they produce in that discussion. That’s my opinion of it.
Robert Liu: The word craft. If you change a couple of letters and put in a p. OK? [Laughter.] I’m not an elitist. I deal with everybody, but I do think you want to show the good examples. You might show the bad examples to show what not to show. But you’re not going to show a democratic array of this stuff and say ‘Hey look this is what it’s about.’ I don’t think that’s what you want to have thousands of hours and millions of dollars be directed towards.
Kenneth Trapp: I presumed from the start that we would show only the very best of what we are looking at, that represented the finest of processes, technologies, the finest examples of human creativity. It doesn’t mean if somebody is unknown, that it doesn’t have quality.
Robert Liu: I didn’t say that, but Ken, the word quality was never seemingly put out there. I got the distinct feeling that we’re going to be much more democratic about this and not try to pick out a level.
Hidde Van Duym: Democracy doesn’t necessary mean bad quality.
Janet Ginsburg: But I think what I so appreciated about what Beverly was talking about was that there’s a brilliance in craft, an energy to craft that isn’t necessarily there in art simply because it’s approachable. Whether you’re talking about the fact that everybody can identify with a pitcher or a bowl, or that you have these communities. There always seems to be this well of people, well of energy, well of creative effort that’s going on. The studio artists are, as you pointed out, in sort of a unique position. There are an awful lot of people who are really interesting, really tremendous and may not be able in their lives to be a studio artist. You [Kenneth Trapp] were talking about the retired woodworkers. It just energized their lives. They probably aren’t in any position to become a studio artist per se, but their stories may be fascinating, and their work may be fascinating.
Barbara Hamaker: I just want to add a couple of things about community. From what Beverly said, I wrote down the word nourish. It seemed to me that all of the communities are nourishing to the people who belong to them in whatever category they’re in. And another category of community is the category of purpose. And that comes under, specifically, the AIDS quilt. And I think that there must be other areas that people are galvanized to come together around a purpose, whether it’s a crises or something where people of great diversity and probably great economic diversity, ethnic diversity come together in a way and nourish each other. People who would never ordinarily even sit in the same room together, and do something together, whatever kind of craft it would be. And I think that that’s part of what will enliven the discussion of Community, and perhaps may be missing in today’s society, with people living alone and emailing everybody and working in their own solitary way. I think we can show the diversity of the craft communities that have evolved over time and that probably exist now.
Roslyn Tunis: I wanted to also talk about community, and I like the word nourishing. As we know, many native peoples have been removed from their communities and removed from their grandparents, great-grandparents. And then parents have married outside the native community. Now the children, who were brought up in urban communities, are going back to their communities, relearning the crafts, relearning the ceremonies that the crafts are made for, and then creating them, passing them down now to their children, but also making them available to us. And I think that’s a very important part of getting back one’s heritage. And not only getting it back, but even re-creating it, because in some communities so much was lost that the songs have to be recreated. The pieces, the works have to be recreated. And so it’s a whole new way of remembering and being nourished.
Beverly Gordon: The last thing I would say is that we just talked about this issue of quality. We mentioned the AIDS Quilt in a few different contexts. If you are talking about quality, the AIDS quilt is not here for quality. A lot of the squares on it are very poor quality, but it has a deep meaning. It has stories. And I think (to be on my little soapbox) if you’re going to talk about craft in America, you do need to talk about more than fine craft in America. Because craft in America is many things. It still doesn’t mean one needs to focus on inferior objects, but you do need to talk about the breadth of it.
Kathy Levitt: I’d like to add to that. The whole idea of flow and creativity. That it’s not just limited to high-level professionals, but part of the gratification of craft and the doing of craft and the community of sharing knowledge about how to do these things is also that it’s accessible to the doer. If you want to learn it and you want to do it, you can. And then that notion of flow is available to you whether the finished product is a highly refined quilt that is going to hang in a museum or if it’s going to be something that speaks very personally out of your own experience. So, I think it works on a lot of different levels in terms of community.
Roslyn Tunis: Bruce and I were talking about the loneliness of the craftsperson, and how does the craftsperson gain community if they are always working in their studio, alone? So, is it the teacher then has the students as part of their community, or is it going to a craft show and seeing other people? So, I think loneliness and community.
Shan Emanuelli: One of my favorite parts of the filming that was done in Montana is of Sarah Jaeger saying “My friend calls me the village potter, and I love it. The thing I love the most is to hear somebody say that they take my mug out and drink their coffee every morning. It’s their favorite mug.” That sort of thing talks about the way the potter or the studio craftsperson can become part of the community by participating in the community, in the commerce and the daily life of the community.
Carol Sauvion: It also reminds me of Sam Morgan, the potter from Oregon who went to Archie Bray, and we talked about what craft meant to him. And he said it gave him a sense of a calm space. And I think rather than think of it as loneliness, I would think of it as a solitary occupation. Because when you’re working at your craft, you’re not lonely, you’re busy. You’re thinking. You’re free in a way that you are not in other experiences. You’re concentrating and you’re working hard, but your mind is free. So, it’s a creative time, I think.
Bruce Metcalf: You’re romanticizing.
Carol Sauvion: Well, I don’t make my living at it, so I’m allowed to do that. And I have the other option of going out and being with the community, and seeing the pieces.
Bruce Metcalf: Some of it is really dull, trust me.
Janet Ginsburg: That will be in the director’s cut. [Laughter.]
Howard Risatti: I’m supposed to talk about Landscape, which I found a little bit difficult term, but I’m thinking of Landscape as a complex metaphor. It’s a metaphor about our relationship between nature and culture. And I think this relationship then is symbolized by crafts. What I mean to suggest here is that on the one hand, crafts literally connect to nature because of their rooted-ness in material, technique and functional form. So there is this connection that’s, I think very, very literal. I think there are models in nature that inspire the crafts. I was reading Sophie Coe’s book on Pre-Columbian foods, and I learned something. In Venetian dialect, a small shot glass is called a ciqueto. And in fact, I found out that that word comes to Venice via the Spanish from the Aztec word for carved gourd cup. So there’s this idea then that they literally have this connection to this world of nature. On the other hand, I think that crafts also have to be seen as representing culture, or our culture. They’re made by people to improve upon nature. So that’s it’s not just getting water from a puddle in the ground or a gourd, but making something else. It seems to me once we do that we stand apart from nature. This becomes the world of human endeavors then, human aspirations. And so, I see craft objects are as representative of this world that we’ve built for ourselves. This world that comes out of nature, this, then landscape, this metaphor we’re thinking of. And I also see this as part of a collective experience that goes back to this notion of human memory. I think Mike [Csikszentmihalyi] talked about these objects that are special to people. Any object that you invest something in, but I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here, because this is a collective experience as opposed to a kind of nostalgic experience. We understand these objects as being functional objects not as something that has a personal connection because of some nostalgia. So, in this sense, craft allows us to negotiate the realms of nature and culture, to have this connection between these two realms, which fine art, by the way, does not have. And this brings us back to the idea of landscape as a metaphor. I think it has to do with our understanding of our place in the world, how we relate to our surroundings, and how we belong in the world itself. And the world here I’m thinking is the world of nature and the world of culture. I don’t think we need to dismiss nature, as the machine wants us to do. One of the things that I find interesting about the machine is that it actually in fact conquers nature so you can do things to wood and to other materials with the machine that you can’t do with the hand. So, the hand forces you to have a different connection and relationship with the world. You have to coax the form out of the clay, to carefully deal with the wood in a certain way. But with the machine, you can impose your will on nature and I think there are ramifications for our attitude about the environment connected to in the way machines make us think about our relationship to the world. I think this is a consciousness of this relationship in crafts, which is expressed through beautifully made and aesthetically charged objects. And I think these kinds of objects then do what purely functional objects can’t do. So they make us understand this connection between these two worlds. And I think if we look at the landscape then as the things around us, the details on buildings. I think the quality of the materials that we chose for stuff, the choice of materials going back to the clay over the next hill rather than having it shipped across the country, the grasses that come from the area that you are around; these things affect the way we make objects and they also have something to do with our sense of where we belong in this world. I think that this notion of globalization is something else that obliterates the sense of our place. If you go to shopping malls, and if you go to airports, you don’t know where you are. I was giving a talk to a conference in Florida and changed planes in Atlanta; and a few weeks later I was in Pittsburgh changing to go to Chicago, and I didn’t know where I was because exactly the same ceramic tile, exactly the same franchise coffee shop was at the top of the escalator. And so, these kinds of things, I think, are not the kinds of landscape we’re talking about here. So, I think that we’re relating to place. Place is a physical, geographic place, a locale if we want. Also it’s a mythical or historical place. And also is a personal and a psychic place or space. [Applause].
Hidde Van Duym: It is just like drinking an essence. Could you expound a little more, Howard? You said so much in so few sentences. Particularly that last sentence when you went over the various dimensions of space. You have packed so much in this statement.
Howard Risatti: I guess the basic idea I’m thinking about is that if we become conscious of the notion of the things we make and our relationship to the world, I’d say this physical world of nature, then we start to have an understanding of ourselves in a different way. So, even psychically, the space we live in, how we interact and live in that space; also physically I would say. These are some of the ideas I’m thinking about: and these may have something to do with the historical: history, myth. I’m thinking that you do certain kinds of rituals in certain ways, but this is how we define ourselves. My colleague Jim Farmer who works in the Southwest talks about Anasazi pottery, Mimbres pottery and his idea is that we make this pottery because that’s who we are, and we’re not those people because they make that kind of pottery. This goes back to Community as well. But it also has a sense of you being in the world, and we are these people as opposed to those people.
Hidde Van Duym: So, is a map, which really establishes our relationship to nature (certainly the earliest maps are creations, they are perceptions, they are handmade) in the realm of craft?
Howard Risatti: No. I don’t think so. Somebody said, and I’m not sure, I think it was one of the French philosophers who said ‘the map is not the terrain.’ The map is one thing, but the actual place you live is something else. So, I’m thinking of this in this other sense, not as an abstraction.
Kenneth Trapp: There is a book called The Language of Naming (I think that’s the title) in which the authors describe what it was like to come to the new world, and the necessity of the naming and how the naming of our places based upon nature informed our relationship to this continent. It’s much easier to call something the White Mountain than it is the big hill fifty miles down the river. Nature became a way of ordering our experience with the landscape. So by the very fact of naming we were able to remember. So it brings into play Memory as well as Community as well as naming in relationship to nature.
Janet Ginsburg: Going back to the series and how this might work, the ideas that you talked about were largely abstract. Let’s talk about a particular craft person or craft that you’re aware of and how it relates to Landscape.
Kenneth Trapp: I can do that. The reason that I stepped in was the wood show that we have up; it’s called “Woodturning in North America Since 1930.” Our opening symposium was Women in Woodworking. One of the speakers was Virginia Dodson from Arizona. Virginia went through a lot of slides of images from nature: clouds, rivers, mountains, so forth; bringing it all the way down to the work she was doing with laminated wood vessels in Arizona. As soon as she started showing the rock formations in Arizona, the landscape, I understood the pieces on view in the exhibition. Previous to that they were abstracted patterns. I understood laminated wood, but this brought it all together. Suddenly in concrete form was her interaction, her appreciation and experience with nature brought into the form of a bowl. It was absolutely beautiful.
Janet Ginsburg: It sounds elegant.
Kenneth Trapp: Oh, it was. And I can’t look at that object now without all of these images going through my mind. It’s a totally different object. It’s no longer an object that just has geometric form and is abstracted, but it’s now an object that seems to be literally torn from nature. From the landscape. It’s quite beautiful.
Howard Risatti: In that same wood show there’s a bowl by Giles Gilson. It’s entitled “Sunset” and it’s the color of sunset at the top. Then the color fades to a buff Navajo sandstone color. It has a Navajo emblem on it, but it’s spray painted with a kind of lacquer with a chrome rim. So, here we have this natural element and then we have car culture combined together in this object. So it combines two elements of this landscape, this metaphor we’re talking about.
Barbara Hamaker: I am also reminded of what Mike [Csikszentmihalyi] was talking about this morning, with his son making metal robots and being informed by the present landscape, the culture that he lives in.
Dale Gluckman: I’m not sure this is where this goes but it’s something I need to dump out on the table here. It’s something that we touched on earlier, but I wanted to reinforce it, or bring it back into focus for you to think about, which is this idea of the difference between our current environment (most people’s daily environment) in America in which we are surrounded largely by manufactured goods and the pre-industrial environment out of which craft traditions have come. I thought it would be an interesting exercise, and might capture the imagination of your viewers to try at some point in this (and it may not be Landscape, it may go somewhere else), to make people aware, just as Jim Bassler was saying when he started a textile class recently, he had all the students look at everything they were wearing and where it came from, and why they chose it, and what materials it was made out of, and where was it made. Of course it turned out to be made somewhere not in the United States. It got them thinking about how things are now, the given which we take for granted, and that it might have been another way in another time or another place. To me, crafts will make sense to them if they can transport themselves mentally back to a world where everything is handmade. Until about two hundred fifty years or so, that was the case for thousands of years. It just struck me as something that you could somehow incorporate into this, to begin to give people some kind of perspective on this.
Janet Ginsburg: It takes the romance right out of it.
Dale Gluckman: I’m not romanticizing it. On the other hand, I was thinking about an experience I had. I was living in West Africa for a while. We sat with a Dogon blacksmith in a hut near the Dogon cliffs one afternoon, and he’s sitting there with a goatskin bellows. This is 1982. He’s using a goatskin bellows. I turned to my husband and said “My God. This is like being in the Bronze Age. There is nothing within our line of sight that was made by a machine.” Everything he was wearing. Everything he was using, (I still get chills talking about it), everything in the hut. Everything was made by hand or out of nature. We could absolutely have been sitting there ten thousand years ago and nothing would have been different except us. And it was an amazing experience, an amazing time machine that I felt very privileged to experience.
Carol Sauvion: I had that same experience, although not quite as intensely. In February I went to visit the studio of Wharton Esherick in Paoli, Pennsylvania, and almost everything in that studio, he made: the studio itself, the furniture, the sink in the kitchen. Everything. The martini stirrer was a long piece of wood. And the art, the paintings, everything. It was just fantastic. I know what you are saying. Very special. And that’s part of Landscape, I think. That originally was my concept. I feel like my home is my landscape. When I’m in my home surrounded by the things that I have in my home, I’m in space that’s unique to me and it’s important to who I am as a person to have that experience daily.
Dale Gluckman: Something else, which is the environment of crafts production, whether, it’s someone’s workshop or whether it’s the Mennonite Community hall where everyone is sitting around quilting or whatever. How the environment, the landscape of the craftsman, the space where the craft is produced can also be another kind of landscape.
Hidde Van Duym: This is our second nostalgia then. The first nostalgia, I think, is we never were really able to adjust to urban life. We still keep dreaming about agricultural life. The ultimate dream is to still be with the land, to have a little farm. Now is the second nostalgia, which is the nostalgia for the hand. Now that our entire culture is based on the manipulation of technologies, we are dreaming about doing something with our hands. And our wanting to do this is part of that, I think. As a matter of fact, it kind of worries me. I find Mike’s statement that what is being produced in craft is produced for leisure a worrisome statement. I would like to hear more about that. It certainly is food for thought.
Roslyn Tunis: I wanted to talk about landscape and of the vital materials you have in episode three. We imagine that the contemporary craft person can go out and just, or through a catalog or the web, just order anything they need for making their objects. However, there are still cultures, especially those in the Arctic that have a lot of trouble getting their materials. And some of them die trying to go out into certain areas and have to dynamite out the stone, for instance. And so, the landscape is really, really important to these people, and it’s not necessarily easy to acquire materials to make their objects, and it’s certainly not a leisure activity. In the North, for instance, it’s an introduced craft because now they’re making it for the outside world rather than for themselves. But they still cannot buy their materials, they have to actually go out and get them and it is very, very difficult. And even though their landscape may look like it’s full of rock, it’s not the kind of rock that they can use for carving. So, they’ve got to wait for winter actually, to take their snowmobiles, if they’ve got them, or their dog sleds and go out and dynamite through the ice to get their stone. They can’t go in the summer because they can’t get there by water. So I think the landscape can be a hindrance as well as a help in making craft.
Dale Gluckman: I just wanted to add one thing to that, which is the idea of landscape as dictating or guiding what you produce. Which is another aspect. You may have to go out to find X, but you also may be only able to produce X if you happen to live by the river that has the right kind of mud to make mud cloth and if you live on another river, you don’t make mud cloth because you don’t have access. Or, the kind of reeds you use for your basket are going to be very different if you live here than if you live over there. And so the landscape, the nature around you often dictates the materials, what the craft ends up looking like in essence, and how you work with it, because it can be site specific. Because some things you can do one thing with, and others you can’t. You can bend bamboo maybe in a way that you can’t bend willow.
Beverly Gordon: I think it’s important to remember though is that a lot of the craft that we are talking about is since the Industrial Revolution. There’s cloth that’s manufactured, that is used, and there are other materials. So, we shouldn’t romanticize that the only way of dealing with Landscape is what’s right there. Indeed we live in urban landscapes. Indeed, the materials are also the products of industry that are used in craft. So, it’s all of the above. It’s not one or the other.
Shan Emanuelli: Robert Liu: Process
Robert Liu: When we look at any contemporary object or ancient artifact that is crafted by hand, the processes used to make it are among the most obvious attributes along with the material or materials of which it is composed. Whether from our times or from antiquity, the function may or may not be apparent, but any observer would have some idea or opinion on how it was made and how well made. Most traditional craft materials, stone, ceramic, metals, glass or related silicates and organic media like wood, have been used since pre-historic times and current craftspeople still use essentially the same tools and techniques. We cannot know all the aspects and conditions under which an item was crafted but the commonality of material and technique bind us very strongly to the handmade object. We cannot know for sure that the level of crafting of an object is due to the skills of the maker, the level of the patronage and thus how much time could be given in the making, but contemporary crafts people can be grateful that significant changes have occurred since ancient times. According to Bob Bianchi, a very insightful Egyptologist, the Egyptian craftsperson was totally anonymous and had no creative input into what was made. But, the overseer who was responsible for the total design as well as the planning and received compensation far greater than the craftsman. That overseer received hundreds of times more bread and beer. Do we have a modern equivalent? I’m not going to answer that. Process is the foundation of crafts, but it alone is obviously not enough. Aesthetic content and concept all weight the scales of praise and recognition. Most crafts people that we rank highly are all masters of their craft, having so seamlessly conquered the techniques of their media that they can speak with their hands without wavering, so that their art can flow without the hindrance of an inadequate technical vocabulary. But having intruded for over a quarter of a century into artist’s studios and probed their minds with notebook and camera, the situation is not so simple. Many are facile with process or technique and blend this manual dexterity with their training and design aesthetics and other capabilities gained through a college art education. But at least half or more of crafts people today have no formal art training and acquire the technical knowledge primarily through paid workshops. Besides spawning innumerable copies of the instructors who may have recently learned a technique themselves, we now have a greatly increased emphasis on technique and medium. In fact there are societies or organized groups in glass, metal, beads and beadwork and polymer clay to name the prominent ones. This move towards paying for skills has many ramifications and is part of the movement of life long learning, usually outside of established academic institutions-what I call a near frenzy to bring meaning into people’s lives: yoga, beadwork, gatherings of craft people, these are all among such examples. Process figures heavily in the attraction to such activities; many find the sheer joy of doing something with their hands, often repetitive, gives them intense pleasure as well as building the neuromuscular skills so crucial to many craft media. The paradox lies in fewer people working with their hands or having an understanding of material processes while others are eagerly absorbing such skills. Craftspeople working with materials (metal, glass and ceramics) and processes that involve hot working or the application of flame and heat still occupy a position in our society that is comparable to alchemists, shamans or magicians in ancient or tribal cultures. They are possessors of mysterious, intriguing and powerful skills not available to the lay population. I feel there is this combination of the unfamiliar and the familiar that resides in most craft objects- the viewer can usually know something about its function, material or how it was made-but often does not much on know how one turns a piece of clay, metal, glass or polymer clay, into an object of great beauty and aesthetics. This fascination with the capabilities of the human hand and mind is what will have enduring appeal of the craft process to so many people.
Dale Gluckman: It seemed to me that this whole idea of process and authenticity made me think about the other side of that which is what I would call the faux craft objects. If you go into Robinson’s May and you go upstairs in the dish department, you’re going to see all these things that are trying to look hand made, but they are not. And, I don’t know where this fits, but it says to me that there must be a desire, there must be a community of consumers out there that don’t know the difference between the handmade one and the pseudo- handmade one but clearly want something handmade or that they think is hand made, but they don’t know the difference. Which made me think about the importance of this project, and whether you can bring this out or not, but to make people realize that there is a difference. We can all see it, but the average person can’t.
Steve Fenton: Or can’t afford it.
Dale Gluckman: So much of what is out there in the marketplace is faux something masquerading as real something.
Robert Liu: O.K. This phenomenon is at least 40,000 years old. When at the dawn of art in the Ice Age when humans were beginning to make ornamentation for their bodies it started right away. Someone would take a revered object, hard to get materials and make it out of something simpler. You go through the entire history, this was always the case when something was desired and scarce someone would make a substitute. The ironic thing was that it often took more time to make the substitute than it did to make the real object and this is rife throughout Chinese craft history. But, time didn’t mean anything. So, when we tell people that what we are doing is really a part of human history, I think this has an enormous appeal. Somehow we have to be the didactic teacher and say “Look, when you go out to the store next time look and see, feel it, tap it against your tooth. Is it real, or is it made in a mold. There’s not anything wrong with it, but, if you want to buy something real, here are the tools to tell the difference.”
Barbara Hamaker: Robert, you have provided a metaphor for this project. I’m stunned because it’s so brilliant. I’ll preface this by giving you a very short story. Twenty-some years ago, a boyfriend of mine was studying the alchemical process of turning base metal into gold. I, being the naive kid, didn’t really understand what alchemy was. I thought Wow! Now that I’m in my fifties and have done a lot of reading, I understand that the alchemical process is within us to turn ourselves into gold, to turn the base metal into gold. And I think that the process that the craftsperson goes through as they are striving to produce the gold, the object that is the gold, is that they are transforming themselves into the product. I think that is what this is about.
Carol Sauvion: We have to stop now. Thank you all for giving your thought and your time to this. The most precious thing of all is time, and you’ve given so much of it. Thank you.