Friday, October 13, 2006

Radical(izing) Craft

In past writings, I've advocated that to reclaim the word "craft" and render it a marketable term, it's vital to see how craft is sexy, edgy, and desirable. Though we offer plenty of work that falls into traditional categories at the shop, Jae and I are always looking for artisans pushing the edges of craft, artisans who demonstrate technical mastery while trying out new attitudes and forms. (See Matt Eskuche's blown glass, Chris Rom & Geoff Buddie's felted wool sculptures, and Alison Mackey's photos-not-gemstones jewelry.)

Sometimes I describe Greenjeans as "not your mother's craft gallery," (although, of course, your mother still loves our craft gallery). That is to say, we are endeavoring to be the next generation craft gallery. We are trying ourselves to push the edges of craft.

Next week I'm going to Houston for a conference called "Shaping the Future of Craft." Organized by the American Craft Council (Lily Kane, their young, progressive Education Director, invited me after reading some of my postings on this blog), the conference will bring together makers, curators, critics, dealers, writers, and other craft professionals to hash our some of the main debates and, importantly, to meet each other and form alliances in the field. I will be posting at length about the conference in the weeks following it.

Tonight I came across another conference, this one held back in March in Pasadina, California, that I thought some of you might be interested in reading more about. Titled "Radical Craft," the conference examined "advanced craft as an antidote to slick mass production and mass culture in many arenas." Taking a truly interdisciplinary approach (interdisciplinarity is my other big love), the conference included poets, scientists, designers, and cultural critics among its speakers. (If anyone went to this conference, please post a comment about it!)

For a broader perspective, I also read some reactions to the conference:
:: Review and reaction to the conference by Janet Abrams on the industrial design site Core77
:: The blog Functioning Form offers good insights in its recap of the conference, along with links to other material about the conference
:: Going a bit further afield, I (re)discovered this blog from the UK called Craft Research. It includes several postings about the Radical Craft conference.

Feeling jacked, I then googled "extreme craft," half as a joke, half out of curiosity. Of course, there's a blog by that name! (Click here for Extreme Craft.) It's kept by a guy from Nebraska who teaches ceramics and writes about everything from "Agrifolk art" to pink goth. I love his profile photo so much I used it as today's illustration. (Hope he doesn't mind!)

Changing the public perception of craft from something dusty and dull to something vital and exciting will take time, but the more we all explore the edges of craft, the more we will be able to educate others about just how relevant and valuable craft really is.

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