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Why Craft Now? More from the Penland Convenings

Garth Johnson and Che Rhodes at Penland

Garth Johnson and Che Rhodes at Penland

Garth Johnson and Che Rhodes at Penland

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Why Craft Now? Why, indeed! Is it because craft adds to our understanding of our world? Does it make us more aware of how things in our lives come to be, bringing our attention to sustainability and responsible choices? Does it connect us to other fields, times, and places? Or does Craft simply enable a multitude of ways for expression? Read what our October Penland Convenings participants have to say on the subject. What do you think? We'd love to hear from you.

More responses from Penland Convening participants

Why Craft Now? I like to imagine that "craft" in this question is being used as an adjective. I craft because I have always crafted. I don't see a big difference between what I do now as an adult with porcelain, decals and china paint, and what I did as a child with pom-poms, glue and yarn. I craft because the word "craft" is an umbrella that covers Martha Stewart, Glenn Adamson and the ghost of Sam Maloof. I craft because it connects my hands to my brain... not to mention thousands of years of ceramic history.
No matter what definition you choose, craft is accessible. I craft because it is an opportunity to connect people with their creative impulses and with the objects they encounter in day-to-day life. I craft because craft can be wielded like a weapon, handled with infinite finesse or turned into a social movement. I craft because craft is a Trojan Horse for ideas, delight, humor, history, and subversion. I craft because I need to.
Garth Johnson, Ceramicist, Writer, Blogger

Why craft now?

Two of the many reasons that craft is important right now are its relationship to the preservation of culture and to our connection with the physical world. Craft can be thought of as portal or a point between modes of existence. Craft connects the past with the future - craft is the boundary line between destructive and constructive practice - craft is the difference between thoughtlessness and careful consideration - craft joins our creative minds with our physical selves.

Craft allows us to engage both physically and mentally with the world we live in. In a time where technology seeks to separate us as much as possible from our physical world, the relevance of craft becomes more apparent. As individuals we understand and contribute less and less to our tangible environment and material culture. As we move forward, craft will be an appropriate means for humans to engage with and create the world around them.
Che Rhodes, University of Louisville/Hite Art Institute

Why Craft?
Why making?
We may be able to understand the world through making and materials. It's a way of thinking. It connects us through time and place and helps to make sense of things. This is a back and forward activity, where we can suddenly understand the world and something in our pasts or futures differently because of it.
For me it is about making in the broadest sense: in dance, poetry, literature, finance, photography, politics and much more...about process and not just end product and about how we do it, ultimately and importantly with attention to what is going on around us in the environment - in our back yards but more importantly in the world at large.

Why now?

Personally it's not just for now...making has always been in my life and always will be. If we only define it in the now...what happens when the now has been and gone? Perhaps we need to think about the continuum - whilst understanding the interest in making that is going on right now.
I think that making at its best is always a very modern conceit (concept) and an extremely important way of thinking.
Helen Carnac, Maker, Curator, and Writer

Why Craft Now? Because the craft movement has entered a new phase that requires a redefinition and repositioning of craft and its makers. I disagree that the current phase is defined by the DIY movement, Etsy, and sustainability. These are merely a continuation of the spirit of rediscovery and a return to the handmade object that characterized the movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s and the Arts and Crafts movement before that.
Over the past forty years, many of the same people who were rediscovering "lost arts" in the ‘60s are now master craftsmen. They have taught the next generation of makers. These new makers don't identify themselves as artists or craftsmen because neither defines their work or practice. They are further disillusioned by the lack of direction in many of the guilds and societies that promote craft. This has left us at a crossroads where the new generation of makers will redefine what craft is.
Carissa Hussong, Executive Director, National Ornamental Metal Museum

Why Craft Now? - Direct Contact
From here, it looks like we are in the middle of a "back to the hand" movement, sharing some concerns and impulses with the "back to the land" movement. People want to make some of what they use or at least know how to make it or who makes it. It's exciting. While this movement generates more articles on craft, many hip craft books and more hobby knitters and potters, I don't know if it results in more or better professional craftspeople. Maybe that's not the goal? More people are interested anyway. Will this challenge those of us who were already interested? I think the craft movement is linked to the food movement (quality, hand, local, scale, heritage), and certainly since I began my hobby-like interest in our local farm (Pie Ranch) I have eaten better, shopped better, and developed a considerable appreciation for small-scale food production. My ceramic students built a wood-fired brick pie oven, harvested wheat and slaughtered chickens. I had goats milk squirted directly into my mouth, kneeling down there on the grass next to the goat at 6 a.m."
Nathan Lynch, California College of the Arts, Chair of Ceramics

Why craft now? Because we need it more than ever. Because life needs to slow down. Now, because of the growing trend to support the organic, the local, the slow movement, anything that promotes a simpler vision of how life can be lived and a return to some of the seemingly "old-fashioned" values that have escaped us.
My romantic view is that craft can save us from the frantic speed of life, the lack of loyalty and community in the workplace, and the breakdown of individual communication. The lifestyle, work ethic, and community of the craftsperson are examples that can remind us of what is important.

Craft objects are accessible. They are a connection to other people. They are reminders of what should be valued in a busy world. They are objects that can remind us what is important for daily life: ritual, celebration, individuality, good design and time to think about the pleasure of life. Handmade objects at their simplest are a comfort, at their most complex, they are engaging and elicit a strong emotional response.

Craft objects are lasting symbols of our culture; they are how we will be remembered. How can we draw a larger audience into this appealing community and the objects they make? How do we communicate this emotional and sensual experience to someone that buys "handmade" pottery at Pottery Barn?"
Carr McCuiston, Gallery Owner, Signature Gallery



I no longer craft. I make things in sterling mostly. Craft is dead. Craft has been eaten alive to it's bones by university. Craft has had the marrow sucked from it's bones by media. Craft's bones are ground to dust by Esty and spread in the bin of the internet. I mourn Craft. I do not mourn Craft. I am offended by the emotional sentimentality of the discussion to resurrect Craft by people who don't know it's dead.

Daniel, I can appreciate your view, although I don't entirely understand it. What I see is a pretty sweeping craft movement - in this country and around the world. Whatever academia and the media might be guilty of, I see lots of people with the passion to make things and others drawn to the handmade and the values of authenticity and humanity embodied in that. Craft is not dead - it is a live and appealing to more people everyday.

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