A Report from the Craft Conference

I’ve just emerged from a 3day conference here
http://www.craftconference.ac.nz which attempted to ‘Identify the
key issues for New Zealand crafts’, for jewellers, ceramicists,
fibre artists, sculptors, glass workers, potters, architects,
painters, furniture designers, product designers, graphic
designers, theorists, historians, educators, collectors, creators.

Most interesting for me (in view of the stated aims on the
conference) were Helen Schamroth a New Zealand fibre artist and
craft writer (author of forthcoming book, ‘100 NZ Craft Artists’),
and the impromptu double-bill of Janet de Boos and Marion Marshall
(both from Australia). These presenters addressed the conference
mission statement, related relevant experiences, identified problem
areas, presented suggestions for solutions, and gave their
presentations in time to allow much discussion time.

The organisers brought in many ‘International Keynote Speakers’,
for example, ‘Tanya Harrod’s conference paper is titled “Why do we
hate the crafts?” In this she analyses the reasons for the complex
and uncertain status of the crafts and looks at the Twentieth
Century craft movement’s roots in Nineteenth Century
anti-industrial thinking. The focus of her paper is the
relationship between studio crafts and ‘authentic’ vernacular
craft, with special reference to Japan and West Africa. Tanya
addresses craft’s uneasy relationship with modernism and looks at
craft in the context of post WWII architecture. She is the author
of a forthcoming major social history of the crafts in Britain in
the twentieth century. In 1997 she convened Obscure Objects of
Desire - Reviewing Crafts in the Twentieth Century, a conference
held at the university of East Anglia during her tenure as Fellow
in critical appreciation of craft and design. She is a key
contributor to Crafts, the British craft magazine that is at the
leading edge of craft writing internationally.’

Then we heard from ‘Michael Chiarappa, an American cultural and
environmental historian at The University of Western Michigan at
Kalamazoo. He has researched extensively into the material culture
and vernacular landscapes of North America’s middle Atlantic region
on topics ranging from Eighteenth Century buildings to contemporary
crafts’. Interesting though his talk was on the white
male-dominated marine boat and decoy crafters of the Southern New
Jersey area was, in my opinion It was not particularly relevant
nor was any experience he might have made relevant to us. A pity.

Other Keynote Speakers:

Wendy Kaplan Associate Director for Exhibitions and Education at
the Wolfsonian in Miami. Tom Dixon, of EuroLounge (UK).

The organisers it seems to me chose people whose papers did not in
the main address the conference aim. Many of the International
Keynote people attracted a similar criticism of the organisers. It
was a pity, as I believe we in NZ have similar issues to those in
other countries:

survival of the craft practitioner ('the primary provider')

an effective political voice 

recognition by the public art institutes and galleries

the 'hijacking of craft' by academia

A REPORT is being written which will outline the issues and
discussions that went on. Many made a plea for the report to be
published on the website mentioned above. Many also wanted to
initiate international discussion, and I suggested a mailing list.
It may be Artmetal, Orchid or Academic Metal; or they may start
their own.

Meanwhile if you are interested in the report I suggest emailing
them from the website and emailing them. Be prepared for a slow
reponse time - even the major academic institutes here (or those
that represent them online) are not so email-savvy as Orchidists,
Artmetalers, and Acmettlers.

B r i a n � A d a m J e w e l l e r y E y e w e a r �
@Brian_Adam1 ph/fx +64 9 817 6816 NEW ZEALAND
Brian Adam Eyewear eyeglasses
Brian Adam Jewellery jewelry
http://www.adam.co.nz/workshop/ teaching workshops
http://www.adam.co.nz/ruthbaird/ wife, and another fab jeweller