Thursday, April 03, 2008

Our last poll, concerning the element of craftsmanship in our assessment of artistic merit was an interesting one. Over 90% considered craftsmanship to be relevant to artistic merit. Seventy eight percent considered quality craftsmanship to be "essential".

But there is an interesting divide in America. The poll was a biased thing. My respondents are all people interested in the hands, and there is a difference. Joe Barry informed me that he abandoned his membership in the American Craft Council because they failed to recognize the value of traditionally crafted furniture, and embraced designs largely abandoning traditional values. So we have the traditional venues for expression of craftsmanship abandoned and then filled by works attempting to meet the assessment criteria derived in the academic instruction of graphic arts. These are the "principles and elements of design." Color becomes as important as ease of use, and the shape becomes as important as the integrity of craftsmanship.

In the meantime, there are some that do know a bit more. World famous art critic Robert Hughes proclaimed Providence furniture maker John Townsend as the foremost American artist of all time. We seem to be a long way from seeing the American Crafts Council finding arms long enough to embrace the craftsmen and women who make things from the John Townsend branch of the family. Truly fine craftsmanship is incomprehensible to some.

It is an interesting thing that won't be resolved in this blog.

The hands, when we begin our process of exploration and creation through them directly, unclouded by academic distortion, provide a different view... Things are made by hand and tested in reality, and the earth shifts. Embark on the path of craftsmanship and the world will never be the same again.


  1. Since I was trained as a designer, I tend to think design first, but also value craftsmanship. The perfect blend is a marriage of both in my opinion. Art, design and craftsmanship are so interwoven. Throughout the history of all, there are reactions and adjustments in preference to each. It has been a time in the last 15 years or so where design has been valued. But without craft, design suffers and even fails.

    I suspect there will eventually be a reaction to the technology age, and we will see a return to a less technologically driven lifestyle, at least at home. Business may be too dependent on technology to retreat.

    I think what you are doing with your students is so incredibly enriching to their lives. It would be great to see these students in 10, 20, 30 years to see how this training has altered their life experiences.

  2. Traditional forms have been losing ground everywhere. I think it is only temporary but that doesn't make it any less painful.
    In the crochet community, as we have pressed forward to improve techniques for working with yarn, we have completely lost the best European periodical for threadwork and lace. Books bear titles like, "Not your Momma's Crochet," Not Your Grandmother's Crochet," Stich N' Bithch," etc. Rising fashion forms in crochet tend to be very urban and often ridiculous in terms of practicality. Maybe a brighter day will come when we are forced to "get real" again.