Monday, 29 April 2013

CraftED Upstarts on the Make

Well, last week was the official launch of Crafted, Upstarts on the Make, so I can now offer an opinion on the Craft Council's latest publication.  It has a snazzy, energetic graphic design and Bennett's fresh take on studio photography in keeping with the subject: ten emerging talents on the Newfoundland and Labrador craft scene.  I really liked the tone Executive Director, Anne Manuel hit with her introduction.  In essence, she says to the featured newcomers and other new arrivals: "consider this book your welcome mat."  It is my opinion that craft today is struggling to keep all the good things of the past – that it is an alternative to industrialism for example– while remaining open to the fast paced changes that unfold daily in society.  It is easy to see the two sides of tradition and innovation in opposition to each other but it isn't especially productive, so I think it is strategic and healthy that Anne Manuel is extending the welcome mat.  This will mean that the craft community will remain supportive and can look forward to the future with optimism.

Maegan Black is adept in her writing of the profiles of the makers.  I particularly liked her analogies that situate individual practices in meaningful contexts.  For example, in Rosalind Ford's case she draws a parallel between Ford's practices as a scientist and maker, "Very much as she did when she was catching, tagging and releasing birds back into the wild.  Rosalind captures an idea, makes her mark through creation and sends that vision out into the world. … her artistic vision takes flight." And in Elias Semigak's case Black brings forward the theme of reciprocity and "paying it forward".  When you consider that Semigak was only born in 1980 but already is creating opportunity and employment with his own apprentice despite less than ideal beginnings you have to be impressed.

Black's profiles are useful not only in understanding the creativity of the individuals in the spotlight but in understanding craft practice as it exists today in general.  She touches on the difficulty of being self-taught and how Maaike Charron used her experience as an academic and her skills as a researcher to become a proficient potter.  I also think Black is insightful when she notes that Charron is a methodical thinker with a noticeable playful streak.  Whether it is how Heather Mills balances commission work with her own signature style or how Pick-Me-Up Press grew into its own support network, all of the individual features provide lessons on how successful young makers problem solve.  I believe that you have to face a problem to solve it.  Writing about craft has often been too romantic or overly positive.  I give Black credit for not being a cheerleader and instead writing something that is sensitive and useful.

After the individual profiles is a section that is more of a how-to with information about practical issues like exhibition proposals and resource listings.  I was involved with this section so it isn't fair for me to comment on it.  I will conclude with a list of the names of the featured makers, to your general applause:  Rosalind Ford, Elias Semigak, Maaike Charron, Pick-Me-Up Press, Jaclyn Humphries, Heather Mills, Sara Hodder, Jessica Butler, Cara Winsor Hehir, Michael Flaherty.

Here's a link to the Craft Council of NL if you'd like to learn more:

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