Critical Thinking and Cultural Truth
The Tension Between Craft Community and Cultural Change
As we live in a world filled with values, there are problems; namely, as Jean-Paul Sartre famously alluded, "Hell is other people"; this is the crux of the challenge that the craft community still faces.
How do we define our values in a modern world saturated with brands, products, and new technologies that are changing the fabric of existence?
How do we communicate our values while also accepting the world as it is?
Redefining Craft seeks to identify and communicate the values at the heart of craft practice and stay true to these core values while also making it possible to interact with and learn from others with divergent aesthetics.
While most craft-focused online content centers around a practitioner's work, Redefining Craft is centered on the manifestation of values through people and their projects.
In 2004, I launched Redefining Craft as a blog to document the divergent aesthetics at art, craft, and design's hybrid intersections. Redefining Craft covered a lot of ground in its early years of publication which ended around 2009. And since that time, the diversity of voices within the field has grown exponentially. I'm thrilled that through the efforts of others, we now have a platform for a variety of diverse voices to be heard.
But, despite these positive changes and growth, some complex questions remain-- How far can we extend our sense of shoulds, musts, and oughts into the world with divergent values?
And, to what extent can we expect that others will understand (or even care about) what it is that we value? Likewise, to what extent do we know (or care about) what other people love?
How do we address the disconnect between our values and the values of different communities in art and design?
These are essential questions. The answers require reflexivity-- awareness of our feelings and values as they relate to others and our communities; this is at the core of the craft community's growth as a community of practice.
In recent years, the craft field has done an exceptional job of working beyond the monologue and the binary. But, the organizations that represent us seem to be reluctant to take charge of the language used to define the various craft communities of practice.
Perhaps, it is a matter of not knowing how to proceed with all this diversity and change in the world. Perhaps, this response is due to a steadfast marriage to a tradition. Maybe the fear derives from the knowledge of the diversity of definitions (and identities) outside the community that seeks to change it.
So, who is the organization that claims to represent the needs of a well-defined craft community?
I ask this question because it is the responsibility of the core leadership of the community to grapple with the question: is it more critical for craft to cling to historical contexts of craft or to be more intentional with how we define ourselves?
Cultural change is a complex problem. It is a problem of consistency versus inconsistency and rigid versus malleable values. Furthermore, it is a problem that requires attention, focus, hard work, and thought leadership.
As I have mentioned above, craft is a cultural and historical tradition based upon the pursuit of values. As a national and international community, we need to confront something that seems irreconcilable-- the struggle of divergent cultures and a clash of values.
This clash is a situation in which conflicting parties attempt to force the other to accept one's position, contrary to the wishes of the other. Over the past few decades, this has become a significant issue, and it is something that we need to confront as a community to be consistent and grow.