New perspectives on old tales
And, a new beginning for Redefining Craft
I'd like to offer a bit of context and history to get things started. Then, as we move forward, I can provide deeper clarity on what I'm doing, what I am creating, and why it is important.
This is a story about inspiring, provoking, harnessing creativity and, building a community around 'good things'.
My first post on the first version of Redefining Craft was created on May 24th, 2004. The site was launched at a time when there was community-wide frustration around the Museum of Arts and Design and California College of the Arts removing the word "craft" from their names.
At the time, I was working as a ceramics and glass technician at San Jose State University and pursuing a master's degree in Instructional Technology. The idea of blogging was very new then and, WordPress was about a year old. I had the advantage at the time of being in the middle of Silicon Valley and being involved in technology in education, so I could see that this was going to change the dynamics of how things worked.
I decided to give it a try and see what happens. I quickly figured out how to install the WordPress blogging platform and designed a site using the rudimentary .html and .css skills that I had gained through my master's program. Then, I set about writing about what I was most frustrated about: the obvious and pressing need for America's craft leadership to "untangle the messy web of vernacular misnomer that we know as craft"; and, when I say leadership— to be clear, I was very much focused on the role that I thought that the American Craft Council should have been serving at the time (but more on that later).
One of the first posts that I created was about my experience in attending a public event on Saturday, May 15th, 2004 at the Oakland Museum, where Michael Roth, President of the California College of the Arts, and David McFadden, Chief Curator and Vice President for Programs and Collections at the Museum of Arts and Design discussed and defended the reasons for their respective institutional name changes. The panel discussion was called "What's in a Name? New Ways of Looking at Craft".
Here's an excerpt of my writing from the May 31st, 2004 Redefining Craft post about the event:
During their respective presentations, each of the speakers noted that the relative synchronization of the name changes were entirely serendipitous, however, I suspect that it is was largely due to an existential, Y2K induced, identity crisis that each of the institutions experienced.
Although, from a business perspective, it does seem perfectly rational that as the quest for funding continues to grow increasingly competitive, aligning an institution’s focus with high ART is a safer bet than battling it out in the trenches in support of a lowly underdog named craft. Let’s face it, the market is king, and money talks.
However, if they are willing to admit that pressure surrounding money, marketing, and collectors are the actual reasons for the name change then these institutions cannot keep their feet in both streams of art and craft, as it seemed they were attempting to do at the panel discussion. We need leadership that is supportive of a new notion of craft which is not analogous to art.
We need leadership that is capable and willing to guide the American public towards a new definition of craft that is consistent with Twenty-First Century thinking and all concerned voices need to be acknowledged rather than just a select audience of like-minded individuals already associated with positions of authority and influence.
If the Museum of Arts and Design is not willing to stand up and make a case for craft, then who is going to take the reins of leadership and attempt to untangle the messy web of vernacular misnomer that we know as craft? Art and Craft are not the same thing, they are homologous; this is why I started this website.
Things have shifted, the old Twentieth Century hierarchical and categorical distinctions are being redefined and artists of Generation-X (born 1965-1981) are exploring new ground beyond the old art/craft argument.
Generation-X is the heir to the throne and they, as a collective generation of young object makers they will establish what comes next, regardless of what rules and standards an institution attempts to impose.
You know, it is during times like these, that revolutions get started...
Of course, this does not represent how I feel today but, I am older, wiser, more experienced, and better educated than the optimistic, young man that wrote the above excerpt. It is important to point out, however, at the time, no one really understood how the advent of blogging shifted the dynamics of power.
The emergence of WordPress provided me with a platform to say the things that I believed at the time needed to be said and, most importantly, I did not need to run those ideas by an editor or a “leader” first. This eventually led to my emergence as a leader in a national dialog related to the status and attributes of craft in the United States in the twenty-first century.
In future dispatches, I will explain why this history is important to place into context and why today, I feel it is important for this site to offer "pedagogically-useful" content that is relevant to the hybrid intersections of art, craft, and design, offer a view of these domains’ relationship to technology as well as outline new critical thinking as it pertains to the education and training of students in studio art and design in higher education.
Today’s post represents an overview of beginnings, then, and now. The blurring of the lines between disciplines has changed how we think about art, craft, and design but, it seems, when I look at the current work online and, in print, that the dialogues and discourses within academic disciplines have not really changed that much in seventeen years— the word that seems appropriate is "disjuncture".
So, in summary, there still seems to be "a separation or disconnection" in discourses and dialogues between the art, craft, and design disciplines and, at the heart of this is pedagogy— “the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.”
I believe that there is a pedagogically useful role that this site can serve in creating new conversations around this problem.
Stay tuned! There’s much more coming soon.