Sunday, April 15, 2012

Craft and the New Economy - Best Parts

Still playing catch up, back in March I attended Craft and the New Economy, a symposium organized by the Ontario Crafts Council, Ontario College of Art and Design University, Sheridan College Crafts and Design Program, & the Haliburton School of the Arts. All heavy hitters!

My two favourite speakers: Marie O’Mahony (OCAD U, visiting professor) and Dr. Sandra Alfondy (Professor of Craft History at NSCAD University and Associate Curator of Fine Craft at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia) - my old stomping grounds!

Marie O’Mahony gave the keynote address, emphasizing the importance of good relations between craft and industry. She posited three questions: 1) Have craft and industry linked? (and if so, what is the nature of the link?); 2) Can craft rescue manufacturing from low-cost, mass-produced goods?, and, 3) Is technology becoming increasingly necessary to prevent the demise of craft. Taking a controversial line of argument, and sometimes contradicting herself, Marie had me hooked. This snippet from the Sundance feature Hearts and Crafts, profiling the artisans employed at Hermes, had me happily daydreaming.

Sandra Alfondy, a panelist, is a kindred spirit, pure and simple. Her talk paid tribute to crafters from a feminist perspective, and sent a clear message about the importance of valuing our work, so others would too. That’s the kind of discussion I hoped the conference would inspire, but it seemed a fringe point.

Overall, the symposium tried to position a new role for craft in the 21st century. This seemed more focused toward outsourcing and product-design, which left me a bit disappointed, and a bit sad. I can’t help but think that craft’s root in handmade, homesteading, self-sufficiency, and DIY is what will carry it forward.

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