ACC Conference: Elissa Auther lecture - "Lifestyle and Livelihood in Craft Culture"
ACC Conference - Day Two, A Race with Time

ACC Conference: Craft in the 21st Century: Identity, Choice, Meaning

1Sandra-Alfoldy 2Thomas-Patti 3Michael-Sherrill 4Claudia-Crisan

Session II: Round Table Discussion with Sandra Alfoldy (moderator, far left), Thomas Patti, Michael Sherrill, and Claudia Crisan - “Craft in the 21st Century: Identity, Choice, Meaning


This panel was put together on the premise that the craft community is not having deep conversations about surviving as a craftsperson.  However, I do not think this is true.  I hear these debates all the time. Do you discuss this issue with your fellow artists/makers?  I would guess that the vast majority would say, yes.

The panel format:

The structure of the panel was based on five myths and asked each of the speakers to address the following myths (one at a time) in reverse order (starting with #5).

#5 You don't need to use traditional craft materials to be a craftsperson.

#4 Craft is an environmentally sustainable set of practices.

#3 Functional craft is less important than one-of-a-kind work.

#2 Making it by hand makes it craft.

#1 The craft field is dying and D.I.Y. will save it.

The three panelists all responded quickly. Tom Patti and Claudia Crisan seemed more articulate and stayed right on topic. Michael Sherrill seemed kind of "wishy-washy."

Highlights from the panelists are below:

FROM: Claudia Crisan -

  • Knowledge and training of craft make it craft.
  • Using technology is OK, it is just a different way of making.
  • It sounds like she also makes one-of-a-kind work for exhibitions.
  • Her work was really interesting, most of it was made from sugar. I saw a lady wearing a macaroon necklace. (scroll down)
  • Crisan now supports her work with an edible art bakery. Wow! People actually eat her work.

FROM: Michael Sherrill

  • His "piece is started in his head before he even made it." He may not have the whole thing figured out but he knows the "spirit of the object." (This echoed an opinion of the first speaker of the morning.)   
  • His artwork looks really amazing, but his comments were not.
  • He also sells tools. He must be very good at that because it sounds like this is his livelihood.

From: Tom Patti 

  • Doesn't make the distinctions between one-of-a-kind work and functional craft. These were all issues to explore with no hierarchy.
  • Craft world never accepted him because his work looked machine-made.
  • Conviction of the maker/artist is the most important element.
  • Craft is always practicing, making better, and improving.
  • Tom Patti never said how he supports himself, but it seemed that the architectural projects were a significant part of his livelihood.

WHAT QUESTIONS WERE ASKED AND ANSWERED? One person from Martha Stewart Living got up to speak about how Martha Stewart is supporting 50 artists as her employees. Later that same day, at lunch, Helen Drutt spoke from the podium saying that Martha Stewart had no place in this Conference. Helen Drutt always has strong opinions. It certainly was an entertaining and memorable moment!

I like when people are outspoken with firm convictions! 

Another person mentioned a comment from Sennett (the opening speaker) ..."People need to have more understanding of what they are doing."

Comment from audience: "Craft/art teaches our children critical thinking and problem solving so that our children can be successful in the workforce."

WHAT DID I LEARN? Nothing new, but the images were great. The organization of the program was excellent.

LIFESTYLE OR LIVELIHOOD? All of these people had both a lifestyle and a livelihood from their craft, one way or another.

SUMMARY: Interesting format. Again, a strong summary as a conclusion would have left the audience with great points for further conversation.


This post was updated on January 3, 2022, to provide current links.