ACC Conference: Garth Clark - “The Case for Conservativism”
ACC Conference: An INDEX to the lectures from ASK Harriete

ACC Conference: Sonya Clark - “Craft as Subject, Verb and Object”

BACKGROUND: I have been familiar with Sonya Clark's work since being in a show with her at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon titled, Manufactured: The Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects.  We each also have a chapter about our work in the book of the same title.

41+veDJYNuL._SL160_This is a fascinating book especially if you are interested in alternative materials.

I also saw Clark's work at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City in the exhibition Second Lives. Her work is intelligent and content-driven. CLICK HERE to view her website. The image below and to the right is my personal favorite, a portrait of Madame Walker fabricated with black plastic hair combs. This makes a lot of sense when you know that Madame Walker was the first successful black woman millionaire entrepreneur that made her own fortune by selling hair products for black hair.

Portrait of Madam Walker
Black plastic hair combs
Artist: Sonja Clark

Sony-ClarkpThe lecture was titled, Sonya Clark: Craft as Subject, Verb, and Object”. The premise is that Sonya Clark will be presenting a summation of the Conference extemporaneously. She had the assistance of six individuals on stage, Stephano Catalani (curator, Bellevue Art Museum), Jean McLaughlin (director, Penland School of Crafts),

We Couldn't Get In. We Couldn't Get Out.
Hand-woven wire, crank-knit yarn, steel poles,
assorted hardware.  10’ x30’. 2006-2007
Lacy Jane Roberts
Lacy Jane Roberts (fiber artist, writer), Andy Brayman (founder, Matter Factory), Garth Johnson (teacher, blogger, Extreme Craft, artist), and Brent Skidmore (director, UNC Asheville Craft Campus Initiative, artist)


Artist: Andy Brayman

Actually, Sonya Clark collected 150 questions from a wide range of individuals (before the conference) and culled the questions into a 35 line Questionnaire handed out to the Conference attendees on Friday. (Download SonyaClarkQuestionaire.)  


Garth Johnson

Actually, the questions (on the Questionnaire) were difficult to decipher, sometimes even cryptic. I wasn't the only one who wondered what some of the questions meant, let alone the difficulty of giving a "yes" or "no" answer to many complex questions.

It is rather ironic that we are looking at a questionnaire requiring "yes or no" answers.  At the beginning of the conference, Richard Sennett inquired why we base so much learning and education on standardized tests, in "yes or no" answers. The Conference had come full circle...but certainly not in the way anyone expected. 

The panelists' responses were far more interesting, especially Lacy Jane Roberts and Garth Johnson.

A FEW COMMENTS (from the panelists and audience):

"Every time you make something you should be critically thinking.  When critically thinking you should be critically making. Like a pinball machine bounce, bounce, bounce."

"What will happen to artist estates when they die?"

"celebrate diversity and still celebrate pioneers.."   

"sustainability  - materials, process"

"engagement with design"

WHAT DID I LEARN? That Lacy Jane Roberts and Garth Johnson are really interesting people. That is the best part about going to conferences, the unexpected exposure to someone or something that you didn't know before.

Crash Pin
Recycled tin cans
Harriete Estel Berman

LIFESTYLE OR LIVELIHOOD? It looks like all our panelists have a mixture of lifestyle and livelihood, but it doesn't look like anyone makes their living exclusively from making art or craft.  Is that is too much to expect? I don't think that any art or craft person deserves to make a living from their skill or production, but it is really shocking AND disappointing that even noted art and craft professionals (for lack of a better word) can not survive, or even thrive, selling their work.  They don't have the opportunity to more fully dedicate themselves to their avocation and profession.  

SUMMARY: It was a wonderful idea for Sonya Clark to share the dais with additional speakers. I liked hearing what these people had to say.  However, it seems like a fleeting moment and the questionnaire (developed before the Conference) did not function as a conclusion to the Conference.

Perhaps Clark could have asked the speakers what they thought were the strongest moments or content issues during the conference and gone from there into a conversation.  I believe this alternative format would have been equally effective and a lot less laborious.

This is the last lecture of the Conference but NOT the last post. Stay tuned to the next post, an entertaining INDEX to every lecture in the Conference. The final post will be the super opinionated "download from my brain" designed to summarize some of the issues raised during the Conference.


Sonya Clark

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: The description for Sonya Clark's panel discussion published online and in the Conference brochure was very poetic. I really liked it, but ultimately the program was not even remotely connected. I have included this paragraph for your review below. It is worth reading.

"Craft is the subject of our conference. As its creators, collectors, critics, students, and historians, craft is also the object of our affection and attention. But, as we all know, craft is also an action. But craft is not only a series of finely honed skills; the field itself is a work in progress with deep roots and ever-expanding branches. Craft is evolving, transforming, and growing. Craft is a verb. A deep understanding of craft’s evolution necessarily involves everyone’s input. Throughout the conference, a team of artists and volunteers will gather participants’ insights on craft as a subject, verb, and object. In this closing session, Sonya Clark will compile and present this information. Together, our collective wisdom will shed light on the directions and definitions of craft."

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