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April 2011

Craft FORWARD Symposium 2011 - Material Craft with Chris Lefteri Materials Expert

Material Craft -- Session 6 included presentations by Chris Lefteri and Chris Taylor

Craft Forward symbolic Game Board This was one session that combined two speakers perfectly under one heading.
Material Craft defined their identity and unique skills within their expertise in materials. Their lectures were articulate, confident, and straightforward. They both had the same first name...I didn't make a mistake.

It was rather refreshing in retrospect that they didn't have any social agenda, amateur knitting, or stuffed animals. They considered themselves EXPERTS with complete professionalism.

Glass The difference between these two speakers is that Chris Lefteri seemed to relish his investigation into a variety of materials (hence his books, left and below), while Chris Taylor was a technical expert in working with one material, glass.

In this post, I will cover Chris Lefteri. The next post will be about Chris Taylor.

What did I learn?
Chris Lefteri is a leading authority on materials and their application in design. Lefteri has published eight books on design and material innovations, Materialsincluding the highly acclaimed “Materials for Inspirational Design” series (RotoVision, 2001–7), andMETALS METALS, and Making It: Manufacturing Techniques for Product Design (Laurence King, 2007).

Making It

These books look really interesting, but I can't find them in my local library. (I really wish that the Craft Forward Symposium had a table with the books by all the speakers.  Before I buy a book, I want to know that it will continue to serve as a reference.) 


Chris Lefteri's lecture had a structure with a number of key points. Unfortunately, he showed far too many "key" points to keep track of.  Instead, I have found example images that relate to the lecture content.


Lefteri explained a multi-dimensional approach to materials. He said that "industrial designers have lost the skill of making," lacking love and understanding of the materials. His books and blog look like they are designed to be resources for the industrial and manufacturing professions.

Lefteri was also very interested in the way materials and the process of "craft" were explained and cited a range of sources from cookbooks and MAKE Magazine to the BMW car showroom. 


CLefteri5 CLefteri2
Image of food and BMW showroom were taken by emiko oye during the Chris Lefteri lecture as examples of craft.

What were the thought-provoking issues raised?
I would agree with Chris Lefteri's assessment that since designing has become all CAD (Computer-Aided Design), the "hands-on" component of fabrication and first-hand knowledge of materials is lost for industry. Academic programs in Engineering, Industrial Design, and Architecture are struggling with just this issue. 

Sandwichstructures and materials This is a really ironic point that may have been lost in front of an audience of makers devoted to their natural instinct with materials rather than technical understanding or working with CAD/CAM manufacturing.

Sandwichofmaterials My opinion is that it is rather unfortunate that so little cross-fertilization occurs between makers and industry. Makers rarely get to experiment and apply their instincts with materials to new industrial processes which are so far from our studios. I assume that this was Chris Lefteri's objective as he showed us multiple experiments with materials.

Material "sandwich" image (left) taken by emiko oye during Chris Lefteri's lecture. While this concept of a material sandwich was a new term to me, it seems that this is a common practice in Industry to incorporate multiple material properties. Think skis, snowboards, and building materials as a few familiar examples.

I wonder...Is this Craft Forward?

Bare In retrospect, I would consider his lecture one of the few that exemplified the fundamental concept of Craft Forward in the whole conference! If only Industry could invite artists to play with the materials, processes, and technologies available in manufacturing. This would advance Craft Forward to fabulous Nonconductive ink proportions.



Background about the Chris Lefteri:


Chris Lefteri is the editor of Ingredients Magazine an online magazine with 5,000 subscribers bridging the gap between designers and material manufacturers. He has written the following books:

MaterialsMaterials for Inspirational Design” series (RotoVision, 2001–7), METALS METALS,

Making It: Manufacturing Techniques for Product Design (Laurence King, 2007)

This post was updated on February 2, 2022, to provide current links.

Making It

Craft FORWARD Symposium 2011 - Mass Craft, Theaster Gates Constructs Context with Added Value

The lecture by Theaster Gates opened with a song. 
emiko oye captured his "a cappella" solo opening at Craft Forward.

As you can see in the opening title of the video, Theaster Gates' lecture was titled, "Soul Manufacturing Corporation, Racialized Materiality and the Life of a Negro Potter." The title is a mouthful....hard to grasp in one sentence. The lecture and the man were equally complex.

At the beginning of the lecture, Theaster talked about two areas of focus early in his adult life. One is his academic study of Urban Planning. Second his multiple years of study in Japan of ceramics. He says I have "clay in my veins."

Untitled (bowl) © 2010
Ink on Paper   24" x 30"
Artist: Theaster Gates
Image Courtesy of artist and Kavi Gupta
Gallery, Berlin / Chicago

My impression was that Theaster Gates's skills with Japanese pottery, tea bowls, and an Eastern influence were perceived as inauthentic by both the art /craft hierarchy and the public. This external evaluation of his work resulted in limited professional success.

The internal issue for Gates was the difficulty to tie his black identity to a Japanese aesthetic. Gates questions, "How do cultural legacy's work?"  How could he align his black self to the Japanese self?

This is a valuable lesson for all artists and makers. When attempting to adopt the skills, tools, or aesthetics of another culture or another artist, your own artistic identity will likely become confused. Professional success will always be limited unless the "authentic" artist within you comes out.

Dave the pottertheaster-gates “Dave the slave potter” was Theaster Gates' early brand in an effort to connect his black cultural legacy to industry, craft (ceramics), and American history. This is where the "Soul Ceramic Manufacturing Corporation" comes from in the title. He essentially constructed a story from 1840 for Dave the Slave that represents his knowledge and love of clay. Theaster tied this context and structure to make his craft "go forward."

My name is product It seems that Gates is much better at creating a conceptual structure around his work based on his own cultural legacy as a black man in America. Read more about Dave the Potter's role in an exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum and decide for yourself. Better yet, listen to his lecture at the Opening night at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Theaster-gatesWHITEhand At Kohler Artist in Residency program, Gates' background as an Urban Planner took a stronger role as he organized the Kohler Union Workers into a gospel choir. Industrial workers that may not go to art museums, sing about bowls, jars, and teapots, and bring the "whole body into the world of clay."  This seems like a natural for Gates.

Gospel You can see the Gospel church singing style in many of the video excerpts of these productions online. His "singing is a cultural production" goes back to his southern Mississippi roots, the same way that craft and food carry culture.  Yet another way that Craft Forward engages the community as subject and content.


Gates is best at rhetoric. He gives his work credibility and historical foundation a valuable concept for other artists and makers. Theaster knows Japanese ceramic history, 20th-century western ceramic history, and black history which he then connects to his own history with ceramics. He intellectually develops a foundation for his work. He isn't just making "stuff" that he can make.  He thinks about what he is making and why he is making it.

TheasterGateshouse More recent work with wood is an outcome of his "urban planning background." He buys old buildings in his neighborhood, guts the buildings using workforce development workers, offering training and jobs to untrained laborers. This is a one-man, grassroots urban renewal initiative - one building at a time.


Theaster Gates shoe shine stands The old materials reclaimed from the buildings are re-used in his artwork creating the SHOE SHINE STANDS. There is a "value-added" to these reclaimed materials which adds depth to the concepts behind his work. If you ever have the opportunity to see Theaster Gates give a lecture, don't miss it.  This was one of a few lectures during Craft Forward that delighted and inspired the audience.

As with most of the lectures, the Q & A was much too short to expand the conversation. There were a few good comments that I will save for my final review.


You can read emiko oye's post about Theaster Gates on Crafthaus. Thank you to emiko for providing the video clip from Craft Forward.

Theaster Gates is an artist, musician, and “cultural planner” as well as director of arts program development for the University of Chicago.

Interview with Theaster Gates from August 2, 2009.


This post was updated on February 1, 2022.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Mass Craft, Free Market or Inverted Market

Sunday morning at Craft Forward started with a schedule change for the session titled, Mass CraftAyse Birsel (the scheduled speaker) was replaced by Mimi Robinson. Her lecture was titled, "Artisan Enterprise."

This lecture was another of the many lectures at the Craft Forward Symposium where the story was about community.  In retrospect, I just can’t figure out why “community” was such an unexpected undercurrent of Craft Forward this year. Maybe by the time ASK Harriete covers every lecture I will have this figured out, or someone will offer their own insight.

In the meantime, I remain confounded by how Craft Forward became Craft Community.

Dd_robinson08_001_mb Moving on to the topic at hand...
Mimi Robinson's specialty is going to small craft communities in third-world countries that are struggling to survive economically. She loves going to the place, figuring out what to make, and how to make it using local resources, skills, and creativity. The critical question for her at that moment is, “What is the unique spirit of the native culture, place, and time?"

What did I learn?
West african symbols Her role in working for a non-profit or outside consultant is to develop an economic enterprise using the principles of micro-credit. She works hand in hand, person to person, connecting craft to the place. It is grounded in the experience of working with local makers and the “power of craft.” For Mimi Robinson the story is important to increase public awareness about the critical issues, raising the voice and the visibility of the artisan community.

She showed examples of beautiful ceramic decorative items that would be marketed to stores like Gump's and other high-end retailers. In fact, she has been so successful in some cases that the artisans eventually had to decide whether they should meet production demands when they distribute their work to international markets.

Guata_risd_nyigf This brings up a new set of problems that American artists and makers can relate to themselves. Do you want to increase production? Hire more workers?  Quantity vs. quality? What is needed to develop a cohesive collection, prepare images, and plan distribution when you take your product to a market like the New York Gift show?  Just like with U.S. makers, the critical issue is often price point? What will people buy? Matching production with buyers and the problems with seasonal cycles.

Ultimately her goal is to preserve traditions while fostering new customs and improved livelihood with more resources, better tools, schools, and a sustainable economy for these makers. It was another feel-good moment for “craft activism” at Craft Forward.

What were the thought-provoking issues raised?
The feel-good moment, rah, rah, rah, community think is over!  And again I sense something out of kilter. 
 After reading my notes and careful consideration for the unacknowledged ramifications of the information presented, I realize that there is another side of the story about community.

Third_world_map Third-world craft economies are exporting their products to the United States and competing with crafters, makers, and artists that live in the U.S. The lower price points of imported items compete with local, regional, and national U.S. makers (who need to make more than a couple of dollars a day).

Bizarre-Bazaar1 U.S. crafters, makers, and artists also have their own stories of hard work, local enterprise, creativity, and community. It is already very difficult for us to compete with the price points of the beautiful, imported items at Pier One, Crate and Barrel, or Bloomingdale’s "made by" third world makers. Our own community of artists and crafters attending the Craft Forward Symposium or reading this blog post in their studio need to make a living wage too.

Acc_2011 In this case, the big question is, "Should we set a priority to support our own local artists and makers?Our story is important! We need to increase public awareness about the critical issues, raising the voice and the visibility of our local, regional, and national artisan communities right here in the United States.

Soapicon copy I think that there is merit in at least examining this issue carefully.  If we want people to buy our art and craft here at home, shouldn't we be consistent in our own reaction to the soapbox at Craft Forward? Our work is also lovingly made in our studio with skill, creativity, culture, and perhaps the microeconomics of our own pocketbooks. We may not be a third-world economy, but the U.S. has both rural and urban poor that need to learn job skills and nurture their creativity and culture.

Theaster-Gates-s In the next lecture for Mass Craft at Craft Forward, Theaster Gates addresses just this issue. In fact, I think he was being very polite about trying to address the rationale of aiding third world economies when he sees the same problems right in his own neighborhood in Detroit, Chicago, the rural South, and elsewhere.

This will be the next post. In the meantime, consider your purchasing power every day. It matters... Do you buy from the big box stores or from local businesses? Do you buy your fruits and vegetables from Safeway or from the Farmer’s market? It may mean going to the hair salon owned by your neighbor. Or buying a pair of earrings from a friend? Or buying a wedding present from a local artisan? Consider the impact of your everyday purchasing decisions?

Background about the Speakers 

Allison Smith was the moderator. Normally, I didn't say much about the moderators because of information overload, but her website is definitely worth some time in looking at her body of work. Don't miss it!

You can visit Mimi Robinson's website and can read more about her projects in foreign countries as she helps third-world makers on

This post was updated on February 1, 2022, to provide current links.

Session 5: Mass Craft
9:30 – 11 a.m.
Presentations by Ayse Birsel, Theaster Gates
Moderated by Allison Smith

Craft Forward Symposium - Digital Craft presented in hyper mode, but Lost Opportunity

Digital Craft was the fourth session of Craft Forward. This should have been a great topic.  I was looking forward to these presentations but regrettably found disappointment.

The Digital Craft speakers were:

Cat Mazza Knit Pro
Cat Mazza 
- "Crafting the Grid" and


Sheila Kennedy - "Going Soft: Hybrid Ecology, Mobility, and the Emergent Public Realm"

I have been debating with myself (i.e. somewhat tortured) about what to write regarding this session, hence my delayed post.  Should I skip the topic, say nothing bad, or hope no one notices? If this is your preference....please stop reading NOW!

Kennedy read map mat

Summary of Digital Craft/Session 4
If you want to hear why it was a misstep for both the speakers and the Craft Forward Symposium organizers, ...then continue reading.  Perhaps there is something to learn, interpret or consider from the issues presented.

SpeedyAlkaseltzerThe first problem with this last session of Saturday afternoon was that the speakers spoke faster and faster as the afternoon progressed. This made it harder for our saturated brains to absorb the information. Perhaps this "Speedy Alka-Seltzer" approach was an effort to energize the audience . . . but it was a complete disconnect between the speakers and the audience.

         Solar Soft House with solar collecting
          curtain by Sheila Kennedy

The next problem was the choice of speakers. So much is happening in this digital revolution and how digital media affects the world of craft and making, but the selected speakers seemed weak at best in relating the topic to the audience.  For example, Sheila Kennedy provided an outline at the beginning of her lecture and then never referred to it again.

I've reviewed my extensive notes carefully for both speakers and links are provided (at the bottom of this post) to some of the projects they mentioned.   

While both speakers use digital media  (i.e. computers) to some extent in their work....their lectures addressed the use of digital craft superficially and really did not address the future of Digital Craft or any particular revelations to the audience. If I sound harsh, stop reading.  I think that I am being kind. I feel abused when a symposium and speakers of this caliber waste my time with rah, rah, rah, community knitting projects of corporate logos, or theoretical proposals for manufactured solar applications when the topic is Digital Craft.


What did I learn?

Soft house by KVA
The Soft House by KVA Matx
in Germany

NEVER START YOUR LECTURE with a comment such as "I don't know why I was invited to speak at (insert name of the symposium here)."  This totally destroys any presumed credibility that the audience may have afforded the speaker.  If you are ever invited to speak but wonder how you fit within the context of a program, think "wild card" or if you prefer, "wildflower." Think about walking through a forest or an ungroomed path and finding a flower all by itself, a treasured unexpected discovery. Your lecture can be just that, an unexpected yet treasured alternate perspective. Enjoy the moment and share it with your audience.

BentClocksqueezeAnother important speaker lesson: Do not try to squeeze a 45-minute lecture into 30 minutes.  You are not in a race.  Your top priority is to connect and communicate with your audience.

GAPIMAGE The first speaker was Cat Mazza, the founder of microRevolt, a web-based project that hosts knitPro, a free web application that translates digital images into knitting, crochet, needlepoint, and cross-stitch patterns, which is used in over 100 countries. If you're interested in these media, perhaps you might want to look into the possibilities this program offers. This part of the lecture was informative, but unfortunately short-lived.

Image by SOFT ROCKER TEAM: Sheila KENNEDY, MIT Professor of the Practice of Architecture; James BAYLESS, KVA UC Intern; Kaitlyn BOGENSCHUTZ, KVA UC Intern; and others listed here. 

The second speaker, Sheila Kennedy,
spoke about her "architectural" projects which were completely theoretical. Considering all the accolades on her website for her leadership in the Integration of Technology and Design, this was not communicated to the Craft Forward audience. Now, after a great deal of research for this post, I understand why her lecture was such a disconnect with this Craft Forward audience. She re-used a lecture given at other symposiums for industry/architecture, etc.  It was not designed for this audience. No wonder why the audience was left quite confused. 

In one example, she mentioned "Rhino" but didn't tell people what it was. (Answer: Rhino is computer software for designers/industrial designers that is relatively easy to use and less expensive than other CAD software.) This is no way to help your audience understand your process.

What were the thought provoking issues raised?
Both speakers did touch on two unrelated topics that seemed to recur unexpectedly during Craft Forward:
1) knitting
2) community. 

NIKE My concern is that the future impact on craft media was not discussed.  For example, what could be the potential benefit of using knitPro on the future of knit, crochet, needlepoint, and cross-stitch patterns as craft media? Does it offer the possibility of more elaborate, sophisticated, complex or conceptually interesting work? We saw very few examples and were left with the impression that Knitpro is primarily used for grassroots projects.

One way or another, KNITTING kept popping up in the lectures at Craft Forward. There is more'll see. Several otherwise unrelated speakers showed examples of knitting. Why in the whole range of fiber as a medium did knitting rise up as a media or theme in several  presentations within the two days, I can not say.

Really, knitting? I have nothing against knitting, but why knitting at the exclusion of all other media. Yes, I understand that knitting  is the ultimate of D.I.Y. crafts. It has low entry costs, needs only two knitting needles as tools, can be learned in about 10 minutes, transports easily, can be picked up and put down at a moment's notice, and can fill hours with repetition. There are still more knitting projects to come from Craft Forward. Please explain this revival of knitting to me.

Hh_machine The increasingly available knitting machines add yet another aspect to the making or production with little inspiration or thought, catering merely to utility or immediate gratification. Program your images with knitPro, let your body perform like a machine, . . . choose from a menu . . . superficial creativity, superficial making.  Wow! How Craft Forward can we get?

Blanket_final Another facet that I would like to expound upon is the rising focus on "community" as brought forward in these two lectures (and several other presentations). To be perfectly clear, I am a strong advocate for multiple spheres of community and activism, but I am questioning the apparent elevation that "group" making is implied to be superior to "individual" making.  I have personal experience with both approaches and may explore this concept further in a future post. Have you observed this phenomenon?


Background about the speakers (below).

Cmazza-headshot_small Cmazza-work-image_small Cat Mazza's resume is very impressive and can be found on her website. Find more information about knitPro on microRevolt, a web-based project. Videos about microRevolt can be found here.

Information on KnitPro.

The website for Sheila Kennedy is not very good and does not convey the significance of her projects to the general public. There are very few images, the images are in Flash, and most of the links only offer lists of text at best. A lot of the links don't offer anything at all.

Here are links to other projects which were mentioned by Sheila Kennedy.

The Portable Light Project.

SOFT Rockers by Sheila Kennedy

Rhino web site


This post was updated on February 1, 2022, to provide current links.

Craft Forward Symposium - "Crafting the Politics of Identity" with Nancy Hernandez

CraftforwardBANNERemailThe lecture by
Nancy Hernandez titled,
"Crafting the Politics of Identity"
advanced the theme of "Identity Craft" at Craft Forward. 


COMMUNITYMs. Hernandez was very dynamic, speaking at a rapid-fire pace. I mean really rapid-fire pace, faster than most people talk, and definitely faster than people preferred.

TWO GIRLS At first, this fast pace was stimulating but after a while, well, . . .  perhaps this style arose from speaking in front of urban community groups where one has to grab attention and preempt anyone else from getting a word in edgewise.

She also demonstrated a rather innovative approach in her lecture as she selected images right off YouTube and her Flickr website in real-time.

Inventiveanimal jpg It seems like a great idea, but it also hampered the synchronization of her words and images because larger images took what seemed like minutes to open up. The audience often stared at the "whirling circle" or "% complete" bar as the image downloaded. She also fumbled around looking for images that she wanted to find. Trying to think, speak, and search for images while keeping an audience engaged is really hard to do.

Water fish largerShe showed numerous urban murals.  Her craft identity involves urban activism. The communities of urban poor or disadvantagedLosAngeles with film motif became melting pots of creativity and visibility outside of the conventional art galleries and museums.

She advocated that street murals provide accessible art to everyone. Anyone can do it. Anyone can see it.


A community can embrace the mural art form as a platform. Art becomes a megaphone for the message.  Doing the art is also a way to engage and organize the community around a common goal, whether it is raising awareness or bringing a community together around an event or theme.

She also focused on an environmental thread - the global issues surrounding water include privatization of water, the politics of water allocation, and excessive packaging of plastic water bottles.


One group called themselves "Water Writes".  Unfortunately, the message was overly idealized and lacked practical solutions or economically viable alternatives for providing water to communities.Waterfishfilm

Overall, with Nancy Hernandez, we were clearly listening to a passionate spokesperson
for community programs.  Her photos were vibrant and colorful but her message lacked sustainable coherence. 

I am a dedicated environmentalist from way back. It was really hard to appreciate her environmental credentials when the muralists use spray cans on such a large scale.


SpRAYpAINT CANS "Water Writes" seems a shallow message about the environment when the graffiti spray paint "style" generates so much waste and air pollution.

Despite my environmental concerns - the murals were fabulous! The graphics were very well done. Symbols meaningful to the community and local politics were integrated into extended horizontal renderings on the sides of commercial buildings and walls.

I recommend spending some time looking at the images on the Estria website and Flickr site.



View more images on Estria's Flickr site.

View the Estria website


NOTE: Look at the image of the mural in the above photo. Do you see the spray paint can in the lower-left corner? The spray paint cans are the signature medium of street artists but they create a huge amount of trash and air pollution. Does it seem ironic to see the spray paint cans in an environmental theme?

This post was updated on February 1, 2022.


Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Identity Craft by Bridget Cooks

The third session of Craft Forward used the theme "Identity Craft" and featured Bridget Cooks who spoke about "The Phenomenon of the Gee's Bend Quilts."


Gee1 Bridget Cooks delivered the most memorable and thought-provoking lecture of Craft Forward. Her lecture flowed at a measured pace (instead of frenetic speed like too many of the other speakers) and her words were carefully chosen.

When art, craft, race, gender, class, and money intersect in one conversation, it can be a very sensitive topic.

Gees_AnnieMaeYoung_thumb Gees_NettieYoung_thumb This post will be dedicated to the issues raised by Bridget Cooks. Though Bridget Cooks spoke about issues surrounding the Gee's Bend Quilts, the issues will resonate with all artists and makers.  

Above left images: Annie Mae Young and her quilt "Work-clothes quilt with center medallion of strips", denim, corduroy, synthetic blend (britches legs with pockets) 108 x 77 in.  The William Arnett Collection of the Tinwood Alliance

To start with background:

200px-USA_Alabama_location_map.svg Are you familiar with the Gee's Bend Quilts?  The quilts were made by African American women (descendants of former slaves) living in a very rural, isolated area of southwest Alabama. Surrounded by water on three sides, this community remained isolated and poor since the Civil War. (Read the Wikipedia information for more background on Gee's Bend.)

Gee’s Bend quilting bee. Birmingham, Alabama, 2005. ImageSource.

Early in the 21st century, an exhibition of their quilts traveled around the United States showing at highly regarded venues such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Whitney Museum, New York; Corcoran Museum, Washington, D.C.; the De Young in San Francisco; and many other museums.  (I saw the quilts at the Corcoran Museum in 2004.)

Gees Bend Quilt by PettwayThe strong graphics formed by using simple humble materials made the quilts unique, authentic, almost spiritual, and quite powerful. From the 1930s to 1977, these quilts were all made from fragments of clothing that still had "a little wear left in 'em."

left image: Bars and string-pieced columns, 1950's by Jessie T. Pettway, Cotton, 95 x 76 in. The William Arnett Collection of the Tinwood Alliance Photo source.

Gees_AnnieMaeYoung_thumbFor example, work pants worn down to threadbare knees and seats would still have usable fabric under the pockets or from the back of the leg.  Left image:  Annie Mae Young quilt, "Work-clothes quilt with center medallion of strips", denim, corduroy, synthetic blend (britches legs with pockets) 108 x 77 in. The William Arnett Collection of the Tinwood Alliance

GeesBendquilthousetop The quilt graphics are based on traditional quilt patterns, though the real delight of these quilts is that the women do not follow the quilt patterns perfectly. Quilter Flora More says she creates the pattern "my way, I don’t put it the way the pattern went."

Gee2 These photos are very small, but in person, you can see evidence of wear in the fabrics. Keep in mind that these quilts used the material frugally. The people in Gee's Bend could not afford to buy new fabric. Above right image: Annie E. Pettway (1904-1971) "Flying Geese" variation, c.1935, cotton and wool, 86 x 71 inches Photo Source.

Traditionally quilts took small pieces of fabric left over from sewing or cut from worn-out clothing and re-purposed the fragments out of necessity. These quilts from Gee's Bend illustrate the level of poverty and resourcefulness as the fabric is very worn and faded.   

MARYBennett Bridget Cooks said there were four separate exhibitions organized by the Tinwood Alliance, a non-profit foundation for the support of African American vernacular art founded by William Arnett.  As a collector, he initially bought quilts for $5 and $10 from the people of Gee's Bend, recognizing the "artistic value" of these quilts. Left image: Mary L. Bennett (b. 1942). "Housetop" variation. c. 1965. Cotton and cotton/polyester blend. 77 X 82 in. Photo source Tinwood Media.

Tinwood Alliance remains largely responsible for the ongoing exhibitions and marketing of Gee's Bend Quilts. (Keep in mind that even a non-profit organization needs to make money to pay for its employees.)

What did I learn? 

MARYBendolph Savvy and effective marketing by Tinwood Alliance generates huge visibility for these quilts.

Quilts intended for warmth on the bed and a little decoration of the home have been turned into art.  Right Image: Mary Lee Bendolph (b. 1935). "Housetop" variation. 1998; quilted by her daughter, Essie B. Pettway, in 2001. Cotton corduroy, twill, assorted polyesters. 72 X 76 in. Photo source Tinwood Media.

LUCYPettwaydots During the traveling exhibitions, the Gee's Bend Quilts were hung on the museum walls like paintings. The museum changed the perception of the quilts completely.  They were re-evaluated, even applauded as Art (not craft).

GeesBendPrintedCulture The merchandising of Gee's Bend Quilts included note cards and calendars.  Tinwood Alliance also produced a CD of "sacred songs of Gee’s Bend." GBCD-case

Even the U.S. Postal Service has made postage stamps with images of the quilts as part of the American Treasure series. 

What were the thought-provoking issues raised?

Gee's bend lamp

Who benefits when the quilts of Gee's Bend are now emulated with motifs produced by companies such as Kathy Ireland's as a design solution for mass-produced bed covering, rugs and lamps.




There are several examples online of companies featuring merchandising using Gee's Bend Quilt designs.










There are also books such as Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt Picture Book.



There are other books about the Gee's Bend phenomenon such as Leaving Gee's Bend, by Irene Lathan. This book appears to have nothing to do with the real Gee's Bend community or the Tinwood Alliance.







For me, the most ironic examples of Gee's Bend merchandising are the "kits" to let hobbyists make their own handmade Gee's Bend Quilt. This image was found on E-bay. Keep in mind that these are just a few examples of the productions and merchandising of Gee's Bend inspired craft.

Bridget Cooks asks us to examine the loss and gain surrounding the issues of identity, craft, and art hierarchies.

MaryLeeBendolhWhat happens when these humble, yet inspiring quilts cross the boundaries of the usual art hierarchy in the museum context? 
Left Image:
Mary Lee Bendolph (b. 1935). Blocks, strips, strings, and half squares. 2005. Cotton. 84 X 81 in.

What happens when utilitarian objects are elevated to Art objects?

How should we react when the wall text in the museum advocates and promotes the idea that the women of Gee's Bend are "artists" (i.e. not quilters, craftswomen, or makers)?

Should quilters be compared to famous painters (even though the inspiration and original context are completely different)?

Bridget Cooks continues with other thought-provoking issues:

LucyMingo Are quilts something more than quilts when they are removed from the home? Is there something to learn when quilts become Art? Who is responsible for the reclassification?

When quilts become art, apparently they also become more valuable.
Left Image:
Lucy Mingo (b. 1931). Blocks and strips work-clothes quilt. 1959. Cotton and denim. 79 X 69 in.

 Why is it necessary to render them as art to make them more valuable?

 Lola PettwayThe issues are both crystal clear and very complex. Calling these quilts art, instead of craft, makes them more revered. A mythology is fabricated about these women, yet the reality of their core values was and remains ignored. The museum context completely obscures the evangelical Christian values, along with the fact that most rural, black, poor women have no connection to the art hierarchy.

Right image: Lola Pettway (b. 1941). "Housetop" variation. 1970s. Corduroy. 89 X 74 in.

Mary Lee Bendolph quilting
Linda Day Clark photo of Mary Lee Bendolph at work in her home © Linda Day Clark

Why isn't craft shown in art museums?

The other side of this phenomenon is that the quilts have provided unexpected income to the Gee's Bend community providing better housing, schools, and services.

Brigitte Cooks concludes that the quilts should be shown in their own context of cultural history and that the reclassification of art devalues that original context.
Your comments are welcome.


P.S. Nancy Hernandez's lecture about "Crafting the Politics of Identity" will be the next post.
This post was updated on February 1, 2022.



surrounding issues of identity, craft and art hierarchies.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011

CraftforwardBANNERemail Currently, I am writing a commentary about the lectures from the Craft Forward Symposium on ASK Harriete. This will continue until I cover every lecture.

Dollargr If you are looking for business advice, scroll down looking in the left column for a list of business topics.


Looking for the Professional Guidelines? Click here or look in the right column of ASK Harriete which provides links to my website for specific topics.

3 teacups by Harriete Estel Berman Are you interested in information about the Professional Development Seminar? Listen to last week's conversation with Andy Cooperman, Brigitte Martin, and myself on Jay Whaley Blog Talk Radio.

Another resource for information is my recent CraftCast interview with Alison Lee.


This post was updated on February 1, 2022.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - How Does Craft Shape Bodies? with Lauren Kalman and Allyson Mitchell

California College for the Arts (CCA) visiting scholar Julia Bryan-Wilson introduced Session Two at Craft Forward, on Saturday, April 2. The theme was Body Craft. She asked, HOW DO BODIES SHAPE CRAFT?  Bodies shaped by gender, age, race, sexual orientation, etc.? 

HOW DOES CRAFT SHAPE BODIES? The physical effort of craft impacts the wrist, a joint, hand, or eye. Craft touches the body, makes it hurt, creates isolation, pain, and exploitation.

WHAT ABOUT THE SOCIAL BODY? The body politic, like patriotic sewing circles, or groups united by feminist and queer identity.

The BODY CRAFT featured two speakers, Lauren Kalman and Allyson Mitchell, who talked about craft centered around the body.  Both speakers explained their work with a quantity of interesting, shocking, and even funny images. Before I continue with further commentary, I will share a series of images from the lecture.

The above photos provided by emiko oye were taken during the lecture by Allyson Mitchell. It compares a Playboy bunny-type image of the idealized, hairless female body with work by the artist. Her females are the reverse or inverse with extra "hairy" skin as they are constructed from fuzzy and tacky fabric. (I assume purposely selected to be in poor taste.)  The artist is also talking about the idealized white,  female body.

Above photo by emiko oye was taken during  Allyson Mitchell's lecture. Titled "Hungry Purse" it is constructed from found materials, afghans, etc. The assembly of these works (that were often dusty, moldy, or mildewy) caused health problems from exposure for Allyson Mitchell.

The above photo taken by emiko oye from the lecture by Allyson Mitchell shows the Ladies Sasquatch  2010. The figures were constructed from fake fur. Some are very hairy female figures with a "big bush".  Essentially the smaller animals are a conversation about what are acceptable renderings of women, and the analogy to small cute, fuzzy, adorable, young, animals.

The photo is by emiko oye from the lecture by Laura Kalman. This dental hardware is temporary. Lauren Kalman photographed and video-taped the process of "sewing" the pearls into the mouth and around the teeth with wire. However grotesque or beautiful it may be, it is a commentary about objects that intersect with the body, objects that define the body. This is one of many pieces of jewelry that were appliances that fit into her mouth. As an artist, she carefully documents the intersection of body and appliance with videos and photos.

"Blooms, Efflorescence, and Other Dermatological Embellish-
ments": Nevus Comedonicus
Artist: Lauren Kalman, 2009 Photo Source

These small embellishments do actually pierce the skin. They are part of a whole series using acupuncture needles.



This is a more recent piece by Laura Kalman. The small dots do not pierce the skin. It is titled Blooms, Efflorescence, and Other Dermatological Embellishments,
(Syphilis) 2009; Inkjet Print  26 x 26.

It is interesting to note that this is not Lauren Kalmans' body and the ornamentation (as a reflection of disease) did not harm the body. Regardless, she felt uncomfortable applying them to another person's body.

What did I learn?  I was quite disturbed by a particular aspect of these lectures and feel compelled to comment further. Before continuing,  I would like to clarify here that I am not commenting about whether I like or dislike the work. My concern is not about artwork that discusses the narrow stereotype of beauty in our culture. I agree with this aspect of the social critique.

Corset The issue is: Why are women allowing their bodies to be abused or displayed in such negative and destructive manners? 

 High heel  I see self-inflicted pain and unhealthy behavior in body piercings, through-the-skin stitching of body adornment, flaunting of an extra 60 to 100 lbs of excess body fat, and unhealthy studio practice. 

When these young women stand on stage, I  am concerned women are role models for other young artists that might copy them. This is all like the myth of the self-abusive artist like Van Gogh cutting off your ear because this makes you a great artist.

This is no different than other abusive and destructive behaviors endorsed by fashion such as tanning beds, wearing contortionist corsets, or disabling high heels. They are all examples of manipulation of women's bodies. Whether by fashion, or art, it's all the same.

I felt uncomfortable as a spectator in both lectures of this session.  It was not the strong graphic component or "queer" content. I felt disturbed that by just sitting in the audience I was endorsing this form of inflicting craft or body politic.

Ladies Sasquatch  2010 by Allyson Mitchell

Find more information about this work online.

Porky No matter how the manipulation of the female body is justified with intellectual content or being "Pretty Porky and Pissed off",  it isn't healthy. And yes, unhealthy behaviors are my business because every one of us will pay for it with higher health insurance fees. That is my body politic!

What were the thought-provoking issues raised? Both speakers identified problems with detrimental consequences of their artistic/crafty exploration.

  Menstrual Hut Cinema 2009
  Artist: Allyson Mitchell

Allyson Mitchell admitted late in the session Q & A that working with fuzzy, dusty, musty, moldy, mildew-infested material has caused health problems.

Blooms, Efflorescence, and Other
Dermatological Embellishments
(Syphilis) 2009; Inkjet Print  26 x 26
Artist: Lauren Kalman

Lauren Kalman admitted that she felt uncomfortable applying "beauty patches" to other women. She realized that she could not do to other people what she has done to herself in the name of art or craft.

David Howes (in the previous session at Craft Forward) spoke about the senses. His main theme was that western culture is biased toward the visual, ignoring all other senses. When the senses and the body say "NO", why aren't artists listening?



For women who suffer from self-manipulation of their bodies, whether by anorexia, bulimia, cutting, piercing, or weight, in most cases, these manifestations are because they feel their bodies are the only thing that they can control. These behaviors exist within all strata of society, but it is not acceptable behavior even if rationalized by intellectual rhetoric.

Kalman_hard_wear1 Despite all the recognition for these two individual artists, should the craft community endorse these self-destructive behaviors?  Lauren Kalman has received recognition for early work which was less destructive. Was it necessary to escalate with the more shocking examples involving piercing the body?



Why do some Lesbians use excess weight to create an identity as "porky and pissed off" when it is so self-destructive to their health?  This issue deserves more attention than an in-your-face candy heart or artistic construction about body hair.  A healthy body image is achieved by a balance of a healthy diet (not dieting) along with exercise, not by excessive eating or shaving (or not shaving) your legs.

The body politic has opinions, and this was one of them.

 Please decide for yourself and leave a comment. 


Background about the speakers (below).







Lauren Kalman is a visual artist whose practice is invested in installation, video, photography, and performance. Through her work she investigates perspectives of beauty, body image, value, and consumer culture.

Allyson Mitchell's portrait. The web site for Allyson Mitchel is worth looking least the opening page will surprise you.





Fat:The Anthropology of an Obsession with an essay by Allyson Mitchell.


This post was updated on February 1, 2022, to provide current links.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Sensory Craft with David Howes and Frank Wilson

"Sensory Craft" was the theme for Session 1 of the Craft Forward Symposium on Saturday morning. It was an appropriate premise to start two days of presentations about craft with a focus on the senses and the hand.

Sensory Craft included presentations by David Howes and Frank Wilson.


  Image from Frank Wilson's lecture.
  Photo Credit: emiko oye

Both lectures were filled with factual and interesting information, most of it like a PBS NOVA show on scientific thinking about the body and research into cognitive studies. The lecture about the senses from David Howes was truly fascinating and explains a tremendous amount about how we perceive art and craft. My post will focus on the information from his lecture because we can take this information into the studio to inform our work.

The hand I've heard Frank Wilson speak before at a recent SNAG Conference. At Craft Forward, he did a better job communicating with his audience. If you're interested in his theories, I suggest that you read his book about the Hand.

   Image from Frank Wilson's lecture
   Photo Credit: emiko oye


His lecture materials focused primarily on the question, Did humans become intelligent because of the biomechanics of the hand, or.... did the human hand make people intelligent?

"Creation of The Birds"  by Remedios Varo 1957

What did I learn?

David Howes's lecture was titled, "Craft, Sensory Power, and Delight."  The first astounding sentence stated that there are not just 5 senses but at least 6 senses and there may be as many as 33 senses.  He used the image, "Creation of The Birds" by Remedios Varo (above) to explain that adults usually grow out of their appreciation and dependence on their senses.  

DurerAs in the Albrecht Durer drawing (to the left), "Man Drawing a Woman in a Reclining Position" from 1538, our western society has become overly dependent on vision, stifling the other senses. 

We have all heard the saying, "Master of all I survey" (taken from the poem "Solitude of Alexander Selkirk" by William Cowper). This serves as an apt metaphor for western society's focus on vision. Howe says artists are the masters of all they portray, and painters have painted the "perception of perfection" for eons. It also explains the preeminence of painting as it is dependent solely on sight for appreciation.

TheSIXTHSenseReader Craft in comparison engages all senses. The weight of the pot, the feel of the fabric, wearing clothing provides warmth, adornment such as jewelry can be multi-sensory with the sound of a pair of earrings,  the touch of a necklace, or the weight of bracelets.

A Japanese tea bowl comes to mind for me. Holding a tea bowl is part of the wabi-sabi experience.

Soundhowes002 In western society, we have relegated the senses (other than sight) to a very secondary role. As an example, David Howes described a shamanistic healing experience that would include hallucinogenic drugs, auras, fanning away of evil spirits, Shipibo-patterns luminescent visions and designs, acoustic patterns of rattles, songs, chanting, and fragrances, all involved in a healing ritual of musical and sensory healing.  (Harriete wants to add the observation that we should compare this description of shamanistic healing to modern medical practice where the treatment may indeed be therapeutic, but rarely feels that way.)

This bias of senses, visual outweighing all the other senses, is reflected in our western cultural bias toward painting as the "highest" of all arts, and craft assigned to some lower status in the art hierarchy.

David Howe continued with a few more examples where the visual sense seems to rise above the other senses.

Delany.2 For example, the elevation of the male gaze over female touch. While this can be seen in the many paintings of naked females (my feminist ire speaks out), but also in the reduced value of the female touch. Some craft is rooted in the craftwork performed by upper-class women such as paper cutting by Mary Delany (left image).

I won't go into the many other art vs. craft examples. This was not the strongest part of the lecture.
It was more interesting to think about how the skills of any craft media are rooted in the senses. Skills learned by practice using ALL the senses.

What were the thought-provoking issues raised?

So often in the studio, I pause or question my intuition. I sometimes want to think that a formula, facts, or concept can assure success. Yet, over and over, my instincts lead to a resolution that I only understand much later.  After all these years, I am still surprised by the power of decisions based on senses and intuition rather than conscious analysis and assessment. We all need to look at the relationship of all senses in our work and the intelligence of our senses in the extension of the hand.   

  Background about the speakers (below).

Frank Wilson first speakers at CraftFORWARDYou can find Dr. Frank Wilson's books on Amazon here.

I found a quote that really resonants with my current work about standardized testing. Frank Wilson says: "Some people are beginning to think about its potential for radically changing the structure of formal education in this country."

The hand

He asks: "What do children really learn from years and years of forced immobility, ingesting simplified or frankly dubious narratives of human life and formulaic reductions of human knowledge? Increasingly, despite the bluster and bullying of the monomaniacal proponents of “rigor, assessments, and accountability” in schools, the answer appears to be “not much.”

TheSIXTHSenseReader David Howes' website is not that interesting but it does include a list of his research publications and books. The Sensory Studies website is worthy of investigation. His lecture was so interesting that I would definitely consider reading one of his books about the senses.

CHECK OUT emiko oye's posts on Crafthaus
with lots of images from Manufractured exhibition at Craft Forward Symposium.  Manufractured Forward Visual Impressions  and Manufractured Forward Visual Impressions Part 2

Manufractured Exhibition at Craft Forward Symposium, CCA Oakland Campus, Oliver Art Center Photo Credit: emiko oye

Mystery House, by Thomas Wold shown for the first time at Manufractured Exhibition during the Craft Forward Symposium. Photo Credit: emiko oye.

This post was updated on February 1, 2022, to provide current links.

<p><strong>CHECK OUT <a title="Emiko Oye portfolio on Crafthaus" href="" target="_blank">emiko oye's</a> posts on Crafthaus </strong>with lots of images from Manufractured exhibition at Craft Forward Symposium.&nbsp;&nbsp;<a title="Manufractured Forward Visual Impressions" href="" target="_blank">Manufractured Forward Visual Impressions&nbsp; </a>and <a title="Manufractured Forward Visual Impressions" href="" target="_blank">Manufractured Forward Visual Impressions Part 2<br /></a></p>

Craft Forward Symposium - Keynote Critical Point, the Risk of Craft

Now that the Craft Forward Symposium is over, I sooooo.....wish that I could hear the Glenn Adamson keynote address over again. First of all, his lecture was filled with multiple levels of metaphor and symbolism. The images and ideas expressed were all revelatory.

Mike Kelley’s  "More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid" with related work, "The Wages of Sin" both 1987.

It seems surprising to me now that the images of schneebly, stuffed animals, tacky afghans, derelict buildings, shoeshine stands, and knitting would be prescient for the other lectures to come in the Conference. On Friday night, I could not have conceived that the keynote address was so thoroughly laying a foundation for the images and themes to be conveyed over the following two days of lectures. (Maybe that is what the keynote address is supposed to do, but it rarely happens.)

   Rachel Woodman
   Clare Beck at  Adrian Sassoon

Glenn Adamson definitely isn't interested in the finely crafted tour de force of craftsmanship. There wasn't one example of a shiny glass hotel lobby sculpture from SOFA to be seen. It really was about Craft Forward.

Any attempt to fully explain the lecture would be inadequate. Instead, I'd like to offer some of the ideas from Glenn Adamson's lecture to take back to your bench, loom, canvas, or studio to think about next time you make something.

Balance-scale-unbalanced Here is an example that seems really straightforward. The concept contrasts RISK and CERTAINTY.*  It is about weighing the value of "absolute risk" at one end of the scale and "absolute certainty"  at the other.

This example uses a piece of paper. The approach you use to cut the paper in half is the metaphor for risk or certainty.

Ripped-paper Ripping the paper in half is a high risk.  

To reduce the risk, you could use your hand to fold the paper before ripping it.  In which case, your hand serves as a tool (a concept in Frank Wilson's lecture on the hand).

Using a fingernail to deeply crease the paper after folding it assures a more predictable outcome (i.e. less risk).

Scissors A pair of scissors would definitely be ratcheting your "tooling" up a notch for an even more predictable cut.

Paper-cutter A paper cutter is even more precise for getting a straight cut. Again, the more precise the tool, the more predictable the outcome, lower risk, and increasing certainty.

Paper-cutting-machinery-978A guillotine, step shear, or cutting machine as used in the paper industry will further assure you of the most precise cut.

Lower risk and greater certainty of the outcome is the objective of the mass-production factory, the symbol of industry.

In this theory of risk and certainty, "risk is craft" and "manufacturing is certainty."

Every artist and maker reading this post likely understands risk very well. When you make something and know what it is going to look like and already know how to make it, that is low risk.  On the other hand, when you make something that is unlike anything you have ever made before, don't know if you have the skill or knowledge for how to make it, never saw anyone else make it before, and wonder how it will fit within your genre or field of work, that is high risk.

Jackson Pollack painting with a brush upside down Where would you fit in Craft Forward? Risk equals touch, no tooling, complete abstraction, or something different.  Find a new way or use tools wrong (or at least not as intended), such as Jackson Pollack dripping paint from the handle of a paintbrush rather than the bristles.

High-risk work is defined as experimental, adaptive, and free of conventional restraints.  Are you experimenting with unpredictable methods or outcomes such as in working with fire, bodies painting canvas, or pissing on metal?

Where do you fit in this Craft Forward?

Your comments are welcome, especially if you went to the Craft Forward Symposium. There were many issues raised in Glenn Adamson's lecture, and I only discussed one aspect of the many possible options.

I learned something about myself, too. Now I know why I have always resisted buying a paper cutter.

Here is one more example from Glenn Adamson's lecture.

Grinling-Gibbonss-Cravat--001 To the left is a photo of Grinling Gibbons's Cravat (1890) Photograph: Victoria and Albert Museum images. It is a finely crafted tour de force carving in wood that looks convincingly like fine hand-made lace. The high-risk objective for the artist was could he make wood look like lace.

Mcqueen_gold_boot copy At the opposite extreme, to the right, is a photo of a boot by Alexander McQueen, a fashion designer. The heels and soles are based on the work of Grinling Gibbons. The boot is an imitation of craft. It is not handmade, the heels were cast. The apparent risk is fake because it is manufactured.

Wim-delvoye-14243_1410 A further irony is shown in this third image from Glenn Adamson's lecture.  This is a Wim Delvoye concrete mixer hand carved in mahogany wood to look like a manufactured object. Wim Delvoye outsourced the actual carving to highly skilled laborers (in Indonesia, I think?) as a critique of highly skilled work. Once it was back in the gallery…the carvers were making knick-knack knock-offs of his full-scale concrete truck as tourist souvenirs in Indonesia.  The tourist souvenirs are not authorized artwork, but very ironic, perhaps irony upon irony.

There is so much that could be said about the labor of the anonymous craftsperson, but I will let someone else add to the dialog.


51ttLEmm8XL._SL500_AA300_Background about the speaker Glenn Adamson can be found in a previous post.

Of the two recent books by Glenn Adamson, several people told me that The Craft Reader is much more "rewarding" to read, than Thinking Through Craft.

The craft reader

FUTURE OPPORTUNITY: Glenn Adamson will be the Keynote Speaker at the upcoming SNAG Conference in Seattle. His lecture is first thing Friday morning, May 27.

In addition, Glenn Adamson, SNAG Conference Keynote speaker, and Lola Brooks, a conference presenter, will be our guests during the informal “Brown Bag Lunch Discussion” as part of "The Smaller Conference Experience."

NOTE* On the Crafthaus discussion group for the Craft Forward posts, Sondra Sherman pointed out that David Pye is an author of the concept of RISK and CERTAINTY. (I was trying to keep my post short and skipped a whole section of Glenn Adamson's lecture.)

For readers interested in more information here are a couple of books by David Pye. 

 The Nature and Aesthetics
 of Design
by David Pye.

David PyeNature
   The Nature and Art of
by David Pye









The images of books and links provided for your information and convenience are affiliate links. Purchase of these books may provide this blog with a few cents to keep on going forward.

This post was updated on February 1, 2022, to provide current links.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - The Rightly Timed Pause

"The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."                         Mark Twain


The Craft Forward Symposium is over. The exhibitions closed. The quiet moments for reflection have arrived and my brain has commenced digesting this outstanding series of lectures.

ConvRstackgr I intend to cover each and every lecture from the symposium on ASK Harriete (as promised in earlier posts). All lectures will be covered in the same order as they occurred during Craft Forward.

If you went to the Conference, I'd love to hear your opinion as well, whether you agree with me or not. If you would like to write a more extended opinion about the symposium, please contact me about writing a Guest Author post. Everyone is welcome to leave comments. 

To conclude this post, I'd like to appeal to the quote from Mark Twain. "The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."

I wish the speakers had applied this wisdom.  I wish they had slowed down.  It seems most of the speakers were given about 20-25 minutes. Instead of choosing their words and their content more carefully, they seemed compelled to squeeze a 45-minute lecture into half that time and talked as fast as they could. The pace seemed to increase as each day of the conference progressed.

Permitting a second or two for a profound thought to sink in would have made a more lasting impression. The enthusiasm and passion were fabulous.  The content deserved equal measure.


This post was updated on February 1, 2022.

Craft Forward Symposium, Day 2 -- A Pixelated Brain


This image is a metaphor for my brain at mid-day after four lectures. Tons of amazing information. Multi-level, multi-faceted, and ready for more.


This is my brain by 3:00 PM.  More very remarkable lectures, and my brain trying to hold on to a mosaic of thoughts and images, i.e. overload.


This is my brain by 5:00 PM.  Now super overloaded, pixelated, and digitized. The symposium has been a very dense experience. As an audience member, I feel richly rewarded by the speakers with much to think about for weeks to come.

The images above are of an installation by California College of Arts graduate student in Fine Arts, Madiha SirajTitled "Oyster EB-12," it is a room-size installation composed of paint swatches. It was part of the student and faculty exhibition on display at the CCA San Francisco campus during the evening soiree. There was also belly dancing, a hip hop body contortion, street dancing, and several Pecha Kucha presentations by a series of graduate students. Overall a most amazing day!

Vibrating pechakucha
I am not going to write anymore tonight but will keep my goal to write about every lecture as soon as the Conference is over. There is so much to report.

This post was updated on January 28, 2022. 

Craft FORWARD Symposium 2011 - Glenn Adamson

GlennADAMSONSHADOW72 Glenn Adamson was the keynote speaker for Craft Forward  on Friday night with a lecture titled, “The Invention of Craft.”   I've been looking forward to this speech for months.

The programming started late, which delayed the Glenn Adamson lecture even later into the evening.  I am home now (near 12:00 midnight) and tomorrow is another entire day of lectures, so here is the Glenn Adamson review in brief.

What did I learn? Glenn Adamson presented an intelligent, articulate, and amazing speech!!!! Plus much more.

This was one of the most marvelous lectures I have ever heard. He spoke to the audience without referring to any notes. He laid a foundation for his argument. He introduced key terms early in the lecture such as "cutting edge, friction, and tension" offering definitions and examples. As the lecture developed and he referred to these terms over and over, you knew what he was talking about. Finally, at several points, he reminded us of his three key points so that we did not lose track of the train of thought.

That all sounds so simplistic. His thesis was not. Wow!

What were the thought-provoking issues raised? I am saving the content issues raised in his lecture for another post about the Glenn Adamson lecture which you can find here.

What questions were Asked and Answered?  I did get to speak to Glenn Adamson earlier in the evening after the Manufractured reception. I asked Glenn if he "was going to give the same lecture at the SNAG Conference Keynote address or write a new one." He said he was writing a new lecture!

There is no doubt in my mind that if you miss his lecture at the SNAG Conference on May 27, followed by the lunch discussion as part of "The Smaller Conference Experience" you will really be missing something special. That is all I can say for now. (see below)


51ttLEmm8XL._SL500_AA300_Background about the speaker.

A historian and theorist of craft and design, Dr. Glenn Adamson is deputy head of research and head of graduate studies at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).  He leads the V&A History of Design graduate program, collaboratively offered by the V&A and the Royal College of Art.

Here is a link to a YouTube video of Glenn Adamson so you can see and hear him speak. The quality is not very good, but you will get the idea.

People told me that The Craft Reader is much more "rewarding" to read than Thinking Through Craft.

The craft reader

FUTURE OPPORTUNITY: Glenn Adamson will be the Keynote Speaker at the upcoming SNAG Conference in Seattle. His lecture is first thing Friday morning, May 27.

Glenn Adamson, SNAG Conference Keynote speaker, and Lola Brooks, a conference presenter, will be our guests during the informal “Brown Bag Lunch Discussion” as part of "The Smaller Conference Experience."
Bring your lunch and join us for a fascinating exchange with Lola and Glenn in a relaxed environment. Ask your questions, voice your concerns, and dive deeper into the issues of making that affect us all. This is your chance to make connections that last the entire conference -- and beyond.

Brigitte Martin and Harriete Estel Berman will host the lunch discussion.  We welcome everyone to join us.

These books are affiliate links. Purchase of these books may provide this blog with a few cents to keep going.

This post was updated on January 28, 2022, to provide current links.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Game On, Move Forward,

 Friday afternoon (April 1) was the opening event for Craft Forward, the reception for Manufractured, and the keynote address by Glenn Adamson. These two events are the high points of Craft Forward for me!

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area come to the reception at California College for the Arts, Oliver Arts Center, 5212 Broadway, Oakland, CA.
I have two major pieces in the exhibition.

Next travel to San Francisco for the keynote address by Glenn Adamson at Mission Bay Conference Center, UCSF, San Francisco. I look forward to meeting Glenn Adamson for the first time (even though I have corresponded with him recently).

Stay tuned for daily blog posts on ASK Harriete about Craft Forward.  

What did I learn? I asked lots of people at the opening on Wednesday...."Are you coming to Craft Forward?" So many people said they didn't know about the symposium. I haven't seen online discussions on LinkedIn Groups or other online forums either.

Thought-provoking issues raised? How can so much of the craft community of Bay Area artists and makers not know that world renowned speakers are coming to their own school or to the Bay Area? Why wasn't this event more publicized? One ad in American Craft is all the advertising I saw. I don't get it! This is worth traveling across the United States to see.
How can Craft go Forward with anemic efforts at publicizing this symposium and sharing information?

Read the following books if you want background information from the writing of Glenn Adamson or you can use the deep intellectual content to help you sleep at night.
51ttLEmm8XL._SL500_AA300_ Thinking Through Craft by Glenn Adamson.

The craft reader The Craft Reader by Glenn Adamson. 

 This post was updated on January 28, 2022.