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Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Critique, Critical Comments and Questions


The recently published book, Makers: A History of American Studio Craft provides an interesting perspective on the past century of craft.   It will surely be a comprehensive reference for craft education.  Then comes along the Craft Forward Symposium, with a provocative title alluding to the future of craft.  I was genuinely anticipating learning about all the emerging trends and where they will lead us.

web site for Harriete EStel Berman on her phone Without any doubt, craft is being reinvented.  The rise and impact of movements such as D.I.Y., Internet marketing, and interdisciplinary approaches are shifting how makers participate in craft.

So what is the future of craft?  Where is craft going? What does Craft Forward really mean?

Catmazzaart Unfortunately, Craft Forward sidestepped the difficult issues and kept to "safe" topics like knitting, community, craft activism and easily inclusive group think. Where is the "risk" as touched on by the keynote speaker Glenn Adamson?

My concern is not a judgment of the speakers or lectures,
but hunger for an exchange of insights about where Craft Forward should have taken us.  I have observed craft in the first decade of the 21st century and it is precariously balanced. Word.craft.72 Where is the conversation about the survival (or elimination) of craft curriculum in academia, the disappearance of so many high-end galleries that specialized in craft media, the redefinition of the marketplace with the influence of the Internet, the aging audience for craft replaced with D.I.Y. crafty night happenings?

Theaster Gates asks a question

Theaster Gates asked one of the most penetrating questions after the Mimi Robinson lecture. (The impact was lost because he was much too polite, his observation requires a bit of contemplative thinking, and there was no time to expand upon the issue.) GATES was referring to Mimi Robinson going to Third World countries to develop those craft traditions for the international market. He said, "We have our own traditions. Why go to the third world? We are persons of color, our story is here."

This ties right into his lecture and the lecture by Bridget Cooks. Both lectures address the craft artist without power. No economic power, no financial power, no political power.

John Rose commented on Crafthaus: "We love the idea of "craftivism" at the same time feeling disappointed that we in the craft world have not applied these principles towards our own well-being. Perhaps we should be discussing how to save ourselves first, then the world.

Rose continues...."Nothing we do will have any impact without a political voice. As far as we can tell, NO ONE speaks for craft. We have many national organizations, not one of whom is tackling a single issue that is substantive to the financial/political interests of their constituents."

NEA logo "We, as a group, are increasingly marginalized in American society. Witness the effect on arts and craft curriculum funding. Witness the public demonizing of funding for the NEA and NPR in the budget debates. Witness our own First Lady Michelle Obama who apologetically wears and promotes a British jewelry designer."

51ttLEmm8XL._SL500_AA300_ When a symposium brings together an audience of 400 with the title of Craft Forward, it should bring out more substantive issues than the minor difficulties of knitting a "Rainbow Flag" that runs out of pink or turquoise.

Balance-scale-unbalanced There was something glaringly absent at Craft Forward (with a few exceptions) - a discussion about money. Somehow we are conditioned to perceive as inauthentic or impolite any talk about art, craft, money, and power in the same paragraph.  But the fact is that economy and power are major factors affecting art and craft.  We need to discuss the whole of the issues, not politely ignore the elephant in the room. CupConv12

Over and over this undercurrent remained unspoken, almost actively overlooked.


Dollars in hand Power and money go hand in hand.  We should not conclude that we will lose artistic or craft authenticity if we talk about money.  We can't continue to ignore these facts or stick our heads in the sand. If our work doesn't have relevance to the marketplace, we might want to ask, Why? or we will never have money.  And will craft play a less significant role in the 21st century? This is not because we can't or won't make our work. It will be because our day job prevents us from investing as much time into our work.Dollargr  

If the marketplace can sell "pet rocks" and if a company like Skype (which has never made a profit) can sell for $8.5 billion, then maybe we need to think about how our work can be more relevant. Ten years ago we could not have anticipated the impact of Etsy, Facebook, YouTube, or Internet TV. PET ROCKS  

We need to think, talk or anticipate how the structure of craft is changing.

Theaster Gates shoe shine stands Theaster Gates owns four buildings on his block. He talks with his neighbors, they fix the buildings themselves, they have a block club, there is black ownership of the block which they rent to white students, sell to faculty and create a land trust, or non-profit. The point is that taking ownership of the idea and entrepreneurship is an important step.

Lola Pettway  We listened to Bridget Cooks talk about the collectors, Tinwood Alliance, the museums, and for-profit companies who all made money from the Gee's Bend Quiltmakers. We were appalled at the disproportionate greediness...those who "marketed" the work made lots of money, while the quilters labored for a few extra dollars.  The quilters loved what they crafted with the skill of their hands and the pureness of their heart.  They are certainly authentic.  But if they had received a larger share of all the money made, would they be less authentic?  Somehow we have been conditioned to think that making money contaminates the craft.

Jeff-koons-balloon-dog-magenta-1994-2000 In contrast, we don't seem to view the art world with those same judgmental eyes.  Jeff Koons can make a purple balloon dog* as his art that is fabricated, dare we say, "crafted" by an anonymous worker.  And he is celebrated for his "art"  and paid millions of dollars should we talk about that?

Here is just one suggestion.  Several lecturers used video to document their work. How can video and YouTube expand the craft market? This could be a path to being more relevant to the new craft audience. Should we expand the focus beyond the unique object itself, and document the making or some other characteristics, activities, or attributes of the object?

Longtail Another suggestion: I believe that every artist and maker should have a website or blog. Not a static website that you never touch, but an ongoing reflection and insight into your work. The future of the craft is riding the Long Tail.

 These aren't easy issues and there likely are no easy answers, but what does Craft Forward mean to you? 


A list of all Craft Forward lecture commentary by ASK Harriete can be found in the previous post.


*Photo of the Jeff Koons Balloon Dog by Kathleen Anderson
 This post was updated on February 3, 2022.


Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - An index for all lectures.

Game Board summary  for Craft Forward SymposiumGR

Advance  2  Go  Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman
  Advance to Go© 2011
   Post-consumer recycled tin cans
   Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

Craft Forward is an amazing title that attracted my attention when first announced.

I wouldn't have missed this symposium -- and only an hour from my house. 


$$$ Money Game Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman
 $$$ Money Game Free Parking © 2011
  Post-consumer recycled tin cans
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

A symposium about CRAFT moving Forward.  Despite the upheavals and economic struggles for all artists and makers, I anticipated a symposium that could give direction to the future of craft.


$$$ Money Game Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman
 $$$Money Gamer Free Parking © 2011
 Post-consumer recycled tin cans
 Artist: Harriete Estel Berman




Before the symposium, I was so excited and asked, "What is Craft Forward?" 

The topic was prescient and
I committed ASK Harriete to share this information with a wider circle.

Isn't that the value and benefit of the Internet?


  Hot button topics on ASK Harriete






Lydia Matthews in her closing remarks at Craft Forward asked us:

"How can we continue this conversation?"

"How do you move Craft Forward?"

"What do you want to move forward?"

"What do you leave behind?"

Can we "Carry the banner of craft forward?"

Lydia Mathews was supposed to sum up the Conference. A really tough job, but her contribution was worthless, full of hot air while she fussed with her computer to make a word cloud show up.

I dedicated more than a month after the Craft Forward Conference to writing about the lectures on ASK Harriete. The links are provided below. Lydia Matthews did not write one comment on ASK Harriete or anywhere else (that I could find). 

I'll stop talking so you can read...

Craft Forward BANNER  Flag

Life Flower Brooch by Harriete EStel Berman is constructed from post consumer recycled tin cans.

Life is Game Flower Brooch © 2011
Post-consumer recycled tin cans
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

In retrospect, after attending the symposium, I have indeed learned a lot. Taking time to read and reread my notes, I remember the lectures.

In writing about each speaker and their presentation (condensed to one post), it is hard to do justice to the great effort invested in their talks. I hope reading my posts has provided some insights for everyone whether they attended the symposium or not.

Life is a Game Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman by Harriete Estel Berman

Life is Game Flower Brooch © 2011
Post-consumer recycled tin cans
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

I am sure the organizers had great plans.  The original description of the Craft Forward Symposium is linked here as a PDF. Download CraftForward letter (just in case you want to read the stated premise of the symposium).

The sessions were well defined and covered a spectrum of craft (or not craft, as you can decide whether the speakers addressed the topic or not.)

The Sessions are listed below with links to the respective posts covering each and every lecture. You can find all the posts about Craft Forward here. General questions and comments raised by the readers of ASK Harriete and my overall critique of the symposium will be the topic of the next and final post on Craft Forward.

Day One  MANUFRACTURED Exhibition at CCA

Exhibition Manufractured Clips, Capsules, Confiscated, and Commentary

Glenn Adamson (a quick preview)

Keynote Address- Keynote Critical Point, the Risk of Craft


Day Two

Session 1:
Sensory Craft The hand book

Sensory Craft with David Howes and Frank Wilson


Session 2:
Body Craft
How Does Craft Shape Bodies? with Lauren Kalman and Allyson Mitchell


Session 3:
Identity Craft
Identity Craft by Bridget Cooks

"Crafting the Politics of Identity" with Nancy Hernandez


Session 4:
Digital Craft artwork with NIKE image
Digital Craft Presented in Hyper Mode, but Lost Opportunity


Day Three

Session 5: Theaster Gates with WHITE hand
Mass Craft 
Mass Craft, Free Market, or Inverted Market

Mass Craft, Theaster Gates Constructs Context with Added Value


Session 6: Making It
Material Craft 
Material Craft with Chris Lefteri Materials Expert

Material Craft with Chris Taylor Blowing Glass (Floating in a Boat, Upside Down or Inside Out)




Session 7: Word.craft.72
Word Craft 
Word Craft - by Patricia Powell and Paul S. Flores



Session 8:
Resistance Craft
Resistance Craft with High Voltage and Low Resonance includes Otto von Busch, Liz Collins, Teddy Cruz

Resistor's Used to create graphic for Resistance Craft  craftcopy

The next post will include comments from the readers and myself, Harriete Estel Berman. It will be the last post about Craft Forward.

This post was updated on February 3, 2022.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Resistance Craft with High Voltage and Low Resonance includes Otto von Busch, Liz Collins, Teddy Cruz

Resistance Craft was the last session of Craft Forward. Faster, FASTER, FASTER.  Read this post at a frenetic pace to feel the increasing speed of delivery of the next three speakers.


SymbiosisOtto von Busch opened his remarks with a video from YouTube about the Flood of a Fire Ant Colony. In the beginners Reverse engineering This was followed by additional images of TROPHALLAXIS ants and butterflies all serving as metaphors for various subgroups of the craft community and more specifically the social structure of the web. 

His lecture was fast and confusing. We were trying to hold on to a rambling train of thought from one idea to the next.  As entertaining and irreverent as it was, I was somewhat disappointed. Share

Instead of conveying a few cohesive thoughts for us to take home, I found about twenty partially filled thought bubbles in my notes. Having met Otto von Busch on the first night, I had higher seemed he could be one of the lecturers who would really talk about craft going forward in the 21st century.


Lizcollinsfashion Liz Collins started her lecture with background about her professional foray into knit fashion.  Ultimately, after a few years, the pressures of the industry (listed below) proved to be too much.

  • Building a brand
  • Producing collections
  • Fashion roller coaster
  • Developing prototypes
  • Demands of buyers
  • Demands of multiples
  • Production schedules
  • Seasonal demands
  • Economic problems

LizCollins1eo While looking for a job as a designer, she started teaching, which then opened yet another new range of opportunities, perhaps most significantly, KNITTING Nation.

LizCollins3eo This was another example of community, craftivism and knitting at the Craft Forward Symposium. I wonder how hard it was for Liz Collins to acknowledge to herself and then to this audience, that the project amounted to making the maker into a machine.  More people, more noise, more management of physically demanding and repetitive work sitting at knitting machines. (Read more about Knitting Nation if you're interested.)


The final speaker Teddy Cruz spoke even faster (think the FED Ex commercial shown below).  Craft Forward was at full throttle right to the finish line. Yet another example of a 45-minute lecture squeezed into 30 minutes.

Teddy Cruz who is an architect, designer, anthropologist, and urban planner, explained how the discards of over-abundance from the United States crosses the border into Mexico. Bdiscarded-tires The issues of reuse, urban plight, ingenuity, zoning problems, and weak government are all intertwined as truckloads of shipping pallets, garage doors, and used tires are hauled across the border.

Cruz3Teddy Cruz expressed one point of view for a complex social, economic, political, zoning, environmental & immigration issue. The topic is not a one-liner or 20-minute summary.

Bpallet-house I appreciated the information and would consider it a fascinating topic for a documentary or PBS special, but it was not craft, nor craft forward.

TeddyCruzMEXICOurban2 Watch the video below, A City Made of Waste, as it includes images and information very similar to his presentation at the Craft Forward Symposium. You will get the idea right away even without "Teddy Cruz" commentary. It shows construction in Mexico using re-purposed materials transformed into houses, workshops, and retaining walls.

Btire-wall Teddy Cruz has a very idealistic vision of urban planning that doesn't fit with the current reality.  While I agree that more planning, zoning, and coordinated communities would be better for everyone, the Mexican urban poor have desperately, sometimes ingeniously, utilized low-cost building solutions. Bigger issues include lack of government oversight, clean water distribution, the absence of sewage systems, and waste management.

What were the thought-provoking issues raised? The underlying theme of community at Craft Forward seemed to view "craft" with a particularly skewed perspective.  A perspective that community-making is somehow the true essence of craft.  This perspective does not jive with the craft realities that I see at academic institutions, the craft marketplace, or pressing economic issues raised by artists and makers in their studios or on the Internet.


Background about the speakers (below).

I could not find a current website for Otto von Busch. 

LizCollins5eo Liz Collins has an interesting website about her work as an artist and designer. It is evident by the background of knitted fabric that this is an important theme.  She is recognized internationally for her use of machine knitting to create groundbreaking clothing, textiles, and installations.


Cruz.ouro.583 Teddy Cruz has a Ted Talk with more information about his urban planning objectives.  It is definitely worth reading if you're interested in these issues.

TeddyCruz5 There are two additional videos with Teddy Cruz on YouTube offering information about the issues he presented at Craft Forward. The videos and the information is interesting.

Listen to Border Cities: Tactics of Encroachment  56:53 minutes

Creative Time Summit: Revolutions in Public Practice 6:52 minutes

Special Thanks to emiko oye for supplying many images in this blog post.

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




Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Word Craft - by Patricia Powell and Paul S. Flores

"Word Craft"
was the seventh session at Craft Forward. At this point, we had listened to 13 lectures plus the nine or ten introductions (depending on how you count).

Keys.72 After lunch on the 2nd day, my brain was spinning from the fast-paced intake of information, but my note-taking methodology was improving with fingertips ready for speedy typing.

100 wordsGR At best, the inclusion of "Word Craft" in Craft Forward is a conceptual stretch, but possible.  Unfortunately, neither speaker tied the content of their presentations to the audience of makers or the theme Craft Forward.  It could have been great, to make words relevant to an art and craft audience -- an opportunity lost.  Nevertheless, Paul S. Flores was a discovery worth finding, . . .  keep reading.

Me Dying Trial Patricia Powell is an author. Her lecture titled, "Language and Desire and the Discipline of Art" was the first speaker in Session 7, Word Craft. She professed in her short introduction that she wants her text to be healing by combining the study of energy, medicine, and shamanism. This lecture completely missed the mark.

After describing the characters in her book, "Me Dying Trial,"  she proceeded to read directly from the book. It may be a common practice for authors to read from their books, but I think it is a TERRIBLE IDEA unless the author has a magical voice to craft her words. It didn't happen.

Below are her other books.

PaulFlores The next speaker was Paul S. Flores. He was much more entertaining. In fact, that is what he is - an entertainer. Enjoy the video excerpts below, they are well worth the time to listen carefully to his use of words. 

He opened his lecture by stepping away from the podium and speaking from a standing mike. That one footstep changes the speaker's relationship with the audience.  It was an amazing relief. Most of the speakers at Craft Forward hung onto that podium like it was a life raft.

The video above is provided by emiko oye. Filmed at Craft Forward Symposium.

Below is another video of Paul S. Flores recorded by emiko oye at Craft Forward about "Spanglish".

A large part of his poetry and style is influenced by his Hispanic background. You can learn more about him on his website.


Senatorpodiumgr What did I learn? 
Speakers should not use podiums as a crutch to hide behind. I knew this before, but Paul S. Flores proved it by example without a doubt. Step out and share the power of your message.

Background about the speakers (below).

Powell Patricia Powell is an associate professor of English at Mills College and author of "Me Dying Trial" and "A Small Gathering of Bones" (Beacon Press, 2003), "The Pagoda" (Harcourt, 1999), and "The Fullness of Everything" (Peepal Tree Press, 2009).
Excerpts from her novels have been widely anthologized and she has lectured and led creative writing workshops in literary venues both nationally and internationally.

Below are her other books which are affiliate links.
The Fullness of Everything Agathering of bones The_Pagoda- 

Paul_flores Paul S. Flores is local to the San Francisco Bay Area.  It would definitely be interesting to go to one of his performances. Here is a link to his website so you can find out if he is performing in your area. There is another video on his website showing him performing "Brown Dream."

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

Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Material Craft with Chris Taylor Blowing Glass (Floating in a Boat, Upside Down or Inside Out)

BoatwithKiln Chris Taylor is an expert in one material - glass.

During his lecture at Craft Forward, in the session titled "Material Craft",  he showed us image after image of his objects fabricated with glass in the most extraordinary circumstances (and a testimony to his skill).

 This included blowing glass in a small boat (with a custom-made kiln) 25 miles offshore in the ocean (shown in the video below),

or blowing glass while hanging upside down from the ceiling. (This gave him a terrible headache, but it looks like the whole studio had a good time.)

CTaylor_glassbubblewrapHe has created glass that looks like sheets of bubble wrap.





Or a glass cup that looks like Styrofoam. These are playful, irreverent examples of his skill with glass. Chris Taylor tricks the viewer by making glass look like common everyday materials -- an ironic interpretation of "material craft."


CTaylor_glassreplica His tour de force was a reproduction of a 16th-century Venetian glass goblet. He then sneaked his reproduction into a museum and placed his glass side by side with the original. The Chris Taylor glass is faithful to the original and becomes elevated as even the museum staff can’t tell the difference. You can read the story below in an image from his lecture (below).

What did I learn?
Chris Taylor tests boundaries. It seems that he never wanted to have a glass blowing kiln of his own so he teaches or goes places to experiment with glass, redefining how glass is used or made. He is interested in the edge of failure. 

Taylor felt strongly that his art practice doesn't start or stop. His expertise is only because he is so thorough, practicing every day. Practice was described as a dance, with frequency and wave length finely tuned. He wasn't trying to hit us over the head with his virtuosity, it was more like he was offering his most valuable lesson - study and develop your repertoire of skill without promiscuity with other mediums.

What were the thought provoking issues raised?
Usually when I hear people profess their levels of expertise in my media (metal), I am bored. I don't really think it is all that interesting to see ancient techniques brought to 21st century. Pure technical expertise usually doesn't advance the field. In addition, I would not define reviving a five hundred year old technical expertise as Craft Forward.

On the other hand, making glass look like Styrofoam or bubble wrap or a Spalding Basketball is irreverent and playful. This is the polar opposite of the high priced glass "goop", layered, shiny prisms and dazzling light facets shown at SOFA or hotel lobbies.

But I also wonder, Is glass always about a tour de force? Is there glass with social commentary and authenticity of a personal statement?

What do you think?

Background about the speaker Chris Taylor (below).

CTpicture-4It is hard to find information about Chris Taylor. He does not appear to have a website. I am sorry to say that his common name is lost in the search results.  The overwhelming search results are deluged with athletes and musicians of the same name. He is on Instagram as @christaylored.

HINT 1: If you have a common name, use your middle name to create a more unique identity online.

HINT 2: In this day and age, I think a functional website is a necessity. Sharing your work one class or workshop at a time may be great for the moment, but it isn't Craft Forward when the most powerful medium at your disposal, the Internet, is unable to share your work with a wider audience.

I'll go one step further. Craft will never gain momentum in our culture when the leaders in the field think they don't have a responsibility to share with a wider audience. For example, Taylor should put that glass Spalding Basketball out there for all the basketball lovers of the world to fall in love with craft.

The glass cups that look like Styrofoam by Chris Taylor (below) were found on Flickr. Photo by Brian Dennison.StyrofOAMcups

Above photos of glass bubble wrap, Styrofoam cup (close-up), Venetian Goblet copy, and text were by emiko oye taken during the lecture by Chris Taylor.


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


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 - 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.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011: Manufractured Clips, Capsules, Confiscated, and Commentary

Exhibition shot of Manufractured
My Grass/gras' is in the center of the
exhibition gallery.
© 2001
Post-consumer recycled tin cans,
steel base.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Watch the Grass/gras' video

The Manufractured reception was last night at the California College for the Arts in Oakland, CA. This exhibition was mounted for the symposium, Craft Forward. There will be a 2nd reception Friday afternoon as the OPENING EVENT for Craft Forward Symposium.

I will be blogging about Craft Forward in upcoming posts (every day) offering readers of ASK Harriete the digested version of each session. And depending on my overall impressions of the session and people's questions, I intend to write thoughtful commentary later...

My favorite part of going to any opening is meeting the other artists and making connections.  Although it just about kills me to walk up to a stranger and introduce myself, one never knows where a brief conversation may lead. Hbstanding My legs hurt too, from four hours of standing on concrete with a smile, but I met a good number of new people! Great! People asked for my card. Some faculty asked me to lecture in their classes next fall. Maybe something good will happen!

An art career is a marathon, not a sprint. This is just the beginning of a four-day marathon called Craft Forward Symposium.

What did I learn? Presentation is important!!!

Thought-provoking issues raised?
Should the jewelry be designed for display? EmikooYECONNECTIX 

 Questions Asked and Answered?
I am asking . . . Should the manufactured materials be transformed to a certain degree by the craft of making . . . and have multiple levels of meaning to be successful? What do you think?

Background and details about the exhibition:
In this post,
I am going to include images of work in the Manufractured exhibition with a few added comments. (I apologize now for the "quickie shots." I went early and had to do the photography quickly for this blog post.) 

Below are a few images with brief information and the names of the artists in the exhibition.

Manufractured exhibition for Craft Forward. This photo of the Manufractured exhibition (right image) includes my work, Measuring Compliance to the left (and close up below).


Measuring Compliance
© 2008
Materials include yardsticks, rulers, recycled oak floor, third-grade desk, chair, custom-made straight jacket, printed banners, tin.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Michael Pred Fear Culture1Fear Culture ©  2007 by Artist: Michele Pred included confiscated airport items like small scissors, razor blades, or tweezers. Each item was contained within a petri dish, a perfect metaphor for closely examining our fear and anti-terrorism policies. The large dramatic size at 66" x 80" and careful, almost "sterile" assembly were eye-catching, meaningful, and accessible. People had an immediate response to the confiscated items within each plastic case. I think this is because all of us have either had an item confiscated at the airport or witnessed something being taken from a passenger. Additional information about this artwork can be read in an article on American Craft Blog by Mija Riedel.

Dawning II © 2011
Artist: Emiko Oye
Re-purposed LEGO and Connectix,
recycled electronics cable, paint, silver
An Homage to "Dawn's Wedding Feast"
1959 by Louise Nevelson.

emiko oye's necklaces constructed from re-purposed LEGOS, Connectix, and make-up brushes were displayed on three mannequins against a gray wall.  This seemed like a great solution for providing some context for the jewelry and giving small work a presence within a large space.

Emiko Oye necklacesThe display of jewelry is such a challenge, especially when surrounded by much larger artwork. I think the necklaces looked a bit awkward on the mannequins, this photo looks better.  So here is a huge question... Should the jewelry be designed for display? or designed to be worn? What about a display designed specifically for the work?          

       Liz Hickok City of Jell-0




In the photo of San Francisco cityscapes (above left) by Liz Hickok, think city landmarks made of Jell-O, earthquakes, and the famous Jell-O wiggle, all in the same moment. It is especially interesting how Liz Hickok has developed a market for artwork made of Jell-O. The original work (actually Jell-O) has a limited "exhibition shelf life" but she documents the work for posterity with large full-color C-prints on Plexiglas. The prints become the exhibited artwork.

Mitra Fabian Binder Clip wall growth by  Mitra Fabian fabricated an organic growth on the wall using binder clips. The manufactured object of a common office supply assembled into a natural yet otherworldly appearance.

As a maker, I have a little trouble appreciating the final work. This seemed more like an "exercise" than a fully-realized art piece. What would have been more convincing? I tend to prefer that the manufactured materials be more transformed by the craft of making or have multiple levels of meaning. I wonder if the Craft Forward symposium will address this issue? 

Binder_clip The overall concept behind the work appears limited because the concept seems like a one-liner without deeper introspection. Did I miss something? Help me!

Laurel Roth's PMSquilt artwork titled, PMS Quilt 2008 consisted of blood-red hand crochet around pantyliners with additional embroidery. LaurelRoth72
I think that the photo right from the exhibition gives you a better idea. For some reason, I was not impressed. Maybe I am too tired to care, but shock value over pantyliner expositions that say the "f-word", are not enough Craft Forward for me.  Bornagainvirgin  

Born Again Virgin (right) was more cohesive, but the mounting and frame were inconsistent with the work. Lesson learned: everything counts. Artists can't say that the presentation doesn't matter. 

Two of my favorite artists in the show were Andy Diaz Hope and Thomas Wold. In both cases, I think the manufactured materials were transformed by the artists with substantive levels of visual impact and interpretation.

DiazCAPSULESAndy Diaz Hope used medicine CAPSULES filled with pigment(?)  to give the overall impression of a pixelated image. Look at his photos don't do justice to the piece, but this close-up to the left gives you a good idea.  It is a wonderful surprise when you walk up to the work to realize how he generated the images with tedious craft.

ThomasWold Thomas Wold makes artwork/furniture (if you can still call it furniture) out of bits and pieces of other furniture. Maybe at first glance, you might think it was kitschy, but it is really so much about bad kitsch and going "craft forward." There are multiple levels of conversation about the pattern, decoration, overabundance, illusions to design vocabulary, and good taste that fade in and out of fashion. I could live with this work forever. Can't wait till he comes to my house!

Overall, I can't wait till Friday at 3:30 - 4:30pm when I get to see the exhibit all over again. I need two days to digest tonight's information overload and reacquaint myself with the work and artists once again.


The Manufractured exhibition is curated by Steven Skov Holt and Mara Holt Skov. The exhibition is being held in conjunction with the Craft Forward symposium to be held at CCA during the weekend of April 1-3, 2011.  An earlier iteration of the Manufractured exhibition was at Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft organized with MoCC curator Namita Wiggers.

The concept of the Manufractured exhibition is documented in the book 41+veDJYNuL._SL160_  Manufractured: The Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects. This book link is an affiliate link. Purchase of this book may provide this blog with a few pennies.
The book is fabulous if you are interested in mixed media, re-purposed materials, recycling, and the use or remix of manufactured objects. The design and layout of the book are a visual feast. I don't recommend books very often. This is a book to own in every sense of the word.

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

This post was updated on January 28, 2022.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011: A preview of "Manufractured" (the exhibition)

Manufractured is the featured exhibition in conjunction with the Craft Forward Symposium at the California College for the Arts, Oakland, CA Campus.  The exhibition is curated by Mara Holt Skov and Steven Skov Holt, professors at CCA and authors of the book
 Manufractured: The Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects

ManufracDSC04486.72 Manufractured includes work from a variety of Bay Area artists and makers who use familiar manufactured materials and items transformed into something completely unexpected.

Think repurposed, recycled, remixed, and mixed media. Expect the unexpected from medicine capsules and LEGOS to binder clips and maybe Jello?   "Artists in the exhibition include CCA Faculty member Michele Pred along with Bay Area artists Harriete Estel Berman(Grass/gras' in the above photo and below), Mitra Fabian,  Liz Hickok , Andy Diaz Hope, emiko oye, Laurel Roth, and Thomas Wold. Several pieces have been produced specifically for the exhibition and are being seen for the very first time."




Each day the above Game Board will change with the events at the Craft Forward Symposium. The stakes are high!



Gallery openings are important occasions -- bring business cards.

I had my business cards printed by Moo.


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

Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Keeping Your Radar Up for Opportunities

The Craft Forward Symposium 2011 is sponsored by the California College of the Arts from April 1 to 3. I've been hearing about this upcoming symposium for over a year through a whispering "telephone game" in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Symposium is almost on my home turf. (Actually, it is an hour away from my house.)  I plan to attend and gobble up every word.  I don't want to miss a minute!

Grass_SWangle The Symposium will also feature an exhibition titled, Manufractured. This show is a new iteration related to the book of the same name (which includes a whole chapter about 41+veDJYNuL._SL160_my work). The premise of the exhibition is that all the work uses re-purposed manufactured materials. (More in a future post.)

The lead-up to the Craft Forward symposium and the exhibition Manufractured are good examples for every artist and maker.

Radar-dish_Antenna 1) The importance of keeping your radar up for opportunities. You've got to be listening to the rumors, working with your local arts organizations, and reading your magazines to catch the opportunities. (see the bottom of this post for another opportunity.) 

While the list of speakers makes this a really interesting EVENT (YES, EVENT with capital letters), it doesn't seem that it was very well-publicized. Why?

Measuring Compliance sculture about education by Harriete Estel Berman 2)  Every artist and maker will benefit from the nuggets of information from the speakers of Craft Forward. I plan to write something about every "session" so that everyone can benefit from this symposium.

Subscribe to ASK Harriete or check back regularly. This is our chance to hear what the leading lecturers, curators, and writers have to say about the future of our respective and collective media.

Every post will be as brief as possible. I will try to organize each blog post:

  • Title of lecture with session speaker(s)
  • Summary
  • What did I learn?
  • What were the thought-provoking issues raised? 
  • What questions were Asked and Answered?
  • Background about the speakers.

GameBoardgreen1wed Share this information with your fellow artists and makers. Give a shout-out! 

"Craft Forward examines the multifaceted practices that both distinguish and blur the historically charged boundaries." "The symposium brings together a diverse group of makers and thinkers to explore the ethos of craft and its resurgence in the 21st century."

This blog post is your early notice. Stay tuned for daily blogs for about two weeks until each and every lecture, presentation, event, and discussion is covered.

Stay tuned.


Below is information from the Craft Forward website about who is sponsoring the symposium:
"Generous support for the Craft Forward symposium is provided by an anonymous donor and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Additional support is provided by Grants for the Arts / San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund and by the Chalsty Aesthetics and Philosophy Initiative, made possible by a grant from the Chalsty Foundation. Special thanks to the American Craft Council for their partnership in the realization of the symposium."

What does Craft Forward mean to you?GameBoardgreen1wed

MOO cards HORIZONTAL72This post was updated on January 28, 2022.

Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Helpful tips for Gallery Openings

The first preview for Craft Forward is a Wednesday night reception for the exhibition MANUFRACTURED.

Read tomorrow's post for more information about Craft Forward and MANUFRACTURED. I will be posting every day with updates and information.

The Game Board (above) will change for every day as I document the Craft Forward Symposium.

What is Craft Forward?

Roll the dice, advance your piece,
miss one turn, or 2 steps back?  

Stay tuned for daily posts to find out what the Craft Forward Symposium speakers have to say.  I will write one post a day until every lecture and discussion is covered.

 DiceHere are my helpful tips for art openings to get started on this game. Please add your own "tips" contributions in the comments.

HEB1.72gr 1) Make your own name tag.  Make it look like your work. Some openings forget to provide name tags. How can other people know who the artist is? Attendees want to talk with you!

2) Artists are the stars. Shine bright. Keep a pleasant face and be positive.

3) Stand near your work, if possible.  Ask people what they think. Ask them questions. Learn.

4) Engage people in conversation. Don't be shy or retiring. The first time you say "hello" may seem very difficult for an introvert like me (or you), but you never know who you will meet!

5) Meet the other artists.  Look for them and introduce yourself. It's amazing how you will see the same people two years and 3,000 miles later. Take my word for it!  Next time, it makes the art opening so much better.

6) Dress like an artist -- whether wild, wacky, fun-loving, or professional. People want to talk with you. You are part of the entertainment. Make it easy for people to find the artist. 

7) Stay for the entire opening! Arrive early and stay late. It shows respect for the exhibition curator or gallery owner and all the other artists. Plus, who knows who you might meet?

8)Bring your business cards or postcards. Give people something to take home to look at your website!

Do you have a favorite tip for art openings? Please share in the comments. Stay tuned for a post every day from Craft FORWARD.

This post was updated on January 28, 2022.