Nice review of Craft and Social Change conference (which I spoke at in May) on AXIS website by Billie Tilley…

You can find it here

This sense of connectivity, and the emphasis on time and the process of making versus the commodification of craft, were richly and subtly explored in the presentation by the maker, curator and academic Helen Carnac.

Discussing Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution, an exhibition she curated in 2009, Carnac reflected on craft objects that do not stand alone, inertly, waiting to be purchased, the autonomous product of ‘the industry of one’ as Sir Christopher Frayling puts it in the Collect 2013 catalogue. Rather, they are objects with agency and are related to where they are made, and by whom.

Carnac talked about Amy Houghton’s interactive installation ‘One centimetre is a little less than half an inch’ (2009) in which an antique typewriter is connected to a monitor which displays an image of an archived manuscript from Dovecot tapestry studios.

As visitors type their own thoughts and memories, the historical image is slowly erased or unpicked, as a piece of weaving might be. In travelling backwards, we may understand the story of an object, what the maker saw, how it changed, how it got here. The object is the embodiment of layers of time and threads of connected experience.

Another artist from the exhibition, Neil Brownsword, reaches into the industrial and familial past, into the very soil of Stoke on Trent’s historical relationship with ceramics, re-appropriating found forms from the detritus of industrial and human activity, to create objects that reverberate with layers of meaning and deep connections to making across time and in a particular place.

In these objects, the cycles of making and thinking are long, and the results are unknown, open-ended, informed by the process and the place of origin. The delineation between object and process is unclear.

To Carnac the object becomes a ‘gathering space’ or ‘resting point’ within the continuity of experience; it journeys with what underlies it – its relationship with the people, the process and site of its construction. She said that during recent filming, she was surprised to see how much she moved during the making process. As the conference speakers discussed makers’ deft responses to the pressures of social change, they each revealed a similar supple sense of movement within contemporary craft practice itself.

It is this thrilling agility which challenges so brilliantly the commodification of craft and a timely challenge as the Collect exhibition – that annual cathedral to desirable, acquirable objects – prepared to open its doors’


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