Category Archives: Notices

The Year to Come



Designed by Renato Imboisi in Jalapao, Brazil

Well, time to draw breath and look ahead to what 2009 will unfold. There are reasons to think that it will be a full year, particularly for thinking about craft.


Early next year, a new networking platform Craft Talk about contemporary craft in the antipodes will be launched. Expect news in mid-January. Craft Australia’s online journal Craft & Design Enquiry will provide an important academic forum for craft research. Meanwhile, the Journal of Modern Craft will be launching its new website in March, which should be a way of opening up the discussion about the place of craft in modernity.


Damian Skinner and I will continue work on the history of Australian and New Zealand jewellery. As this is an important opportunity to record some of the basic elements in the evolution of this remarkable antipodean phenomenon, some of the core material will be available on Wikipedia, opening up the process to the wisdom of the many.

With FORM I’ll be working on the exhibition Signs of Change to accompany the next JMGA conference in Perth April 2010. This is already proving to be the source of many interesting discussions about the role of functionalism in jewellery and the breadth of its audience.

Home & World

Many things to fill the calendar:

Also on the horizon for 2009 is a series of workshops on the Code of Practice for Craft-Design Collaborations. After the project’s endorsement by the World Craft Council, it is intended to host workshops on the ethical dimension of craft in Australia, Latin America, India and South Africa. It seems a good time to consider the way the crafted object might embody relations between people we think are worth aspiring to.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was fond of quoting William Faulkner, who said on accepting the Nobel prize, ‘I decline to accept the end of man.’ While the future casts long shadows over 2009, the story of craft will certainly continue, perhaps even flourish.

Thanks for all your support during 2008 and best of fortune for the coming year!

From trash to spectacle



Shinique Smith, Arcadian Cluster, 2006.  Installation view from P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center.  Clothing, fabric, found objects, acrylic, collage & binding. Approx 8′ h x 11′ w x 8′ d, (500-600 lbs)

Here’s an interesting discussion about new craft that eschews skill in favour of collaboration and randomness. It raises an important question about the place of craftsmanship in an un-monumental age.

Public Lecture Series, Spring 2009
Department of Fiber and Material Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Fiber and Material Studies Department Faculty (2008 – 2009): Anne Wilson, Chair, Mike Andrews, Jeremy Biles, Marianne Faribanks, Surabhi Ghosh, Karolina Gnatowski, Diana Guerrero-Macia, Kathryn Hixson, Amy Honchell, Joan Livingstone, Christy Matson, Darrel Morris, Karen Reimer, Rebecca Ringquist, Ellen Rothenberg, Shannon Stratton, Fraser Taylor, Christine Tarkowski, Sarah Wagner.

Recently, artistic strategies for production have been shifting.
Materiality and crafting are back with a vengeance. The handmade and sensuous are gaining increased favor even though, or perhaps because of, the ubiquity of current computer-screen culture and the ever-widening practice of digital processing. The New Museum’s inaugural show in New York “UN-monumental” was filled with work made of cast-off materials from the street, hobbled together; while the MCA Chicago’s recent retrospective of Jeff Koons featured his shiny stainless-steel baubles, the result of years of technological experimentation at a great cost. The 2008 Whitney Biennial presented sculptures of bird dropping patterns, along with work of sloppy craft and studio trash. Across town at Pace Wildenstein, Zuang Huan’s show presented a spectacle of art produced by teams of skilled wood carver artisans in Shanghai, and a giant gallery-filling mother and baby pair made of scores of pieced together cowhides. Artists across the world are collaborating in spontaneous or programmed DIY projects on the internet and in the street; while Takashi Murakami’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton was served by a boutique selling the artist-designed purses smack in middle of the staid Brooklyn Museum.

Trash and spectacle, collaboration and stardom, the haves and the have-nots. How and why do artists choose how to make art, and with what materials? What does the renewed interest in craft — from the sloppy to the chic — signify? Is the overall global economy impacting our artistic economy? How do the exigencies of labor and production in the global economy effect artistic choices for production, collaboration, and outsourcing as strategies? What has happened to the challenges of identity construction within recent changes? And specifically, how are artists who employ cloth and fiber as materials and strategies responding to aesthetic and economic forces?

This Fiber/Material lecture series presents views on Trash to Spectacle from the perspectives of art practice, art history, and art criticism. Two recent books offer platforms for some of the questions and debates posed in this lecture series: The Object of Labor: Art, Cloth, and Cultural Production by Joan Livingstone and John Ploof (Chicago and Cambridge, MA: SAIC Press and MIT Press, 2007) and Thinking Through Craft by Glenn Adamson (London, UK: Berg Publishers and the Victoria & Albert Museum, 2007).

This lecture series is made possible by the William Bronson and Grayce Slovet Mitchell Lectureship in Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  All lectures are free and open to the public.


Thursday March 5th, 6pm, SAIC Columbus Drive Auditorium, Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard

Dr. Glenn Adamson is Head of Graduate Studies and Deputy Head of Research at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. In that capacity, he teaches on the History of Design graduate course run collaboratively with the Royal College of Art. His research ranges from modern craft and industrial design to English and American decorative arts during the 17th and 18th centuries. He is the author of Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World (Milwaukee Art Museum/MIT Press). Dr. Adamson’s monograph Thinking Through Craft (V&A Publications/Berg Publishers) was published in October 2007. He also co-edits the new Journal of Modern Craft (Berg Publishers), with Tanya Harrod and Edward S. Cooke, Jr. Currently Dr. Adamson is at work on a project about Postmodernism for the V&A, to be on view in 2011.

Wednesday April 1, 6pm, SAIC Columbus Drive Auditorium, Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard
Kathryn Hixson is an art critic, art historian, and full Adjunct Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, currently working on her dissertation “Body/Image: Presentation and Representation of the Body in the 1970s.” She writes for Art US, Art on Paper, among other art journals and is the former editor of the Chicago-based New Art Examiner.

Shannon Stratton is an artist, curator and writer. Her current creative focus is ThreeWalls, an artist residency and visual arts program that she co-founded in 2003 where she acts as Director and Chief Curator. Her writing focuses on contemporary fiber and craft, and with artist Judith Leemann is producing “Gestures of Resistance: The Slow Assertions of a Craft,” an exhibition and book project slated for public release in 2009/2010. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Wednesday April 22, 6pm, SAIC Columbus Drive Auditorium, Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard

Shinique Smith is a painter/sculptor who combines elements of graffiti, Japanese calligraphy, abstract expressionism and popular culture. Working with a variety of materials, Smith creates mixed media works inspired by fashion, urban detritus and the objects that we cherish and discard, which come to shape our personal mythologies. She received her BFA (1992) and MFA (2003) from The Maryland Institute College of Art and has held residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and The Headlands Center for the Arts. She has exhibited at The Deutsche Guggenheim, The New Museum, The National Portrait Gallery/ Smithsonian, PS 1 Contemporary Arts Center, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Smith is represented by Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris/New York/London.

Janis Jefferies is an artist, writer, curator, and Professor of Visual Arts in
the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She is Artistic Director of Goldsmiths Digital Studios and Director of the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles. Jefferies was trained as a painter and later pioneered the field of contemporary textiles within visual and material culture, internationally through exhibitions and texts. In the last five years she has been working on technological based arts, including Woven Sound (with Dr. Tim Blackwell). She has been a principal investigator on projects involving new haptic technologies by bringing the sense of touch to the interface between people and machines and generative software systems for creating and interpreting cultural artifacts, museums and the external environment. In the spring 2009 semester, Jefferies will be a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies.

Jefferies will participate in the construction of a SAIC bog-website that invites public interaction on the topics presented in this lecture series.


Garth Clark in top form

I heartily recommend that you listen to Garth Clark’s lecture at Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft. It’s typically witty, droll, informed and sharply polemical. He takes Glenn Adamson’s line that 20th century craft went astray by trying to dress itself up as visual arts.

Like all good conservative critics, Clark polices the social boundaries for empty aspirationalism, in this case craftspersons who envy the attention given to those in the visual arts. He argues that craft should accept its position outside the art world, even suggesting that the American Craft Council should move out of New York to a more modest location such as… Portland (received with great applause by his audience, naturally).

Clark blames the academic world for falsely propping up the pretensions of craft. He contrasts this with the world of design which has managed to survive on its on in the marketplace. However, he doesn’t mention the deluge of marketing associated with design, which creates an even less critical environment.

More seriously, as he is castigating the upstarts, Clark ignores the politics of craft as a critique of modernity. This has gained considerable momentum in recent years with movements such as ‘renegade craft’ in the USA. As a champion of the market, I’d be very interested to know what Clark’s view of the most recent financial crisis is.

While he and Adamson have made good points about the inherent differences between craft and visual art, I think dialogue between the two is important for craft to sustain its message. Let’s hope Portland keeps the argument open.

Signs of Change – are you interested?



The election of Barack Obama seems to have galvanised the world at a time of great social risk. Some have seen the current financial crisis as an important opportunity to ‘re-boot’ the system, to develop more constructive bilateral relations and initiate more inclusive policies. With the glow of change in the air, there is a new jewellery exhibition in development. It has the working title, Signs of Change: Jewellery Designed to Make a Better World. Developed by FORM to coincide with the next JMGA conference in Perth, it provides the opportunity to re-think jewellery as something for the many, rather than the exclusive few. They are currently calling for expressions of interest, due end of January 2009.

Here’s a brief outline (the full document is available here):

Exhibition Curator: Elisha Buttler/FORM (
Exhibition Guest Curator: Kevin Murray ( Exhibition venue and dates: April-June 2010, Midland Atelier, Perth

Can jewellery function as an instrument of change?

Jewellery is expanding in scope. Traditionally, the production of a beautiful adornment served as a marker of individual status. Emerging trends in jewellery and related object design are beginning to challenge many customary ideas of jewellery. The creative power of the jeweller is extending beyond the bench to the world which the object will inhabit.  This includes jewellery as a functional device, an agent of social change and a way of bringing people together. These trends provide the basis of a FORM exhibition in development for 2010.

Concepts such as ‘functionality’ and ‘change’ are open to multiple interpretations. However for the initial purposes of this exhibition, they have been grouped into two key categories:

1. Function and Technology

This category includes jewellers and related designers who create products possessing tangible functions or new technologies which aim to deploy specific benefits to individuals and/or the broader community. Emphasis will be placed on designs that point to long-term benefits, rather than one-off, largely conceptual pieces.

2. Sociology and Symbolism

This category includes the less tangible elements of contemporary jewellery which have potential to alter perspectives and promote action through their symbolic connotations. Like the Function and Technology category, the underlying themes here are designs which focus on benefits and heightened social awareness for individuals and the broader community.

The exhibition will explore jewellery that fits into either (or both) of the above groups, while focusing on the varied levels of ‘change’ jewellery can wield; namely in the areas of health, technology, sciences and community.

This is a relatively new area of development but one which possesses immense potential for groundbreaking innovation and cross-disciplinary, cross-industry advancement. A central aim of the exhibition will be to highlight this potential for innovation and cross-sector collaboration through jewellery design, and the strategies, investment and other conditions required to foster these new directions.

Also key to the exhibition will be examinations of the crossovers between the two categories, and the relationships between aesthetics and practicality.

Making Futures craft conference

This seems an important event for our time:




‘Making Futures’ will be held on Thursday 17th and Friday 18th September 2009 within the magnificently sited Mount Edgcumbe estate on the River Tamar opposite the city of Plymouth, Devon, UK.

The CALL FOR ABSTRACTS is now open and the closing date for receipt is 1st April 2009. ‘Making Futures’ invites submissions from craft practitioners, curators, historians, theorists, campaigners, activists, and representatives from public and private institutions with an interest in the relationship between the contemporary crafts and sustainability issues.


The aims of the ‘Making Futures’ research conference are to improve understanding of the ways in which the contemporary crafts are responding to ideas and agendas connected with global environmental and sustainability issues. Also, to try to discern whether these new imperatives present opportunities for the crafts to redefine and reconstitute themselves as less marginalised, more centrally productive forces in society.

The crafts, perhaps more than many areas of creative practice, have instinctively strong affinities with concerns for environmentally responsible and sustainable development. For example, Western craft ideals (perhaps less so realities) have typically sought to mobilise aesthetic experience as a key dimension and expression of responsible living in the face of mass industrialization – through their empathy with natural materials and the natural world, and through ‘slow’ and cooperative models of living. Indeed, important initiatives in pursuit of ethical and sustainable development objectives continue to take place within craft enterprises and agencies today. But the fact remains that our understanding of the interactions between the contemporary crafts and the modern environmental and sustainability ‘movements’ remains largely uncharted, unrepresented and under-theorised.

‘Making Futures’ takes up this challenge and will explore the ways in which environmental and sustainability discourses might be leading to new formulations, or re-articulations, of craft practices, identities, positions and markets, in ways that might engage more directly with contemporary social, cultural and economic needs. Perhaps even, to recover ideological purpose.


The conference scope is international and will welcome accounts from non-western contexts, especially those experiencing rapid industrial and urban development and newly expanding consumer markets. These will be contrasted with analysis from within the so-called post-industrial ‘leisure economies’ of the West in order to generate comparative insights and heighten awareness of the trans-national nature of many of the issues. The conference is therefore interested in inputs arising from across the full spectrum of crafts practice today. This includes makers of individual works who place a premium on traditional processes, locales, skills and haptic qualities; designer-makers producing limited editions and batch-produced artifacts; and artist-craftspeople whose work might be more conceptually-based – perhaps consciously drawing upon cross-disciplinary and hybridized practices to critically reflect upon global dialogues and forms of exchange.

This inclusiveness of practice and trans-cultural perspective will in all instances be grounded in studies that evince convincing connections with ethical, environmental and sustainability concerns.


A new world President for a new world craft



The new World Craft Council President, Mrs Usha Krishna, bring presented with a killum from the Iranian delegate.

The World Craft Council is currently holding its general assembly in Hangzhou, China. While much of the work is conducted by its regional councils, they meet every four years to share their experiences.

This meeting featured a passionate dialogue about the relationship between contemporary and traditional crafts. It was a vigorous exchange of views that reflected a north-south divide, particularly between Asia and Europe. But it seemed a constructive airing of differences with some positive attempts at consensus.

Curiously, this was conducted entirely in English, though none of the active participants had English as their first language. But it was in this meeting that delegates from North America were welcomed back into the fold. Alas, as often happens, Australia had fallen off the map over the years, but there was great interest in the possibility that it would again play a part.

The meeting peaked in intensity with the election of the new President, Mrs Usha Krisha, who has been working tirelessly for crafts in the Indian Craft Council, and has strong connections politically in India and whose family is the very powerful billionaire TVG group.

The impact of Barack Obama’s election is sending ripples throughout the world. In the car in the way from Shanghai to Hangzhou, I asked my Chinese companions what they thought of the new President. One of them raised his eyes from his Blackberry for a moment and said, ‘Yeah, he’s very popular with young people.’ I asked him why and he thought for a moment, ‘He’s cool.’ Obviously, much is lost in translation, but it does sit well with the observation of some that Obama’s term(s) will be characterised by the inexorable shift of power from the US to China.

And the monumental scale and efficiency with which the Chinese have organised the general assembly is quite breathtaking. All foreign guests have their own personal liaisons to make sure everything goes smoothly. The technology runs like clockwork and there’s a mountain of specially designed merchandise especially for the occasion.

Participants here could not help associating the new WCC President with the excitement for change evoked by Obama. The commitment to traditional crafts strongly expressed by representatives from India and China is an important challenge for countries of the north. How we manage this dialogue between traditional and contemporary will be a small but perhaps critical element in the new global order. 

Crafts and trade meet in a gallery

Here’s an antidote to the skills shortage (see Symmetry for an allied exploration of the dialogue between craft and work)

Trades: Creative engagements between artists and tradespeople

  • Opening 6pm Friday 24 October 2008
  • JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design
  • Opening Speaker: Janet Giles, Secretary SA Unions








Craftsouth’s latest project, Trades, links craft, design and visual arts practitioners with various trades.

Eight artists have undertaken working partnerships with eight tradespeople through which new works have been developed.

Initiated in response to an artist’s desire to experience a genuine exchange of skills with a tradesperson, rather than to subcontract the production of an object, Trades features partnerships as diverse as: David Archer (sculptor) with Rod Archer (plumber); Gabriella Bisetto (glass artist) with Monty Clements (scientific lamp worker); Annabelle Collett (textile artist) with Jethro Adams (electrician); Deb Jones (glass artist) with Hugh Gooden (panel beater); Irianna Kanellopoulou (ceramicist) with Kirsten Tibballs (pastry chef); Maria Parmenter (ceramicist) with Andrew Willsmore (arborist); Adrian Potter (furniture designer-maker) with Amy Duncan (tattooist); Annalise Rees (installation artist) with Jonathan Bowles (carpenter).

The symbolic importance of craft cannot be underestimated, as it is at the core of all working practices.  And it is this relationship between craft and other work practices that Trades aims to explore by offering artists the opportunity to experience specific skills and industry knowledge that may not normally be available to them in their day to day work practices.

The flexibility of this project model has resulted in a variety of partnerships and working arrangements. Stepping outside their comfort zones, both the artists and the tradespeople have had to be broadminded about their open-ended engagements, and have realised that it doesn’t always help to pre-empt the exact nature of the final work. However, whether the works featured in this exhibition were produced through collaboration or not, they reveal a genuine engagement reinforced by mutual interest and respect.

By presenting the Trades partnership outcomes to South Australian audiences in partnership with JamFactory, Craftsouth hopes to raise public awareness of the significant role that craft plays in all working cultures.

This project has been developed and produced by Craftsouth with assistance by Arts SA, Health Promotion Through the Arts, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy (VACS), an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.









Craft Australia – call for papers

I’m on the committee for this new craft and design research centre. The new journal offer an important opportunity for publishing research in contemporary craft.

2 October 2008

Craft and Design Research Centre

Call for Papers
Cross cultural exchanges in craft and design

The Craft Australia Craft and Design Research Centre has developed an online refereed journal. The e-journal will be published on the Craft Australia website and will promote the pursuit of academically rigorous craft·design research.

The inaugural call for papers is now open and the Craft Australia Craft and Design Research Centre is seeking contributions for 2009 on the theme Cross cultural exchanges in craft and design. We invite papers that interrogate cross-cultural practices, communicate the breadth of activity across cultural exchanges, and establish a dialogue between practice and policy for a rich and sustainable culture. We particularly welcome articles from authors who are involved in inter or trans-disciplinary research, as it relates to the broad fields of contemporary craft and design practice.

Areas for consideration in this theme include:

  • Tourism and museums as a driver for innovative cross cultural practice
  • The role of design and manufacture in cross cultural engagement
  • Innovation for social and cultural sustainability
  • The impact of government policies on cultural sustainability
  • Mentoring between communities
  • The internet and the global market for Indigenous craft and design

Deadline for submissions: 30 June 2009.
Email papers to

Guidelines for Authors   download

pdf invite

pdf invite

Craft and Design Research Centre Style Guide   download
pdf invite

pdf invite

Cover Sheet to be attached to submission   download
Word document cover sheet download

Word document cover sheet download

White Heat

This looks a very interesting opportunity for those who work with earth and fire:

[ n. an extreme heat that stretches the limits of the safety and familiarity ]

Transformative practices that move beyond the object of utility, often take risks that propel the maker and viewer into unfamiliar territory. The exhibition titled White Heat offers a space for discourses of social, political and cultural concern. The articulation of issues that may be personal or affect others has a strong presence in recent ceramic history and is often manifest with an understanding of clay, its materiality and process. Exploring ideas, while refusing to jettison matter, encapsulates a challenge to the modernist separation of meaning, making and materiality. Boundary-crossing practices such as these are engaging, and extend into risky territory, embracing the slippage between the domains of art, craft and design while confronting the topical, the contentious and the unexpected. Your concerns may be the human condition, the environment, consumerism or a critique of ceramics practice. What risks do you take through your practice?

As curator of White Heat, I invite proposals for The Australian Ceramics Association’s Biennial Exhibition at the Manly Art Gallery and Museum. Sculpture, installation and the non-functional vessel in any ceramic medium will be considered. White Heat coincides with the Australian Ceramics Triennale 09, with a special event on Sunday evening, 19 July at the Manly Art Gallery and Museum.

Please send an outline of your research proposal, a disc with 3 images of recent work and a CV. Dr Julie Bartholomew

Proposal packages due: 17 October 2008 Applicants notified: 1 December 2008 Exhibition dates: 12 June – 19 July 2009

Please post proposal packages to:
Dr Julie Bartholomew
The Australian Ceramics Association
PO Box 274 Waverley NSW 2024
T: 1300 720 124

Selected artists will be paid $100 for their participation in the exhibition.
Exhibitors must be financial members of The Australian Ceramics Association.