Category Archives: Notices

Is Craft Revolutionary?

If you are in the mood for some subversive speculations, and you happen to be in Queensland’s capital, or thereabouts, you might find this event of some interest:

Forum: Is Craft Revolutionary?
Wednesday 2 July 6-7pm @ QUT Art Museum
2 George Street (next to the City Botanic Gardens) Brisbane

This forum will pose the question of whether craft is revolutionary. The speakers will explore the slow process of craft making, the community nature of the practice, the craft-art link, the future of craft and the different movements of craft. Speakers include Kevin Murray, Robyn Daw and Kylie Johnson.
In conjunction with the exhibition Craft Revolution.

Vale Rose Slivka

Here’s a piece by Jane Burns in honour of a significant figure in the 20th century craft scene:

Vale Rose Slivka. I can imagine some readers saying Rose who? From my knowledge of her I am sure there could not be two Rose Slivkas. She was a writer of lyrical prose, a poet, an eccentric, a New Yorker who lived in a marvelous loft in Soho and who was the proud mother of Charlotte and Mark. When she came to Australia in 1973 at the invitation of the then Crafts Council of Australia, the two young Slivkas came also, and among the too numerous stories of the Rose Slivka visit was one I will always remember. I got a phone call at an unusual hour in Sydney having seen Rose and entourage safely on the plane to Tasmania earlier in the afternoon. “Jane… I’m suffering some culture shock here. Am I still in Australia?” It’s a good thing to remember now that thirty years ago Australia was another country in almost every sense.

Rose Slivka died in 2004 at the age of 85. She was accorded an obituary in the New York Times which was headed Writer and Champion of Crafts as Fine Art. Although it is now three years since her death it is fitting that we in Australia should join with eminent writers and artists in the US and Europe in acknowledging the influence she had on international contemporary crafts over more than thirty years and at such a critical point in modern practice.

Also now in 2007, at this time of change in the incumbent Federal Government in Canberra, it is significantly fitting to be reminded of 1973, when the Whitlam Government re-fashioned the Australia Council and gave key arts policy responsibilities to artists and arts administrators with deep knowledge and understanding of needs in specific art forms. Marea Gazzard, a long time friend of Rose Slivka, was appointed the Chair of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council. It made perfect sense for her to seek Rose’s advice on publication policy and, in collaboration with the Crafts Council of Australia, to use her presence in Australia ‘to act as catalyst for stimulating discussion on crafts writing and specifically for Craft Australia’, the then fledgling crafts journal in Australia. In terms of stars of her time it would be the equivalent now of asking a contemporary hot property writer to take time out of busy life and other commitments for three weeks in Australia, no fee but all expenses paid, to give public talks and hold meetings in all states. Bonds of friendship counted hugely in those times and so down-under Rose came. The journey gave her a hearty respect for Australia and she maintained strong links till her retirement from Craft Horizons in the 1980s when among other outlets she began writing for Art in America.

One of her prominent contemporaries in the USA is the textile designer and writer Jack Lenor Larsen. He pronounced Rose a prophet. Lenor Larsen writes, “Single handedly and blind to both opposition and indifference Rose pulled us into art” She saw the contemporary crafts (as opposed to traditional crafts) as mainstream as art. In Grace Cochrane’s History of the Craft Movement in Australia, Rose is quoted as writing in the 1940s: “.We are as we must be, irretrievably an industrial society. What has happened is this: the crafts have realised their own distinct, necessary and rightful place in it – not in conflict with it, not absorbed into it – but existing within the larger structure, true to their own identity, and to their own continuity. We are not harking back to old methods; we are creating new values in an entirely new situation…” This clarity of thought is why it is well for Rose Slivka to be remembered, and for those of us lucky enough to have personal fond memories, it is a time to re-read her writing and to recall her endearing eccentricity. She is one of the distinct characters in the international history of contemporary crafts.

Jane Burns, AM
Founding Director Crafts Council of Australia

Alice Craft Acquisition

I was invited to judge the 30th Alice Craft Acquisition Award this year. Here are some of the works acquired. Many more could have been selected if there was more money available. Congratulations to all the entrants for a wonderfully fresh and inventive show.



Gallah Collie by Emily Bullock is made from road kill, exquisitely assembled into the form of a dog, equipped with wings.


Dune 1 by Alice Springs ceramicist Pip McManus touches on the expanse of nature that dwarfs the individual


Full Moon & River by Lorna Crane is a delicately assembled work that belies its rough materials.


Seeds & Grasses #1 by Nicky Schonkale uses African strip weaving to create a chart of local flora, abstracted through weaving to reflect simple but subtle forms.


Yours truly with organiser from Territory Craft Philomena Hali and artist Nicky Schonkale.

Sherry Turkle: Evocative Objects

Popular American author Sherry Turkle has just released a compilation of writings on the power of the object in thought. From the MIT description:

In Evocative Objects, Turkle collects writings by scientists, humanists, artists, and designers that trace the power of everyday things. These essays reveal objects as emotional and intellectual companions that anchor memory, sustain relationships, and provoke new ideas.

The book offers the prospect of a poetics of consumerism, to delve onto the space that objects make in daily life. Does it have a critical framework for this?

Extra/ordinary publication

CALL FOR PAPERS: Extra/ordinary: Craft culture and contemporary art
An anthology of critical writing edited by Maria Elena Buszek
Art historian Maria Elena Buszek is seeking proposals for contributions to the anthology Extra/ordinary: Craft culture and contemporary art. Proposed essays should draw upon and further develop the sense of meaning with which craft media have been imbued since the previous century, and articulate the growing role and recognition of traditionally denigrated craft media in the work of contemporary artists. Since the Industrial Revolution began blurring the lines between industry and handicraft, as well as the upper- and lower-classes, artists have taken great pleasure in using such developments to similarly dissolve the centuries-old barriers that once separated the avant-garde and mass culture, masterpiece and kitsch, art and craft. In the process, artists have not only recognized the meaningful role of the ordinary in their art practices, but been drawn to media traditionally associated with handicrafts to suggest the power of these “ordinary” media—such as weaving, knitting, embroidery, ceramics, glass blowing, jewelry and woodworking—to create or reflect the kinds of profound meaning traditionally associated with the “fine” and liberal arts. While the success of renowned artists from Jun Kaneko to Grayson Perry, Miriam Schapiro to Ghada Amer has demonstrated the degree to which galleries, museums, and patrons have been willing to embrace craft media as tools for creative expression in our expansive contemporary art world, art critics and scholars have done little to study or articulate the relevance of this fact. The anthology Extra/ordinary: Craft culture and contemporary art is an effort to fill this void.
Essays addressing the following topics are of particular interest:
• Craft and conceptualism in contemporary art
• Connections between handicrafts and political activism
• “Do-It-Yourself” (D.I.Y.) movements in popular culture and contemporary subcultures
• The various legacies of Modernist philosophies on craft (from William Morris to the Eamses) upon postmodern culture
• Scientific uses of and studies on craft media
• Cultural or generational shifts/rifts in what constitutes “craft”
• Hybridization within traditional arts, crafts, and design contexts
Proposals should not exceed 600 words, and incorporate a 100-word author’s biography. PROPOSALS MUST BE RECEIVED BY SEPTEMBER 5TH 2006. Proposals may be sent as email attachments in Word format to or to Maria Elena Buszek, School of Liberal Arts, Kansas City Art Institute, 4415 Warwick Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111. Questions concerning the project may be sent to Dr. Buszek: