Tag Archives: conference

What we can learn from the JMGA-NSW conference

‘Tis the season of conferences and I’ve got four this month. Unfortunately, the Australian Ceramics Triennale and JMGA conferences clashed this time, so I had to dash from one to the other  (this may not have happened if Australia had a national craft organisation where this could have been noted early on).

I found the organisation of the JMGA-NSW jewellery conference in Sydney quite inspiring. Both the ceramics and jewellery conferences demonstrated the strong participation in studio craft. There were more than 400 at the ceramics conference and the auditorium in Sydney was full. But the jewellers certainly showed how to manage an event.

These were some highlights that raise the bar in conference organisation:

  • Clusters of exhibition openings scheduled on different evenings
  • Car pool stickers to help participants get to exhibition venues
  • Beaded conference tags subtly indicating registration stream
  • Delicious lunch alternatives with vegetarian options
  • Flower decorations
  • Billeting for interstate guests
  • Lawn diversions courtesy of Roseanne Bartley
  • Time for questions during each each session
  • Well-promoted hashtags: #edgesbordersgaps #jmgaconference2015
  • Offer of community announcements at conclusion

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. Some outside voices from allied domains could have opened up the conversation further. The odd cantankerous voice could also have added a little salt to the discussions.  There are some complex issues about the growth of post-object jewellery that could be teased out. And the issue of the global jewellery scene, prompted by the presence of Thai gallerist Atty Tantivit , could have been further explored.

To the challenge will now be continue this dialogue. Who will wear the JMGA crown next? Canberra, Melbourne, Auckland… They have a tough act to follow.

Unmaking Waste 2015 – call for abstracts

Unmaking Waste 2015.

Unmaking Waste 2015 is a conference in Adelaide that seeks to engage dialogue and share ideas, perspectives and possibilities for shaping a physically and socially sustainable planet. The main conference will take place over two and a half days and involve speakers from a broad range of academic and industrial disciplines who work across research and practice-led investigations into the physical and symbolic nature of material flows. For students interested in exploring more about social and cultural sustainability in design practice, we are presenting a set of pre-conference workshops plus a master-class on the day preceding the conference.

Abstracts for the conference are due 17 October 2014.

Ceramics in the Expanded Field – An International Conference July 2014

Ceramics in the Expanded Field – An International Conference
Date: 17-19 July 2014
University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Rd, London NW1 5LS

The conference Ceramics in the Expanded Field will examine how ceramic practice has broadened over the last decade, initiating new forms of experimental practice and dialogues within the museum environment. This conference marks the culmination of the AHRC-funded project Ceramics in the Expanded Field: Behind the Scenes at the Museum and is organized by co-investigators Christie Brown, Professor of Ceramics, Research Fellows Dr Julian Stair and Clare Twomey, and Laura Breen, the AHRC-funded doctoral student.
As part of CitEF, Brown, Stair and Twomey have worked closely with the Freud Museum in London, York Museums Trust and Plymouth City Museum and Gallery to produce three practice based projects that animated the museums’ historical collections. In tandem with the conference, they will also present a three-person exhibition in the University of Westminster Marylebone site space Ambika P3 from 15th–19th July, which will explore the impact these projects have had on their respective practices.

Scholars and practitioners from any relevant disciplines are invited to submit proposals for papers that interrogate ideas of ceramic display and intervention, divergent forms of practice, curation and museology within ‘the expanded field’.
Four half-day sessions will explore the following themes.
Museum as Context
What opportunities does the museum context offer ceramics practitioners? How does the museum operate in dialogue with ceramic practice? Can contemporary ceramic practice animate historical collections? How can we contextualize the relationship between ceramic practice and the museum within wider art practice?
Audience Engagement
How can ceramics practitioners engage museum audiences? How do audiences construct/draw meaning from or complete ceramic works? Do tensions arise from the intersection of pedagogy and practice?
Curation and Authorship
What are appropriate models for ceramic practitioners to engage with curatorial practice? Where is the line between curatorial and artistic authorship? How can this relationship shape the discourse around ceramics?
Process and Material
How can an appreciation of process and material be fostered in the museum? Is this a significant concern? What challenges does this pose to practitioners, curators and audiences? Can we develop new understandings of ceramics by engaging with these issues?

Confirmed participants will include:

  • James Beighton, Senior Curator, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art.
  • Laura Breen, PhD student, University of Westminster.
  • Christie Brown, Professor of Ceramics, University of Westminster.
  • Glen R. Brown, Professor of Art History, Kansas State University.
  • Phoebe Cummings, Artist
  • Dr Tanya Harrod, Freelance writer and art historian.
  • Martina Margetts, Senior Tutor, Critical and Historical Studies, R C A
  • Ezra Shales, Associate Professor, Massachussetts College of Art and Design.
  • Dr Julian Stair, Principal Research Fellow, University of Westminster.
  • Clare Twomey, Research Fellow, University of Westminster.

We welcome proposals for papers of a maximum of 25 minutes or 3000 words addressing any one of the above. Send abstracts of no more than 250 words. They must include the presenter’s name, affiliation, email and postal address, together with the title of the paper and a 150-word biographical note on the presenter. Abstracts should be sent to Helen Cohen atceramics@westminster.ac.uk and arrive no later than Friday 14 March 2014.

This conference will take place from 4.00pm on Friday 17 July to Sunday 19 July 2014.
Full conference: Standard rate £200. One day rate £110
Full conference: Student rate £90.  One day rate £65.
This covers all conference documentation, refreshments, lunch, receptions and administration costs. Registration will open in April 2014.

The Story of the Yellow Ring

Margarita Sampson grapples with the rates of exchange between celebrity and local jewellery

Ted Noten, Little Miss Piggy ring, photo by Zoe Brand

Ted Noten, Little Miss Piggy ring, photo by Zoe Brand

In February I had the pleasure of attending Jemposium, a symposium of contemporary jewellery held in Wellington, NZ. Among other esteemed practitioners, Ted Noten was billed as a keynote speaker, the Dutch jeweller who with associates Marcel van Kan & Cathelijne Engelkes had successfully transformed his Atelier Ted Noten (ATN) into a sought-after brand, utilising the tropes of fashion & advertising in a Hirst/Koons/Warholian fashion. Ted was elevated to a near-mystical persona, with witty slogans that suggested “Ted Noten loves women” among others.

Ted, alas, was not able to make it, and sent both a video of himself and his 2-I-C Marcel van Kan. Meanwhile, over at Photo-Space the ATN Miss Piggy “Wanna Swap your Ring?” project was in full swing. The concept: a certain amount of pink nylon pig- rings (of an infinite series) were arranged in the form of a gun, and you could take one and replace it with a ring of your own you didn’t want any-more. It could be a failed experiment from your studio (the text suggested), a ring (ie engagement) someone had given you that you never wanted, etc. It took place in different cities in the world, with each one assuming its own character. The wall of rings will now be exhibited elsewhere, so the New Zealand one, as others, one will form a unique snapshot of a time and place.

Ted Noten Little Miss Piggy installation, photo by Zoe Brand

Ted Noten Little Miss Piggy installation, photo by Zoe Brand

It troubled me somewhat, and investigating exactly why has taken a while to nut out. It’s complex and I’m not sure I’ve nailed it even now. Here’s the deal: the rings read to me as design-trinkets. A ring that had any associated value to me (even bad memories) as a straight swap to a ring that came out of a big plastic bag by the handful? That doesn’t seem fair, ATN – where are your memories and associations? Your offering, as it were, of yourself? Or are we buying into a rhetoric that says: because of your status, your mass-produced trinket is glamorous, desirable and equal one-to-one with anything we may have to offer? Strangely, if they had been for sale (they retail at 30 euros online), I would have been happy to buy one. Money has no intrinsic value, either. So what price do I put on my ring-associations? I would have been happy with a swap between people in different countries where we offered a similar ring (I loved the pin-swap with the ‘two hour time limit ‘making-parameter). I would have been happy to give a ring to the project, and it would have pleased me to think of it sitting next to the others. Interestingly, Marcel expressed ATN’s mild disappointment that the Japanese version contained many swapped rings made (on the spot) from wire or paper, or a cheap key-ring, for instance, thus subverting the suggested rules of exchange. So why not offer up a scrap of twisted paper, you ask? It…it just felt a bit disrespectful. Maybe the problem was that I was unable to proffer an equivalent item for exchange and thus felt thwarted by the original premise. Marcel had said that ATN wanted to play with ideas of value and worth, which, if that was the object, has been mightily successful in this case.

So, it wasn’t a high priority to get myself one…and yet, there was a little nagging envy as Jemposium people waggled their pink pig rings at each other. The allure of the desirable, finite item. The Birkin bag of Jemposium? Perhaps I should hurry down and get one? Rumours were that they’d all gone…Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Marcel van Kan took us through a presentation on the work of ATN. Despite being an admirer of the virtuosity of the work of ATN for many years, the talk left me a little cold for various reasons, not least being their condescending attitude to women…fickle, high-heeled-wearing, diamond-bedazzled-creatures… It felt like were we in another era (The text should read “Ted Noten loves his own idea of Women”). I was left with the feeling that there wasn’t much mana in the “Big Banana” of ATN.

At the conclusion of the talk Marcel, with a flourish, took a handful of leftover yellow rings from a previous project and threw them into the audience. One was heading straight my way, gosh… and as X (next to me) put in a heroic goalkeeper’s jump in front of me, the ring deflected off his sleeve and fell between my feet. Ah, the little yellow ring. Viperish thing. Hell, it was between my feet, everyone was excited, it was all good fun, wasn’t it? Still I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been swapped a shiny mirror for a piece of land. Beads and a handful of nails while the Euro’s steal the show. Again. I wasn’t the only one with misgivings, as later discreet, over-coffee-mutterings percolated.

So, I wore my yellow ATN ring for two days. I showed it off when people admired it. I tried to admire it myself. Were they now more desirable than the Miss Piggy ring? More exclusive? Was I special? X next to me was downcast, the pink rings had all been taken and the yellow was his last chance for a ring. (Although a mysterious VIP ATN banana ring showed up later…) Were we now in a strange ring-stratified hierarchy with ATN at the head? How did this happen so quickly, so easily? I loitered near the Miss Piggy ring-gun-wall later at the closing party and tried to screw up the courage to swap my yellow one for any number of the recognisable & desirable rings on the wall. Oooh, look, a minimalist Warwick Freeman, a cheeky Karl Fritsch, a lush Julia de Ville… not to mention the many other beautiful pieces with their hidden associations for the wearer. What was it that Warwick didn’t like about his ring? Or had some-one else put it there? The wall felt rich and meaningful and secretive. Full of narrative. Would I betray them by doing the clandestine swap? Certainly their work was desirable, but they had given it up in good faith. And I’m well-mannered by nature, was sober enough to decide it was probably theft, and thus kept my yellow ring.

By the last day I’d taken the yellow ring off. It wasn’t attractive in itself and I had very mixed feelings about it. I found X at the Masterclass and discretely handed it over. Oh Joy! I’d gotten rid of the troublesome thing and it had gone to someone who really wanted it, and was overjoyed to unexpectedly receive it. And here the story might have ended, except some time later, he came up and gave me a beautiful hand-made ring from his own studio… black, faceted, asymmetrical, bold & strong. A ring I would have chosen from a line-up. Tears sprang into my eyes. We each had a memento of Jemposium. We all came out happy. Larks sang from the treetops. The End.

Miss Piggy: “A democratised ring for everyone, available for a low price and manufactured in an unlimited series. With this rapid prototyped ring the artist tries to conquer the world: a genuine Ted Noten ring for every woman on earth is his ideal.” From the ATN website.

PS. On reading Kevin Murray’s ‘Till Death do us Part: Jewellery & its Human Host”( Noris Ioannou (ed.) Fremantle Arts Centre Press (1992)) I have a feeling some of this may have to do with a formalist vs a functionalist approach to jewellery. What do you think? Or is it Design vs Craft? Check out his article here.

Margarita Sampson is a Norfolk Island & Sydney-based contemporary jeweller & sculptor.

The ‘Floating Forest’ comes to Ararat

Douglas Fuchs ‘Floating Forest’ 17 February – 1 April 2012

Ararat Regional Gallery are reconstructing an exhibition that played a key role in the development of fibre art in Australia.

Douglas Fuchs (1947-86) was an American basket maker who came to Australia on a Craft Council of Australia Fellowship in 1981-82. He arrived in Adelaide in July 1981 and set up a studio at The Jam Factory, Adelaide, where he began work on his ambitious ‘Floating Forest’. Douglas exhibited three versions of ‘Floating Forest’: at the Adelaide Festival Centre Gallery from 27 November to 24 December 1981, the Meat Market Craft Centre, Melbourne from 26 January to 28 February 1982 and the Crafts Councils Centre Gallery, Sydney from 1 to 23 May 1982.

‘Floating Forest’ is widely cited as a landmark in the development of a contemporary approach to basketry in Australia (see link and brochure). 


Ararat Performing Arts Centre, Saturday 31 March 2012, 9.30am to 4pm
Hear from key influences and experts in the fibre art field and be inspired by artists whose contemporary practices are informed by basketry techniques and traditions. The symposium supports Ararat Regional Art Gallery’s 30th anniversary exhibition of Douglas Fuchs’ influential basketry-based installation, ‘Floating Forest’,  presented from 17 February to 1 April 2012, in partnership with the Powerhouse Museum , Sydney.

Key speakers include:

  • Christina Sumner, Principal Curator Design and Society at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney;
  • Leading contemporary basketmaker, Virginia Kaiser;
  • Antoinette Smith, Senior Curator, Indigenous Cultures of Southeastern Australia at Museum Victoria. 
  • Five indigenous and non-indigenous fibre artists speak about the role of tradition and technique in the creation of contemporary woven forms: Marilyne Nicholls, Bronwyn Razem, Adrienne Kneebone, Maree Brown and Lucy Irvine.

Unmaking the Future–the aesthetics of post-industrial ceramics

The view from inside the conference in Bergen

The view from inside the conference in Bergen

Like Australia, Norway finds itself with a rare gift – a financial bounty stemming from non-renewable natural resources. The news analysis in Australia often invokes the Norwegian model as a responsible investment of this wealth for future needs. With the Making or Unmaking? conference, Norway was able to host an international conference on ceramics like few others today. The premise was the use of the readymade by ceramic artists – rather than make work themselves, these artists repurposed existing works. This was the culmination of a four-year research project ‘Creating Art Value: A Research Project on Trash and Readymades, Art and Ceramics’. It was programmed with the ambitious exhibition THING TANG TRASH – Upcycling in contemporary ceramics (curated by Heidi Bjørgan), as well as a large number of ceramic exhibitions especially presented by galleries around Bergen.

And the view looking out from the conference

And the view looking out from the conference

The project leader and Norwegian writer Jorunn Veiteberg assembled some of the finest European craft minds to consider this question. It began with the English visitors. Glenn Adamson opened the conference with a slice of Postmodernism exhibition that he recently curated for the V&A. He focused particularly on the eschewal of authenticity by movements such as Memphis, which positioned style far above substance. It offered an important historical reference point for contemporary questioning of original production. Carol McNicoll followed with an artist talk that personified the conference theme with a feisty opposition to fine art etiquette. Fellow ceramicist Clare Twomey then offered an elegiac account of enduring ceramic crafts, such as plate lining. The meat of her paper was the account of her present work. This had two components. The first were a series of 80 tall red vases produced in the Jingdezhen ceramic powerhouse – ’80 vases in 8 days, China brings us miracles.’ The second an attempt to reproduce one of these in England, involving scouring for a large-enough kiln. The installation showed the one plaintive vase set among the sea of cheap Chinese imports. For Twomey, what distinguished the English vase was that its decoration sat under the surface, compared to the Chinese vases whose designs were more imposed on the surface.  The installation seemed to demonstrate that despite miraculous productive capacity of Chinese industry, it was still no match for the subtle craftsmanship of English labour.

Tanya Harrod followed with a beautiful lecture on the theme of the rag-picker, covering many examples of art projects that extracted works of beauty from the slums. She spoke highly of the work by Brazilian artist Vik Munos, featured in the film Wasteland, who donated money from the sale of his works to the favela dwellers who made it possible. While critical of those who mindlessly use the poor of the world to make high-end design, Harrod praised those who embrace the act of making with all its responsibilities. Caroline Slottee and Paul Scott provided examples of work with readymade ceramics and Ezra Shales considered the role of museum as a contested site for these works.

On the second day, Monica Gaspar introduced the concept of the infra-ordinary as a space opened up by use of the readymade. She provided a feast of contemporary work associated with her recent exhibition ‘Re-defining the Applied’, which reflected a shift away from the object itself to the way in which we inhabit. A highlight was the film by Swede Olas Stephenson where a gang breaks into a house to create musical symphonies using objects from each room. Andrew Livingston followed with a bold attempt to place use of the readymade in the context of sustainability. It made perfect sense, but the ethical logic seems at odds with the aesthetic context of the conference. Barnaby Barford’s artist talk presented narrative as an alternative context of the readymade. His film for the exhibition brilliantly demonstrated the power of pathos in the leftover figurine.

The day ended with Jorunn Veiteberg herself who expounded the thesis behind the conference. She loyally used local artists to illustrate her thesis that the ceramic readymade is following Duchamp’s liberating gesture with ‘Fountain’ to liberate the art object from the ‘fetish’ of the handmade. Veiteberg argued that re-purposing existing ceramics opens up new possibilities of creative intervention.

The last day began with Michael Petry, author of The Art of Not Making. His ebullient talk covered many instances of artists using skills of craftspersons, praising those who acknowledged their contributions. As one of those grateful artists themselves, Petry spoke very much from the commissioner’s perspective, focusing more on the grand ambitions of the artists than any creative input from technicians. The Polish ceramist Marek Cecula followed with a wonderful account of his career in ceramics, parallel to his remarkable personal journey as a survivor of the holocaust who returned to make work about the value of human labour. Linda Sormin followed in the afternoon with a lively short account of her practice in making ceramic interventions in museum spaces around the world.

As the second last presentation, I attempted to introduce the relational dimension of the readymade. This regarded the commissioned object, rather than the found object. I focused particularly on the work of artists who have their work made in Asia. Rather than a post-industrial aesthetic, I considered a ‘para-industrial’ condition where work responds to the scene of making ‘elsewhere’.

Rather than leave space for questions at the end of each paper, the conference was programmed with generous breaks where participants could discuss issues among themselves. While this was quite convivial, it was difficult to tell what the conference had achieved at the end. Making or Unmaking? provided a symbolic departure from the studio model of the ceramicist, whose work reflects the personal experience of clay. But it left hanging the question of where this is going. Is it opening ceramics up as an installation-based art form? Is it part of the elegiac moment in Europe as it sees its manufacturing capacities drift off to Asia? Does it reflect a sustainability ethic that eschews making anything new, in favour of re-purposing the old? These questions needed airing, either in response to papers or in panel discussions.

Most pressing is the gradual loss of a global dialogue around ceramics. Last month’s Gyeonggi Ceramix Biennale in Korea did not have one entry from Britain, and there was little opportunity for dialogue between representatives of east and west. As globalisation continues to expand, it seems a mistake to turn inward. Modern ceramics has such a rich history of borrowing between cultures.

Norway has set the pace. We now need to pass the baton.

PS. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the excellent catalogue, then send an email to KHiB publications at resepsjonen@khib.no. Price: NOK 250,- (EUR 34) + handling expenses. More information here.

Collaboration in Experimental Design Research symposium 5-6 August

Symposium Organised by : RED Objects, Research in Experimental Design Objects, School of Design Studies, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney

Call for Papers: 500 word abstract due 30 June 2011

Over the last ten years international collaboration in practice based research in design, craft, and visual art in  various social contexts across the globe has accelerated, yet little focussed reflection/scholarship has emerged  on the topic. As a result, theories of collaboration remain implicit, relying on tacit and indirect knowledge of  the interdependencies and complexities that can arise in design collaboration. Further, studio based practitioner  insights about the changing parameters influencing collaboration are elided in design scholarship. One factor  that contributes to the difficulties in reflecting on collaboration is the multiple variations in which collaboration  is shaped. Similarly, the ethical implications of overlooking assumptions regarding cultural conventions are  rarely elaborated. This symposium maps out a broad range of perspectives on design collaboration in the global  socio-economic contexts of the Asia-Pacific region, including India, Malaysia, Japan and Australia. Emerging  issues of design collaboration include: design in indigenous cultures; scientific developments in design  materials and process; historical design models for global collaboration; complex data visualisation in the  global context; and, the social consequences of new technologies.

The RED Objects research group invites you to contribute a presentation to the two-day symposium on Collaboration.

Confirmed keynote and participants include:

  • Fiona Raby, Architect, partner in Dunne and Raby; and Royal College of Art, London,
  • Dr Kevin Murray, writer and curator, Australia India Design Platform.
  • David Trubridge, Designer and maker of contemporary furniture, New Zealand.
  • Yoshigazu Hasegawa, Green Life 21 Project, Nagoya, Japan.

Symposium Themes

Intermixes of collaboration: the emergence of collaboration as a social phenomenon.
What implicit conventions guide collaboration between designers, artisans, artists, manufacturers, and distributors?

Theorising the complexities of contemporary making, making and manufacturing and parameters of globalised collaboration.
What are the parameters and constraints, and opportunities and dangers for future design collaborations?

News from the frontline: collaborative relationships between design and conventional and emerging fields.
What are the implications of recent design collaborations?

Papers presented at the symposium will be considered for electronic publication in 2011 and made available on the RED Objects website (currently under construction).

Symposium: Collaboration in Experimental Design Research
Organised by : RED Objects, Research in Experimental Design Objects, School of Design Studies, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney
Dates : Friday 5 August 2011 and 10am to 5pm Saturday 6 August 2011
Times : 1pm to 8pm Friday; 10am to 5pm Saturday.
Location : COFA Lecture Theatre corner Oxford Street and Greens Road, Paddington, NSW, 2021.
For all enquiries please contact the RED Objects group via email: redobjects@cofa.unsw.edu.au or Liz Williamson on 02 9385 0627 or email: Liz.Williamson@unsw.edu.au

Grass to Gold – Delhi Feb 2011



“Grass to Gold”

WCC—International Jewellery Convention, February 2011

Jewellery through the ages has mirrored society. How jewellery is worn, the reasons for wearing it, and the material it is made of—all are reflections of the societal values, and prevalent beliefs of the times. From Sumerian queens, Egyptian pharaohs, and Indian royalty, to the Cleopatras, Princess Dianas, and Grace Kellys of the world—the annals of history are replete with stories and pictures of ornaments used to adorn the human form.

Grass to Gold is intended to capture this diversity, symbolism, and artistic form. Last held in 2004, the convention is to be held again in 2011 in New Delhi, India. Featuring tribal, traditional, and contemporary jewellery, this event is to be sponsored by the World Crafts Council. The idea is to bring together artisans and jewellers from various parts of the world, and to encourage an open exchange of ideas, methodologies, and technologies. Above all, the forum is intended to provide a platform to learn about changing consumer trends.

The convention will explore how common, everyday material (grass) can be transformed into artistic masterpieces (gold) through the skills of the craftsperson/designer. Metal, wood, bone, shells, gems…these are just some of the raw materials that offer the potential to be transformed into exquisite pieces of jewellery.

A collaboration

Grass to Gold is intended to be a collaboration—a collaboration of artists, artisans, and designers; a collaboration of ideas; a collaboration of the traditional and the modern; a collaboration of the functional and the aesthetic. It is, above all, a coming together of skills under one roof.

Why India?

Enthused by the success of the Grass to Gold Convention in India in 2004, New Delhi has been chosen as the venue because of the consumer profile and the mindset of the consumer. Delhi offers promise as a lucrative and international market for diverse ranges of jewellery.


All five regions of the WCC will be represented in the convention, with jewellers and designers participating in the events.


The convention features the following:

  • Seminars covering tribal, traditional, and contemporary jewellery—A forum that allows people to understand innovations in the field of jewellery, materials, design, and fashion as they adapt to changing consumer trends.
  • Exhibition—A special International event having 5 participants from each region i.e. Asia Pacific, Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America.
  • Sales of Jewellery—Ranging from traditional, tribal, and contemporary using materials as diverse as fibre, metal, and recycled material. All will be specially designed for the event.
  • Workshops—On the design and finishing techniques in jewellery; made from fibre, metal, and recycled material; interactive with craftspeople from all the regions.

About the World Crafts Council

The World Crafts Council (WCC) is a non-government; non-profit organization founded by Mrs.Aileen Webb and co-founded by Ms. Margaret Patch and Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay in 1964, in New York. What began as a single entity in the United States eventually got structured in to five regions—Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and Latin America. WCC is the only international NGO working in the crafts sector and is affiliated to UNESCO in a consultative status.

As a unique honour, India from the APR Region was elected to take over the Presidency of the WCC in November, 2008 with Mrs. Usha Krishna of the Crafts Council of India (CCI) at the helm.

The objectives of WCC are threefold:

  • To strengthen the status of crafts as a vital element of cultural and economic life
  • To promote a sense of fellowship among the craftspeople of the world
  • To encourage, advise, and nurture the crafts communities

Email: wcc.sect.in@gmail.com; Web: www.worldcraftscouncil.org

Where to put baskets in an art gallery?

Announcing an upcoming panel session:

The place of collective craft in the modern museums and art galleries of the Global South

This panel session is part of the conference:

Museums and art galleries in the Global South are challenged by the existence of active traditional craft collectives.

Conventional Western approaches to art history focus on individual creativity. The individual artist is seen as the ultimate site for development of new art forms. While inspiration might be drawn from collective traditions, such as Picasso’s experience of African masks, the ultimate end of analysis is the product realised by an individual. This can be seen as part of a cultural economy that deals in a currency of genius, intellectual property and originality. The colonial process entails the extension of this economy into alternative systems where culture is more a matter of collective meaning and ancestral authority.

Such methodologies have a home in the trans-Atlantic North, where traditional cultures are rarely found outside of the modernist lens. In the Global South, however, there is sometimes a bifocal arrangement where modernity co-exists with collective systems.

Compared to visual arts, craft practice depends more on the reproduction of traditional skills than individual originality. In the North, much contemporary craft has been assimilated into modernity through the introduction of studio practice. In the South, craft is still practiced in communities where it is grounded in collective identities, such as village, tribe, caste or guild.

If art history in the Global South is to reflect the nature of its democracies, then methodologies need to be adopted that account for art that has been forged through collective agencies, where it would be inappropriate to single out an individual as the sole representative. This could be seen to apply to forms such as telephone wire-weaving in South Africa, ‘tjanpi’ sculptures in the Western Desert of Australia, tapa cloths from the Pacific, Pattamadai mat weavers in India, Relmu Witral weavers in Chile. How can these collective art forms be incorporated into a history of art in the Global South?

Some of the issues this raises include:

  • How can innovation be accounted for within a collective practice?
  • To what extent can Western institutions such as art galleries accommodate collective art forms such as village crafts?
  • Are there productive ways in which individual artists can collaborate with traditional communities?
  • How can what might be considered a traditional art form be given a diachronic reading through art history?
  • How might individuals that emerge from collective settings to be granted status as ‘living treasures’, ‘masters of their craft’, or ‘artists in their own right’?
  • How to traditional Indigenous crafts compared to hobby circles in the Global North?

This discussion is relevant to those working across the broader South, including African tribal arts, Asian programs for upliftment of traditional crafts, Oceanic models for dealing with traditional knowledge and Latin American forms of engagement with the so called ‘pre-Colombian’ cultures. This also extends to the representation of these in institutions situated in the Global North.

Issues at play here connect closely with existing forums such as Journal of Modern Craft, Craft & Design Enquiry and Southern Perspectives.

For further information about this panel, contact Kevin Murray (kevin(at)craftunbound.net)

Proposals for conference papers should be sent to the Chairperson of SAVAH, Dr Federico Freschi (federico.freschi(at)its.ac.za).