Sunday, August 22, 2010

I am delinquent and tardy, but know that I have been writing and thinking.

There has not been a followup post about my experience at the American Craft Council conference or much else because I have not been able to make much sense of that experience, or of craft and art in my daily life after that.

Pardon my cursing - but it was really fucked up, antagonistic and weird.

It was also AMAZING and I met really inspiring people, all of us weary of the anger that a small portion of the conference was exhibiting.

There was a lot of anxiety at that event, a perverse current through both the art and craft worlds about dilutions of quality, and who the qualitymasters should be and are, and who has the final say on the definition of what a thing is.

Hierarchical, and not democratic at all. Truely focused on craft as commodity. (which maybe, in our current economics, is the only place for it as an object. I choose to try to imagine something more interesting than that.)

Considering my dayjob working for The Very Wealthy, commissioning just that high craft that only our clients can afford. Knowing that the only way those types of high craft traditions can live and survive is through a system of Patronage, in which I am an agent. I feel both attracted and repelled by it - alienated might be a better way of describing it. Because I will probably never make the Fine Craft that I would present to clients. (Maybe artwork. I have sold some of my photographs in the past to collectors - but now there's that pesky Art/Craft problem. Later.)

And Fine/High Craft is a lot of the time the opposite of the type of Craft that gets me really excited, makes me happy, gets me thinking about the potential and amazement of human creation. And hopefully this bubbly, energetic form is the one that will last, as a kind of a virus through the "little people." (ref: BP)

This is the work of Craft is that one done in concert with each other. Where you research, teach and then learn from each other, and make your daily life a little more meaningful by using your hands. You make something and that is time you have given as a sort of prayer to this object that will hopefully serve its use well, and beautifully. And you share it as a communication to another, or you make something that someone else transforms with their hands into another thing. The transformative art of material.

Dont get me wrong, a chair by the beloved (by me too) Sam Maloof is a thing of wonder - it makes you think to aspire to work harder at the thing that you do with your hands. The chair makes you see the possibility of human creativity to transcend effort. Effortlessly perfect, with the most intense amount of work and skill behind it.

And, for example, embroidery by the Miao/Hmong people. I lose my mind when I see these pieces, and they absolutely sing to me with their intricacy and improbable detail.

I am so not going to sing a romance about the fact that this work was probably done by the light of a single light bulb, after a day of work that's harder than anything I have ever done. I am humbled by their work, and it too inspires me to work harder, to seek more challenges, never keeping out of sight or take for granted the privilege it really is for me to have the luxury to work with my hands.

You only live this life once, and to increase its density of experience by making things by hand and engaging in processes and stepping head-on into discussion -

Consider DIY-MFA-N-CRAFT re-opened for business, after a little thought remodeling.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

back from craft-land

I spent the weekend in Minneapolis for the American Craft Council Conference and it was so intense that felt like a month but was really only 2 days. The luxury of just being able to think and talk (to anyone around you) about craft was really indulgent and amazing and so helpful in thinking about what direction and refine the focus of what it is I am most interested in Craft.

I am still unpacking alot of what was said and discussed. I knew that there could be some drama in the craft world and the drama was there in effect and really interesting, especially in the context of feeling a little like an outsider, not making a living via craft or coming from an institution. Above everything, the weekend reaffirmed the approach that I want to stay posited right where I am - one foot in the design world (where collaboration and commerce meet craft) and one foot in a DIY mode of learning and perfecting and making the work. The two spaces reinforce each other, and though its perhaps slower going than if I could devote all my time to it, with ready mentors, its already generating alot of interesting ideas and questions I want to explore.

I think that they will be posting podcasts of the lectures on the ACC website at some point in the future - for now I will be deciphering my notes and will write about my impressions in the next two weeks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

the problem of making a thing, but not selling a thing.

all the questions we are taught to use when you first meet someone:

what do you do?
where do you live?
what are your hobbies?

are designed to help you quickly put them in a definable box.

what is your place in our economy?
what sort of consumption patterns so you participate in?
not looking at everything every per
son as a commodity
is a really hard thing in our society.

In the craft world at large, more than likely meeting folks will lead to the questions:
"do you sell?"

My "correct" answer is 'I dont." I say that, and alot of the time there is a pause. oh. ok. Its a weird pause, like if youre not selling it...well...? Then what?

Sometimes its an enthusiastic: "you SHOULD!"

Is the more correct answer: "oh no, I just buy stuff. My role is the consumer."

I do purchase yarn, support local artisans in the community by purchasing tools I need from from them. I try to purchase the raw fiber from local dye artists who are dyeing and processing fiber on a small scale on their own terms. I am also a maker too - just not participating in the commodity exchange at the end of my project.

Somehow that answer bothers me.

Despite 40+ hour dayjob, I still cant help but make things in every other moment of my life. Even if during the day I have to use my hands on a keyboard and not on a wheel or needle for work.

Is the validation for being a craftsman in that you make something to sell? Can it be for the enjoyment of the work, the learning, the expression?

As you know, this is all about process an learning for me. I do this for the preservation and the desire and impetus to learn more, to keep the knowledge alive a flowing. There are not a ton of people out there who find spinning yarn (for example, for which I am most passionate) particularly fascinating, and I feel like I am one of the lucky few who do. (If you go to a spinning conference, you will find many many others) and its an obligation to the craft to learn everything I can about it, caretake what knowledge I can absorb, perhaps add my own spin to it, but more importantly keep it alive.

The best answer I can come up with right now is to borrow from my friend Zoe: "No, but I am a major Enthusiast." (its not assertive enough somehow.)

Or perhaps I would like to assert a reclamation of the term "AMATEUR" as one who gives themselves fully and devotionally to a subject while otherwise financially employed in an entirely different venture.

how do you talk about what you do?
does it matter to sell a thing?
where does the thing you make go to live its potential?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

working on it

just a quick pop in - im trying to figure out how to do this and also stay sane in my insane dayjob. this subject will definately be a topic i want to cover - how on earth do you do balance a dayjob with the things that your brain requires (when you dont get it from your job) and your hands require. how to do these things so that you can get to bigger and better things. i know its not in the best interested of my dayjob (as differentiated by my work which is what i feel like this is) for me to have outside interests that stray me into focusing more on that, but in order to submit the day i need the allowance.

also i have been thinking about how important it would be to really create a cohort of people who are working on thier own projects but in need of some sort of similar motivation.

to be continued.....

Saturday, June 27, 2009

momentary (month-long) distraction

I fully intended on jumping right into my studies this month.

I got a little distracted by this:

handspun forest canopy shawl

“Forest Canopy Shawl”/ Handspun DK 2 ply Superwash Merino fiber from PigeonRoof Studios

(click on image to see whole thing)

(thats sort of compulsory spinners/knitters footnotes)

Ive been thinking a lot about process while knitting this shawl.

Why did I sit on the yarn so long if I thought I knew what to do with it while I was spinning?

(The fiber was spun over last christmas vacation intended for sock yarn, but the plied yarn was too thin in certain places to make a good sock yarn in the end.)

At what point did I feel comfortable enough to embark on the Forest Canopy pattern?

handspun forest canopy shawl

The pattern actually took a lot of thinking about whether the variations in the colors would look ok, or if it would stripe at all. (it did, is ok.)

Spinning this yarn was during a really stressful period of living at my parents house – looking at it I will never forget the feeling of hiding out on Christmas Eve in our bedroom just taking a moment to spin to calm myself. The light in that bedroom was really terrible. I had no idea how many colors and interactions there were until I saw it when I was done plying, and all the while I was knitting it there was a constant delight at the way the colors played out in the lace pattern.


What then about all these thoughts, and how they get ironed in by our movements and actions. How all of the above is what I am processing as I am knitting the shawl stitch by stitch.

And then questions of intent. Will I still continue to think these things when I wear it? Will I wear it? Did I imagine already while I was casting on that there was one person for whom this shawl was meant for? That made clear to me when I finally was knitting the yarn in its rightful purpose. Not socks. A shawl. And suddenly the purpose of the process, already begun back in December, is realized.

handspun forest canopy shawl

I cant think about craft as anything other than process.

Ive reconciled in the knitting of this shawl that in my interpretation, craft is a VERB.

A transformational process.

The nouns that we collect to start a process are infused with POTENTIAL.

We courier this potential in our leg of the work to its final state which can be in different spots in the lifecycle of the material – for one person the finished material state is the beginning of another person's process cycle.

Also that life gets in the way sometimes, and knitting is the way that I cope and process that.


Saturday, May 30, 2009


if theres anyone who wants to throw a whole lot onto thier plate and do thier own subject DIY - MA or MFA related to craft, material studies, art, etc......please let me know.

theres a thought of perhaps putting together a loose group of over achievers to get through this together. seeing as its DIY, you can start anytime, and do whatever you want you know?


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


edited to add 10/2009
this list is my hope and aspiration for what I can work up to - rigorous studio practice. Ive put alot of pressure on myself and been disappointed in for only being able to work on this from time to time - but a part of the evolution to getting to the work is the finding yourself in new habits.

So, still evolving. Ive now come to that monthly I am focusing on one aspect of the curriculum and this month (since I will be going to the American Crafts Council Conference later this month.) Its craft theory.

The culmination of this project is going to be a thesis with a body of work that supports it. And I think (right now) the subject is going to be about Process.

(P.S. my dad is totally laughing right now because he is a software development process consultant and I grew up with as the things he talked about (metaprocesses, dev. cycles, etc.) what he was thinking about his field are actually mirrored in a really direct way to what is really starting to take shape as being applicable to not only making things with your hands but also DIY as a process of living ones life, a vehicle to enact change. OK DAD, your research and work really does make sense to me, and thank you for the inspiration!)

officially to start June 1, 2009

C O M P O N E N T S:

H A N D W O R K:
commit to working on challenging knitting, spinning and embroidery/sewing projects - learning more and more challenging techniques.

S K E T C H B O O K:
purpose is a commitment to seeing and working on hand rendering skills - 4 pages per week - draw whatever - to get into the practice of drawing as making.

R E A D I N G:
work through reading list

C R A F T O P H I L I A:
podcast with Alisa - in development. focus on the "private crafter...craft not for money...i'll show you just how to do..." (sorry, will explain later.)

T H E W O R K:
start working on pieces that I have had mapped out for years - do one step per week - document said steps on this blog - keep moving forward - one step at a time - to become a daily practice - take the place of sketchbook

T H E C O M M U N I T Y:
go to guild meetings - lectures - travel to conferences and workshops - to learn and write about themes encountered on this blog - on the roster for the rest of the year:

Sock Summit 2009 - August 9th - Luminary Panel
American Craft Council - October 15-17 - Creating a New Craft Culture
Spin Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR) - October 29-November 1

E V E R Y S I X M O N T H S:
summary writing on what has happened in the last "semester."

W H E N E V E R:
posts about things that i come across that relate to craftnart and what im thinking about them.

C U L M I N A T I O N:
paper. body of work. joy of studying craft n handmade. bliss.

I N S U M M A T I O N:
lets begin!