Symposium asks ‘what is craft?’

Arlen MacLaine
By Arlen MacLaine
October 22nd, 2013

This Wednesday evening, come one come all, to the Rossland Art Gallery, for a panel discussion concerning all things to do with craft and its place in the 21st century.  The event will cover the full spectrum of craft and crafting, including contemporary questions about the role of crafting, but also metaphysical questions, like what is art, and what is craft?  This year marks the 40th anniversary of the B.C. Craft Council, and host Almeda Glenn Miller hopes the audience, as well as the panel, will contribute to a lively and thought-provoking discussion.

“We want to explore the idea of ‘making’ and the pleasure in making,” said Miller.  “We’ll also be looking at the process, and the nature of workmanship.”

The panel will consist of fibre artist Theshini Naicker, designer Renate Fleming, artist Charlene Barnes, and Miller, who is a writer and instructor at Selkirk College.

What do you think the role of craft is?  Is it form or function?  Is the finished product to be used functionally, or for pleasure?  What is the object of desire, the craft maker, or the object?  Are we attracted to the finished product, or is it the lifestyle, the focus and dedication to the process that appeals to us?  These are the kinds of topics that will be discussed at the event.

“I’d like to explore expediency,” said Miller.  “Now that everything has to be done quickly and precisely, is there a place for a slow process? Some craft makers delegate jobs to machines or other devices, that produce a certain kind of precision.  Is there validity in the handmade process?”

One of the major themes of the event is the idea of risk and vulnerability that comes with craft.

A lot of a craft person’s work is done behind the scenes and is in private. For some, crafting and creating can be therapeutic and can explore a side of them that might not otherwise get explored.  It can be very personal, and once their craft is on display, there can be a feeling of vulnerability.

“What was so fascinating to me, was knowing the people who put their work in, socially, and then seeing what they produce,” said Miller. “There is a private world that a craftsperson has that is another side of them that nobody ever sees.  I’m interested in how makers, find the process, and what that brings out of them.”

The Rossland Art Gallery is open daily, with the exhibition running until October 30th.  This symposium starts at 7pm on Wednesday, October 23rd.

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