Friday, 10 January 2014

What Craft Means To Me?

The following post is personal to me.

I have been thinking about this word, for a long time!
What it means to me, what it mean't 20 years ago, what it means now?
So what is Craft?
I do not have a definitive answer but I have some ideas I wish to share and hope that if your able you'll share your thoughts with me too.

Craft to me is the the title of my degree.
Bachelor of Arts-Craft Honours.
...20 years ago. 
(arrrgh...screams into the mirror)

I made a decision, to pursue my hearts desire, clay!
High school clay works

My first experience with clay was in year seven and that was it.

Don't really remember why and I don't think I thought too much about it at the time.
Looking back it could of been I the stressful time of final exams, pressure of being at school, might of made me think that, studying a degree with essays and exams was not my idea of fun!
I wanted freedom, independence, out!

First year fun
Don't get me wrong I wasn't afraid of hard work and received a fairly decent exam score, my best subjects were Biology and Human Development......not Art. (surprise!)

But I persued what was going to make me happy.

Four years of study, everyday of that spent on the wheel, learning, perfecting and quite frankly with a dog headdedness to succeed.

I was pleased with the success I had achieved and walked away with an understanding that I had earned the respect of my lecturers.
I'd done my apprenticeship.
In my degree I learnt to persist when all else failed (whole kiln loads gone), what good pottery was, what good technique was and what it meant to practise, improve and work!

First Year

Second/Third Year

Honours Year

Then CRAFT was?
Those who made in Clay
(Mud-chuckers, who walked around in old clothes with hand print wipes on our backsides from cleaning our hands on our clothes) 

Those who worked in Metal (metal-mafia, wore black alot,aloof)
Those who worked in Glass (mysterious,usually women,quiet)

Then and only if you'd qualified in your chosen field.

Could you call yourself a Potter, Silversmith/Jeweller or Glass Artist.

Third year studio

So with a solid reputation and a consistent body of work and strong aesthetic could you approach galleries to sell your work.
There was no etsy, or any online shops, or an online buy handmade community?
There was no blogging, no instagram, no FB, no twitter.
You had your local markets but they were dead.

Graduate Exhibition.

In fact everything that is now available would of been frowned upon by my staunch purist Clay lecturers....even plaster cast (slip cast) pottery was a dirty word! 

No West German pottery there!
The only retro pottery we were introduced to was Bitossi.

Now the word 'craft' has many sides!
There are the crafty types, crafters, those who crafternoon, creatives, those who like a bit of DIY craft, those who make crafty books, Designer, Makers, Etsy seller, Artists and Designer Makers!

This is not a bad thing, just an observation.
You don't need a qualifiaction, apprenticeship to make and sell in this new era......that's fine :)

BUT, yes BUT.... here's my humble opinion, 
You do need craftmanship.

Craftsmanship to me is knowing your material, 
Understanding it's capabilities strengths/weaknesses.
Taking it into new directions, being sympathetic to it but challenging it too.
Accepting mistakes and finding joy in the process.
And above all, unique to you.

Thank you for reading this post.


Please excuse the quality of the pictures, taking pics of pics is difficult and it was the nineties! :)


  1. I think there's a huge difference in perfecting a craft, such as working with clay or metal or doing fine wood work and just being what is generally called "crafty" today...all the DIYers and people who do cutesy little projects, like painting a table with chalk paint. There's nothing at all wrong with DIY projects, and I've done my share...but I don't delude myself that it's the same as art.

    I respect those of you who have worked very hard to hone a craft until you produce pieces that are truly works of art. I don't have that talent. I'm crafty, but I'll never be a true craftsman.

  2. I think you have a very strong design aesthetic Dana. Your part in the success of Mid2Mod clearly shows that......and may I add that your attention to detail and placement puts you in the craftsmanship category too, as an advocate!

  3. We like to get our knickers in a big knot at work about the 'C' word (I mean craft obviously - not the other one!) my boss has a slightly annoyingly sexist definition that Craft with a big C is capable of generating income (mostly men's work historically), whereas domestic craft (small c - mostly female) somehow doesn't count. Doesn't move the argument forward but manages to annoy the bejasus out of me in a way I can't quite put my finger on.
    Your stuff rocks though - if that's any help!

    1. Thanks for commenting, yes I do remember the boys club when I was set Uni, even it that environment there was a stigma! Best thing to do is out make them I say! :)

  4. I'm so sorry I discovered this wonderful post so late! I really enjoyed all your student pics, having a peek into that part of your life is a real treat! I sooo agree with you on all of the above. In my opinion the pretty and the challenging belong in two different worlds. The challenging part is so important, maybe THE most important. We wouldn't have modernism if it wasn't for that. The same applies to design and architecture. Bringing art, design and architecture forward needs some kind of academic or educated understanding. An experimental approach to the particular field that you train for in an art school is vital. Nothing annoys me more than celebrity "designers" who get a break a "real" designer could wait a lifetime for, and maybe never get.
    I hear you loud and clear, Pippa, and I agree wholeheartedly:-)

  5. Ps.
    I got so carried away, I forgot to tell you how much I looove your pottery!!

  6. Somehow (like Tove ) I missed this post, and it's such a good one too Pipstar. The girls before me have said it much better than I could, so all I'll add is that I'm in awe of clever creatives like you who make beautiful things. Craft en masse can be a bit samey-samey copycat boring, I think that's where a bit of an 'edumacation' makes a difference...

  7. but then again, I know nuthink!


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