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«Crafting Creativity & Creating Craft Craftivism, Art Education, and Contemporary Craft Culture Courtney Lee Weida (Ed.) Crafting Creativity & ...»

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Crafting Creativity &

Creating Craft

Craftivism, Art Education, and

Contemporary Craft Culture

Courtney Lee Weida (Ed.)

Crafting Creativity & Creating Craft


Volume 8

Advances in Creativity and Gifted Education (ADVA) is the first internationally

established book series that focuses exclusively on the constructs of creativity and giftedness as pertaining to the psychology, philosophy, pedagogy and ecology of talent development across the milieus of family, school, institutions and society.

ADVA strives to synthesize both domain specific and domain general efforts at developing creativity, giftedness and talent. The books in the series are international in scope and include the efforts of researchers, clinicians and practitioners across the globe.

Series Editor:

Bharath Sriraman, The University of Montana, USA

International Advisory Panel:

Don Ambrose, Rider University, USA David Chan, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Anna Craft, University of Exeter, UK Stephen Hegedus, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, USA Kristina Juter, Kristianstad University College, Sweden James C. Kaufman, California State University at San Bernardino, USA Kyeonghwa Lee, Seoul National University, Korea Roza Leikin, University of Haifa, Israel Peter Liljedahl, Simon Fraser University, Canada Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Northwestern University, USA Larisa Shavinina, University of Quebec, Canada

Editorial Assistant:

Claire Payne Crafting Creativity & Creating Craft Edited by Courtney Lee Weida Adelphi University, New York, USA A C.I.P. record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN: 978-94-6209-837-4 (paperback) ISBN: 978-94-6209-838-1 (hardback) ISBN: 978-94-6209-839-8 (e-book) Published by: Sense Publishers, P.O. Box 21858, 3001 AW Rotterdam, The Netherlands https://www.sensepublishers.com/ Printed on acid-free paper All Rights Reserved © 2014 Sense Publishers No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording or otherwise, without written permission from the Publisher, with the exception of any material supplied specifically for the purpose of being entered and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work.


Overview vii Prologue: My Beginnings With Craft ix Introduction 1 Nick Jaffe

1. Foundations of Craft in Education 5 Courtney Weida

2. Crafting Popular Culture: A Hands on Approach 9 Celia Caro

3. Craft Objects and Storytelling 19 Dolapo Adeniji-Neill, Tara Concannon-Gibney & Courtney Weida

–  –  –

5. Remixed/Unstitched Digital Communities of Contemporary Craft 37 Jennifer Marsh & Courtney Weida

6. Crafting Inner Space: Guided Visualizations for the Creative Classroom 45 Diane Caracciolo

–  –  –

This nine chapter volume will explore creativity in art teaching and contemporary craft. It will provide the reader with a wealth of resources and frameworks for utilizing craft media (fiber, ceramics, baskets, needlepoint, knitting, etc.) and craft approaches (grassroots projects, digital communities, craftivism, etc.) within contemporary K-12 art education, museum and community programming, and teaching artist residencies. Authors representing a variety of specialties in craft, art, and education will examine the resurgence of the handmade and homemade in contemporary youth culture, digital implications of how we define and teach craft creatively, and the overlap of design, function, and beauty in artists’ work.

The anthology will particularly:

* Describe the challenges and potentialities of working with craft in education settings, including the overarching craft of teaching * Provide a range of creative frameworks and practical models that educators can use: from dynamic digital resources, to community groups, and lesson plans and activities in craft with art classes and special needs classes * Provide a working definition and rationale of the functions of craft in daily life, popular and youth culture, and larger social issues (including craft, D.I.Y, and activism/“craftivism”).


In college and graduate school, I worked as the director of summer arts programs at sleep-away and day camps near the ocean. A paint shortage halfway through one summer led me to sort through seemingly ancient art supplies boxed and forgotten from a predecessor’s supply stash. It was there that I located several dusty half-made baskets and additional unwoven reeds. One of my staff members expressed great joy at this finding. Obliging her interest and initiative, our students trailed out of our art cabin later that afternoon, into the cool and shallow water along the shore, equipped with reeds and her helpful guidance on basket-weaving. That day, a calm washed over us as we wove water-softened reeds into baskets and discussed the history, use, and look of them along the sun-bright beach. Weaving in beads, shells, and scraps of colorful paper over subsequent sessions, we were spellbound by preliminary explorations of the process Meilach (1974) described as “revising creative methods used centuries ago” (p. 1). I have since encouraged pre-service teachers to explore basket-weaving to create practical, beautiful objects for their classrooms. Craft enables us to explore some important themes as artists and educators. As you work with craft media, you may wish to explore some preliminary questions about your own practice as an artist and educator. Questions and examples are listed along with each chapter in this volume to connect the authors’ work to implications for your

own teaching and art making experiences:

1. What is your unique craft history and experience to bring to teaching? (For example, many craftspeople or artisans come from traditions of making baskets, pots, jewelry, and other objects within families or collectives, others are drawn to the DIY or Do-It-Yourself movement, while others have been trained within schools and craft leagues. You might ask an elder relative and be surprised by the hidden artistic lineage that brought you here.)

2. How can particular craft materials teach us something special about form, color, texture, value, harmony, and other elements and principles? (E.g. How is clay work particularly suited to texture explorations, or how can embroidery teach us about pattern and color in a very rich way?)

3. Issues of form and function – How will you lead students in creating objects that explore both process and product, that serve a purpose/function or are beautiful (or grotesque or spooky or quirky etc.) for their own sake?

4. Roles of tradition and innovation – Where will a repeated technique or process be adhered to (e.g. stitching, knotting, coiling, etc.) versus a new way of doing or intentionally subverting a technique (think of a pot that’s meant to be off-center, a basket with intentional holes in it, or a garment that’s not meant to ever be worn).

–  –  –

Humans are makers; craft has always been at the center of our making. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our subjective way of seeing the world becomes part of anything we make. We cannot make things without in some way embedding ourselves.

By “craft” I mean a combination of function-driven design and aesthetics; a direct connection (real or imagined) between the maker and the user; and an implied universality—we are all constantly engaged in some type of “crafting,” whether we acknowledge it as such or not. There are and must be specialists in crafting, but it has never been the province of specialists alone.

In his exhaustive, brilliant and provocative book The Nature of Paleolithic Art, biologist and artist R. Dale Guthrie (Guthrie, R. D. (2005). The Nature of Paleolithic Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press) makes a compelling argument that cave and other Paleolithic art, far from being the province of shamans or specialists was made by children, adolescents and likely everyone. Functional art was part of the picture from the beginning too. His book is full of illustrations of arrow-straighteners and other tools decorated with tremendous skill and often a great sense of humor.

Ancient makers would use the shape of tools or the cracks in rocks to create visual double-entendres and depict such absurdities as animals eating their own tails. Life for people living 30,000 years ago appears to have been full of craft and art in spite of what must have been a very difficult and often precarious existence.

The development of agriculture and some measure of material surplus made a division of labor in society both possible and necessary. Technique in such areas as pottery, weaving, wood and iron working became more complex and craft became a more specialized activity. In many cultures an artisan class emerged along with codified methods of production that could be passed on through generations. But even as the production of some objects became more specialized, design and aesthetics became ever more generalized. Abstractions, symbols, and specific design elements often served to unite and even define, social and political groups—villages, clans, tribes and kingdoms—even as these same groups began to divide along gender, vocational and class lines. Style emerged as a way of defining the collective, and as an element of culture. Style also functioned as way for even the non-artisan/ specialist to create personal objects that could relate to the larger cultural context.

So, from the dawn of class society there has been both a synergy and tension between “art” and “craft.” The naturalistic and often humorous art of Paleolithic people seems to have flowed almost effortlessly between the “canvas” of cave walls C.L. Weida (Ed.), Crafting Creativity & Creating Craft, 1–4.

© 2014 Sense Publishers. All rights reserved.

N. JAFFE and the surfaces of all-important, highly functional tools. With Mesolithic and later agricultural societies both naturalistic and increasingly


signs continued to adorn functional objects but also began to serve other social and aesthetic purposes as religious or magical symbols, and as symbols of power and status. The emergence of mercantile capitalism meant that the expertise of the craftsperson became an economic factor and the objects he/she produced became commodities with an economic value and significance that might bear little relationship to their utility.

The ritual and secrecy of the guild system in medieval Europe, or similar institutions elsewhere were the expression of an economic tension—if everyone is potentially a “maker,” then the only way to convert expertise and technique into exchange value is to hold it very closely.

Industrial capitalism brought even greater changes to both the methods and meanings of artisanship and an increasingly radical division between “art” and “craft.” Ruling classes were no longer content to simply possess the most rare, valuable and labor-intensive products of artisans; they began to elevate “non-functional” aesthetic expression to an exalted, even divine status. Just as technique and production methods in the crafts in many cultures and places were reaching unprecedented levels of refinement and complexity, the craftsperson was increasingly debased as “less than an artist.” The advent of mechanized mass production threatened to do away with artisanship all together except perhaps as an exotic luxury for a very few.

The early days of working class struggle against capital also saw a reaction by the artisan class and its champions in the intelligentsia against the marginalization of craft. In the early 19th Century the Luddites—militant textile artisans in England—smashed the new power looms in protest. The Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th and early 20th Century united artisans and designers from England to America and Japan in a cultural struggle to restore the dignity and artistry of artisanship with the goal of providing finely made functional objects to the working masses. Many innovations in design and objects of breathtaking beauty and elegance came out of the Arts and Crafts Movement. But ultimately the desperate struggle of the Luddites and the utopian visions of a William Morris were doomed to failure.

Industrial production may be under the control of a capitalist class that sacrifices the artisan’s artistry on the altar of profit without a second thought; but industrial production does not exist because of those capitalists. Rather industrial production exists as a consequence of humanity’s struggle to satisfy its basic, human needs— food, shelter, life, freedom and the leisure time with which to do things that satisfy and fulfill us. In the hands of the many industrial production can be a tremendous force for human liberation, and therefore also for artistic and craft innovation and expression.

In the 1920’s the artists, architects, designers and students of the radical Bauhaus School in Germany and the Vkhutemas State Art and Technical School in the early USSR took up the banner of the craftsman on a new plane—that of embracing industrial production as a means of producing beautiful, high quality, functional objects on a mass scale so that they could be used and enjoyed by all working people.


The profound impact that the Bauhaus and Vkhutemas have had on art and design can be seen everywhere in the world today. Walk down the aisles of a “big box store” and with virtually every “modern” product of industrial design, no matter how half-assed or how brilliant, odds are you can trace at least part of its aesthetic and production lineage to the Bauhaus or a related modernist school or movement.

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