The first official meeting of the new academic year welcomed new member Ann Boonstra from London College of Fashion, and regulars Giorgio Salani (CSM), Katherine Pogson (LCF) and Monika Dorniak (MA Art and Science, CSM).
This was a practical meeting, introducing the new website and social media platforms, together with an overview of discussions from last year. Plans for future articles and readings were discussed, alongside possibilities for our presence during UAL Research fortnight.
In the absence of a set text for this session, discussion focused on the concept of materials: their origins and qualities, both subjective and physical. ‘Narratives’ embedded within objects by the process of manufacture imply the transformation of humble elements, but assumptions attached to the intangible properties of materials are often not questioned. These assumptions may include hierarchies of value, together with notions of purity and virtue, which can be at odds with the highly industrial process by which the ‘raw’ material is obtained.
In debating the concept of craft values, a spectrum of craft activity is delineated – from artisanal production through studio craft to applied art and on to Fine Art – with a corresponding shift of emphasis from process of materials manipulation and technique on one hand, to conceptual thought and cultural context on the other. The variety of constructs which may be considered to create value includes ideas of originality, individuality, tradition and heritage, skilled labour, branding, critical thinking, and ‘message’.
Outlining this spectrum gave rise to discussion about professionalism versus amateurism, private versus monetary value, and signed versus unsigned work. Leading on from the idea of ‘submerged’ values in relation to materials, reference was made to Art in the Making (Adamson and Bryan-Wilson, 2016) and specifically, Glenn Adamson’s talk at the Crafts Council book club meeting in London on 8 September, where he extrapolated from a trend for artists ‘surfacing’ aspects of the process of making in their work, towards a reluctance for some to acknowledge the collective nature of much art production, a phenomenon he describe d as “working in the medium of other people’slabour”.
It was decided to explore the theme of 'the value of craftsmanship' more deeply in the meeting next month, with reference to the writings of David Pye and Richard Sennett as a starting point.