Women's Library


On 9th February the CarrytheCan team held a follow up to the conference as part of the 'Collection' progamme, a series of events held to coincide with Collect at the Victoria and Albert Museum http://collect.craftscouncil.org.uk/

The conference brought up some significant issues, not least, raising questions of materiality, origins and taking responsibility for the work that we produce: acknowledging the sourcing of materials, the legacy of work produced and the need and place for this work in our society today. The event asked for participants to get involved, to consider their part even if this part may seem small and far removed from making a difference.

Dialogue was key at the conference and of course dialogue is key for an organisation such as the ACJ. It is through this that key developments occur and very tangible and significant changes are made. One such tangible event happened within the 'Values and Materials' breakout group, where it was decided that an ACJ ethics committee would be set up. That afternoon, at the ACJ’s AGM, a unanimous motion was passed in order for this to happen.

The ethical metalsmiths, Christina Miller and Susan Kingsley, who spoke at the conference, have reported a great response from the UK. Their website receiving many enquiries and pledges of ongoing support. Individuals wanting more information on mining issues and how to add their voice to the calls that our related industries need to change and that we do indeed have an important voice to add. I am now beginning to help develop curriculum changes in the States with the Ethical Metalsmiths and will be spending some time with Christina Miller discussing this, in March when I am on a guest lecture tour there.

As for at home….certainly things appear to be changing…we can see more changes in consumer culture. How this impacts on the way that we use materials and source them is having a trickle down effect. I am starting to see this impact on our students…and makers are being asked more questions about the origins of their materials.

There is also a key movement in DIY crafts currently going on which seems to be related. With the consumer thinking about what they buy, with underlying concerns of economics, over consumption and the carbon footprint…the tangible effect seems to be a move towards doing it yourself.
In Veronique Vienne’s essay the Spectacle 2000
She says
“With nothing to fabricate, the majority of people are reduced to buying ready-made products – examining them, poking them and fondling them in the process just to satisfy a yearning in their fingers. Shopping is a substitute for producing. When my daughter was a teenager, she would often say, like so many of her contemporaries, ‘mom I have nothing to do. I’m bored. Let’s go shopping!’ It soon became a family joke…”
From time to time, I indulged her shopping impulses, but I also suggested alternatives: fix toys, repaint the bathroom, make jam, wax the furniture. One of her favourite mood uppers, it turned out, was doing the silver…."1

So is this the answer?

With a recent up-search in the DIY aspect of the crafts is this helpful or a hindrance in raising issues of sustainability?

Last Saturday’s Guardian contained a craft supplement with ideas from making a box kite to creating a very ugly recycled table. Many of my colleagues have been offended by this, but is it not the same as the craft books I was brought up with…the how to make your own ideas that perhaps got me engaged in a process of making and doing.

I wonder?

However I am also struck by the sense that we don’t need this stuff, that perhaps the activity needs to be of a more considered nature…one where you create with thought, with an intention and with an understanding of what the legacy is or could be. Is this not where the professional can raise the standard?

Perhaps as Veronique Vienne suggests it is enough for the individual to satisfy themselves with household pursuits…again in this country more people are living locally, producing their own food on allotments, sourcing produce nearer to home.

And how does this impact on the professional crafts? Is it helpful, does it raise awareness of what we as makers do? Does it stimulate the debate? And if so does it stimulate it in a positive way? And can we as professionals stimulate the debate at the DIY level…insisting on thoughts of legacy and sustainability?

Thankfully there seems to be a great deal of engagement starting to occur at a high level. There are several conferences happening this year that will look at new movements and developments, such as New Crafts Future Voices. http://www.newcraftfuturevoices.com/

Helen Carnac February 2007

1 Veronique Vienne Something to be Desired. Essays on Design. 2001 Graphis Inc page 10