Saturday, December 12, 2009

3 by 1 Symposium

This symposium was held in association with the 3 by 1 exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham.
Left: Lettering by David Howell

Sandra Alfoldy, of Nova Scotia University, spoke of the current DIY Crafters movement that is gathering momentum in North America. Led by young, predominantly female, craft makers for whom their craft is a livelihood rather than a lifestyle choice the movements work is becoming collectible. It will be interesting to follow the progress of this modern, more aggressive, dynamic of the craft arena to see if it can escape the hobby-craft tag and lift itself into the true economically viability that it seems to be seeking (rather than parity with 'art').
Right: Hand woven Jacket by Ethel Maraite

Alison Britton, potter and curator, spoke of the enormity of the task she faced in choosing the pieces to be displayed in 3 b1 from the vast collections of the Crafts Study Centre, The British Council Collection and the Crafts Council Collection. Usually such exhibitions have a very specific set of criteria for selection but Alison was invited to make a personal selection - objects that communicate with her. Ceramics, textiles, works on paper and wood from a wide variety of periods and makers were carefully selected for the way they would interact and enhance each others essential qualities. Alison explained some of the alternative sub-groupings that she considered including colour.
Mark Bills from the Watts Gallery gave a fascinating insight into the Gallery, which came second in the 2006 BBC series Restoration Village, and the work of G.F. Watts. Unfortunately the Gallery will remain closed until late 2010 whilst restoration work is in progress. Watts most famous work is 'Hope in Despair' (left) which has been seen as an 'evocation of the human condition; the ability of people, at their lowest point to sense and feel a strand, a single string of hope that keeps them going, when all around is failing'. When the gallery reopens I shall certainly visit the church which has the most amazing range of ornamentation including painting, sculpture and ceramics.
Mark also spoke about the memorial wall of ceramic plaques created by Watts and added to after his death by his wife Mary. Now known as Postman's Park it was photographs of these plaques that were used by Susan Hiller for her installation 'Monument' . Watts originally worked with the De Morgan pottery to make the plaques and the possibility of the DeMorgan centre becoming a part of the Watts Gallery is currently under discussion.
In his summary Glen Adamson, of the V&A, spoke of the techniques and materiality of the crafts. His summary that in the crafts it take so long to master the basic techniques that the development of a creative language is a biographical commitment to a lifetime of knowledge was especially meaningful to those of us who work in especially slow crafts such as lacemaking. He commented that the slowness of craft allows the nuances and diversity of lifelong learning to be shown in a single squiggle such as those of Michael Cardew in his slipware bowls (left).

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