>> Tina Barseghian is editor-in-chief of CRAFT magazine.
The Name Game
The word craft has come under serious contemporary art or craft? A sculpture built of
scrutiny lately. There’s been debate bottle caps (page 148): sculptural art or craft?
between “trained” craftspeople and We explore this tension explicitly in a feature article
“untrained” crafters, between “contemporary art” by Annie Buckley (page 34). Buckley confirms that
and “craft,” even between “design” and “craft.” museums and galleries are increasingly featuring
Craft itself has been even further qualified: tradi- works by contemporary artists who use traditional
tional craft, indie craft, alternative craft, extreme crafting techniques. And yet a pronounced bias
craft. It’s hard to believe we’re all addressing the from the art world against craft persists.
same subject. In the end, it’s all semantics, as our cover subject
A few months ago, I attended a talk by Jennifer Travis Meinolf would tell you. Meinolf shows that
Scanlan, associate curator of the Museum of Arts even the most traditional craft — weaving — defies
and Design in New York. With an entertaining slide- category. He earned his master’s degree in fine arts
show, Scanlan showed examples of where art and from the California College of the Arts (formerly the
craft intersect, then explained why the institution California College of Arts and Crafts, named after
had recently changed its name from American the burgeoning Arts and Crafts movement of the
Craft Museum to the Museum of Arts and Design: early 1900s) and chose to focus his thesis on weav-
in short, because “people’s association with the ing. Meinolf hand-wove dozens of woolen blankets
term craft did not reflect what was going on with as part of a conceptual art project, and gave them
our galleries.” away for free (page 46). He’s also designed a free,
“We felt that a more expansive name would portable loom to prove that cloth can be made by
allow us to address the shifting nature of the field anyone, anywhere. Does the fact that he teaches
itself,” Scanlan said. “A lot of artists have been weaving and has his work exhibited at galleries and
moving in between fields that had been more museums make weaving art instead of craft?
clearly defined 20 or 30 years ago. As a contem- For us, craft is inherently about the creative pro-
porary art museum, we wanted to show these cess, whether practiced for years or in the hands
artists, and to engage them.” of a beginner. Crafting may result in an artwork
Scanlan explained that a focus group had indicated displayed in a vitrine in a museum, or a private
that the word craft somehow implied the “vernacular treasure that never leaves the confines of your
and unsophisticated.” On the other hand, “contem- house. The important part of the equation here
porary design these days is often associated with is not the category to which we assign it, but, as
the idea of process, and using more traditional skills,” Scanlan says, the process by which it was made.
she says. In other words, craft? Whether the person who created the object found
As a magazine dedicated to craft projects of all joy in the discovery of a way to make something by
types, we present a range of crafts that dance along hand, in learning about or mastering a technique.
the blurry boundaries of art and craft, and bounce We share with you these processes and discov-
between indie, alt, extreme, and traditional crafts. eries, along with the stories of creators, in hopes
Making a modern stained glass window (page of inspiring you to create — and not just based on
80): traditional craft or art? A gorgeous end table patterns and ideas we provide. We encourage you to
made out of a tree trunk and branches (page 101): make your own design, and to share it with others.
design or craft? A Polaroid photo transfer (page 120): What you call it is up to you.×