Crafting Identity

Crafting Identity: The Development of Professional Fine Craft in Canada

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Crafting Identity
    Book Description:

    Alfoldy focuses on 1964-74 and the debates over distinctions between professional, self-taught, and amateur craftspeople and between one-of-a-kind and traditional craft objects. She deals extensively with key people and events, including American philanthropist Aileen Osborn Webb and Canadian philanthropist Joan Chalmers, the foundation of the World Crafts Council (1964) and the Canadian Crafts Council (1974), the Canadian Fine Crafts exhibition at Expo 67, and the In Praise of Hands exhibition of 1974.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7264-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    CONTEMPORARY PROFESSIONAL CRAFT IS THE CHILD OF LATE MODERNISM. Semantics surrounding the word craft developed in the postwar period when a system of labels based on the legacy of North American modern art were developed and applied to distinguish a new entity, professional North American craft, from its predecessor, traditional craft. The craft community has long suppressed the reality of this hierarchical organization for two reasons. First, it defeats the romanticized vision of a harmonious craft world. Second, many craftspeople and supporters believe that the presentation of a unified field of craft can ward off the perceived threat of dominance...

  5. 1 Pioneering Professional Craft in Canada
    (pp. 17-54)

    THE 1960S WITNESSED THE EMERGENCE OF PROFESSIONAL CRAFT EXPERTS in Canada. While there had been significant voices for craft throughout the twentieth century, the decade of the 1960s encouraged a new approach to the crafts that emphasized innovation, interdisciplinarity, and the saw the materialization of a new organization, the Canadian Craftsmen’s Association. These developments would ultimately challenge the bureaucratic management of craft previously dominated by the Canadian Handicrafts Guild. Sandra Flood has argued that the perception “‘nothing happened here in craft until the late 1960s, early 1970s’ with the corollary ’until the Americans arrived,’” is damaging to the establishment of...

  6. 2 Aileen Osborn Webb and the American Craft Council: Establishing a Professional Craft Ideology
    (pp. 55-82)

    THE UNITED STATES PROVIDED LEADERSHIP IN CRAFT DISCOURSE DURING THE and 1950s, and 1950s, paralleling the shift in artistic power from Europe to New York during the same period. Under the direction of Aileen Osborn Webb, the New York-based American Craft Council financed and supported a new ideological openness for crafts, one which recognized the need for the support of the powerful elite within modernist art circles. Webb was knowledgeable of, and intimate with, many key players in this New York scene, including René ďHarnoncourt, director of the Museum of Modern Art. Her awareness of modernist aesthetics led to the...

  7. 3 1967: A Centennial Year of Crafts in Canada and a Leadership Role for Native Crafts
    (pp. 83-122)

    EXPO 67 PROVIDED A PRESTIGIOUS INTERNATIONAL STAGE UPON WHICH TO introduce the professional Canadian craft artist. The financial support and promotion of this event, perceived as a symbol of Canada’s maturation into full nationhood, paralleled the growth in professional structures for craft. The initial stage of professional consolidation experienced during the foundation of the Canadian Craftsmen’s Association led to its establishment as Canada’s self-regulating craft organization. Deemed a symbol of professional maturity for its organizational skills, the Canadian Craftsmen’s Association found itself officially endorsed by Aileen Osborn Webb at its Kingston Conference where the North American craft community celebrated its...

  8. 4 Professional Education, Professional Aesthetics
    (pp. 123-158)

    EDUCATION WAS A VITAL COMPONENT IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF PROFESSIONAL Canadian craft. Following Expo 67 the stage was set to begin the large-scale process of institutionalizing specialized knowledge for craft. Significantly, Anglophone Canada often turned to US instructors and examples for educational leadership rather than investigating the strong educational process for craft that had been previously established in Quebec.¹ The growth in college and university programs for craft created a fundamental shift in craft ideology firmly aligning it with late modernist art discourses. As many craft programs developed immediately following the nationalist euphoria of Expo 67 there was a reluctance...

  9. 5 The Dis/Unity of Craft: In Praise of Hands, Toronto, 1974
    (pp. 159-199)

    THE 1974 WORLD CRAFTS COUNCIL CONFERENCE AND EXHIBITIONIn Praise of Handswas the ultimate show of North American professionalism, one that continued to project late modernist art ideologies onto international craft. Canada had successfully developed a strong professional craft sector, demonstrated through its ability to organize and promote an event of this size in Canada. Whereas Expo 67 served to introduce Canadian professional craft to the world,In Praise of Handsbrought international crafts to Canada following the guidelines established by Canadian and US authorities. While the veneration of Aileen Osborn Webb reached its apex in Toronto in 1974,...

  10. 6 The Professional Ascendancy of the Crafts
    (pp. 200-221)

    TO THE INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPANTS AT THE 1974 WORLD CRAFTS COUNCIL conference in Toronto, it may well have appeared that the crafts in Canada had reached a stage of full professionalism. The tenth anniversary conference of the World Crafts Council and its exhibitionIn Praise of Handshad enjoyed great success, and the Canadians who had helped the events to achieve such prominence were poised to set up a new national organization designed to further enhance the perceived quality of craft production. As previous chapters have demonstrated, any such reading of the situation would have been false. Even a glance beneath...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 222-226)

    TREMENDOUS ADVANCES FOR PROFESSIONAL CRAFT HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED in Canada over the past fifty years. Once considered to be the preserve of the amateur, or simply an ethnographic curiosity, craft has become thoroughly entrenched in the institutional culture of our country. Today we can boast of craft education at the post-secondary level, complete with growing numbers of craft historians to analyze and categorize historical developments. Despite an attempt from 1988 to 2002 by Vancouver's now-defunct Canadian Craft and Design Museum, Moncrieff Williamson's dream of a National Craft Museum remains unfulfilled, although today Canada has a national curator for craft, decorative...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 227-260)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-284)
  14. Index
    (pp. 285-300)