An Essay written in preparation for a CVCS seminar last year...
Unfortunately, I was too shy to make any of these points… so I’m recycling them as development for my 2nd theme (craft techniques in typography)
The infinitive, dynamic verb “to craft”, derived from our Old English language affirms the results of involved work - a technical skill considered apart from the aesthetic aspects of Fine Art. These processes are considered to be specialist gifts, and when used by the contemporary artists of today, have been recognised for their expressive beauty, and contemplated for the vast amount of skill required to make them.
However, many of the techniques we associate with craft, have only recently found the importance that they deserve within the art and design world of our modern day. As machine produced products become increasingly popular with the technology of the design industry continuing to expand and develop, artists such as Jeannette Appleton have reverted back towards the skills of our creative history in order to continuously break the boundaries of artistic license. Although digital and mechanical processes have provided artists with accurate, and aesthetically pleasing work, the compensation seems to be a loss of individualization; that is to say that the intricate, personal details found in handmade craft work cannot be found or even included. My point is developed further through the opinion of Margaret Visser “It is possible to argue that they exist not only in spite of modernity but, in their present role, because of it.” This therefore accentuates the relevance of craft skills, as artists begin to respond, and re-introduce identity and emotion into their pieces.
Kiki Smith, an American sculptor, has devoted much of her life towards craft, printmaking and illustration, which she believes to reflect the essence of humanity “we are all the same, and yet everyone is different”. From this, it could be decided that although we all have our own common goal in an art or design brief, our right to express that in a multiplicity of ways still stands strong. Smith’s hand-crafted dolls celebrate the unique characters of each member of our own community, personifying every minute detail of her craftsmanship into gestures of sincerity. This seems to illustrate the idea of craft as being imperative, in order to include an essence of an artists personality in their own work.
It has also been considered that, through the use of crafts, the artist has a direct link with any piece produced. They can attach as much, or even as little narrative or historical knowledge to it as desired, within the reassurance that the efforts directed towards it are well recognised and understood. Tess Giberson in a renowned fashion and textiles designer within our contemporary market, who chooses to hand-make all of her pieces. Her collections may be rather small, but the high quality and attention to detail are astounding, using the traditional stitching techniques passed down from one generation to another. Giberson also includes collage work within her clothing designs, and takes great pride within the finished results, which she believes to reflect the nurturing traditions of her childhood household, which was very much based around crafts such as Glass - blowing, crochet and knitting. When asked by art critic Zoe Hatton about her working methods, Gibson commented “I’m interested in sewing the way it should be done, without taking shortcuts. It’s important to me that the pieces are well made. With all the handwork that I do, I want the clothes to last.” This seems to show in its fullest extent, the pride each and every artist and designer has in their work, and the attachment they feel with their work, even after its completed. “To craft is to care” was an opinion given by critic Janice Jefferies, which is a point I really believe to hold relevance within our world today.
It could also be argued that the skills and processes of craftwork have been taken as sources of inspiration and developed by artists such as Marcel Wanders into products manufactured through modern technology. This way, crafts from history such as lace making, and quilting are still remembered for their elegance and expressive, delicate quality, yet they have also been developed into a product, which would now be considered as an object of our contemporary ergonomic and aesthetic requirements. The illustrator Lizzie Finn, inspired by “the 1970’s feminists, who adopted domestic stitching in their protest signs for equal rights”, whilst including stitching within her original drawings, communicates the message to us that the processes that theoretically based the foundations of every production technique known today, hold an extremely large importance within our art and design world, and so therefore within our society. She reminds us of how much there is to remember, respect, celebrate and then to learn, through your own unique inspiration.
Marie Brisou is currently a highly successful textiles designer, having recently graduated from St. Martins College or Art and Design in London. Perhaps her most famous commission was that for St. Pauls Cathedral, where Brisou designed and hand created an entirely new set of vestements and altar cloths for the Cathedral. She found herself totally immersed by the architecture of the building “the mosaics, the metal work, the carved wood”; craftsmanship renowned in our history for being simply notoriate in its form of beauty and elegance. Grant Gibson, an arts and crafts journalist has commented that her work, although traditional in form, design, and creation, “also has a nodding acquaintance with the 21st Century” For me, this seems to communicate the high impact of crafts within our contemporary world, it will always hold a form of important inspiration within an artists mind, which shows an innovation and understanding towards craft work.
In conclusion, craft skills have proved to have a very strong hold upon the art and design world of today, providing a wealth of inspiration for artists involved in every area involving artistic license. In Graphic design, illustrations are becoming handcrafted, typography is being designed and created from scratch, and books are being printed and bound manually. In the fashion industry, sweaters are being hand knitted, and fabrics are now being silkscreen produced, in place of digital printing. As artists strive for individual work, with an incredibly emotive high quality the requirements of craft will continue to be used, explored and developed. “To create new events, new works and new perspectives”