Crafting Change

9 December 2021, 12:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Dr Niklavs Rubenis, University of Tasmania
Dr Elizabeth Shaw, Griffith University

Session Moderators

Dr Niklavs Rubenis, University of Tasmania
Dr Elizabeth Shaw, Griffith University

Session Speakers

Seth Ellis, Griffith University
Dr D Wood, Independent

This panel proposes discussion around the opportunities and challenges of contemporary studio craft practices in Australia/NZ. Our interests lie in how studio craft is perceived, as well as the realities and future of practice when faced with an ongoing slew of issues relating to environmental/social/ economic/political agendas. Although the 2020 impacts from the pandemic possibly provided a time for reflection and a ‘slowing down’ to consider alternatives/possibilities of change, this was concurrently met with—amongst countless other disruptions—the disestablishment of programs across the tertiary sector. Does this suggest that craft does not hold enough value to warrant continuing support? If craft does have value and impact then how is this defined, and further, how are craft practices expanding to be adopted into wider circles of significance? Our intention is to prompt discussion around craft’s capacity to meaningfully respond to a world under rapid transformation through a) expanded, critical or experimental craft practices and the way in which they operate; b) the ethical implications pertaining to concept, process and/or materials and how these can lead to scalable approaches and; c) the future of craft and how it will remain current and relevant within the context of a world that is rapidly changing.

PAPER #1
Atelier, art school, university: the past and future of “studio education” and learning creative disciplines

PRESENTER
Seth Ellis, Griffith University

As arts education comes under increasing fire in Australia and abroad, one chorus we hear is that people in decision-making roles—politicians, even university executives—need a better understanding of studio education and its benefits. This is certainly the case, but it’s worth re-examining what we mean by the term “studio education,” as its practitioners and its products: that is, as teachers and artists. Sometimes we mean something very broad by “studio education,” like “embodied learning;” sometimes we mean something specific not only to arts education, but to the history and precepts of a particular discipline. In fact, there have been different kinds of studio education, specific to different historical and social contexts. In laying out what I see to be some of the main historical threads of studio-based learning, I hope to clarify what kind of studio education, descending from these models, is valuable to the 21st century; and from there to think about how that studio education can be not only saved, but pushed forward in directions that take advantage of the best opportunities the 21st century has for education in creative practices.

PAPER #2
Crafting a Canon: Change through Scholarship

PRESENTER
Dr D Wood, Independent

This year I attended an online conference co-sponsored by the Center for Craft (Asheville/NC) and Warren Wilson College’s MA in Critical Craft Studies. It consisted primarily of research by recent graduates of the WWC program. Initially I felt cheated. But as the researchers spoke and conducted breakouts, my opinion changed. For instance, a graduate from Alaska talked about the craft of repair, citing historical precedents from her region like Inuit practices; her workshop was a lesson in darning socks. Both were brilliant. Each student’s background contained a craft practice. Not only did they understand the parameters of handcraft, they applied haptic skills to craft scholarship. The range of topics was inspiring and, in the instance of African-American craft, the research is unique because craft has been and is dominated by the white middle class. This paper addresses craft scholarship as a viable outcome of education in craft practice. Craft research has been usurped by art historians whereas craft’s wider recognition requires more evidence of intellectual rigour by those passionate about craft practice. It is only through the perpetuation of studio programs that segue into interdisciplinary connections that the importance of craft will be accepted by institutions and the wider community.


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Biographies

Dr Niklavs Rubenis, University of Tasmania

Niklavs Rubenis is a designer/maker and academic focused on craft, design, ethics and people. He has been involved with projects spanning community, non-profit, commercial and cultural institutions; secured numerous grants and industry funds; and has had work presented and exhibited nationally and internationally. Niklavs has a trade in cabinet making, holds a BA Visual Arts (Honours) and a PhD from the Australian National University. He currently serves on the board of the World Crafts Council—Australia; is a coordinating committee member for Global Climate Change Week; and is Senior Lecturer in Object Design, School of Creative Arts & Media—University of Tasmania.


Dr Elizabeth Shaw, Griffith University

Elizabeth Shaw is Convenor of Jewellery and Small Objects at Queensland College of Art Griffith University. She exhibits, curates and writes regularly with a focus on ethical practice and the social and cultural values and meanings associated with objects. She is interested in the role of the maker within society, and reconsidering working methodologies and materials to address societal and environmental needs. Shaw is an international member of the advisory board for Ethical Metalsmiths. Her studio practice is informed by traditions of silversmithing and sculpture.


Seth Ellis, Griffith University

Seth Ellis is senior lecturer in interactive media at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, where he is program director of the Master of Interactive Media program and convenor of the Interaction Design major. He is a narrative artist and interface designer; he has worked with libraries, museums and galleries on their collections and exhibitions, most recently the Museum of Brisbane and the State Library of Queensland, where he was the 2019 Mittelheuser scholar-in-residence. His own projects have shown in galleries, streets, symposia and festivals throughout the U.S., Europe, and Australia.


Dr D Wood, Independent

D Wood earned a Diploma in Crafts and Design in furniture at Sheridan College, Canada, and an MFA in Furniture Design at the Rhode Island School of Design. Her PhD from the University of Otago (2012) addressed the history and presence of studio furniture in New Zealand in the context of the contemporary craft movement. D has given presentations at international conferences and published extensively in respected journals such as American Woodturner, Capital & Class, Ceramics Monthly, Journal of New Zealand Studies, Metalsmith and Surface Design. She is the editor of Craft is Political (Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2021).