Definition of craft expanding
While the definition of craft may expand and change, there will always be crafters, according to expert panelists at a discussion on “The Meaning of Making: Why Craft Still Matters” at the Durham Arts Council on Tuesday night. The talk was held in conjunction with the current exhibit at the DAC downtown, “A View to the Making: Portraits of North Carolina Craft Artists at Work.”
“Every day I ask myself whether craft still matters, and the answer is always yes,” said Mark Hewitt, a potter and president of the board of directors of the North Carolina Pottery Center. “If your livelihood depends on craft, if matters. If not, it matters not as much,” he said.
Craft doesn’t matter to mainstream society in the way professional sports, mainstream media or television does, he said, as there are not nationally known craft personalities.
“Craft is still here, though. The definition of craft is expanding,” Hewitt said.
Howard Risatti, professor emeritus of art history at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of “A Theory of Craft: Function and Aesthetic Expression,” talked about craft versus art, and craft seen as a product of the hand, functional objects, and to do or make something. He argued that crafters need to say, ‘We’re making art.’
“These are works of art,” Risatti said.
Charlotte Wainwright, director emeritus of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at N.C. State University, looked to the future of craft and those who are concerned about the progression of their profession.
“For makers who bring forth wonderful things for us to see, feel, use, contemplate and enjoy, there is still a lot to find out,” she said.
Hewitt said that expanding definition of craft may include skilled factory workers, those who crochet and home knitters. There are jobs with craft components, he said, like the craft of writing, craft of cooking, craft of music and craft of gardening.
“So craft still matters to all of us,” he said, however very few rely on craft for survival. Industrialization made craft no longer essential, so it resides in residual space, Hewitt explained.
There’s more money in art, he said, and there has always been high craft versus low craft.
“In one way or another, it’s all craft and it all matters,” he said. “There are clearly all sorts of political and social strata in the craft world.”
Marilyn Zapf presented her findings from visiting three factories in North Carolina and the skilled craftsmen she met. Zapf is assistant director of the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design in Hendersonville. She said the concept of craft can still be found at the heart of manufacturing.
“Why else would we be here to discuss why craft still matters if craft didn’t need defending?” Zapf asked.